Is Spot Lock Worth It? (3 Things You Need To Know)
UPDATED 31 JULY 2022
by Eric Bartlett
Marine electronics have gone through an incredible pace of development over the last decade or so, and this evolution has revolutionized many technologies used on boats.
One of the most impressive innovations to come out recently is that of spot lock, which uses a GPS guided trolling motor to keep a boat in position, and can perform other navigation tasks on autopilot.
But you may be wondering, are GPS lock trolling motors really that impressive, and is spot lock worth it?
In this article we’ll explain what spot lock trolling motors can do, and what key benefits they provide.
We’ll also give you an overview of how much spot lock trolling motors cost on average, so you can decide if spot lock is worth it for your purposes.
What are the key benefits of spot lock trolling motors?
Having a spot lock trolling motor provides you with the following advantages, that can help to take your fishing game to the next level:
Automatically maintain boat position (even in strong current or wind)
This is the most important function of spot lock, and the one that has been a game changer for many anglers, including professional bass and walleye anglers.
The power of spot lock lies in the fact that it allows you to focus on fishing in a specific location, without having to waste any time on boat control or deploying an anchor.
This can make a huge difference if you’re trying to fish on top of a fish-holding structure in strong winds or currents, and would normally get blown of course in a matter of minutes.
Back in the days before spot lock was available, you had to use advanced boat control to maneuver your boat into the right locations.
Then, if you managed to hook up with a fish, the wind would blow you a hundred feet away from that spot before you could land the fish, and you had to navigate back to the original spot to continue fishing.
Because of this, you need to spend more time on moving the boat into position without spot lock, and trying to keep it there, and this is obviously time not spent fishing.
This is the main reason why bass pros use spot lock, as it gives them more time to fish actively, thus increasing the odds of winning tournaments.
Navigate automatically to a specific GPS waypoint
If you have a mapping device that can network with your spot lock trolling motor, that enables you to instruct the trolling motor to take you to a specific GPS waypoint on your map.
This could be a location that you already know, or one that looks promising based on depth and other characteristics.
And since the trolling motor will take you to the right location automatically, that frees you up to prepare your fishing tackle and bait along the way.
Troll automatically along specific contour lines
If you’re an angler who likes to troll, you know that trolling along drop offs or other structural transitions can be the most productive strategy to catch fish that often patrol these transitions while foraging for prey.
In the past you had to do this by watching your fish finder or mapping device while you were trolling, and constantly correcting your course to stay on track. Nowadays, you can instruct your trolling motor to automatically follow predetermined contour lines on your lake map, and that will keep your trolling lures in the strike zone automatically.
Spot lock trolling motors are not only a nice thing to have in regular circumstances, but in some cases (such as coastal waters with riptide currents and rocks), using them is the only safe way to fish close to fish-holding locations that would otherwise be much too dangerous to fish in.
Use spot lock jog to systematically dissect fish-holding spots
When Minn Kota launched their new version of i-Pilot in 2016, they included a functionality called spot lock jog, which is an extremely useful feature for anglers.
Essentially, spot lock jog enables you to move 5 feet in any direction from a previous spot lock location, which allows you to hop along a fish-holding structure, and thus systematically fish the whole location in search of fish.
How good is spot lock
Tests have shown that spot lock can accurately keep a boat within a radius of 3 to 6 feet from a specific set of GPS coordinates (but only if you use an adequately sized trolling motor for your boat).
When spot lock was originally introduced more than a decade ago, it didn’t have this high accuracy, and it was common to drift 20 feet away from the original spot lock position.
However, since Minn Kota released the new and improved i-Pilot at the end of 2016, spot lock accuracy has become good enough to maintain a distance of about 5 feet to a spot lock GPS location.
If you’re still not convinced, check out this video showing a 112 lb thrust Minn Kota Terrova holding a 30 foot skiff accurately in position in a 25 mph head wind on a windswept bay.
So if you’re wondering how close spot locks keep, the answer is: within 5 feet on average.
If you’re currently thinking about getting a spot lock trolling motor, but without breaking the bank, check out our article on what is the cheapest trolling motor with spot lock?
How much is a spot lock trolling motor?
On average, you can expect to pay between $2,000 and $3,000 for a good spot lock trolling motor.
Spot lock trolling motors are more expensive than regular trolling motors, but the exact price you need to pay depends on the brand and the model.
Below is the price range you can expect to pay for the most popular trolling motor brands:
- Minn Kota: $1,200 to $3,500
- MotorGuide: $1,200to $2,900
- Lowrance Ghost: $3,300
- Garmin Force: $3,100
- Rhodan: $1,700 to $3,800
Keep in mind that you also need to buy batteries plus a compatible charger when you get a trolling motor.
If you already have a Minn Kota trolling motor, but without spot lock, you may be able to upgrade it to a spot lock trolling motor with an i-Pilot add-on kit (more on that in the next section).
Is i-Pilot worth the money?
Minn Kota offers an i-Pilot upgrade kit enabling you to add spot lock to some of their trolling motors that originally came without spot lock. In other words, getting an i-Pilot upgrade kit allows you to retrofit your trolling motor with spot lock, without having to buy a whole new trolling motor just to get the spot lock functionality.
The cost of the i-Pilot upgrade kit is about $450, which means you can add spot lock to your trolling motor for less than $500, and given all the benefits of spot lock discussed above, this is absolutely worth it.
The only downside of the i-Pilot add-on option is that it is only available for select Minn Kota models. For more details on which models are compatible with the upgrade kit, check this list. If you’re one of the lucky people who has a compatible trolling motor, it’s absolutely worth doing the upgrade.
Finally, if you’re planning to add a spot lock trolling motor to your kayak or small boat, check out our article: do you need to register a boat with a trolling motor?