Spot Lock Vs. Anchor (What Are The Pros And Cons?)
UPDATED 31 JULY 2022
by Eric Bartlett
The days of throwing a heavy anchor overboard with a big splash are almost gone nowadays, as you can park your boat in almost any position on the water with either a spot lock trolling motor, or with shallow water anchors.
However, this raises several new questions: do you still need a physical anchor at all, or can you replace it completely with new tech?
Also, can you accomplish everything just with spot lock, or just with shallow water anchors, or do you need both?
In this article we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of spot lock trolling motors compared to different types of anchors, and what purposes each of them is ideally suited for, so you can decide which one is right for you.
Spot lock vs. physical anchor
Many of my bass fishing buddies tell me they’ve practically stopped using a physical anchor after they got a spot lock trolling motor, which raises the question: can spot lock completely replace a physical anchor?
In most cases the answer is ‘yes’ (unless the current is too strong, or your trolling motor is underpowered for the size of your boat). In fact, it’s so easy to deploy a spot lock trolling motor that it feels like you’ll never use an anchor again.
Also, compared to the effort of pulling up your anchor and throwing it overboard again in a new location, moving from one spot lock to another can be done with just the touch of a button
However I still recommend keeping a physical anchor on your boat for two main reasons.
The first is that your spot lock trolling motor can fail at any time, which happens quite easily if your batteries get drained and you don’t have a re-charging device on board. In cases like that, you want to be able to revert to using a real anchor to replace the trolling motor.
The second reason why I recommend keeping a physical anchor on your boat is for safety.
If you get caught in a storm squall, it’s possible that your trolling motor won’t be strong enough to hold your boat in position, and you might find yourself getting pushed on to the rocks.
This is obviously more of an issue in a saltwater environment than in freshwater, where it rarely gets that rough.
In most normal situations, given a choice between using a physical anchor or spot lock trolling motor, I prefer the trolling motor.
This is because a boat on spot lock doesn’t swing back and forth like a boat at anchor, and this is much better if you’re trying to stay on a specific spot, such as right above a wreck.
When should you use shallow water anchors vs spot lock?
Since late 2016 (when spot lock became much more accurate), many boat owners have been replacing their shallow water anchors with a spot lock trolling motor.
But I’d like to argue that this is not an ideal choice, given that spot lock and shallow water anchors work very differently, and are best suited for different situations.
Does shallow water spot lock work?
Yes, spot lock works in shallow water just as well as in deep water, but the problem with using it in shallow water under 6 feet depth is that the prop wash and noise of your trolling motor will tend to spook all the fish in the area.
Keep in mind that a spot lock trolling motor needs to run almost non-stop to correct your position and nudge your boat back to its original GPS coordinates. This is fine when fishing in deep water, since the propeller doesn’t disturb the bottom under your boat. But in shallow water, this disturbance really destroys your ability to fish with stealth.
For example, if you’re trying to creep up on shallow-water bass with your boat during the pre-spawn or spawn, the prop wash of a bow mount trolling motor is likely to blow up silt and mud from the bottom as you approach the bedding bass, which will scare them off well before you can place your first cast.
Shallow water anchors are better in water under 6 feet
So while spot lock does work in shallow water, it’s much better to use shallow water anchors for water under 6 feet depth, since they can be deployed with a lot more stealth, and once they are lowered, they stay put and don’t create any disturbance while you fish.
Also, shallow water anchors allow you to point your boat in any direction, while spot lock usually points your bow into the wind (if you’re using a bow mount trolling motor). So if you want to point your bow downwind, or perpendicular to the wind, the only way to do that is with shallow water anchors.
How deep do shallow water anchors go?
Below is the maximum depth range for the 3 most popular models of shallow water anchors:
- Minn Kota Talon: 8 to 15 feet
- Minn Kota Raptor: 8 to 10 feet
- Power Pole: 4 to 10 feet
As you can see, the maximum depth a shallow water anchor can go is 15 feet (for Talon), but it’s generally advisable to use them in less than 10 feet of water, since that gives you more stability.
Also if you’re going to be fishing mostly in water deeper than 10 feet, it’s better to use spot lock instead of shallow water anchors to fix your boat position.
Spot lock is ideal for deeper water
When it comes to fishing in water deeper than 6 to 10 feet, a spot lock trolling motor is a much better option than a shallow water anchor system, since it’s much easier to hop along from one location to another by using spot lock jog.
This feature allows you to systematically dissect a whole area very quickly and effortlessly.
If you’re currently in the market for a spot lock trolling motor, check out our article on what is the best anchor lock trolling motor?
Spot lock vs Talon vs Power Pole
When comparing spot lock specifically with Talon, one thing to note is that the electronic deployment mechanism of Talon shallow water anchors is ultra quiet, which makes them ideal for positioning your boat in shallow water without disturbing the fish in that area.
Also, Talon anchors are mounted on the back of the boat, and so won’t create any disturbance in front of your boat. This is in contrast to a spot lock trolling motor mounted on the bow, which churns up mud right in front of your boat with its prop wash. So if you’re planning to fish mostly in shallow water under 6 to 8 feet, then Talon is a much better choice than spot lock.
When it comes to comparing spot lock with Power Pole, one of the main advantages of Power Pole is that it’s much lighter than Talon, and so is a better choice for smaller boats (or if you’re trying to reduce the extra weight).
If you’re interested in getting the most affordable spot lock trolling motor, check out our article on what is the best budget trolling motor with spot lock?
In summary, I recommend always having a physical anchor on board (even if you hardly ever use it), just to stay on the safe side.
Also, if you fish mostly in water deeper than 6 to 8 feet, a spot lock trolling motor is the best option for you. On the other hand, if you fish mostly in shallow water under 6 to 8 feet, you don’t really need the spot lock, and can replace it with shallow water anchors.
Personally, however, I like to have both spot lock and shallow water anchors on my boat, since that allows me to have all bases covered, and to position my boat optimally both in shallow and in deeper water.
Finally, if you’re adding a trolling motor to your kayak or jon boat, you might be interested in our article on does a boat have to be registered if it has a trolling motor?