Among the long, long list of fishing innovations are a very few, like sonar depthfinders, GPS chartplotters, graphite rods and superline, that have fundamentally changed the way anglers fish. Now, I think, you can add Minn Kota’s i-Pilot wireless navigation system to that short list.
I had the opportunity to field test the new system during a recent press introduction and saw how, in many situations, i-Pilot would allow an angler to concentrate more on fishing and less on navigation and boat positioning.
Its Spot-Lock feature, for example, acts like an anchor, automatically keeping the bow within five feet of a stored waypoint despite wind and waves. As I toyed with the feature, and without even trying hard, I thought of four favorite holes where I typically anchor up to get spot-on-the-spot accuracy.
One of them being a certain channel lip in 20 feet of water, just as it swings to the north 40 yards from where the river enters one of my pet lakes. If you’re on that spot before 5 on almost any October morning, you catch numbers of walleyes. If you miss it by as few as 20 feet (a boat length), you may catch only a few—or none at all.
Punching the Spot-Lock button and dropping a jig would be much more efficient than having to double-anchor the boat in the current. Plus, there would be none of that humping anchor line, or hauling weeds, mud or silt over the side when you’re done. I like that.
Unlike Minn Kota’s compass-based AutoPilot system, i-Pilot, including Advanced AutoPilot that’s part of the i-Pilot package, operates on GPS technology. During the field test, I found it to be considerably more versatile. In Record A Track mode, the system creates and stores a series of waypoints as the boat travels along your chosen route.
On command, it will then precisely retrace that track in either direction to the opposite end. It’ll store three routes, each up to two miles long, and if you overlay the system’s Cruise Control function onto Record A Track, you’ve got the added control of speed-over-water in 1/10 mph increments with the handheld remote.
Imagine running the shoreline of an entire cove or creek arm, or following a channel break for two miles, or replicating a trolling pass—without touching the trolling motor or even glancing at the sonar screen to confirm depth. Instead, you could focus on cast placement or your trolling presentation 100 percent of the time. That’s efficiency.
The only drawback these two features exhibit is that there’s only enough room for three Spot-Lock waypoints and three Record A Track routes in the system’s electronic brain. And it’s really not that critical with Spot-Lock.
Simply use the generous waypoint storage built into your boat’s GPS system. Motor to one of your saved spots and lock in the trolling motor’s nav system. I would like to see more available space for saved routes, however. If you fish the same water day after day, the three-route minimum would likely be enough, depending on the season and your approach. Moving from lake to lake, however, will mean re-recording some routes.
As mentioned earlier, Advanced AutoPilot is a separate i-Pilot function. It projects a series of waypoints along a bearing based on the motor’s position, then maintains a heading along that bearing. With this system, however, tracking is more accurate because the motor automatically compensates for wind, current and drift.
Likewise, Minn Kota’s popular CoPilot is a built-in feature. For those situations that require hands-on attention, it offers wireless manual control of motor direction and speed through the handheld remote.
Perhaps best of all is that the i-Pilot system is designed as an easy-to-install, $399 add-on for the Terrova, PowerDrive V2 and Riptide ST and SP bow-mounts. It requires only replacing the motor cover and making one network connection on the Terrova and ST—six wire connections on the PowerDrive V2 and Riptide SP models.