ELECTRIC motors on inshore fishing boats have become almost a standard feature. Having owned a few electrics over the years, fishing an estuary, impoundment or bay without one now feels a bit like going lure fishing without a bunch of favourite lures – you get by but feel you’re at a disadvantage.
I bought my first bow-mount Minn Kota in the early 1990s, an RT 42-pound thrust freshwater version, which was eventually sold with the boat, a Stessl Edge Tracker. That bow-mount featured Minn Kota’s patented auto-pilot. Prior to buying I’d fancied the potential advantages of auto-pilot but didn’t know anyone who owned a similar motor. As it turned out, Minn Kota’s auto-pilot offers real advantages when fishing, especially when trolling, or for holding the boat in position against current or wind to better work over snags or an area of water. Although very handy, the auto-pilot – in certain locations – seems to suffer interference that has the motor doing 360 degree revolutions until stopped.
My Webster’s current bow-mount is a Minn Kota Saltwater series RT42, bought in 2000. This (1999 model) electric has been a reliable workhorse, only suffering some cosmetic wear and tear in that time, requiring replacement of the plastic sideplates and re-securing a rubber boot on the wiring harness. While I love using it for the quietness and stealth benefits it provides, dragging the foot pedal and cord around the boat can become a chore. At last year’s Sydney International Boat Show, Minn Kota’s remote wireless control system was on display. I thought my cord-dragging days might be over, until the salesman said the system only worked on current model Minn Kotas. Doh!
By coincidence a couple of months ago my motor’s foot pedal started to play up and wouldn’t steer left – not handy when targeting kingfish near marker buoys in strong current and wind. Before ordering a replacement pedal ($175rrp) Fisho’s Scott Thomas had lent me his to verify the source of the problem. The pedal was at fault but in the meantime Scott had heard Minn Kota’s new remote control did work on older models. BLA’s Mick Gregory confirmed this, saying corded (flat plug) pedal models from 1999 to current can be retro-fitted with the wireless Co-Pilot system. It was a timely piece of news. Although more than twice the price of a replacement pedal I couldn’t resist ordering the remote.
Installing Co-Pilot couldn’t be easier. It took about two minutes. Basically a receiver plate screws onto the right sideplate using existing holes and two longer (supplied) stainless steel screws. The old foot pedal is unplugged from the motor and the Co-Pilot’s plug takes its place. That’s it. If you want to use the foot pedal also, it fits into another separate plug on the Co-Pilot receiver.
I’ve been amazed at just how well Co-Pilot works. The little wristwatch sized remote comes with a Velcro strap for wearing around the wrist (like a watch, funnily enough!) and the supplied quick-release bracket facilitates mounting it on a fishing rod grip for easy, one handed control. The remote’s face has five buttons that control ON/OFF (centre button), left/right and increase (+) or decrease (-) speed – all with a touch of a finger. Each button push emits a robotic beep from the receiver that informs the user the command has been received and under way.
Having the control on the wrist is about as convenient as it gets. Anyone familiar with driving the pedal will be up to using the remote in no time. Everything on the motor works as before, including auto-pilot. And, there’s no more dragging the foot pedal and twisted cable from one end of the boat to the other, and nothing to trip over!
The Co-Pilot kit comes complete with the receiver unit, remote unit and strap and rod mount – additional remote controls can be bought separately. As mentioned, Co-Pilot isn’t cheap at around $380rrp but owners of cord foot pedal models are sure to find the benefits of remote control to be money well spent. Highly recommended. More information from BLA (07) 3390 0106; website: www.minn-kota.com.