Fishing on Auto

TESTED: Minn Kota i-Pilot

Minn Kota’s new i-Pilot electric motor system is about to make boat fishos’ lives a whole lot easier. Roderick Walmsley reports.

The i-Pilot system allows your Minn Kota electric to “self-drive” by following a predetermined track – all achieved via the unit’s remote control from anywhere in the boat. The unit achieves this by making use of a built-in 50 channel GPS that stores its own data. The i-Pilot has a number of new technologically advanced features including: Record a Track; Cruise Control; Spot Lock; and Advanced Autopilot.

Record a Track is a great feature for hands-free fishing. The unit can store a track up to two miles long. The way to do it is by driving over the track you intend positioning your boat on. This could be traversing around a point in a dam, a weed bed or a specific troll run. The start of a track is marked “A” and the end marked “B” via the remote control. The i-Pilot stores this track by saving numerous waypoints to memory. When you want to return to the start of a track simply type in “return to A” on your remote or to go to the end of your track, type in “return to B”.

Cruise Control ensures the boat moves forward at a predetermined speed to help maintain a course and eliminates the boat sliding sideways and deviating from the designated track. Another really cool feature of this function is highlighted when you hook a fish; pressing any button on your remote will immediately cancel the feature. Once the fish is landed and you are ready to fish again simply re-enter the Return to A or B function and the electric will take the boat back to the nearest mini-waypoint in the track and resume the original course. Just like having your own chauffeur.

I have a two-year-old boy who’s mad about fishing and I need both of my hands free just to control him and get a few lines out. I use the Record a Track for trolling in the dams or rivers, as the electric is a lot quieter than the main motor, and the boat can return to the spot while I am looking after him.

Spot Lock is another feature that will be extremely popular with fishos. Because of the built-in GPS you can actually save the location of three different fishing spots in your electric motor. For instance you are driving along and spot a good looking bit of structure or school of fish on your sounder. If you immediately hit Spot Lock on your remote, it records it. Type in Spot Lock Recall and the electric will take you back to within five feet of this spot. Be advised though that when you instruct the unit to return to the spot it powers off at full speed to get you there and gradually slows down as you get closer. It also adjusts to wind, waves and current and corrects itself to ensure that you remain right on the predetermined mark.

Advanced Autopilot is similar to the standard autopilot on Minn Kota wireless models except it makes use of GPS to keep you moving along the exact line you specified, correcting for wind and current influence. The standard autopilot works by keeping you on a specific compass heading, but could be still affected by strong current or wind, which could more easily push the boat off course. With the advanced autopilot it will keep you on the exact course you initially program in.

A word of caution, though: when using this technology, always remember that you are still the master of the vessel and therefore the safety of everyone on board the vessel, including yourself, falls directly on your shoulders.

Always keep a sharp lookout and keep the remote control on you – controlling the speed and course remains the user’s responsibility. i-Pilot is capable of integrating GPS technology into the Minn Kota Riptide Saltwater Terova, Riptide Saltwater Power-Dive and V2 Power-Dive trolling motors. RRP is around $799.

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