Curious about Minn Kota iPilot and iPilot link for catfish and how they can help you catch more fish?
I fished for catfish for years from a 14 foot jon boat with a 25 horsepower motor. It wasn’t fancy, it was a bare bones fishing rig that would get me on the water and I caught plenty of catfish from this boat.
Over the years my catfish boats have grown in size (and features) and the number of tools on these boats has grown significantly as well. My SeaArk ProCat 240 is a beast of a catfishing boat compared to that old jon boat and it has just about every tool on it available that makes sense for me and the techniques I use for targeting catfish.
Part of the reason I use these tools is because of the changes in technology but the bigger reason is simple, they help me catch more catfish in some way. If it doesn’t help me catch more fish, make my time on the water easier or make me or my catfish guide clients safer or more comfortable it has no place on my boat.
The changes in trolling motor technology over the past ten years are mind blowing. There was a time that I rarely used a trolling motor because it was simply more hassle to use than it was worth but that’s not the case these days.
Minn Kota iPilot is one of the biggest advances in trolling motors ever and it’s been an absolute game changed to my approach catching catfish and locating and catching shad. I can’t begin to explain the impact that Minn Kota iPilot and iPilot link have had on my time on the water.
I get a tremendous amount of questions about sonar fish finders, trolling motors and other “catfish tech”. People always want to know how I’m using these tools when on the water and if they’re “worth it” when rigging a catfish boat.
The bottom line is that people want to know whether they should invest in these tools.
I’ve put this series together to cover some of the ways I use this technology from Minn Kota and iPilot link on my catfish boat to help answer some of these questions.
I’ll be periodically posting new videos and tips on how you can use these tools on your catfish boat and help you decide with Minn Kota iPilot and iPilot link are right for you.
What is Minn Kota iPilot and iPilot Link
The simplest way to describe iPilot is that it’s a remote control for your trolling motor.
The iPilot feature allows you to control the direction and speed of your trolling motor, “locks” the boat in a specific location, automatically navigates to a GPS coordinate and more.
iPilot Link is similar to the traditional iPilot but is best described as iPilot on steroids.
iPilot Link does everything that the traditional iPilot will but a network cable runs from the trolling motor to your Humminbird fish finder allowing the trolling motor to and sonar to communicate with each other via the Lakemaster mapping card and control many of the iPilot features through the Humminbird unit.
One of the best iPilot Link features for catfish anglers is the “follow the contour” function. This allows you to choose a contour line on your Lakemaster mapping card and choose a direction of travel. The trolling motor takes control and follows a contour line keeping your boat on the path of the contour line to target fish. We’ve been using this follow the contour feature extensively to target blue catfish holding on structure and have had some impressive results.
iPilot Link For Catching Catfish
Drift fishing is a productive way to catch catfish. You can always drift fish for catfish using the wind but having the ability to target specific structure and stay on target can really help catch more catfish at times.
In addition to the follow the contour you’ve got the ability to control the spot-lock feature from the Humminbird sonar unit as well as create itracks from the Humminbird as well. This combined with the touch screen on the Humminbird Onix 10 and you’ve almost got complete control of your trolling motor from your sonar screen.
You can purchase a new trolling motor that already has this installed but if you’ve got an existing trolling motor you can install both the standard and Link models on your own to upgrade many trolling motors like i’m doing today in the Terrova trolling motor.
Minn Kota made installation of this feature incredibly easy. Though opening up a trolling motor might seem intimidating it shouldn’t be as the installation process couldn’t be easier. The swap can easily be completed in less than 10 minutes and with minimal tools.
Minn Kota iPilot Link Installation
Here’s all of the details and a step by step installation video to help you through the process and show how easy the installation is of iPilot and iPilot link. You can also purchase trolling motors with these features already installed.
Minn Kota iPilot Spot-Lock
One of the iPilot tools I rely on heavily is the Spot-Lock feature.
For lack of a better explanation, here’s how Minn Kota describes Spot-Lock:
“Keeps you on a fishing spot like an electronic anchor. Just choose your spot, and if you drift more than five feet away, i-Pilot will trigger your trolling motor to take you back automatically. i-Pilot can remember up to six different spots, and the Spot-Lock Recall button can automatically take you back to any of them- from up to 1/4-mile away – at any time.”
An electronic anchor is the simplest explanation of spot link.
So what does this mean? How does it work? Why would you need it?
It’s pretty simple really.
You’ve got your trolling motor in the water, you’re fishing (or catching shad for bait) and you need to hold your boat in place so you can focus on the task at hand. You grab your iPilot remote control, hit the spot-lock button and then the magic happens. The trolling motor holds you in that location adjusting it’s direction and the motor speed to keep you there in that location.
The first question I usually get about Spot-Lock is whether it holds the boat precisely in that location.
First I’ll say that the Spot-Lock feature is very accurate but how much you move off the precise location where you’ve engaged it depends on the conditions you’re fishing in. Even in the worst conditions, it’s more than accurate for me and does everything I need it to do. That being said, if you’re fishing in high winds or extremely heavy current then there’s going to be a larger margin of error to keeping you in that precise location because it simply has to work harder.
In calm conditions I’ve found that iPilot Spot-Lock will hold me almost dead on of where I’ve engaged it, or within a few feet. The worse the conditions are the greater the margin of error seems to be but even in the worst conditions (for the most part) it usually holds within ten feet or so of the desired location at the very worst. Even with a 10 foot variance though that’s always ore than sufficient for what I need.
They’ve also announced a new updated version of spot lock coming later this year that adds some additional features and will also make the precision and accuracy of Spot-Lock better than ever.
Why and How To Use Minn Kota Spot-Lock
OK, so we’ve got an “electronic anchor” so how do we use that for catching catfish?
Here’s a few examples of how I use Minn Kota iPilot Spot-Lock.
Catching fresh shad is a big part of catfishing. Without Spot-Lock you find shad on your sonar screen, get on top of them and start throwing your cast net to catch them. Meanwhile while you’re throwing the net you’re running the trolling motor trying to stay on top of the shad. Move too far one way or another and you catch nothing.
Then you’ve got the complication of doing all of this fighting the wind that’s blowing your boat around so you’re constantly watching to make sure you’re not getting blown into a bridge column, shoreline, boat dock or anything else.
Spot lock changes that, you engage the electronic anchor and catch bait, meanwhile there’s nothing else to worry about. You stay right there on top of the school of shad.
Using the feature to catch bait alone is worth the price of admission. Without good catfish bait you might as well not be fishing.
There’s far to many examples to list on how this helps catching catfish but here’s a few.
Suspend drifting is a great way to catch catfish. I use Spot-Lock at the start of my drift to hold my precise location. I deploy my lines, get them to the right depth, get them in my rod holders and have everything ready and then engage the iTrack or Follow The Contour features to take me through the fish. The trolling motor does all of the work for me the entire time.
if at any time during the suspend drift I see something on my sonar that interests me (like fish holding on a ledge) I can engage the Spot-Lock again and “hover” on that are hands free.
Traditional and Controlled Drifting:
There’s dozens of different ways to controlled drift or troll and the Spot-Lock feature comes in handy for them all.
- See something interesting? You can “hover” as needed and cover it more thoroughly?
- Spy some brush, timber or other obstructions? Activate spot lock and pull your lines in to avoid a bunch of break offs.
- One of your fishing lines hung up? Engage the Spot-Lock and you can try to get it free, break the line or pull your other lines in and go back and try to get the line free.
- Hooked a fish? Hit the spot lock and pull it in and then resume your drift. This also provides a great tool for going back and finding more fish!
- Hook a fish drifting towards a shore line or structure? Rather than hurrying to fight the fish and get it in you stop the boat in place and fight the fish with no worries.
Again, there’s so many possibilities it’s impossible to cover them all.
iPilot Spot Lock Overview Video
Here’s a quick video that shows the basics of iPilot Spot-Lock and how it works.
I’ll be back with some more updates on iPilot and iPilot Link features and how you can use them to catch more and bigger catfish in the future.
Be sure to check out some of our articles and videos on sonar fish finders and catfish boats as well. To get on the fast track catching catfish check out the Catfish Edge premium products here.
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