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If you look around the rivers, lakes, and estuaries, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a boat without an electric trolling motor.
Dedicated anglers are dishing out the extra cash for spot lock trolling motors to free up hands to focus on fishing instead of boat positioning.
Even the cheap ones are expensive. You can get an indication of their importance based on their popularity despite the high price point.
When you can program a pattern into your motor, you spend less time positioning your boat and more time fishing.
It’s true. A good spot-lock trolling motor can help you catch more fish.
What Is the Best Spot Lock Trolling Motor?
Last update on 2023-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
1. Minn Kota Ultrex – Best Overall
There’s a lot to consider beyond the GPS function. Let’s identify 5 of the best spot lock trolling motors.
It’s a bit of a marginal call to place Ultrex at the top of the list. It’s a heavily contested market with plenty of comparable motors.
But the Ultrex is very popular, and it gets good reviews across multiple platforms from pros and amateurs alike.
Precision is the main feature of the Ultrex, which supports an array of features that makes things easier.
All our fishing lives, we have been reliant on speculating what lies beneath the surface and where we are relative to it.
Ultrex takes you there, allowing you to stay in the strike zone for as long as you wish – with limited to no adjustment necessary.
The most popular Ultrex includes a built-in MEGA Imaging transducer, which delivers beautiful images.
Connectivity is outstanding. You can operate it remotely from your Android or Apple device anywhere in the boat.
But for my money, electronics are only part of the story. This little electric motor has the grunt and endurance to punch you through nasty grass beds while remaining clean.
Regardless of the electronics, the Ultrex has the build to survive the rigors of daily fishing tough cover and navigating difficult waters.
- Shaft Lengths: 45”, 52”, 60”
- Built-in Sonar: MEGA Down Imaging, Universal Sonar 2, MEGA Down/Side Imaging
- Voltage/Thrust: 36v/112 pounds or 24v/80 pounds.
- i-Pilot GPS Trolling System
- Deal with vegetation very well
- Robust construction
- Carbon shaft
- The foot pedal lead could be longer.
2. Lowrance Ghost – Freshwater Trolling Motor – Most Quiet
When stealth matters, it’s very hard to go past the Lowrance Ghost. The beauty of the Ghost is that its silent operation comes without compromising function and power.
The Ghost deserves top billing as well. So, if you’re looking for the best, you should put the Ghost on the list with the Ultrex.
The Ghost gets its quiet stealth from the brushless motor. The brushless motor is also responsible for its unwavering strength and power.
With a brushless motor, you can also expect a much longer working life before maintenance. You can also expect a heavier price tag.
The Ghost is available with 24V/97 lb thrust or 36V120 lb thrust. Great in open waters and heavier winds and currents. Especially when the boat is loaded with anglers and gear.
The Ghost has two custom buttons on the pedal, great for creating waypoints, controlling your shallow water anchors, or anything that suits you at the moment.
The Ghost comes with a Lowrance HDI transducer, which can be upgraded with a 3-in-1 active imaging transducer.
- Shaft Lengths: 47”, 52”, 60”
- Brushless Motor
- Upgradable transducer
- Dual 24V/36V voltage
- Built-in Hdi Sonar Nosecone
- Brushless motor
- Custom foot pedal buttons
- Recommended for freshwater only.
3. MotorGuide Xi3 Saltwater & Freshwater Kayak Trolling Motors – Best Kayak
When you don’t have to push a heavy boat around, you don’t need the thrust and weight. By and large, this translates to a more affordable motor.
The Xi3 is a 12-volt trolling motor delivering 55 lbs of thrust. It has a super-strong 36″ composite shaft, ideal for kayak angling.
The wireless electric steer foot pedal is handy for kayak setups, with the remote control adding versatility.
The 3 blade prop probably isn’t the best example of weedless performance. Nonetheless, you won’t have issues fishing or motoring through grass and weed beds.
The Xi3 is compatible with Lowrance, Humminbird, and Garmin fish finders. I like this level of compatibility, as it gives more options for matching your preferred or existing electronics and your budget.
The ‘jog’ feature on the GPS allows for easy adjustments of several feet from your programmed position. It’s easy with the wireless remote.
Interestingly, the shaft has a lifetime warranty, which says a lot about quality control. However, I’d make sure to read any warranty fine print.
With a Xi3, those with small, lightweight boats and kayaks can get quality performance at more affordable prices.
- 3-blade weedless prop
- 12V/55 lb thrust
- Wireless foot pedal and remote
- Ideal for kayaks
- Lightweight easy mount
- Freshwater only
- Occasional quality control issues, but it’s not a deal breaker.
4. Haswing Black Cayman 36 and 48-Inch Bow Mount Electric Trolling Motor – Best Value
The Chinese-made Haswing Cayman GPS is one of the most affordable options.
Moreover, its fresh and saltwater capability, coupled with its adjustable shaft, make it one of the more versatile.
If you run a small boat and fish a kayak, you can use this bow mount on either. It’s lightweight and easy to move and mount.
Ideally, you’re selecting the 36” for the kayak and the 48” for your boat. However, If you run a kayak and a boat, the 48” will cover both with thoughtful mounting.
Those on a budget should move the Haswing to the top of their shortlists. While some may balk at its made-in-China tag, you shouldn’t.
Quality control appears better than other brands.
55 pounds of thrust is enough for kayaks and small boats up to 2750 pounds and will fit easily into an existing 12-volt setup.
It has a wireless foot pedal and a remote control as well. Even at this price, versatility and functionality have not been overlooked.
With the downloadable Helmsman App, you can save GPS waypoints and routes. Ideal for returning to the same hot locations.
The autopilot is another great feature for a motor at this price point.
The Haswing delivers reliability, functionality, power, and versatility at a price most of us can afford.
- 55 lb Thrust.
- Shaft Length: 36 and 48 inches
- 3-blade prop with a 9-inch diameter
- Wireless remote control
- 14.7 feet pedal cable
- Excellent features for the price
- Effort in heavy current
5. MotorGuide Xi5 Wireless Trolling Motor – Best Freshwater Trolling Motor
The Xi5 wireless GPS trolling motor delivers high-end GPS features without the extra heavy price tag.
The Xi5’s Pinpoint GPS system delivers accuracy consistent with motors in a much higher price bracket.
It also has the “jog” function, which allows you to adjust your position a few feet in any direction from your current GPS position location.
The wireless electric steer foot pedal is particularly responsive, with unique heel/toe functionality.
The remote control, included as standard, allows you to control your motor from anywhere on the boat, enhancing function and versatility.
The prop is a weedless 3-blade that will, by and large, see you through the grass beds without having to clean up afterward.
The bow mount delivers 80 pounds of peak thrust via 24 volts. It has a 54” composite shaft backed by a lifetime warranty.
The battery indicator shows you the current charge in various colors to indicate how much charge you have remaining.
This is ideal when traveling to a strike zone route on autopilot, not thinking about your charge situation.
The Xi5’s built-in transducer is compatible with Lowrance, Humminbird, and Garmin fish finder units. While only 2D, it’s great to have the option to select from multiple brands to meet your budget/performance goals.
- 80 lb Thrust.
- 54” composite shaft with a 12-month warranty
- 3-blade weedless prop
- Wireless remote control
- Wireless pedal
- Precision maneuvering with intuitive foot pedal
- Quite heavy at 65lb
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What To Consider Before Buying A Spot-Lock Trolling Motor
There’s a lot to consider when buying a spot lock trolling motor. Navigation and price point are just the beginning.
You need to think closely about the types of fishing you do, the location, prevailing conditions, and geography.
Different units excel in different key performance areas. This is especially true when looking at mid and lower-priced units.
Here are several key considerations.
Power or thrust is the first consideration. You must have enough power to move your boat. This should include gross boat weight, wind, and current.
The standard rule of thumb is 2 pounds of thrust is required per 100 pounds of gross boat weight.
You’re looking for a balance between thrust, power usage, and battery life. I tend to opt for powerful, long-lasting batteries that can handle excessive loads.
There’s not much point in having 120 pounds of thrust when your battery doesn’t have the legs to push to the max for any length of time.
Look for motors that can be run with 24 or 36-volt batteries. Our goal is to deliver as much thrust as possible, for as long as possible, and as efficiently as possible.
Most trolling motors will suggest a maximum boat weight, giving you a good starting point.
It’s best to estimate your boat weight as accurately as possible before you purchase, allowing a percentage (10 to 20%) above your calculations.
It’s better to be overpowered than it is to be underpowered.
A more powerful motor doesn’t have to work as hard as a less powerful motor, delivering greater efficiencies.
If you start with a motor that’s particularly quiet, such as the Ghost, you can argue that you have a noise advantage.
However, noise management is far more complex than the noise of the motor straight out of the box.
You should also consider the noise of the prop and any noise that will develop over time as bearings and other parts deteriorate with use.
The noise of the motor should also be considered with the noise of the entire vessel.
It’s not uncommon that the noise the anglers make far outweighs that of the electric motor.
There are two main schools of thought here. Firstly, noise is irrelevant, and secondly, noise is critical, and your electric trolling motor can and does scare fish away.
There’s a strong argument that sudden noises are intrusions that spook fish. And sudden noises are a guarantee when you are using spot-lock.
It’s these noises that many suggest spook fish. The solution is to limit the time you spend fishing with spot lock engaged.
Particularly on still, quiet days in heavily fished, heavily trafficked areas.
These locations require a more considered approach to stealth, and there can be advantages to prioritizing quiet running.
This may mean you need to limit the use of your electric motor, especially the use of spot lock with its sudden prop ignition.
My default position is to not overthink it.
By and large, I use my electric motor with little consideration to noise, and I’m yet to discover any apparent detriments to this practice.
Sure. Go for the quietest motor you can afford. But keep in mind there are far more variables at play when it comes to the impacts of noise on fish.
Most trolling motors will offer 2 to 3 shaft lengths, and some will have adjustable lengths, which can be handy.
The first consideration is the height of your boat from the water and your boat’s draft. There’s no point spinning your prop in the air or on the surface of the water.
The second consideration is the depths you want to maneuver the boat. Most of us want the ability to get as shallow as possible.
The longer the shaft, the less access we have.
Remember, our shaft might not bottom out, but it’s so close to the bottom that we’re churning up mud and mess.
The models above deliver access to GPS navigation. With GPS you can navigate to a specific waypoint via autopilot. Ideal for returning to the scene of a hot session.
You can also retrace your steps, follow a particular bank or contour line, and do it at a specific depth.
And that’s just the basics. Many units also offer a function called jog. This allows you to move several feet off a pre-set GPS path for greater flexibility and coverage.
Networking and mapping devices/software will be required, adding to costs in many circumstances.
Think carefully about the functions you need before you make any outlay.
Ease of Use
This is a critical feature on my list when purchasing anything of a technical nature.
I’m out on the water to focus on fishing. Boat, motor, and navigation management can pull focus and dominate your thoughts and time.
Electric motors with GPS, spot lock, and all of those fancy features are meant to increase the time you’re fishing.
If you’re not particularly savvy with the technical aspects of managing equipment, I suggest you seek out the most basic functions.
It’s better you take the benefits of basic functions than spend your valuable fishing time wrestling with electric motors, software programs, and apps.
Using a basic spot lock motor still offers some exceptional advantages to all anglers.
How Well Does It Hold the Spot?
Spot lock is now very good at keeping you in the zone. In many respects, spot lock has been a game-changer for many anglers.
Traditionally we have had to use hands-on boat maneuvering skills to keep our boats in the strike zone.
This required us to be very busy between boat, motor control, and fishing.
As you might know, this demanded lots of skill, concentration, and situational awareness.
When spot lock was introduced, anglers could expect to hold their position within 20 feet of what they programmed.
These days, you hold your position within as little as 5 feet. Considering the wind and current, this is astonishing accuracy.
Sonar compatibility will be important to those with existing electronics, and those with electronics brand preferences.
The best option is to select a motor that has compatibility with your existing or preferred electronics.
Bow Mount vs Transom Mount
Trolling motors can be mounted on either the bow or the transom. If you’re using spot-lock, it’s better to use a bow mount.
A bow mount will point your bow into the wind. This is preferable for fishing as it’s more comfortable, and less effort is required to hold a position.
While you can use a transom mount for spot-lock, the stern will likely face the oncoming breeze.
In this case, you can expect more boat movement and less comfort, and your motor will likely have to work harder to hold your position.
Spot lock motors are more expensive than standard electric trolling motors because they have greater functionality.
For those on a budget, Minn Kota and MotorGuide will start around $1200. But it can go up to $3000.
For high-end models such as a Lowrance Ghost, Garmin Force, and Rhodan, you’re looking at in excess of $3,000, and even closer to $4000.
Once you accessorize and add all the available peripherals, your adventure into spot-lock can be a very expensive affair.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Spot-Lock Trolling Motor Worth It?
Spot-lock is a great technology for the dedicated angler- it works.
The counterargument to this is that decades ago, we didn’t have or need any of this technology to successfully catch lots of fish.
Ultimately, it’s up to you and your budget. But such is the success of anglers using spot lock; you may wish to invest.
Does Spot-Lock Scare Fish?
It’s possible that it does. Particularly when fishing on a quiet day in a heavily fished area where fish tend to be a little jittery already.
This can be managed by limiting the use of spot-lock. It’s the sudden engagement of the motor as it engages to hold your position that is likely to spook fish.
I’m yet to have any significant issues with noise. However, some anglers suggest it can be too intrusive if over-used or used inappropriately.
Can You Add Spot-Lock to An Existing Trolling Motor?
Yes. You can add spot-lock to an existing electronic trolling motor adding game-changing functionality to an outdated motor.
What Is the Difference Between Spot-Lock and I-Pilot?
i-pilot is a complete GPS navigation system with a litany of advanced features designed to assist anglers in navigating waterways, discovering great fishing locations, and returning to them again.
Spot-lock is just one function within the i-pilot system, which allows the angler to hold the boat’s position, despite the wind and current.
Spot lock automatically holds your boat in position, so all you have to do is focus on the fishing.