Ever since GPS technology was paired with electric trolling motors, I have availed myself and my clients of the advantages that GPS-equipped trolling motors offer anglers.
At the heart of a GPS-equipped trolling motor is the GPS receiver built into the head of the trolling motor. This receiver receives satellite signals from multiple GPS satellites at any given time and precisely determines its position on the earth’s surface using such signals.
With the touch of a button, an angler can now command the trolling motor to lock onto a particular latitude and longitude and remain there indefinitely while fishing. The trolling motor then steers and powers itself so as to maintain that position, all while the angler’s hands and feet are freed from the chore of maintaining position manually.
A case in point: Tuesday evening I was joined by a party of three including Jordan and Kathleen Miller and their friend, KISD school teacher Sam Garrell. In two and a half hours these three anglers landed 202 fish on Stillhouse Hollow in the heat of the evening, from 6:15 to 8:45 p.m.
One hundred and eighty-six of these fish came from a single area the length and width of my boat as we sat atop this productive spot using hands-free GPS-equipped trolling motor technology.
White bass, hybrid stripers and striped bass
I pursue white bass and hybrid stripers year round. I find that because these open-water fish are by nature a schooling fish, often congregating in groups of several hundred, it is helpful to maintain position over whatever bottom topography has caused these fish to gather.
The old-fashioned way to do this was to toss out a marker buoy on the fish and then either anchor upwind or hold position near the buoy by manually controlling the trolling motor. Unfortunately the left and right swing experienced on a single anchor, and the frequent loss of position experienced when operating a trolling motor manually (while unhooking a fish or untangling a line, for example) prevent maintaining constant, precise positioning.
Using the Minn Kota Ulterra (one of several brands of GPS-equipped motors on the market), I now never give a second thought to precise positioning as this motor handsomely takes care of this task once the “Spot Lock” function is activated. The unit I use is a 36-volt, 112-pound thrust model. With a fully loaded 20-foot, 9-inch center console boat with seven anglers, 250 pounds of water in the livewell, and 120 pounds of fuel on board, this motor has no problem staying put in an 18 to 20 mph wind.
The real benefit to staying put plays out beneath the water’s surface. As white bass, hybrid, or striper are reeled in, they struggle and put off flash and vibration which excites their schoolmates. Additionally, as fish are reeled to the surface, they will often defecate under stress and will also regurgitate any freshly swallowed baitfish they have consumed.
As these things fall to the bottom, they create, in effect, a chum line. Being able to stay directly atop this falling chum and this commotion puts the angler right in the center of fish activity. As more fish are caught, more commotion and more “chum” is created, and the effect is further heightened.
By their nature, largemouth bass are cover-loving ambush feeders. More rugged GPS-equipped trolling motors like the Minn Kota Ultrex allow for traditional “scissor lift” stowing and deploying, while still giving anglers the ability to “Spot Lock” on a specific area and hold there.
In windy conditions, bass anglers can now stand on the bow with both feet firmly planted on the deck for balance, thus allowing them to concentrate on strike detection.
Many savvy bass anglers using GPS-equipped electric motors now “Spot Lock” upwind of fish-holding cover and fish with the wind to their backs, thus allowing for longer casts and more line control.
One time-tested method of catching both blue catfish and channel catfish is by baiting an area with soured grain like maize or milo, then going back and fishing that area after the grain has had time to draw catfish in and concentrate them.
The key to success here is being able to position the boat precisely back over top of the area where the grain was deposited. This positioning typically involves tying up to something, such as a treetop sticking out of the water.
Now, with GPS-equipped trolling motors which have the ability to save several waypoints, catfish anglers can return to any position on the lake’s surface with GPS-precision, whether or not there is an object to tie on to.
The Spot-Lock feature is but one of many features modern trolling motors offer the angler, but, I dare say, the most powerful. These units are not inexpensive, but they are certainly effective and the precision and consistency with which they function is much improved over the original models which were introduced several years ago.