An Introduction to “Spot-Locking”
What I am about to share is liable to make some wallets a little lighter and alter some Christmas lists so I’ll apologize ahead of time, but you will want to thank me later so let’s just call it good and not worry about being polite. There are only a few things that I believe are “must haves” when it comes to bass fishing…good line, sharp hooks, an understanding of what is below the surface and now…”Spot-Lock”.
Spot-Lock is not a new technology (my dad has been using it on an Ulterra the past 3 years). But it was new to me this year. We purchased an Ultrex (Minnkota Ultrex) from Nixon’s Marine and myself and a buddy installed it a few hours later. We went with the 52″ shaft because of the Columbia’s propensity to get “big” and skipped the “Link” option – mostly because that was the model available to us and, if you haven’t noticed, these Ultrex’s are hard to get ahold of.
To be honest, it wasn’t like I was surprised that the Ultrex was going to be the best thing since sliced bread. We even had a pretty good game plan for how we would use it when we got it. We tend to gravitate to open water, “out in the middle of nowhere” fishing and it seemed obvious that spot-locking was only going to help in that style. However, there were a few revelations that were unexpected.
Revelation #1 – Spot-Lock will change how you fish
If you are a believer in playing the casting and presentation angles like me, then it may seem obvious how spot-locking is going to benefit. But until you really utilize it out on the water, you can’t appreciate the benefits. I suppose the best comparison to make is hunting out of a stand/blind vs roaming around. When you are locked on to a spot, it matters where you are. The angle of the sun, the direction of the wind all are thought out and overcome. Those things are no longer a disadvantage, they are turned into an advantage. I now can use the wind to help my position and cast – no more battling the wind. Same goes for the current. I now can set up in a location not in spite of the current, but because of it.
Little things, like taking the time to change lures, or dig another rod out of the rod locker to try, all of the sudden became easier things to do and therefore adjustments on the water were more common to make and not just talk or think about. Grabbing something to drink or a bite to eat was no big deal, whereas before I didn’t feel like I could be bothered by things that would take me away from the front pedal of the trolling motor. The biggest (best) thing was that when I did get on fish, I didn’t drift or get blown off my new find and then end up ruining the area by running the trolling motor aggressively back up to my spot or having to idle back up with the big motor.
Revelation #2 – The “spot” becomes your backyard
Similar to anchor fishing minus the commotion or hassle, spot-locking allows you to be intimately familiar with your surroundings. Casts aren’t made randomly as if searching for a response, but instead casts are made with an expectation of ______ should happen because I am throwing to ______. You are now able to use the whole boat, moving around at will, without moving the boat. While spot-locking, I found myself really dissecting what each cast meant in terms of the feedback I was getting and how the fish were positioned and reacting to my baits. So a cast to the 2 o’clock position might yield an occasional 3lb smallmouth while a cast at the 6 o’clock position might result in a 2lber on nearly every cast. That is a level of intimacy and understanding that I don’t typically get or comprehend while moving about via the trolling motor, even if I think I am in the same area. Which all goes to verify – there is area fishing and there is spot fishing and now there is spot-locking.
Revelation #3 – I caught more fish
I worried that the constant or nearly constant on-off of the trolling motor while on spot-lock would spook fish. Turns out the opposite seemed to be the case. I’ve been trying to advocate for a more stealthy approach to bass fishing in general, theorizing that for every bass that isn’t bothered by all the noise you are making there are three that are. Arguing that a slow and steady “on” is better than a medium speed “on and off”. It’s only reasonable after all. Try a slow but constant noise of say a fan on low-speed around anyone or any animal. Then try that same fan off and on at a medium speed. They will notice and be bothered by it. Spot-lock is by default that steady “on”.
I am a believer in that fish can and do become conditioned to the noises we make (boats, electronics, lures) on the water, so maybe there is a degree of conditioning to spot-lock that hasn’t happened yet. But during this first season of use, there was plenty of evidence that spot-locking did little to deter fish from biting.
During a July outing with my dad this past year on the Columbia, we were able to position the boat in a pretty strong current, hit spot lock and catch over 100 smallmouth – from one spot! We both discussed how we hadn’t had a day like that ever! We weren’t able to wear the smallmouth out. We honestly left them biting because we were both worn out! We both wanted to understand why – what had we done differently? It wasn’t a new location or a new bait. Normally, we would have been battling with the trolling motor to hold in that location and even with a waypoint marked, it would have been nearly impossible to stay in one specific spot. With each fish, there would have been some drift off of the spot and even smallmouth that are actively feeding will only tolerate so much boat movement and stop and go of the trolling motor. With spot-lock, there was no boat movement and the trolling motor stayed at a low to medium speed because of the current.
Revelation #4 Competitive Advantage/Disadvantage
In a tournament situation, having or not having spot-lock will constitute a competitive advantage or disadvantage – if used properly. Just like the first trolling motors, or the first sonar units, those that figure out the proper, best or the most efficient way to utilize spot-lock technology are going to have the upper hand. It may not impact every tournament, but over the course of a season, including the pre-fishing, spot-lock will be the most important tool to have onboard. There is a reason we have dubbed the spot-lock button the “cheater” button. It really does feel like you must be breaking a rule to just walk around the boat and fish and not deal with the trolling motor.
What does the 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of The Year, Brandon Palaniuk, have to say about it?
“I almost felt sorry for the guys not running an Ultrex. I’d see them hook up and then get blown 100 yards off while they dealt with the fish. Then they’d have to fire up the big motor to get back to the waypoint. That’s a lot of time spent NOT fishing. Like I said, I almost felt sorry for them.”
More to Come
This post is meant to be more of an introduction to what an eye-opening experience spot-locking was this past year. We will follow-up with a more intensive, in-depth look at the new technology and how to best use it and what to watch out for including courses and consulting on this new technology. There’s a lot to cover!
Currently, we have only tried the Minnkota version of this technology. Motorguide’s version is a bit unknown to us at this point although it is an entirely digital controlled unit, so that means that steering is all wireless and not via a cable drive like the Ultrex. More similar to the Ulterra model. GOA isn’t affiliated with either Motorguide or Minnkota so we intend to provide an unfiltered and unbiased look at what this new technology is all about, but so far, so good for us.
Shopping for an Ultrex? Click here for the regular model. Click here for the “Link” model. The differences between the i-Pilot and the i-Pilot Link can be found here.
In the meantime, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or question below.
I have had an Ultrex since April.. And you are absolutely 100% correct on your evaluation of the game changer called ” spotlock”