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The best spot lock trolling motors seem to turn the idea of “best” on its ear. After all, manufacturers competed for years to see which trolling motor would keep going, whether through waves, through submerged aquatic vegetation, or at the end of a long day when battery power is wearing down. Now we’re asking those same tools to sit put, and to do it precisely, until we ask it to move.
Spot-Lock revolutionized the game for offshore anglers who want to make the same cast repeatedly, particularly when there are no landmarks or visual cues to inform your positioning. That’s not the only situation where they can excel, however. Spot-Lock trolling motors can be used to hold a boat against a raging current or to prevent you from blowing into rocks or other obstacles as you land a fish or retie your line. To truly be the best, however, they need to do this flawlessly and still deliver on the promises of yesteryear—maximum power, maximum durability, and relative silence. Here are four of the best spot-lock trolling motors.
- Best in Heavy Grass: Minn Kota Ultrex
- Most Powerful: Lowrance Ghost
- Best for Livescope: Garmin Force
- Best for Multiple Sonar Brands: MotorGuide Tour Pro
Best in Heavy Grass: Minn Kota Ultrex
Why It Made the Cut
The first entrant in the Spot-Lock game—indeed, the company that coined the phrase—continues to lead the charge in its integration with Humminbird Electronics.
- Shaft Lengths: 45, 52, 60 inches
- Built-in Sonar: MEGA Down Imaging, Universal Sonar 2, MEGA Down/Side Imaging
- Voltage/Thrust: 36v/112 pounds or 24v/80 pounds
- Great in aquatic vegetation
- Lift assist makes it easy to deploy and retrieve
- Very responsive foot pedal
- Sometimes tough to source due to supply chain issues
Minn Kota changed the trolling motor landscape when they introduced the Ultrex, for the first time harnessing the power of GPS into precise positioning mechanisms for anglers everywhere. No longer was it necessary to guess the location of a ledge, brush pile, or rock pile. Instead, anglers could command the troller to take them there and keep them there for cast after productive cast.
They’ve improved their game substantially since then, in lockstep with improvements to their paired Humminbird electronics. Now you can buy an Ultrex with a built-in MEGA Imaging transducer to get crystal clear pictures.
You can also pair it to your Apple or Android device and operate it remotely or from another part of the boat. What I like most about mine is that I’ve plowed it through acres of grass thick enough to plow, and it comes out the other side clean and almost immediately ready to engage in its spot-holding job. While technology is great, if it doesn’t work in the rigors that anglers typically expose it to, the advances aren’t worth much. Minn Kota has this one down pat, even if you decide to use a different brand of electronics.
Most Powerful: Lowrance Ghost
Why It Made the Cut
This super-quiet brushless motor has a customizable foot pedal and convenient features.
- Shaft Lengths: 47, 52, 60 inches
- Built-in Sonar: Hdi Sonar Nosecone
- Voltage/Thrust: 36v/120 pounds or 24v/97 pounds
- Interference-free sonar picture
- Configurable foot pedal
- Quiet, brushless motor
- Freshwater use only
When Lowrance entered the spot lock game, they built upon their pioneering role in the sonar world to provide an angler-friendly yet technologically-advanced product. It was immediately embraced as one of the best spot-lock trolling motors, due to its brushless design.
This brushless motor is super-quiet and provides the most pounds of thrust per volt in its category. What I like about the Ghost is that the foot pedal is customizable. Years ago, when I first switched from MotorGuide—which had the button on the right side of the pedal—to Minn Kota—which had it on the left—several times a day, I’d mash down on the pedal and get no response for reasons that were almost instantly obvious. This simple feature allows anglers to put the button where they like it. It also includes a battery level indicator and programmable easy-access keys that allow the user to quickly drop a waypoint rather than bending over and engaging the paired sonar unit by hand. That’s a time-saver and a huge means of adding efficiency.
Best for Livescope: Garmin Force
Why It Made the Cut
The innovator in forward-facing sonar systems takes technology and innovation to another level.
- Shaft Lengths: 50 and 57 inches
- Built in Sonar: Transducer for CHIRP traditional and Ultra High-Definition ClearVü and SideVü scanning sonars.
- Voltage/Thrust: 36v/100 pounds or 24v/80 pounds
- Extremely quiet
- Water-resistant, floating remote control
- Dual gas springs make retraction and deployment quiet and easy on your back
- Most expensive of the motors surveyed
Despite winning the ICAST New Product Showcase Best of Show award three years ago, Garmin continues to innovate. They were the first company to widely popularize and innovate in the forward-facing sonar space—making one of the best fish finders— which gave them a leg up when it came to integrating their Force trolling motors with their paired electronics. Refined transducers provide a clearer or more interference-free picture than ever, but this trolling motor is a beast even without the benefit of their leading GPS technology. The foot deal is wireless and incredibly responsive, requiring AA batteries, although it can be hard-wired. You can point the floating, waterproof remote in the direction you want to go, and the Force will take you there. If tech is your thing, and you value it in your fishing, consider this advanced model.
Best for Multiple Sonar Brands: MotorGuide Tour Pro
Why It Made the Cut
Venerable leader in trolling motor advances was late to the spot lock game, but built a competent tool based on its heritage.
- Shaft Lengths: 45 inches
- Built-in Sonar: Pinpoint GPS and optional HD+ Universal Sonar
- Voltage/Thrust: 36v/109 lbs. or 24v/82 lbs.
- Works equally well with all major sonar brands
- Effortless true cable steering
- 360 degree breakaway mount
- Not built for one particular brand of sonar
Unlike the three trolling motor manufacturers above, MotorGuide is not partnered directly with an electronics manufacturer. Rather than seeing that as a negative, however, they view it as a positive, meaning that you can mix and match your systems (even using two or more different brands of sonar) without losing effectiveness or precision. They didn’t need to reinvent the wheel with years of heritage in the trolling motor game compared to some of their competitors. Instead, they matched durability with flexibility. The shaft consists of an oversized metal outer column paired with an unbreakable inner composite piece. I know anglers who are beyond rough on their gear, who grind them into riprap and massive stumps, and still, the MotorGuide keeps on ticking. The metal foot pedal is also bulletproof, which means it’s always where you expect it to be and won’t get beat to death by either massive waves or hard-stomping tournament partners.
Things to Consider
Spot lock technology can be an absolute game-changer for anglers who need to remain in one place indefinitely, but each new feature that you add increases price and complexity. All four of the best trolling motor manufacturers have upped the reliability of their products, but at this stage in the game, most of us should admit that if something goes wrong, we’ll be unable to fix it ourselves.
Do you need a 36-volt system, or can you get away with 24 volts? Does your boat have room for three batteries? Can you justify the expense of lithium batteries? Modern electronics drain batteries quicker than ever before, which may not be an issue if you have one of the best trolling motor batteries, but they don’t come inexpensively.
Preferred Sonar Brand
Usually, but not always, trolling motors that come from the factory ready to be paired with a partner brand of electronics work best with those electronics. If you’re going to use multiple graphs, that might not be a factor, but a consistent corporate nameplate may in some cases, ease setup and troubleshooting practices.
Rumors of Other Brands
While the four brands listed above are the leaders in this space, there have long been rumors that there will be other entrants to the market. Should you wait if you prefer one of those?
Q: How much do spot lock trolling motors cost?
The added technology necessary to build motors with spot lock capability has raised most units’ prices well above $2,000, and some are priced closer to $4,000. This depends on the number of features incorporated, along with the length of the shaft and incorporated power. Of course, electronics and batteries are not included in this pricing.
Q: How do I stop my trolling motor from being stolen?
It is fairly easy to remove a trolling motor from an unattended boat, but it is likely not feasible to store it for safekeeping each time you store it. Accordingly, if you are worried about your expensive trolling motor being stolen, it might pay to invest in a lock like those from DuraSafe. They’re not 100% foolproof, but they may act as a deterrent.
Q: What is the cheapest spot lock trolling motor?
The MotorGuide Tour models seem to be at the low end of the spot lock trolling motor price spectrum, although they are by no means “cheap.” Several of the others are well over $3,000, in some cases approaching $4,000.
I’ve run all four of these brands on everything from shallow, grassy tidal rivers to the ledges of the big TVA impoundments to the Great Lakes, and I’ve realized that much of what makes a trolling motor good is a matter of personal preference. Do you like a loose pedal or one with more tension? Do you value relative silence over power? How important is the brand of sonar that you use? I know that while I use Spot-Lock frequently, my Power Poles also usurp some of their role. I rarely use the autopilot or the remote, but I demand the clearest picture possible. I’m also rough on equipment—as they get more feature-packed, that’s just more things that could break or fall victim to the elements. I want my trolling motor to hold in place every time I tell it, but the most important thing is that it runs efficiently every time I step on the button.
As our fisheries get more highly pressured, and our fish become more educated, precision boat positioning is increasingly important. Being able to make that “money cast” over and over and over again requires the best use of your trolling motor and your GPS, and in most cases that requires one of the best spot-lock trolling motors. Are they strictly necessary? Not always, but the technology makes life a lot easier and a lot fishier. Depending on your electronics needs, a particular brand may be better than the others for you, but all four major players produce a quality product.