There is a wide variety of trolling motors on the market today. In fact, there are so many that it can be confusing to know which is considered the best trolling motor and more importantly, what will work best for your application.
How to choose a trolling motor has a lot to do with your specific needs and current fishing rig than anything else.
There are many things to consider:
Even what type of fishing electronics you use can make a difference in your choice, especially if you want to link your trolling motor to the mapping capabilities of your electronics.
The size of your boat will go a long way in determining what type of trolling motor you will want to put on your boat. For instance, a 12-volt, 55-lb thrust motor will probably be all you need if you have a 16-foot aluminum boat or kayak. But, if you’re running a 19-foot bass boat or a big deep-V walleye boat, you will ideally want to select a 36-volt motor with around 100-lb thrust or better.
Some anglers are comfortable with a 24-volt motor on bigger boats, but understand that, especially in adverse conditions such as big winds or strong currents, these smaller motors may run out of battery before you are ready to be done fishing for the day.
These motors come in 12-volt, 24-volt, and 36-volt models. The higher the voltage, the more pounds of thrust the motor will be have. If you think of the thrust rating as the power of the trolling motor, it is easy to see why a bigger boat will need more thrust to propel it through the water.
Not only the size, but also the weight of the boat, will determine the thrust needed from the motor. In fact, the weight of the boat, if known, is an even better determinant. The problem, though, is that many boaters are not sure of the weight of their vessel, especially if it was not bought new.
When a good formula to use to determine the minimum thrust needed for your boat based on weight is 1 pound of thrust for every 50 pounds of boat weight. For instance, if you have a boat weighing 1,500 pounds, you’ll want at least a 30-pound thrust motor. A 4,000 pound boat would require at least 80 pounds of thrust, etc.
Keep in mind, though, that if you are fishing in heavy current or strong winds a great deal of the time, you would be better served by a trolling motor with more thrust than the minimum recommended. The more power you have, the more adverse conditions you will be able to handle on the water without any issues.
As mentioned above, trolling motors come in 12-volt, 24-volt, and 36-volt varieties. This means that they are powered by 1, 2, or 3 12-volt marine batteries, respectively. If you are deciding between a 12-volt and 24-volt, or a 24-volt and a 36-volt, the space you have available for batteries may help you make that decision.
Ideally, you would base your decision on the size and weight, but many boats simply do not have the space for three batteries, so the angler may need to rethink the choice trolling motors. If you have a boat that is right on the line, and either the larger or smaller voltage motor will be suitable, then you will probably be fine with either.
However, if the weight of your boat, for instance, dictates that you really should have a 100+ pound thrust motor (which will be a 36-volt), and you don’t have enough space for three batteries, you may need to reconfigure your battery space in order to get the proper number of batteries.
There are two different types of trolling motors as far as mounting goes. One is a transom mount, and the other a bow mount. Depending on your boat, and your style of fishing, one will most likely be much better suited than the other.
A transom mounted trolling motor is mounted to the back transom of the boat. Transom mount motor are operated by hand with a twist-style handle. They work very well for smaller boats and boats that have a flat back.
These motors are often much less expensive than bow mounted trolling motors, which is great for the entry-level angler. The drawback of these motors is that they steer from the back of the boat, which makes positioning the boat less precise compared to the bow mounted motor.
However, they can easily be operated while sitting, and are a great choice for many anglers.
Bow mounted motors, on the other hand, tend to be more expensive, but offer a greater variety of features and benefits. These trolling motors can be hand-operated with a twist-style control like the transom mounts, foot-controlled with a foot pedal, or controlled wirelessly.
Different models offer different options, so if you are looking into a bow mount unit, keep in mind the type of fishing you like to do, where you are normally in the boat when fishing, and make the decision based on those factors.
Foot-controls are great for anglers who stand in the front of the boat while fishing, such as most bass anglers. Hand-controlled bow mounts are good for those who want to control the direction of the boat by hand and are not concerned as much with hands-free operation.
Wirelessly-controlled motors are fairly new to the scene and can offer the angler control of the unit from anywhere in the boat.
There are lower-end versions that control only direction and speed, and higher-end options that allow for integration with certain electronics, can be set to keep the boat in one specific spot, or even to keep the boat along a break line at a certain depth.
These, of course, are more expensive than a normal bow mount, but some anglers have found them well worth the cost and wouldn’t dream of fishing without one.
While this may seem like a strange thing to think about where trolling motors are concerned, it can have a bearing on the exact model of the best trolling motor you may want.
The reason is that these units come in various shaft lengths. The shaft length is simply a measure of the length from the propeller on the bottom of the motor to the head of the motor. This will tell you how deep your unit will go while still having the prop in the water.
For instance, if you enjoy fishing the Great Lakes, for instance, where wind and waves usually play a factor in every fishing outing, you may want a one with a longer shaft. Keep in mind, too, that bow mount trolling motors are susceptible to the bow bouncing continuously over waves, possibly causing the unit to come out of the water. You want to make sure you have a long enough shaft that the motor will stay in the water and you won’t lose any power or control in heavy sea conditions.
If you are a shallow water angler, though, you might want to consider a shorter shafted one. This will allow you to fish in “skinny water” by pulling the unit up higher. With a longer shaft, you can still do this, but keep in mind that you will have that much more shaft in the air and possibly in your way of casting. This can be especially true with a bow mounted unit.
Each make and model will usually come in more than one shaft length. So, think about the water you tend to fish the most when deciding on the shaft length you will need. As a general rule of thumb, the shaft length for a transom mount trolling motor should extend 20 – 25 inches into the water from the transom.
First determine how many inches you have from the transom to the water. Then add 20-25 inches to that figure. That will help you decide the length shaft you may need. The same can be done for a bow mounted unit, but the best rule of thumb is 25-30 inches of motor in the water because the front of the boat, as mentioned, goes up and down more with wave action. This necessitates a longer shaft.
Technology in trolling motors has come a long way in recent years. Minn Kota, notably, has created a system that can link your Huminbird fish finder electronics directly to certain models of Minn Kota trolling motors. Many anglers use these capabilities on every fishing trip with no exceptions.
they can use the mapping and navigation of the electronic to direct you to a waypoint, follow a contour in the lake, or even use the GPS to hold you directly over one spot such as an underwater hump.
If you want to use features such as this, you will need one that is compatible. Be prepared to spend some money on these models, but many anglers agree that the features are well worth the expense.
Wirelessly controlled united are another great advancement in trolling technology, but this is also not available on all models. If you are interested in remote control operation, or automatic stow and deploy features, that will determine the type and model of trolling motor that you purchase.
You will want to keep all of these things in mind when purchasing your next unit. But don’t make it too complicated on yourself. Use the size and weight of your boat to determine the thrust and voltage of the trolling motor, and then think of the water you normally fish, and how you like to fish.
Looking at these simple things will help you make the right purchase.
The following are a curated list of our trolling motor reviews and their stand out features from my experience:
This is a great all-around bow mount unit. It’s foot control offers hands free operation. It’s 36-volt, 112-lb thrust will propel a 20+ foot bass boat through the water at a good clip as well as keep up to wind, waves, and current for a full day’s fishing. This trolling motor has one of the biggest thrust ratings available today and is a great choice for serious anglers.
This unit, at 54-lbs of thrust, is a great bow mount option for smaller boats. It has a 30” shaft, making it great for shallow water fishing. It includes a modified transom mount for bow mount applications as well. It would be a perfect choice for a jon boat or other small craft.
This is a 12-volt trolling motor with 50 pounds of thrust. It is a good choice for smaller boats that are well-suited for a transom mounted trolling motor. It has the high-quality shaft that Minn Kota is known for, and is all but indestructible. It features 5 forward speed and 3 reverse speed for the ultimate in control. Minn Kota is known for quality, and this one will not disappoint.
This 12-volt unit is meant for smaller boats, including inflatables and kayaks. It features 5 forward speed and 3 reverse speeds. It’s built to withstand even saltwater applications with stainless steel hardware, a composite fiberglass shaft and an aluminum head. While not a “household name” in most angling circles, at less than $200, it can be a great choice for smaller applications.
At just over $100, this little motor with it’s 40 pounds of thrust will push along your Intex or other inflatable boats all day long. It features a 36” shaft, and is great for fresh or salt water. All you need is one 12-volt marine battery with at least a 60 ampere hours rating, and you’ll be set to enjoy a great day of fishing.
These are but a few of the different styles and types of trolling motor on the market today. By far, the most popular brands are Minn Kota and Motorguide. Both have been around forever, and have made great strides in their technology in recent years.
Keep in mind the factors above, and you will have much easier time in selecting the best trolling motor for your needs and budget.