Ranking The Best Trolling Motors On The Market
Black Haswing 12V Bow Mount Trolling Motor
Garmin Force Foot Steer Trolling Motor
Watersnake ASP Salt Water Transom Mount Trolling Motor
Joe Appleton Updated on October 1, 2020.by
Boat Safe is a community supported site. We may earn comission from links on this page, but we have confidence in all recommended products.
A trolling motor is an indispensable piece of equipment for anglers of all stripes. They’re the perfect tool for gently moving from one point to another in a precise and controlled manner, without disturbing the water and scaring away the fish.
If you’re not familiar with the purpose of a trolling motor, they are small and compact self-contained electric motors that can be mounted to the bow or stern of a boat. They’re not designed to provide outrageous thrust and performance, but just enough propulsion to move a boat through the water in a quiet and discreet manner that won’t worry the wildlife.
But which one do you need?
There are so many different products on the market that you’re literally spoilt for choice. However, making the wrong decision could make or break a fishing trip. A motor that runs too loudly will leave your keep nets empty. A motor without enough thrust will leave you stranded at the dock. The wrong shaft length will see you catching a whole load of spray and not a lot of fish.
Different vessels require different motors, with different mounts and different properties. No online guide is going to magically pick out the best trolling motor for your needs, but we’re hoping to point you in the right direction so that you can find the best motor for your boat. Here are our top choices.
A Comprehensive Trolling Motor Buying Guide
Unfortunately, you can’t just buy the first trolling motor for sale. They are designed for different purposes and for different vessel-types, so you have to do a little bit of research before hitting the buy button. Here are the most important things you should keep in mind before investing in a new motor.
Where Are You Operating?
Freshwater trolling motors are oftentimes cheaper than their saltwater brethren. This is because freshwater isn’t particularly damaging to components. However, freshwater motors are often equipped with special propellers that can cut through weeds, which is a feature many saltwater models lack. Using a freshwater motor in the ocean is not at all recommended.
Saltwater motors are built to withstand the harmful effects of salt water. The high salt content in sea water can cause rust and corrosion to built up and harm your motor, particularly around the shaft. Saltwater motors are generally a little more powerful too, since they have to battle against the ocean rather than against calmer waters. Saltwater trolling motors can be used in freshwater if required.
Where Are You Mounting The Motor?
Now that you’ve worked out where you’ll be using your boat, you now need to work out where you’d mount a motor on your vessel. Some motors are designed for specific mounting locations, offering better performance mounted in one place than they would in another. Here are the different mounting areas available.
The bow—the front of the boat, for landlubbers—is a popular mounting position. These motors are often attached using a bolt-on bracket, with propellers that pull your boat through the water. Some say that bow-mounted motors offer greater control.
The transom area of your boat is the back section. Transom mounted trolling motors attach using a clamp-on bracket, and they often feature hand-operated tiller controls. This location offers easy positions and steering, in a convenient and simple package.
These motors don’t mount onto engines, but the cavitation plate that you’d usually mount and outboard or inboard motor to. The benefit of this location is that it keeps your deck clear, and the motor doesn’t have to be stowed away or deployed for use.
What Size Trolling Motor Do You Need?
One of the most confusing things about buying a new motor is working out what size motor you need. Generally, there are three important things to factor into your search: the amount of thrust your vessel requires, how many volts you need to power it, and the length of the shaft needed to provide adequate propulsion through the water. Here’s what you need to know.
“Thrust” is the word used to describe how much power a motor has. In the US, we measure thrust in pounds. Naturally, the heavier your boat is, the more thrust you’ll need to help it move through the water.
It’s generally accepted that you require at least 2 lbs of thrust per 100 lbs of overall weight. We say “overall” because that figure should also include your gear and passengers’ weight too, and not just your boat’s weight.
More thrust is better, since it can help you in trickier conditions with strong winds and currents, but more thrust often causes bigger disturbances in the water, which could frighten away fish.
Next, there’s the voltage. Unsurprisingly, voltage is always measured in volts. The voltage indicates how much electrical power a motor will require. A 12 volt motor will require a 12 volt battery. A 24 volt motor will demand two 12 volt batteries. In short, you’ll need one battery for every 12 volts that a motor demands.
Generally speaking, motors providing under 55 lbs of thrust will require a single 12 volt battery. From 60 lbs to 80 lbs, 24 volts, using two 12 volt batteries will be required. Thrust greater than 100 lbs will usually require 36 volts, using three 12 volt batteries. But always follow the manufacturer’s advice for the best results.
Lastly, another crucial motor feature to take into account is the shaft length. The wrong shaft length won’t do you any favors. If a shaft is too short, the propeller won’t be submerged enough to provide propulsion. If a shaft is too long for the waters you’re exploring, it could hit the bottom and damage the propeller.
Different mounting locations require different shaft lengths; however, it’s recommended that the actual motor section (with the propeller) sits at least 12 inches below the waterline. Fortunately, there are plenty of guidelines out there about determining the proper shaft length.
After you’ve worked out what type of motor, mount, and power you require, then the fun can really begin. Now you can start looking at the details. One aspect that many boaters really like to take their time to consider is the operation types available. Do you want a good old-fashioned hand tiller? A hands-free foot pedal? Or something really modern, with wireless remote control?
Steering with a hand operated tiller is the most traditional method of steering a boat and controlling a motor. Most tiller controls feature a telescopic handle for easy, precise steering with excellent maneuverability. They do require yours hands though, which can be a pain if you prefer to keep your hands on your fishing rod at all times!
Cable-operated devices are mostly governed by a foot pedal. These pedals control cables that deliver instructions to the motor. They generally feature heel/toe operation for controlling forward power, most also have left and right steering capabilities too. Foot pedal cable steering devices are great for those who like a hands-free experience.
At the more expensive end of the scale you can find electronically controlled steering options. The most basic of these have wireless remote control steering, often via a touchscreen or handheld device. More advanced options use GPS technology and other compatible devices to utilize autopilot systems that use satellite technology to take you to your destination, or hold you in place over your favorite fishing spots.
These options are generally more expensive though.
Like the electronic steering, trolling motors can be incredibly technologically advanced. For those who really want to have the best of the best, here are some top-level advanced features that are on offer.
Marine GPS devices are indispensable to serious boaters. They’re not necessary for the casual kayaker’s trip up and down the river, but if you’re heading out into deeper water, or out into the ocean, having some kind of GPS feature is a wise idea. GPS devices can help you locate your favorite fishing spots easily, and point you in the right direction if you get lost. Some can even contact help in an emergency too.
Autopilot and cruise control options are quite useful if you’re planning on a longer journey. Not having to keep all of your attention on steering and controlling the power leaves you free to do other things, such as get your gear in order, keep an eye on the conditions, or just relax while you’re on the water. Many devices also have Spot-Lock features, which keeps your vessel locked in place, using the motor to reposition the vessel if the current tries to pull your boat away.
Fish Finder Sonar
Fish finders are very similar to GPS devices, but they also have the advantage of underwater sonar. Using transducer attachments, these devices can send multiple sonar pulses through the water, detecting fish and underwater topography, giving you a crystal-clear indication of what’s underneath your hull. Fish finders are must-have devices for fishermen.
Connectivity & Compatibility
While some motors have Wifi connectivity, we mainly mean connectivity in the sense that it’s a motor that can connect with other marine-based devices. Some brands, such as Garmin, offer full compatibility with most of their product range. So, it would be possible to connect a trolling motor with a fish finder, for example. Some motors connect with GPS devices, and others can connect with some phone apps. If technology and connectivity is your thing, these features are worth looking out for.
Other Things To Consider
Stowage & Deployment
Since trolling motors need to be deployed, it’s worth looking at how easy it is to get them into the water. Some have spring-loaded features to make deployment easy, as well as making the motor a breeze to pull up and stow. Many modern motors even have power-assisted functions and pedal-operation to do the job for you. It’s not of massive importance, but it’s a good idea to keep this in mind.
If you have multiple boats, or like to use a kayak in a certain lake, another canoe in your favorite river, and like to use a pontoon boat for coastal fishing, then you might be better off buying one trolling motor that you can use for all three. Look out for compact motors that are easy to transport—this could save you a lot of money in the long run!
Making sure that there’s an easily accessible supply of spare parts for your motor is another important thing to take into account. Larger, reputable brands often sell higher priced items, but they also usually have excellent customer service with access to a huge parts network. Unknown brands can sell quality devices for cheaper, but if something goes wrong or a part needs replacing, you might be left with few practical options.
Throwing away a perfectly good motor because you can’t find a replacement propeller would be a real shame, and a real waste of money too. Always read the reviews and comments sections online for existing customer’s experiences of a brands parts supply and customer service.
In Summary: What’s The Best Trolling Motor?
There’s no one-size-fits-all trolling motor that will please everyone. What works perfectly for one kind of fisherman using a certain type of boat will be completely wrong for another. But as long as you follow our buying guide, read other reviews, and do your research, then you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your needs. However, if you need a bit more inspiration, there are a few stand-out products that we feel like we need to highlight. Here’s our best of the best:
The best trolling motor for boaters on a budget would be the Watersnake ASP Salt Water Transom Mount trolling motor. It’s ideal for a wide range of activities and boat types, and it has a very low price tag. It’s light, easy to transport, and simple to install. Though it lacks in advanced features, it’s great for hassle-free trolling, and it even comes with a one year warranty. Perfect for trolling on a budget.
At the other end of the scale, we’d have to choose the Garmin Force Foot Steer motor as out premium pick. It’s pricey, but you get a lot for your money. Not only do you get a very powerful but quiet and discreet motor, you also get a whole suite of advanced Garmin electronics, including GPS, a fish finder, and remote control capabilities. It’s expensive, but it’s a serious piece of equipment.
Lastly, if we had to pick our favorite, a best trolling motor overall, then we’d choose the Black Haswing 12V Bow Mount trolling motor. It’s a small and compact 12 volt motor that produces up to 55 lbs of thrust. It features a range of exciting features, including wireless control, cruise control, saltwater and freshwater compatibility, and a 2 year manufacturer’s warranty. The price is very reasonable too—it’s not a budget product, but it’s not overpriced either. It’s our favorite product overall.