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Beginner’s Guide To Trolling Motors – And How To Buy


Article Categories: Fishing Tips
Article Tags: Fishing Tips

Trolling motors can be hugely valuable tool for fisherman. Here in this article, we’ll explain the different types of trolling motors, what you should consider when purchasing one, and hopefully answer all your questions.

What Is A Trolling Motor? | Types of Trolling Motors | Trolling Motor Features


What Is A Trolling Motor?

Trolling motors are used to maneuver different kinds of boats, including canoe, kayak, bass boat, and all-purpose fishing boats, bay or flatboats, and so on. It is useful to bear in mind that there are transom mount and bow mount motors to choose from (differences explained below), according to your preferences and your type of boat. These motors will propel your boat at slow speeds, quietly, and can also steer the boat in your desired direction.

Trolling motors are electrically powered, and often controlled either with foot pedals, hand controls, or simply manually changing the direction of the motor.


Types Of trolling Motors


Transom Mount Trolling Motors

Transom mounts are easy-to-use, and generally the least expensive type of trolling motor. The anglers need to join the mount to the stern of the boat. This is usually done by a simple clamping system.

Transom mounts are controlled by a hand, and they won’t take up much space in the boat given how they are mounted.


  • The less expensive trolling motor option
  • Easy installation and removal from boat
  • Takes little to no space in your boat
  • Easy and effective steering and operation


  • Generally don’t have hands off or foot pedal controls
  • Generally not as many options, or as much steering controls as Bow Mount


Bow Mount Trolling Motors

Bow mounts are installed on the bow (front) of the boat. You are to drill a hole to fix the mount correctly. Then, make room for additional equipment such as cables and foot pedals. The biggest pro of the bow mounts is that their steering mechanism allows for maximum maneuverability and control.

These motors are often controlled with foot pedals or hand device.


  • Superior steering and maneuverability
  • Foot pedal controls for handless operation


  • Generally more expensive
  • Generally harder to install
  • More space is needed within the boat to


Trolling Motor Features And Considerations


Steering Mechanisms

Electric trolling motors can be managed by hand or foot control. These simple functions are extremely valuable for the anglers so they can focus more on the fishing, and less on the boat. Hand-control is managed by a special tiller, which, in turn, triggers the steering mechanism, including the motor and the propeller. The main advantage of foot-control is allowing the fisherman to have both hands free. There is a special pedal to control the boat. Some models of the motor are supplied with a wireless remote that makes fishing much easier.

Other motors, often bow mount motors, are controlled manually as the motor angle and speed is simply manually adjusted by hand. Inevitably, anglers will pay more for pedals or remote control, and less for manual controlled models.


Noise Levels

A high quality trolling motor will be extremely quiet, and emit very little electromagnetic noise. Less expensive models may emit some noises that actually affect your fish radar systems. Also, quiet models are just more enjoyable for anglers.


Freshwater Vs Saltwater Trolling Motors

The main difference between the fresh water and salt water motor is the material they are made of. Saltwater trolling motors  are made of material that inhibits corrosion brought by the corrosive properties of salt water.

Freshwater motors may not have these corrosion proof materials, meaning, your motor could quickly be not operating well in the ocean. Take note of this when choosing a trolling motor.

Generally, saltwater trolling motors have larger thrust capacities as well, or anglers may at least want higher capacities given potential need for larger boats, more wind, bigger waves, etc.


Battery System And Thrust

Electric trolling motors come in either: 12, 24 or 36 volts. Marine batteries generally come as 12-volts, and therefore, if you buy a 12 volt motor, you’ll only need one batter, while you’d need 3 batteries for a 36 volt motor.

A 12-volt trolling motor will be the least expensive, and simplest to setup. They lack as much power as 24 volt or 36 volt motors, and also may not last as long as a 24 or 36 volt motor.

Generally, if your boat is smaller than 16 feet, a 12 volt likely can be sufficient, and you may want to move up to a 24 or 36 volt motor depending upon the size of your boat. Check the chart below for more details


What Thrust Trolling Motor Should I Get For My Size Boat?

Below, we have created a chart for you on this:

Length of Boat Minimum Thrust Recommended
12 feet (3.66 m) 30 pounds (13.6 kg)
13 feet (3.96 m) 30 pounds (13.6 kg)
14 feet (4.27 m) 32 pounds (14.5 kg)
15 feet (4.57 m) 36 pounds (16.3 kg)
16 feet (4.88 m) 40 pounds (18.1 kg)
17 feet (5.18 m) 50 pounds (22.7 kg)
18 feet (5.49 m) 55 pounds (24.9 kg)
19 feet (5.79 m) 60 pounds (27.2 kg)
20 feet (6.10 m) 74 pounds (33.6 kg)
21 feet (6.40 m) 76 pounds (34.5 kg)
22 feet (6.71 m) 100 pounds (45.4 kg)


Trolling Motor Shaft Length

Be sure to measure the distance of the stern of your boat to the water. You’ll want to ensure your motor reaches the water, but doesn’t extend too far into the water.


Other Features For Consideration

We have explained some important things to consider when buying a trolling motor, but here are some other features to look out for:

A Battery Gauge — This gauge will allow anglers to easily see how much life is left in the battery, and hopefully prevent any failures out on the water.

Digital Displays & Readouts — Want a readout of speed, depth, direction and other items? Grab one with a digital display.

Self-Directional Motors / Automatic Steering — This feature allows for the boats direction to automatically be controlled by the motor. Settings allow the boat to follow a specific depth or shorelines. This can also be a great feature during heavy winds.


Bottom Line

Trolling motors amazingly valuable fishing tools.. Trolling motors are quiet and full of various useful functions. Anglers are proposed to select any kind of motor according to the specificities such as steering mechanisms, ways of control (hand, foot, wireless remote), ability to work under certain conditions (salt or freshwater), battery systems (12V, 24V, 36V), etc.

The decision to purchase strongly depends on the size of the boat, funds, preferences, and goals. Hopefully this guide helps you find what you are looking for.

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about