Trolling Motor Selection Tips
The correct trolling motor can be an very useful tool for catching your
limit, but there are a lot of options and variables to consider when selecting one.
Thrust, shaft length and features are just a few of the many things to think about
when it comes time to pick the perfect trolling motor.
In this article, we'll discuss the key factors you need to understand to ensure you get the right motor for your
The issue of thrust is the biggest factor people struggle with when selecting a
trolling motor, and itʼs an important issue to get correct.
Too little thrust and your boat wonʼt be able to move well in the water. Too much
thrust and youʼre spending more than you need.
There are two metrics for determining the proper amount of thrust - boat weight
Boat weight is by far the best determinant. If you know your boat weight, use this
metric to determine thrust needed. However, itʼs often hard to determine boat weight and length is often used as a
The charts below will give you a good idea of how much thrust youʼll need for your
These are recommended minimums, so if you often fish in wind or strong currents,
you may want to step up to the next level of recommend thrust.
Also, when considering boat weight, make sure to figure in
the weight of boat passengers and equipment.
vs. Bow Mount
Almost all trolling motors will mount either to the transom (rear) or to the bow
(front) of the boat.
Transom mount motors are most commonly used with small to medium sized boats, are
more affordable and are fairly straight forward.
Bow mount motors are usually used with medium to larger sized boats, cost
significantly more and are usually compatible with a host of features such as foot pedal control,
wireless control, AutoPilot technology and others.
The type of mount you need will be dictated by your boat size and fishing
Small boats with open bows will almost always use a transom mount motor as bow
mount motors require a flat platform on the bow for mounting.
Larger boats will often be compatible with both transom and bow mount motors, and
the choice will come down to budget, boat size and fishing style.
If you want both hands free for fishing, youʼll want a bow mount foot pedal
If youʼre on a budget and donʼt mind steering the trolling motor by hand from the
back, a transom mount motor would be a fine choice.
For more information on selecting the appropriate transom mount motor, please see
our article on Transom Mount Motor
Shaft length is another issue that causes confusion when selecting a trolling
motor. A trolling motorʼs shaft is the straight rod that connects the head of the motor to the propeller, and is
measured in inches. The process for determining the correct shaft length varies slightly based on whether you have
a transom or bow mount motor.
Transom Mount Motors
Transom mount motors should have approximately 20” to 25” of the shaft underwater
to ensure proper performance.
To determine the shaft length you need, measure the distance from the transom of
the boat to the water line, and add the 20” to 25” submersion factor.
For example, if itʼs 20” from your transom to the waterline, youʼd want a shaft
that was 40” to 45” long.
Bow Mount Motors
Because the bow of a boat often moves up and down more than the transom, the
submersion factor for bow mount motors is a bit larger.
Bow mount trolling motors should have 25” to 30” of the shaft underwater to ensure proper performance.
To determine the shaft length you need, measure the distance from the bow of the
boat to the water line, and add the 25” to 30” submersion factor.
For example, if itʼs 20” from your bow to the waterline, youʼd want a shaft that
was 45” to 50” long.
If in doubt, always go with a longer shaft length than a shorter one. While you
can always stow your motor or adjust the shaft length upward, itʼs impossible to compensate for a shaft that is too
While there are many electric trolling motor manufacturers, the two largest and
most well known players are Minn Kota and MotorGuide.
Both are well respected and while Minn Kota is more popular,
there are large regional pockets where the MotorGuide trolling motor is definitely king.
Both Minn Kota and MotorGuide make quality motors, and you should feel comfortable
that youʼll receive a quality product no matter which one you decide on.
If you donʼt have a strong opinion either way, find the best trolling motor that
fits your boat and budget needs regardless of brand name.
Additional Features to
Apart from the basics - thrust, mount, and shaft - there are a number of other
features and options to consider.
While these arenʼt necessary for
motor operation, they can serve to make your time on the water much easier and
Plates - Disconnect plates,
or trolling motor release mounts, are an optional accessory which allow you quickly remove your motor from the
These are very convenient if you want to use a single motor with multiple boats,
or if you park your boat in a public area and are worried about theft.
Built-In Transducer - Some models have
a sonar transducer built-in to the bottom of the shaft for use with popular fish finders.
Having a transducer built-in reduces cord clutter and significantly
reduces the risk of breaking a transducer attached manually to the bottom of the motor shaft.
AutoPilot - Some high end
bow mount motors are compatible with AutoPilot, a feature that
keeps your boat on a fixed heading automatically. This is very convenient for fishing shorelines, shelves or for
maintaining a heading over open water.
Wireless Control - Some upper-end
models feature wireless boat control,
which lets you control your motor with a remote control from anywhere on the boat! Apart from being convenient,
wireless remotes serve to reduce the clutter associated with traditional corded foot pedals.
Battery Gauge - Nothing is worse
than unexpectedly running out of battery life when fishing which is why built-in battery life indicators are
great. They let you know how much life remains so you can plan, and use your motor,