Guide To Choosing A Trolling Motor

Like if this guide is helpful

Guide To Choosing A Trolling Motor                                              

You’re out fishing on the lake and you need to control your boat but you want to create as little noise and commotion as possible so you don’t scare away the fish—this is when you need a trolling motor.  Trolling motors are a must for those who fish on calmer waters and know they must be as quiet as possible when moving around the water to keep from disturbing the fish and ruining their day of fishing.  Those fishing on larger lakes will usually have a regular gas engine to travel larger distances, but they will also have a trolling motor mounted on their boat for maneuvering back into those calm spots without being detected.  Trolling motors are also great for those windy days that seem to push your boat around.  You can position the trolling motor blades so they are working in your advantage by hopefully keeping you in your same spot while you fish. 
It’s an easy decision to choose to add a trolling motor to your fishing arsenal, but not as easy to decide which trolling motor you need.  If you fish saltwater, you need to make sure your trolling motor can handle the harsh conditions of the water.  All boats aren’t the exact same size so there are trolling motors in various lengths.  There are also different thrusts available so you can keep a trolling motor with the amount of power you need.

Saltwater or Freshwater

This may sound obvious, but if you plan on fishing in saltwater it would be in your best interest to opt for a saltwater trolling motor.  They are generally more costly than freshwater trolling motors, but the special coating on the motor and other components means these motors will hold up better against corrosion.  It’s always a great idea to thoroughly wash your motor and any other fishing equipment with fresh water after your fishing excursions to help extend the life of your equipment.  If you will be fishing freshwater areas, then you have no need for a saltwater trolling motor and have quite a few options on which model to get. 


The thrust and volts you will need is dependent on the type of boat you will be using the trolling motor for and how long you plan on staying on the water.  Trolling motors are available in 12 volt, 24 volt, and 36 volt.  If you have a fairly long boat (16 feet or longer) or if you are one who likes to stay on the water from sun up to sun down, then you will need a 24 or 36 volt trolling motor.  Those who just do some light fishing with a smaller boat can get by with a 12 volt.  To determine how much thrust you will need, think about the size and weight of your boat.  For a close idea to how much thrust you need, try to add 5 pounds of thrust for every 200 pounds of weight—that includes the boat, equipment, and the people who will be on the boat.  To play it safe and for an easy calculation, determine the weight of your boat and add the boat’s maximum weight  capacity.  Once you get that number, divide it by 200 then multiply by 5 to get your recommended thrust.  For example, a 1,600 pound boat with a 1,300 would need a trolling motor with 72.5 lbs of thrust (1,600 + 1,300 = 2,900 / 200 = 14.5 x 5 = 72.5).  Trolling motors don’t come in half pounds—or every single pound increment for that matter—so if you need at least 72.5 pounds of thrust then try to find a trolling motor with a thrust as close to that as you can get, such as 75 pounds.


Bow, engine, or transom mount—you will need to decide both what mounting options your boat allows, as well as what you’d prefer.  Bow Mount trolling motors are highly popular as they mount onto the front of the boat, providing great control since they “pull” the boat rather than “push” it from behind.  Steering is precise and they are a great option if you fish from the front of your boat anyway, since the motor will be within easy reach should you need to steer.  Not all boats are compatible with bow mounts.  You must first ensure you have enough room on the bow of your boat for the battery or batteries required to run your motor and enough room to get the trolling motor tilted out of the water for when it’s not in use.  Your boat’s bow will need to be flat, with no raised lip around the edge of the boat.  Engine mount trolling motors are mounted to an outboard motor’s cavitation plate.  They don’t need steering abilities since they are mounted on the main engine.  To steer while the trolling motor is on, simply steer your main motor.  Although engine mounts are convenient and space-saving, they are at times difficult to control and are also fairly expensive since they feature higher thrust options.  Transom mount trolling motors are great for smaller boats and those looking for an easy set-up and removal.  They simply clamp onto the stern of your boat, unlike bow mounts which require a plate to be drilled onto your boat.  Transom mounts are a great choice for those fishing from canoes or kayaks since they’re simple and easy to clamp on and off.  A downside to transom mounts is you don’t have the same level of control as you do with bow mounts.  They are, however, affordable and great for those who don’t own boats and rent one at the fishing spots they travel to.


Shaft length is another deciding factor when choosing a trolling motor.  If you are going with an engine mount trolling motor then you won’t need to worry about shaft length since the motor will be mounted directly onto the engine.  If you’re going with a bow or transom mount, though, you will need to take a measurement of your boat to determine what shaft length you will need.  When in doubt between two shaft lengths, always go with the longer of the two since most trolling motors allow the shaft to be shortened slightly when needed.  If you have a trolling motor with too short of a shaft length, then you’re out of luck.  You want to make sure your propeller is at least 9-10” below the water surface, and if you’re fishing frequently choppy waters then you should play it safe and add a few more inches just to be safe.
To measure for a bow mount, measure from the top of the bow to the waterline.  If you’re measurement is 0-10”then get a 36” shaft length, for 16-22” get a 42” shaft length, 22-28” get a 48-52” shaft length, and for 28-34” you will need a shaft length of 54-62”.
For transom mount motors, measure from the transom of the boat to the waterline.  For 0-10” measurements, get a 30” shaft.  For 10-16”, get a 36” shaft.  For 16-20 inches, get a 42” shaft.  Although the measurements are a little more forgiving than with bow mounted motors, you still want to take the transom-to-waterline measurement to ensure the motor will work for you.  If you are getting a measurement over 20” then it’s best to contact the manufacturer or a local pro shop to learn what your options are.

Hand or Foot Control

When choosing between hand or foot control, you must consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.  Many people like foot control, since your hands are free for fishing.  Hand controlled trolling motors are sometimes the only choice that some people have, since they might have a small boat that is difficult to fish standing up too much as standing makes the boat feel unstable.  Canoe and kayak users will need hand controlled trolling motors, for example.  If you’re fishing choppy waters or fish an area that’s typically windy, you’ll likely appreciate having a foot control since you won’t have to continually pause your fishing to lean over and hand control the trolling motor in the right direction.


Choosing a trolling motor requires some work up front, but you’ll certainly make an informed decision.  It helps to be knowledgeable about your choice in a trolling motor so you’ll be pleased with its performance on the water and so it will serve you for years to come.

Check Our Top Selling Motors

Minn Kota Endura C2-55
Minn Kota Terrova Trolling Motor
Minn Kota Riptide 55 Salt Water Trolling Motor
MotorGuide Freshwater BowMount Motor
Explore more guides