How To Choose A Trolling Motor


A successful day of fishing from a boat comes down to teamwork. Your outboard can get you from the shore to the hot spot, but it falls short in maneuvering the boat to where the fish are biting.

That’s when a trolling motor joins the team for the score. Electric trolling motors enable you to avoid spooking fish, while holding the boat on the spot. You can make the perfect cast into the strike zone, or ease closer for more effective lure presentations.

They might look similar but not all trolling motors are created equal. Choosing the best motor for your boat comes down to several factors, including your boat type and size. The trolling motor needs to be matched to your boat, so that both perform at their best. It’s no different than choosing a balanced rod and reel for the best lure presentation.

Trolling motors of today also do more than just stealthily maneuver the boat. Some have techy features like GPS integration and more. That adds even more to consider when choosing a trolling motor.

If the time has come to upgrade, or you want to add a trolling motor to your boat, you have come to the right place. Read more about how to choose the right trolling motor for you and your boat.


Trolling Motor Types

Bow Mounted Trolling Motor

Bow mount trolling motor

Most fiberglass and aluminum fishing and pontoon boats are designed for rigging trolling motors at the bow. The motor is bolted to the front deck and the power cables are run through the hull/deck brackets to the battery compartment. Most are foot operated so you can keep both hands on the rod and reel. Steering is accomplished by pressing the foot pedal down or up, which makes the motor steer the boat in all directions. Some boats have trays built into the floor that keep the foot pedal level with the deck. That setup provides safer and surer footing when you are operating the motor. You can add an aftermarket tray, too. Bow mounts are most popular with bass and multispecies boats, although they can be mounted to pontoon boats, runabouts, bow riders and saltwater flats and bay boats. 

Transom Mount Trolling Motor

transom mount trolling motor

These motors clamp or bolt to the transom. The power cables are easily connected to the battery. You steer the motor by hand with a tiller handle. Transom mounts are ideal for smaller boats, like jons and kayaks. Some have tilt and trim features so the motor can be raised higher in shallow water, or tilted above the transom when going ashore. Clamp-on models are great for moving from boat to boat. They are a win-win if you plan to rent a boat, kayak or canoe. Due to their simplicity and small size, these are the most economical motors. Keep in mind they're designed for small boats, so thrust is not an asset. You don’t need much anyway! 


Think of trolling motor thrust as you do horsepower for your outboard. Instead of MPH, it’s calculated by the pounds of water “thrust” or pushed by the motor. Boat weight is key when determining how much thrust you need. As a general rule, your boat needs at least 2 pounds of thrust for every 100 pounds of fully loaded boat weight, including people and gear. If wind or current are major factors where you fish, you’ll want a little extra thrust.


Think of volts like engine displacement on your outboard. Volts indicate how much battery power your trolling motor requires. More is better, especially for saltwater boats prone to maneuvering in strong tides or offshore rollers. You’ll need one battery for every 12 volts in your trolling motor system. Here are some examples.

  • 55 lbs. of thrust or less = 12 volts or one battery
  • 68-80 lbs. of thrust = 24 volts or two batteries
  • 101-112 lbs. of thrust = 36 volts or three batteries

That said, you will need to consider adding batteries based on the needed thrust. Keep in mind that boats designed for multiple batteries usually have mounting space available for rigging.

Shaft Length

Choosing the right shaft length is important. If too short, the prop won’t be sufficiently submerged. The motor section should be submerged at least 12 inches below the surface of the water.


Depending on budget, you can choose trolling motors that become highly effective fishing tools. Examples are the Minn Kota i-Pilot feature that uses GPS to lock into fishing spots, record and retrace paths, command speed and steering and more—all of it done from a wireless remote with an LCD screen. With a touch of a button, the Spot Lock feature keeps the boat in position while you fight a fish, unhook it or retie a lure. The Garmin Force trolling motor has wireless chartplotter integration with a Garmin fishfinder, along with autopilot steering. The Lowrance Ghost has Lowrance sonar integration, GPS anchoring and more.

Got questions about which motor is best for you and your boat? Get the answers at your nearest Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s Boating Center. With 130 locations, there is one near you; the friendly consultants are knowledgeable boaters, many are anglers, and all have the experience to help you. And best of all, the new fishing boats for sale at your Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's Boating Centers come pre-rigged with a capable trolling motor for the boat you purchase. If you choose to upgrade, you can have the motor mounted there as well, regardless of the brand of your boat.

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