Trolling Motors

Trolling Motors How-Tos

Tips On Buying Trolling Motors

Now that the boating and fishing season is ramping back up, it's time for you to buy a new trolling motor so you don't miss any time on the water next year. If you're new, or an experienced veteran there are still a few things you have to keep in mind.

First, what type of motor control do you prefer?

Cable Steer, or Foot Control (Minn Kota  Edge)  - This type of steering is popular for bass fishing and tournament walleye fishing where quick boat maneuvering and pitching and flipping are key techniques.

  • Advantages - Quick Response; Less expensive.
  • Disadvantages - Clutters the deck with the pedal; You have to be where your pedal is to steer.

Electric Steer (Minn Kota PowerDrive)  - This type of steering is popular for walleye, crappie, and striper fishing applications. Electric motor controls allows for i-Pilot integration (wireless GPS navigation) which offers boat control features such as Spot Lock (electric anchor), Cruise Control, and Record-A-Track (allows recording and playback of productive runs) to name a few.

  • Advantages - Does not clutter your deck; Able to control from anywhere on the boat; i-Pilot capable (select models)
  • Disadvantages - Slower response; Cost.

Next, how much voltage do you need?

  • 12 volt- requires one dedicated deep cycle marine battery and provides up to 55LBs of motor thrust
  • 24 volt - requires two dedicated deep cycle marine batteries and provides up to 70LBs of motor thrust
  • 36 volt - requires three dedicated deep cycle marine batteries and provides up to 101LBs of motor thrust

It is recommend that you get the highest motor thrust that works for your voltage requirement. Beyond better boat control, a higher voltage trolling motoralso offers greater motor run time between battery charges. Click to view all of Minn Kota's Electric Trolling Motors.

How to Choose a Trolling Motor

Here is a detailed video that talks about the pro's and con's based on specific applications and boat types.

Video Transcript

Well, hello and welcome to Hilton Head Fishing Adventures. My name is Captain Charlie Beadon. Today we're going to talk about how to choose a trolling motor.

There's a lot of different styles and models on the market today. We're going to talk about some of the features that'll help you (1) in your fishing endeavors, and (2) to make sure that you're going to choose a motor that will properly fit your boat so that you can get it right on the first shot. So let's go ahead and get started.

Alright guys, one of the first considerations that you want to make is:do you want a freshwater or saltwater trolling motor? This is pretty straightforward; you fish in freshwater, you want to get a freshwater trolling motor. If you fish in saltwater, you want to get a saltwater trolling motor. Main reason being, especially for the saltwater, is that you're going to get saltwater components such as stainless steel, and composites and so forth so your motor won't rust.

Next, let's take a look and see what the differences are between a transom-mount and a bow-mount motors. Another factor that we're going to want to consider is whether or not to go with a transom mount or a bow mount style. A transom mount trolling motorare those that you're going to find at the back of the boat. We'd generally put these on smaller boats such as jon boats, or bass buggies; something of that nature. You may use the transom mount motor for your primary propulsion. Maybe you want to motor that goes around a pond or a small lake. On most fishing boats, you're going to find a bow-mount. These are what you would find on a bass, flats, or bay boat.

Next, let's take a look at the controls. Do we want a hand control, a foot control, or a wireless control? The control is really based on a personal preference. With the hand control, that's one that you're going to use your hand to maneuver the boat. The foot control, you would use a foot pedal to control the boat. And a wireless controlled, you would use a remote control.

There are advantages to each. With the tiller or the hand-controlled styles, one of the advantages, it's going to cost less. Two, it has less moving parts, in my opinion, there going to have less things to break or go wrong. Finally, and the most important with the tiller style, is it's very responsive. You can turn the boat very quickly to move the boat out of harm's way or to make a turn because there's not a lot of moving parts and gears. The big disadvantage to that tiller style is it takes your hand off your fishing gear because you constantly have to grab the handle to maneuver it.

That's where a foot control motor comes in really nice. The foot pedal, you're going to be operating with your feet and therefore you can continuously stay on the fish.

The wireless remote is really nice. I really like this feature because you can control the motor from anywhere on the boat. For example, you can stand on your poling platform and operate the motor. I have a Stand Thru T-Top, for example, I could stand through the T-Top, get a nice height advantage, looking down, and I can control my motor well away from the front of the boat. So once again, this is personal preference and it's something that you're going to want to consider before you make your purchase.

Next, let's take a look at shaft length. Shaft length is a very important factor to consider, and we need to do this before we make our purchase. A shaft is the long tube. The lower unit is at the head of the motor. Basically, how we determine what shaft length that we're going to need is to take some measurements before we make our purchase.

Number one, in the lower unit we want to leave about a foot because the motor needs to be down inside the water and we don't want the blade to cavitate. So we want to have about a foot down below the water. And then, depending on the length of our bow from the water line, we need to measure that and then we need to figure out how far above the deck we want our motor to sit. With a tiller style, you may want this shaft to be a little bit longer because you need to be able to reach down to grab it. If you're using a wireless motor, it may not be as important, it could be a little bit lower. So we need to add that in to our calculations.

And then, the big thing is, we need to figure out how high our bow is. If I have a really high bow boat, I can measure it from the top of the deck, down to the water line, and I could figure out how high I need in the middle of the shaft. On some boats, it's a little bit shorter, so I don't need as long a shaft length. So what we'll do is calculate in one foot for the lower unit. We'll measure from the top of the bow at the front of the boat where the motor will be mounted, down to the water line and then how high above the deck that we want the top of the motor to sit. We'll add those three numbers together and that'll give us a rough estimate on our shaft length.

Next, let's go ahead and take a look at the thrust we're going to need. The most important factor we're going to consider is the thrust - how much power we need? The thrust is measured in pounds. You're generally going to see a 55-pound, 71-pound, or 101-pound thrust. But how do we determine that? How do we know what thrust we're going to need on our boat?

It's basically based on the size of the boat. That's going to be your number one factor. You could figure this out, you're going to have to do some calculations to figure out the thrust that you need. First off, you need to figure out the dry weight of your boat. Most manufacturers are going to list the dry weights of their boat so you take that number. You need to figure out how much your motor weighs, add that number in, then figure out how much fuel you generally carry. Do you carry a lot of weight with water in live wells? Do you have a T-Top? How much weight do you carry in passengers? Add a few hundred pounds for gear and so forth. Get a rough estimate on how much your boat weighs. Once you have that, you can start to figure out what size motor you need.

As a general rule of thumb, for every 50 pounds of weight that you're carrying on your boat, or every 50 pounds of weight that you're going to have fully-loaded on your boat, you need 1 pound of thrust. So for example, if I figured I have a 3,000 pound boat, 3,000 divided by 50 would give me 60. Sixty would tell me that I need a minimum of a 60-pound thrust motor.

You could get away with a 55-pound thrust motor which is what I have on my boat. But it would be more than likely a little bit power. In that case, I would likely go up to the 71-pound thrust motor because you also have to take in other considerations such as wind, and current. You're going to want that extra power so that you're not constantly running the motor on high. So calculate what size boat you have, the amount of weight you're going to carry, and then you can figure out what size you're going to need for your boat.

Next, we're going to take a quick look at the voltage of the different trolling motors. As far as voltage goes, you're either going to have a 12, 24, or 36 volt system. In most cases, you don't have a lot of choice as to what system you put on your boat. That's going to be determined by the size of the boat and the amount of thrust you're putting on the boat. A larger thrust trolling motor is going to be the higher voltage, the smaller thrust motor is going to be lower voltage.

For example, the 12-volt, it's a 55-pound thrust. My boat has a 71-pound thrust with a 24-volt system. Larger boats, say, 101-pound thrust, you may have a 36-volt system. Basically speaking, 12-volt, you have to carry one battery. Twenty-four volt, you have to carry two batteries. Thirty-six volt, you have to carry three batteries. So in a lot of cases, it comes down to a weight issue and just having to carry more gear.

Another consideration, and this comes down to personal preference, is whether we're going to go with GPS features. GPS features are nice. You can actually train your motor to work specific pieces of shoreline, they'll do it automatically for you. They've got GPS lock features on them that you can touch a button and the boat will hold in one particular place. They costs a little bit more money but it's an option that you may want to look at when purchasing.

Another thing that you're going to need to think about is brand. For the most part, they are very similar from brand to brand. Your two top competitors are going to be Minn Kota, and MotorGuide. I carry MotorGuides; I use MotorGuides. Only reason being is I feel like from a commercial standpoint, being a charter boat, these are a little bit more heavy-duty - and that's why I go with them. For recreational use, you probably won't see a whole lot of difference between Minn Kota and MotorGuide.

Finally, the last thing I'd like to do today is walk through two boats because they're different style boats with different style motors. I'll show you how I chose the best trolling motor to go on each boat.

For example, I have two totally different style boats that have different needs, and each need a different motor. So I'm going to show you guys how I chose the best motor to go on each of these boats. Number one, I primarily saltwater fish, so I went with a saltwater motor. I fish out of my boat and I don't need the propulsion on the back so I went with a bow-mount.

A consideration that I had to take whenever making a purchase for these boats is whether I wanted to go with foot, tiller, or wireless control. On a flats boat, I ended up going with the tiller control motor, primary reason being is I fish in backwaters. I might come across logs, or I might come across oyster bars. I wanted the responsiveness. I wanted to be able to grab the handle very quickly to make turns. Not only that, but I wanted to keep the cost down on this boat.

I ended up going with the wireless and foot control style motor. MotorGuide has a wireless foot control so I can control this boat with the foot control up on the bow or through my T-Top. I have a Stand Thru T-Top and I'd like to be able to control with the remote so that's why I ended up going with that on the boat.

For shaft length, I've got a low bow. My bow is very low to the water so I can go to a shorter shaft length. Also, I have a tall bow boat. So I had to go with a taller shaft line.

I made it about 1,500 - 1,700 pounds. I was able to get away with the 55-pound thrust motor. I'm in a little bit over 3,000 pounds. I had no choice, I had to go to the higher one. I went with the 71-pound thrust.

So that's how I made the decision for my boats. There's other factors that you guys are probably going to want to consider. But these are the main things that you want to look at. This should get you started. I hope that you guys have enjoyed this video. I hope that you've gotten something out of it. I appreciate it and I thank you all for watching.

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