When going fishing, it is very useful to equip your boat with a trolling motor. You can mount it on your boat, kayak or other vessel, and let it do the work while you concentrate on fishing. A trolling motor is an electric motor which helps you move at a steady speed. It got it’s name after a type of fishing – trolling, where fishing lines with bait fish or lures are drawn through the water at a consistent speed. Fish find this very appealing.
There are a few things to be taken into consideration when choosing the best trolling motor for your vessel. They come in different sizes, which in turn determines their power output. People often think that buying the biggest one will solve all their problems, but that isn’t always the case. If you have a smaller vessel, for example a kayak, buying the largest motor can prove to be difficult to handle, may require more batteries to power it (meaning you will lose more space on-board) and finally – they simply cost more.
You should always choose a motor that is adequate for your boat, meaning that the size and type is good so you won’t experience any problems while out on water. We will explain everything you should look for in our buying guide below. But first, check out our trolling motor reviews to see the excellent product suggestions we picked out for you. Hopefully it will help you find the right solution for you fishing adventures.
Let’s get started.
How To Choose The Best Trolling Motor – Buying Guide
Like we mentioned, equipping your vessel with a trolling motor enables you to move at a constant speed. This eliminates the need for paddling or using a larger motor and is beneficial for fishing. Another upside of using a trolling motor is that it doesn’t make much noise. Before they were introduced, boats used larger gasoline motors which were noisy and scared away the fish. As for kayaks, you were forced to paddle – which took away both energy and time.
Then came this great solution. Trolling motors are getting better and better, and there is a wide array of products available for every boat. However, you must always do the research yourself and compare the products to your vessel. We will do our best to present the options and features that come with trolling motors, so you can make the best choice.
There are many different features of trolling motors which determine their price and the circumstances they are best for. For example – thrust, shaft length, materials used, mount type or voltage are all determining factors if the particular trolling motor is right for your vessel. Take a look at detailed explanation of every one of these features and more to learn how to buy the best trolling motor for your vessel.
This is essentially the power your trolling motor has. Thrust determines the ability of the motor to propel your vessel through the water. It is usually measured in pounds, meaning that the more pounds of thrust a trolling motor has, the more powerful it is. If you want to mount it on a kayak, you can go with a smaller motor, however if you want to use it on a bigger boat you have to consider that small motors won’t be very effective in moving you around.
In general, bigger is usually better. It will give you a steady performance in every situation. But, larger motors are also more expensive, and that is a problem for some people. So, you have to know how much the minimum amount of thrust needed for your vessel is.
Keep in mind that thrust is the power a motor has to push (or pull) your vessel at a consistent speed. Installing a stronger motor on a small vessel doesn’t mean that you will be able to go extremely fast, just that you won’t be encountering problems while on the water. As we mentioned earlier, going with a slightly bigger motor is a good idea, but not too big.
Because trolling motors aren’t very cheap, you have to think about the durability. You don’t want to go out and buy another one every year. This is determined by the materials used in making it. As you’ll see further down in our guide, there are trolling motors which are better for fresh water and some that are better for salt water.
But let’s put that aside for a moment, you want a motor that is built from materials which won’t crack easily. This means that the less plastic parts the motor has, the better. Shafts should be made from sturdy materials which will ensure that they won’t crack when you hit something in the water.
Products we reviewed have shafts made from fiberglass composite, which is close to indestructible. Also, it offers a very large flexibility. Hardware should be made from heavy duty materials, and additional reinforcements don’t hurt. You should also check the propeller you get with your purchase. It’s good if it doesn’t easily get tangled in weeds. Also, it’s nice if there is a replacement available to buy if there are problems with the original one.
Most manufacturers offer a warranty on their products. Be aware that not every part of your trolling motor is under the same type of warranty. While not always the case, this too can be an indicator of the build quality of a certain part. If the warranty is longer, it can mean that the manufacturer doesn’t expect any malfunctions happening any time soon.
However, always do your research and see what other people who have tried the product have to say. This way you can avoid headaches in the future.
Trolling motors usually come with 8 fixed speeds. These are 5 forward speeds and 3 reverse. It gives you the versatility you need moving around on water. The speed trolling motors can achieve is even up to 8mph, but this depends on the trolling motor model as well as the boat you attach it to. This can be very helpful when you’re coming back from your fishing trip, or want to escape rough water or a storm.
The speed which is suitable for trolling depends on the fish you are after and also on the occasion you find yourself in. While the maximum speed may sometimes be too fast for successful trolling, the fact that you have different speed settings guarantees you can find the right tempo.
When you put your bait in the water, start moving at slower speed and then speed up gradually to see how it behaves. If it doesn’t stay where it should be, maybe you should slow down a bit.
Another thing you should keep in mind is that the thrust power of your motor isn’t necessarily related to the maximum speed you are going to get. There is a speed limit you can achieve, and adding a larger trolling motor won’t make your vessel a speed boat. The amount of thrust just means that it can guarantee to move a certain weight around at a consistent speed. For this reason, you should find the perfect balance and the right one for your boat.
The length of the trolling motor shaft is something that can greatly influence the overall performance of your trolling motor. If your bow or transom is farther away from water, you will logically need a longer shaft. You should measure the distance from the transom (bow) to the waterline to get the idea which type of shaft you will need to get. To this measured length you need to add additional 18 inches (approximately) in order to be certain that the propeller is in the right position in the water.
Kayaks usually need a shorter shaft on the trolling motor, while bigger boats require longer ones. Whichever the case, you need to aim for the optimal dimensions. If the shaft is too short, you are at risk that it won’t be submerged properly which will reduce the efficiency of the motor, even making it useless in certain situations.
On the other hand, if the shaft is too long, there is a chance that it will hit the water bed when you are in shallower waters. This also impairs your ability to move around, as well as increases the possibility of damage to occur to your trolling motor, which can be very annoying and not to mention costly.
Luckily, many trolling motors come with an adjustable shaft. We have presented several models with this option in our reviews. This is a fantastic feature, which allows you to mount the same trolling motor on different types of vessels, and also to adjust it for different conditions you are going to find yourself in. This saves you the trouble and money of buying two trolling motors, and also decreases the chance of accidents.
We already mentioned that the materials used in trolling motor construction are very important in terms of durability. The shaft is considered the weak point of the trolling motor, because it is exposed to all kinds of potential damage. For this reason, you need to pay attention if the shaft is made from durable materials. In any case, this is your decision. It depends on the type of water you plan on being in, as well as your budget of course.
When it comes to voltage of your trolling motor, there are three options. They come as 12V, 24V or 36V electric trolling motors. What this means is the number of volts they require to work. The 12V versions will require a single 12V deep-cell marine battery, 24V will require you use two batteries of the same type and, logically, 36V will need three of those.
Generally, trolling motors with more thrust will require more power. So, motors with over 100lbs of thrust will often need 36 volts to run properly. On the other hand, almost every trolling motor for kayak and smaller vessels needs only 12V. This is good for two reasons. First, motors that require 12V are cheaper on average than the larger ones. Second, you don’t need to keep several batteries on board to add weight to the vessel and take up space you could use for something else.
However, it has some downsides compared to the larger ones. Your time on water is going to be shorter than with a more powerful motor. This is because there are limitations of the batteries and the time they can power your motor. The 24V or 36V use a multi-battery system which in way is more economic when it comes to power.
This means that you can use it for longer fishing trips or even several times without the need to recharge the batteries. We will talk in more detail about the batteries below, so you can find out what to buy with your motor to get maximum performance.
A trolling motor can be mounted in two positions on your vessel. You can install it on the bow or on the transom of your boat. The design of the mounting parts of the motors is different, so they can’t be interchangeable. This means you need to know ahead where you want to put it. Both types have some advantages and disadvantages.
The bow mount type trolling motor is installed in the front of your boat. It is better suited for medium and larger vessels, which have enough space up front to allow it to be positioned properly. Having it on a smaller boat can be impractical, sometimes you can’t install it right and it can be difficult to operate.
This type of electric trolling motor allows the user to have better maneuverability. This is very important sometimes, if you wan’t to navigate through a difficult terrain.
The transom mount type is mounted on the stern of your boat, and clamps or special mounting systems are used to keep it in place. This option is more popular for smaller vessels such as kayaks or canoes. The reason for this is that the transom mounted trolling motor is much easier to operate for the person sitting in a kayak.
There are two basic types of controls you have when buying a trolling motor. You can either control it by hand or by foot. The type of motor you will get depends on your personal preference in the first place, but also on a few other things.
Hand controlled trolling motors have a lever (handle) which you use to steer your boat. One of the advantages it offers are that the response time you get from it is immediate, meaning you can precisely navigate through potential obstacles you may encounter in the water. Also, it takes up less space on board. A downside is that you are required to have a hand on the controller to steer your boat, which diverts your focus from the activity you are doing.
A foot controlled trolling motor is in our opinion more practical. You get a pedal which you place in your boat and step on to control the functions of your motor. This is very useful, because it leaves your hands free to operate the fishing rod and other equipment.
The downside is that the response of the motor is not immediate when you press the pedal, which you may find a little annoying. Also, you have to place the pedal in your boat, which can be a problem if you are using a kayak or some other smaller vessel.
Finally, there are models out there which offer wireless remote control. Of course, this comes at a higher price. You get a remote to steer your boat and to control the speed you are going. Whichever type you choose, give yourself time to get used to the controls.
There are a few features you can get on your trolling motor which can make your experience even better. Some are nowadays pretty standard, while others are high tech and require you to spend a little more money. We already mentioned that there are trolling motors available which have wireless control.
The first nice feature is a battery gauge. It is included in the head of the unit, and it displays how much power you have left in your battery. This is very useful to know, since you can easily see how much time you have left on the water, and when you need to start going back to recharge the battery.
Some trolling motors can be self-directed. This means it can steer the vessel on it’s own. It does this by following the shoreline or a certain depth. It can even be adjusted to steer you in a straight line. This allows you to have both free hands and feet and to completely concentrate on your fishing. However, if you are just starting to use trolling motors, try to master manual controls first.
More modern types of trolling motors come with digital displays. These displays show you the speed you are currently going at, as well as the depth underneath you. Knowing this information is very helpful, because depending on the fish you are after a certain movement speed is better than others. Also, some fish dwell at certain depths so knowing if you are at the right place can certainly be helpful not to go home empty-handed.
There are innovations happening constantly, and manufacturers are trying to improve their products and offer new features before the competition does. This tends to go hard on your pocket, so you have to determine which of these is useful to you, and which you can live without and buy some other piece of equipment for your boat.
When we talk about comfort, we talk about the ease of use of your trolling motor. This is in some way a blend between many of the points we already mentioned above. Since you are going to spend long hours on water, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable while operating your motor.
This depends of the type of your boat, and if you are going to mount the motor on the bow or transom. It should be in hands reach, and the height should also be adequate. If not, your hands are going to get tired. This is where an adjustable shaft is also useful.
If you choose to have a foot controlled trolling motor, the pedal should be positioned so your foot sits in a comfortable position. The whole point is that you have a good time while out on the water, and not to have to strain your body and worry about the motor which should be there to serve you.
Q: How do trolling motors work?
A: Trolling motors use electricity to power the motor which moves the propeller and pushes or pulls the vessel. The electricity comes from a battery to which the trolling motor is connected. As explained earlier in the text, trolling motors can require 12, 24 or 36 volts of power, depending on their size and strength.
The motor itself is located at the bottom end of the shaft, in a water-sealed compartment. Because it is submerged in the water, the chance of overheating is greatly reduced.
The power from the motor is then transferred to the propeller giving it the strength required. You can change the direction the propeller rotates, which in turn determines if your boat is going to go forward or in reverse. Also, there are usually several speed settings in both directions.
The design of the motor determines how you steer your vessel. As explained, you can get models which are controlled by hand or by foot. If you control your motor by hand, the shaft connects the handle with the propeller underneath, meaning that when you move the handle to left or right the propeller changes its direction and steers the boat.
Similar thing happens with foot controlled motors – the commands on the pedal change the direction of the propeller underneath the water. Also, you can turn your motor on or off, or change the speed you are going at.
The mentioned transom-mounted trolling motors are installed on your boat using clamps, which means they don’t require any drilling making the process relatively easy. This type of motor pushes your boat through the water.
On the other hand, bow-mounted trolling motor require a mounting bracket which is bolted horizontally into the deck. This requires a little more effort and drilling permanent holes into your boat. This type of motor pulls your boat, and also because of the position and design allows more precision while navigating.
Q: How do I determine the thrust requirements?
A: This depends on several things. The size and weight of your boat are the main factor to be taken into consideration when choosing the thrust of your new trolling motor. Then you have to take all your gear into account, which can sometimes be pretty heavy (and hopefully the fish you are going to bring back with you). Also, sometimes another person may come with you. The motor needs to have enough power to effortlessly perform in every situation.
To put all this into perspective, a boat which is less than 12ft long (some kayaks) will probably work well with motors with 30lbs of thrust. Boats that are longer than 22ft will need more than 100lbs of thrust. Also, you have to take conditions into consideration.
If the water is going to be rough, weather is bad and windy, or there is much weed in the water you need a stronger motor so it can perform consistently. It is recommended to add at least 2lbs of thrust for every additional 100lbs you store on your boat.
Q: What is the difference between saltwater and freshwater trolling motors?
A: The design of these motors is basically the same, the only difference are the materials used in making the parts of your trolling motor.
The reason for this is that salt water is much more aggressive and causes corrosion to the shaft and other parts. That’s why if a trolling motor is going to be used in salt water it has to be made from materials which are highly resistant to corrosion, or at least have a protective layer. This is particularly important for nuts and bolts.
On the other hand, other types of materials can be used for fresh water trolling motors, because they won’t be exposed to the same harsh conditions. All saltwater trolling motors can be used in fresh water too, but it isn’t the same the other way around.
Q: What are the best batteries for trolling motors?
A: There are special batteries – deep cycle batteries, which are best when used with trolling motors. These give you constant electrical discharge over long time periods, which is perfect for trolling motors. You shouldn’t use regular car batteries, because they are designed to give a quick-start, not to operate during longer periods. That’s why the results would be unsatisfactory if you were to choose this type.
We already mentioned that trolling motors require 12, 24 or 36 volts. Most batteries available have 12 volts, which means you will have to combine a few of them to power your motor properly. Even though they often have the same voltage, the amperage on them can be different. Smaller ones have 18Ah, with larger ones going up to 100Ah.
This is the factor which determines how much time you will have on water. On the other hand, batteries with a larger amperage tend to be physically larger and take up more space in your boat. Also, they are more expensive. We are going to explain this connection in more detail further down in the text, and teach you how to calculate the time you will have on water with a particular battery, at a defined speed.
Going back to the batteries themselves, deep cycle batteries come in three different versions. There are wet-cell batteries, AGM batteries and lithium-ion batteries. Wet-cell batteries are the most affordable, if budget is one of your concerns. However, they have some significant downsides.
They contain lead acid, but are not sealed. This means that you will have to place them in a horizontal position, and pay attention they don’t move. The acid can spill, causing corrosion and damage all around it. It requires some maintenance and is not the best choice you can make.
AGM batteries on the other hand are completely sealed, which means you don’t have to worry about the acid spilling or harmful gasses going out. They have a fiberglass plating, allowing them to be positioned whichever way you like, not just horizontally. This is useful for saving space in your boat. They are resistant to shock and vibrations. Also, on average they charge twice as fast compared to the wet-cell type, and have almost double the lifespan.
Lithium-ion batteries are also a great choice, but since they are relatively new in this category they are still significantly pricier compared to the previous two types. On the other hand they are lighter, charge very fast and have an excellent lifespan which can even be up to 10 years. They can also be positioned in any way you like, and are resistant to shock and vibrations.
If you want to learn more, check out the best trolling motor batteries we chose for you, as well as the in-depth buying guide on the same page.
Q: How do I calculate my motor run time?
A: To do this, you are going to need to know two things. The first one is the ampere hour rating of your battery, which we already mentioned earlier. The more Ah a battery has, the longer it will power your motor. The other thing you will need to know is the motor amperage draw. This describes how many amps the motor uses at a certain speed.
The manufacturer may give you information how many ampers are drawn or they can give watts. Usually they give you the amount spent when motor runs at maximum speed. Of course, you can calculate the percentage if you are not running your trolling motor at full power. Let’s get down to the math.
For example, if you have a 50Ah (ampere hour) battery on board, and at medium speed your trolling motor is drawing 10 amps every hour, that means that you will have 5 hours of running time at that speed before the battery is completely drawn.
If the manufacturer gives you watts, the math is a little different. To get amperage drawn, you will need to divide the watts with voltage of your battery (or batteries) to calculate the amps drawn by the motor. Then you can use the same method we presented above to calculate roughly how much time you have before you have to get back.
Of course, this is just an estimate you make. It doesn’t take into account the additional weight you might be adding to your boat, or the conditions you’ll be in. Also, it’s useful to have a battery gauge on your trolling motor. This way you don’t have to bust your head too much over calculations.
Q: How to maintain a trolling motor?
A: Even though trolling motors are pretty tough, taking some time to perform maintenance now and then will not just improve their performance, it will prolong their lifespan too. When you’re checking the exterior of your trolling motor, check if all the screws and bolts are in place and properly tightened. If necessary, retighten them and remove any dirt or weed that got caught.
Wipe down the exterior of the trolling motor, and while doing that you can check the shaft for damage. Also, you can use specialized cleaning products that will give it additional protection, just don’t use anything aggressive so you don’t cause damage to the motor yourself.
You should also check the propeller. First, remove the weed, dirt and potential fishing lines that got tangled in. This way you make sure that it will run smoothly the next time you take it out on water. While doing that, you will also notice if the propeller is damaged. If there is a minor damage you can repair it yourself, or whether the propeller needs replacing if it’s worn out.
Check all the electrical components of your trolling motor. Wires shouldn’t be sticking out, or be worn from long use. It’s better to check on time then to have a malfunction when the motor is in use. Also, always check for signs of corrosion on your trolling motor.
Finally, you should pay attention to the battery. It won’t require any maintenance, unless you got the wet cell type. However, you should always follow the instructions given by the manufacturer on how to properly charge and discharge the battery to maximize its lifespan. Also, if you perform any action on the batteries, make sure they are disconnected.
Globo Surf Overview
Trolling motors are fantastically useful in many situations you will find yourself in. They make fishing more fun and much easier. Also, they eliminate the need for paddling to the middle of the lake and back when you are in your kayak for example.
There are many things to consider when choosing the best trolling motor. We hope that the information we presented was useful to you, so that you know how to find the right product for your boat. If you are unsure, check out the products in our trolling motor reviews to find the best one. You will certainly make a good choice!
Have you tried a trolling motor that made it onto our list? Which type and model did you get? How well did it perform on your vessel? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.
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Globo Surf Trolling Motors Review