Trolling motors are a fantastic little add-on to your kayak that essentially transforms your once paddle-powered vessel into a high-performance motorized boat.
If you’ve been thinking about adding a trolling motor to your kayak, whether that be for fishing purposes or to simply run circles around your kayaking buddies, then you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve created the ultimate guide to trolling motors, including the benefits of kayak trolling motors, the best trolling motors for kayaks on the market, and the main things to look out for before purchasing.
So, if you’re wondering what are the best kayak trolling motors for your specific kayak, keep on reading as you’re about to become an expert.
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A trolling motor is a relatively small electric engine that attaches to the back of a kayak to help propel it through the water at faster speeds. These motors are often used by kayak anglers as they emit very minimal sound and allow fishermen to creep up on their potential catch.
In general, trolling motors are fairly straightforward pieces of gear, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to use one. To turn in any direction, you simply move the handle of the motor left or right. And if you don’t want the motor in the water for any reason, you can quickly and easily pull it out thanks to the rotational clamp that secures the motor to your kayak.
Granted, kayak makers originally designed kayaks to be powered by paddle, but no one ever said you couldn’t amp up the kayak’s performance by adding a motor. Motors are a great way to transform your recreational kayak into the ultimate streamlined fishing vessel, and if you weren’t already swayed into purchasing your own trolling motor, you will be thanks to these incredible benefits.
The first major benefit of a trolling motor is the fact that they barely disturb the water. This reason alone is what draws in many kayak anglers, as with a trolling motor, you’re able to creep up on fish in a way you wouldn’t be able to with a paddle.
Another huge benefit to a trolling motor is the fact that it removes the need to paddle, meaning you can be hands-free at all times. As well as freeing up your hands to hold other things such as a fishing rod, eliminating a paddle also gives your arms a break as we all know how tiring paddling a kayak can actually be.
There is no shame in getting tired mid-paddle because, after all, just an hour of paddling can burn roughly 476 calories. A trolling motor allows older or slower paddlers to keep up with the pack without getting physically exhausted. They are also extremely useful in the event of an emergency as they'll get you back to shore far quicker than a paddle ever would.
If you’re trying to decide between a regular fishing boat or a trolling motor-fitted kayak, then in our opinion, the kayak will come out on top. Kayaks that are fitted with a trolling motor are extremely streamlined and portable, meaning you can head over to more remote or narrower tributaries that larger boats can’t enter.
It doesn’t get much more premium in the world of kayak trolling motors than the Newport Vessels NK 180. Newport Vessels designed the NK 180 specifically for kayaks, and the 24-volt, 60 pounds thrust motor will have you zipping through the water quickly, efficiently, and most importantly, quietly.
If you have a drill on hand, you can easily attach the aluminum motor mount to the back of your kayak. Once you’ve attached the motor mount, you can then further attach the motor as the package comes with (almost) everything you’d need to get out on the water. For those with a power pole already installed to their kayak, the good news, the installation process will be even easier.
The one thing you will need to purchase separately is a lead acid deep cycle or a lithium deep cycle battery that has a nominal output voltage between 24V and 29V. And then, once you’ve installed the battery, you’ll be ready to hit the water using the speed controller, the digital throttle control, and the steering cables.
The Newport Vessels’ Kayak Series made it onto our best kayak trolling motor list thanks to its impressive 55 pounds of thrust. And yes, you won’t need anywhere near that amount for your tiny little kayak, but it’s always nice to have the option.
Newport Vessels gave their 55 lbs thrust electric kayak motor a 24-inch adjustable shaft, which is ideal for most standard kayaks. And as the adjustable feature makes the motor versatile, if you ever upgrade your ‘yak in the future or if you switch over to a canoe, you won’t need to buy a new motor.
Staying on the topic of the motor’s shaft, Newport Vessels designed their motor out of fiberglass so you can use it as a freshwater or saltwater kayak trolling motor. This ability to kayak in any water type of waterway makes the Newport Vessel’s trolling motor an excellent option for recreational kayakers who like to switch up their kayaking destinations.
To help improve the trolling motor's performance, Newport Vessel equipped it with a 6-inch telescoping handle and eight different speeds: five of which propel the kayak forward and three which reverse it back.
And to finish off, Newport Vessels also added an interesting feature to the throttle. The throttle on the 12-volt trolling motor clicks when you change gears or when you turn the motor off which helps prevent you from accidentally leaving the motor on and subsequently draining the battery.
The AQUOS Haswing Electric Trolling Motor comes in at the mid-range price point for trolling motors, and with an available and adjustable shaft length of 24.4 inches, it is a suitable option for kayaks and other small boats.
AQUOS equipped their saltwater trolling motor with five forward and three reverse speed options to give the user ultimate speed control while out on the water. And then, to further help with controlling the motor, AQUOS added an ergonomic adjustable 13.7-inch handle so you can steer and direct your kayak from the comfort of your kayak seat.
Some other mentionable features of the Haswing Electric Motor include the ability to tilt the motor out of the water when the depth of the water changes, the corrosion-resistant metal components making it perfect for saltwater fishing, and the LED power reader that lets you check your battery power at any time.
The Goplus Electric Trolling Motor comes in a 46 lbs, 55 lbs, and 86 lbs thrust variation, however, as you’re only powering a kayak, we’re focusing on the smallest of the three. Goplus designed their electric trolling motor to have 8-speed control settings, 5 of which run forward and 3 in reverse. You can easily adjust these speed controls by turning the dial on the ergonomic telescopic handle, which can also be adjusted for optimum comfort.
To make the motor as sturdy as possible, Goplus created it out of fiberglass composite rods, die-cast aluminum heads, and reinforced composite materials so it is able to withstand damage, warping, and bending in both salt and freshwater conditions.
And if you find yourself traveling through different water depths, you can adjust the shaft height and the shaft angle at the mounting bracket tilt mechanism for proper depth placement. This feature also means that you can comfortably steer your kayak from a sitting or standing position without any issues.
The Cloud Mountain FineFind Electric Motor is another motor that comes in a range of different thrust options, from the smallest 36 lbs, which we’re focusing on today, to the largest 86 lbs, which is suitable for larger boats.
Cloud Mountain designed their 36 lbs motor out of corrosion-resistant fiberglass and ensured that you can adjust the shaft for proper depth placement in all types of water conditions. Then, to aid even further in durability, they added a reinforced nylon bracket and saltwater-compatible hardware so your motor will stand the test of time for years to come.
As with many other trolling motors on this list, the FineFind Electric Trolling Motor has 5 forward and 3 reverse speed setting on the 6-inch telescoping adjustable handle so you can control the speed and direction in which your kayak is going.
The first Watersnake trolling motor to make our list is the Tracer Transom Mount Trolling Motor. This motor, in particular, has 30 pounds of thrust, however, there are larger options if you’d like a more versatile and powerful motor.
Watersnake gave their trolling motor 7 different speed options, five forwards and two in reverse, which you can control by the speed dial on the extendable handle. And speaking of extendability, the shaft is also adjustable and designed out of chrome-plated steel, so you can use the motor in saltwater.
If you’re after an incredibly lightweight trolling motor, then look no further than the Watersnake T18 ASp. This 18-pound thrust motor weighs only 4.85 lbs making it the lightest option (by far) on our list.
Most kayak trolling motors come with much larger thrust power, but if you’ll only be using the motor for kayaking, then this 18-pound thrust option will provide you with all the power you’ll ever need. If you do want the ability to switch the motor onto a different vessel, however, then the Watersnake T18 ASP also comes in a 24-pound thrust version.
Watersnake fitted their T18 ASP motor with an adjustable mount fitting that is compatible with a variety of fishing kayak fittings. They also decided on a 24-inch shaft length and created it out of alloy and stainless stress, so it is suitable for both fresh and saltwater.
The good news for those shopping on a budget, cheaper trolling motors such as the Minn Kota Freshwater Trolling Motor will still provide you with all the power you need to get your kayak from A to B. The Endura Minn Kota Trolling Motors has a 30 to 42-inch shaft and provides kayakers with thrust levels of 30 to 55 pounds.
During the design process, Minn Kota created their motor from composite materials and gave it five forward and three backward rev settings. Something they also improved with this model is the battery life which now allows you to spend more time on your favorite lake or river without having to worry about your battery running out.
Comfort and ease of use were also heavily thought about, so Minn Kota equipped the Endura with a six-inch telescopic tiller that improves the motor’s overall comfort and ease of use.
Before purchasing a trolling motor for your kayak, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Kayaks are fairly small boats, and trolling motors, in general, are designed for boats far larger than your diddy little ‘yak. This means that you won’t need to worry too much about the power of your trolling motor, but we understand it's useful to know what kind of voltage range is suitable.
For the most part, a 12-volt trolling motor would be more than enough for a kayak seating one or two people.
A general rule when it comes to kayak motors is that you’ll need 2 pounds of thrust for every 100 pounds of loaded weight. And when you’re on the market for a trolling motor, you’ll soon notice that even the puniest electric motor will provide you with more than enough thrust to power your kayak.
Many electric trolling motor models will come with a foot pedal, and although foot pedals are incredibly useful on bass boats, they’re essentially pointless on a kayak. Instead, you’ll want a tiller handle trolling motor, which allows you to simply direct the direction of the boat by pushing the handle right or left.
You will also find remote-controlled trolling motors on the market, but these are more expensive than a standard tiller handle trolling motor.
Trolling motors come in a range of shaft lengths, often being fairly long to reach the water from a bass boat. When it comes to kayaks, however, these long shafts cause a problem, so you need to pay close attention to how long the shaft of your motor is.
When purchasing your kayak trolling motor, you need to ensure that the propeller of the motor would sit 12 inches under the water. If the propeller is higher than 12 inches, it will suck air from the surface and create a lot of noise.
To figure out if the shaft length would be suitable for your kayak, measure from the horizontal bar of your motor mount to the surface of the water. Then, add 12 inches to this figure and a further 3-4 inches if you’ll be kayaking in rougher waters. This combined figure is your ideal trolling motor shaft length.
Most trolling motors are designed for bow mounting on a bass boat, but with a kayak, you’ll need a transom mounting system. Transom mounting systems fit the scuppers in your kayak’s cockpit, and once installed, the system will provide you with a solid bar that you can then mount your trolling motor.
Something many people don’t consider is the additional weight a trolling motor adds to your kayak. All kayaks have a maximum weight capacity, and your weight, the weight of any fishing gear (if you’re using your kayak for kayak fishing), and the additional weight of a trolling motor could tip you over the limit and cause your kayak to sink into the water.
Before you purchase a trolling motor, calculate your weight, the weight of any passengers (if you’re paddling tandem), and the weight of any gear that’ll be on board at any given time. Then add on the weight of the trolling motor you have in mind and ensure that you remain under your kayak’s maximum weight limit.
Trolling motors are designed for much larger bass boats, so you’ll never have the issue of being underpowered. With that in mind, however, a 12-volt trolling motor would provide you with more than enough power to propel a kayak containing two passengers through the water.
As a general rule of kayak motors, you’ll need at least 2 pounds of thrust for every 100 pounds of loaded weight. Loaded weight, if you don’t know, is the combined weight of any passengers and any gear that’ll be on board at any given time. If you plan on paddling in waters that are affected by wind or currents, however, then you’ll need a little extra thrust on top of that.
A 55-pound thrust electric trolling motor will propel your kayak through the water at roughly 4 to 5 miles per hour.
Trolling motors come in a range of sizes, and as they are originally intended for bass boats, their shaft lengths are usually considerably long. Long shafts cause a problem for kayaks, so when you’re deciding which motor to buy, you should calculate the length with the following equation.
Making sure you choose the correct shaft length for your kayak is crucial. By doing so, you avoid excess drag, your propeller hitting the kayak and cavitation bubbles that can badly damage your machinery. In order to make sure you get the correct shaft length, ensure you measure the full distance from the top of your motor mount, down to the water line. Generally speaking, most people aim for between 24 and 30 inch shafts, as they are closer to the water. We here at GILI Sports strongly advise measuring your kayak before buying a trolling motor to guarantee you get the correct length and avoid having to return or exchange your motor.
There are many different popular methods for mounting a kayak; a stern mount, side, a transom mount, a side mount or by using a stern mount. Keep a few things in mind, however:
Yes, you absolutely can! While the methodology will largely depend on the model of kayak in question, if you are willing, it can be done. In the same way you mount a trolling motor to a rigid kayak, you can mount one to an inflatable kayak with a DIY transom. However, due to the nature of an inflatable kayak and there being nothing to bolt onto, special consideration should be taken.
No, it’s not necessarily dangerous to use a trolling motor on a fishing kayak. This will remain the case, unless either the trolling motor is too large for the vessel or your wiring is done improperly. In general, this won’t be the case and neither presents any real risk and both are easily alleviated through proper motor installation and selection.
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