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Buying guide for best freshwater trolling motors

If you’ve ever watched Bassmasters, you know how useful a trolling motor is to keep from scaring the fish away. Your gas-powered motor, outboard or inboard, makes too much noise even at low throttle.

Trolling motors are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. They’re electric, which means they’re quiet enough not to scare away the fish. They can be used in shallow water of all kinds. Once you’ve turned off the gas motor, the trolling motor is the one you’ll use to approach your fishing hole slowly and quietly without alarming the fish.

Not all trolling motors are the same, however. There are many things to consider and numerous features to analyze to determine which one is best for you. Keep reading and we’ll steer you through the shoals to your final destination.

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Vibrations are a constant issue with motors — even electric ones. Tighten all the bolts and screws on a regular basis. You’ll be surprised at how much the parts of your motor can loosen.

Key considerations

Boat size

The very first thing you have to consider is the size of your boat. It stands to reason that the larger your boat, the larger trolling motor you’ll need. The weight of the boat and the height above the water are the two most obvious things you’ll have to look at.

In addition, you need to consider the draft of your boat. A trolling motor for a flat-bottomed aluminum boat or kayak will be different from what you’d need on a deep-v or pontoon boat.

Freshwater vs Seawater Trolling Motors

Freshwater trolling motors don’t have to be concerned about the added corrosion caused by the salt in seawater.  The main difference between freshwater and seawater trolling motors is what is called a sacrificial anode added to seawater motors to keep corrosion away from the rest of the motor.


Closely related to the size of your boat is how much thrust you need in your trolling motor. The size and weight of your boat will determine how much thrust you need. Your trolling motor should provide roughly 1 pound of thrust per 50 pounds of weight.

The average weight of a 16-foot bass boat is between 1500 and 1700 pounds. Divide that by 50 and you’ll get 30 to 34 pounds of thrust required for a trolling motor on that boat.

But you still have to add the weight of the gas motor, passengers, supplies, fishing gear, and other items on your boat. Add all those numbers together, then add a fudge factor in case you underestimated any of them and divide the final result by 50. That should tell you how much thrust capacity you need on a trolling motor for your boat and everything on it.



Trolling motors are usually stainless steel or aluminum with a fiberglass shaft. Many of them use nylon brackets to reduce the weight of the motor and dampen vibrations. They may also have zinc or magnesium sacrificial anodes on them.

Mounting options


Trolling motors can be mounted on the bow of a boat but, this requires a flat base mount which needs to be bolted to the forward deck. If you intend to put your trolling motor at the bow, be sure the one you purchase is equipped for it. Bass boats or deep-v boats can typically support bow-mounted motors.


The transom is the stern of a boat. Transom-mounted trolling motors fit over the edge of the boat and use clamps to stay in place. They can also be attached to the front of many flat-bottomed aluminum boats or square-front boats.

Additionally, transom-mounted trolling motors can be attached to the side of most boats. A word of caution if you choose this option: trolling motors are designed to steer a boat from the front or the rear. If you mount it on the side, the boat itself will create additional resistance to turning and maneuvering To overcome that additional resistance, you’ll need a stronger motor. Add about 10 pounds of thrust to the number you arrived at based on the weight of your boat and gear.

Gas engine

Trolling motors can be mounted on your inboard or outboard motor, but it’s a fairly involved process. If you go this route, we recommend taking your boat and trolling motor to an experienced marine mechanic to let them install it properly.

Shaft length

Once again, the size of your boat will be the determining factor and when you’re deciding what length of shaft you need on your trolling motor, you’ll have to make some measurements. Put your boat in the water and locate the point on your boat where you intend to mount the trolling motor. Then, measure the distance from the mount point down to the water and add 18 to 22 inches to the result. This number (in inches) is the length of the shaft you need.

Steering options


Steering by hand is the most common option. Trolling motors usually come with telescoping handles which make them easy to steer. The drawback is that one hand will always have to be on the handle when you’re moving.


Some trolling motors have foot controls on them, allowing you to steer the boat with your foot. This allows you to keep both hands free. Steering with your foot takes some practice though, so be prepared for a learning curve and some near misses.


Wireless remote controls are available on some trolling motors. There are some lag time issues with these types of controls, but the handheld units are typically small enough that you can use them at the same time you fish. If you’re coordinated enough and think you can compensate for the lag time between the controller and the motor, this feature can help to keep you in the middle of the action.


Trolling motors typically come with five forward speeds and three reverse speeds for a total of eight speeds.


To get the most out of your freshwater trolling motor, there are a few accessories we recommend.

Trolling motor stabilizer: RAW MOUNTS Trolling Motor Stabilizer
A trolling motor stabilizer is a great tool for reducing the vibrations from your motors that may cause it to come loose or go off course. This model by RAW MOUNTS is a popular and affordable option that is affordable and highly durable.

Clamp-on rudder: Bullnose Rudder Clamp-On Rudder
A clamp-on rudder will give you more control for your boat than the propellers alone can provide. This rudder is cheap and easy to install no matter what trolling motor you have.

Battery: Mighty Max Battery 12V 35Ah SLA Battery
Trolling motors don’t come with a battery and you’ll need one for them. This battery from Mighty Max Battery is rechargeable and maintenance-free.

Freshwater trolling motor prices

Trolling motors for $90 to $150 are generally short-shaft, low-thrust motors intended to be transom mounted on small, lightweight boats.

Midrange trolling motors cost between $150 to $250. These models have longer shafts and greater thrust on them — usually around 55 pounds. Trolling motors for inflatable boats also fall into this price range.

For $250 to $1,400 are high-end freshwater trolling motors. These motors feature long shafts up to 60 inches, 70 pounds of thrust, bow mounts, and foot controls. Most of them are also usable in saltwater. Multi-year warranties are offered on many trolling motors in this range.


  • In windy conditions, it’s best to turn the boat around so the trolling motor is pulling the boat against the wind rather than trying to push it from behind.
  • Because sound carries underwater, always turn off your inboard or outboard motor at least 100 yards from your selected fishing spot. Finish the journey with your trolling motor to avoid scaring the fish.
  • Variable speed trolling motors use less electricity than fixed-speed motors. This is especially true at lower speeds.

Other products we considered

In addition to our top picks, we like the Newport Vessels Kayak Series Electric Trolling Motor. This trolling motor is intended to be mounted on kayaks, and its 24-inch shaft makes it ideal for trolling in shallow water. It has a 55-pound thrust and 8 speeds (5 forward speeds and 3 reverse speeds). It's even rated for saltwater fishing. We also like the Minn Kota Edge Bowmount Foot Controlled Trolling Motor. This model is more expensive than most trolling motors because of the foot control, but the convenience might make it worth your while. It has a 36-inch shaft, so it can be mounted on most 16-foot boats.

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Sacrificial anodes are what make a trolling motor adaptable to be used in saltwater. They're generally made from zinc or magnesium.


Q. How much trolling time will a battery provide?
This depends on the amp hours of the battery divided by the amp draw of the motor. For example, with a battery rated at 100 amp hours and a motor rated at a 20 amp draw, you would have 5 hours of trolling time.

Q. Should I run my trolling battery all the way down?
No. Completely depleting a battery is never a good idea as it will significantly reduce the lifespan of the battery.

Q. What is the best depth for a trolling motor?
The minimum depth for a trolling motor is 10 to 12 inches. If the water is any shallower, your motor will be prone to breaking the surface during choppy conditions.

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