Trolling for fish in a canoe or kayak can get pretty tiring! If you’ve ever tried paddling for an entire day, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. No matter how fit you are, sooner or later your arms turn to jelly, while you wish you were back on land with a cool drink in hand.
Mounting a trolling motor on your canoe solves this problem. Not only will a trolling motor allow you to rest your weary arms, but you’ll also be able to cover more distance and catch more fish.
There are a variety of trolling motors available for both salt and freshwater usage. Picking the right one for your canoe or kayak can be a confusing task. I’ll break down the types of trolling motors, their features and mounting options – plus how to pick the best one for your boat.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Trolling Motors for your Canoe
Why do you need a trolling motor for your canoe or kayak?
If you’re curious about trolling motors then you might already be familiar with some of their advantages.
A good trolling motor will increase the amount of distance you can cover in your canoe. Paddling is hard work. Your arms and back will eventually get fatigued, which means you’ll have to rest and recuperate from time to time.
A trolling motor allows you to set the motor to your desired speed, just like cruise control in your car. Simply set up your rod and reel, drop your line in the water, and wait for the fish to start biting. Maintaining optimum trolling speed is easier to do with an electric trolling motor than with a paddle or even an outboard motor.
Using a trolling motor also frees up one – or both – of your hands. Trying to maintain a steady speed while paddling and catching fish can be a challenging task. That’s why having a free hand to hold your rod is a huge plus.
Electric trolling motors are relatively quiet and stealthy, allowing you to effortlessly approach fish without spooking them.
In comparison with outboard motors, electric trolling motors are lightweight, less expensive, and can be used in lakes and ponds that are designated “no gas engines allowed”.
More advantages of electric trolling motors:
- Can keep your canoe or kayak in place in a current.
- Can be used as a secondary motor on larger watercraft for precise maneuvering.
- Good backup in case you lose your paddle.
- Great for fishing – helps keep your lure at the ideal depth while trolling.
Top 5 Trolling Motors for Your Canoe
What are electric trolling motors?
Electric trolling motors are self-contained propulsion units which include a motor, propeller, and controls. They’re mounted on either the bow (front) or stern (rear) of a watercraft. For canoes and kayaks, they’re typically mounted on the stern.
The name “trolling” comes from the fishing technique where fishing lines are drawn through the water by a moving boat. Trolling motors are ideal for fishing but have many other uses as well.
Modern electric trolling motors are highly efficient and can typically operate all day without needing to be recharged. The variable speed controls and reverse allow you to precisely control the speed and direction of your craft. Their lightweight design means you can easily lift the motor out of the water while loading/unloading or if you need to clear obstacles in shallow water.
Trolling Motor Components
Modern electric trolling motors are typically 12, 24 or 36 volt brushed motors. For canoes, a 12v motor should provide more than enough power for most situations.
The motor itself is mounted inside a watertight compartment at the base of the unit. It’s fully submerged when in use. This design is ideal for lightweight boats like canoes and kayaks, as it takes up less space inside the hull.
There are three control types typically used in electric trolling motors: Hand control, foot control, and wireless control.
Hand controlled motors are easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and can be mounted directly to your boat. They do require one hand to operate, so if you want hands-free operation look into a foot or remote control.
Foot controlled motors have on/off and speed controls operated by your foot. This allows total hands-free operation, which is great for fishing. They’re typically more expensive than hand controlled motors and are found in motors for larger watercraft. They also require a specialized mounting bracket to install.
Foot controls can be difficult to coordinate for some people, so fishing with them requires a little practice.
Wireless remote controlled motors are the most expensive and are typically found in high-end models. They can be controlled with either a foot pedal or a hand operated remote control.
The propeller is fitted directly to the motor’s prop shaft. This means the power coming out of the motor transfers into the propeller without any power reduction. This design leads to increased efficiency, reduced noise, and precise control.
Propellers typically have three blades, but there are some models available with fewer or more blades.
How to pick the right trolling motor for your canoe?
The right trolling motor for your canoe or kayak will depend on a number of factors.
Do you plan to use the motor in saltwater, freshwater or both? How heavy is your watercraft? How much power are you looking for?
Saltwater vs. Freshwater
There are significant differences between the design of saltwater and freshwater motors.
Saltwater motors are typically made with stainless steel hardware, sealed electrical connections and corrosion resistant paint. Freshwater motors do not have these features, so using a freshwater motor in saltwater can cause corrosion and damage the motor.
Using a freshwater motor in saltwater will often void the manufacturer’s warranty. Read the fine print on your motor’s warranty to be sure.
If you do decide to use a freshwater motor in saltwater, be sure to thoroughly rinse the entire motor with fresh water and dry after each use. Spraying with some WD-40 before and after will help protect the motor as well.
Saltwater motors can be used in freshwater without any problems.
The size and weight of your canoe will determine the size motor you’ll need.
For most canoes, a 55-lb thrust motor will provide more than enough power to haul a fully loaded boat. Smaller 30-40 lb thrust motors will work fine for smaller loads, plus they’ll drain your battery at a slower rate.
The ideal shaft length will place the motor and propeller approximately 1 foot below the water. This length gives you efficient propulsion without being so long that you hit the bottom in shallow water.
Pounds of thrust and voltage
Power from electric trolling motors is rated in pounds of thrust rather than horsepower.
The amount of power you’ll need will depend on the weight of your boat, the wind conditions, and any currents. As a general rule of thumb, select a motor with at least 2lbs. of thrust for every 100lbs. of boat weight.
For most canoes and kayaks, a 55 lb motor will provide more than enough thrust.
Trolling motors are available in several different voltages: 12v, 24v and 36v are common. For a smaller boat, 12v is ideal – it provides enough power while not draining the battery too quickly.
Mounting your trolling motor
Trolling motors can be mounted in either the bow (front) or stern (rear) of a canoe or kayak. In smaller watercraft, these motors are typically mounted in the stern. This allows easy control over the boat and lets you steer facing forwards.
Larger boats that use a trolling motor as a secondary means of propulsion will often mount in the bow.
Mounting a trolling motor on a canoe is fairly straightforward. Most canoes don’t come with a flat transom (the flat surface forming the stern of a boat) for mounting a motor, but with a 2” x 4”, some steel bolts and a little DIY, you can easily mount a trolling motor to any canoe.
If you don’t want to bother with that, there are also specialized mounting brackets available for canoes and kayaks. They’re typically made of anodized aluminum and are mounted to the gunwales using adjustable angle clamps. These allow you to quickly mount and dismount the motor and rapidly pack everything away for transport.
Check out this video if you’re interested in an in-depth guide to mounting a trolling motor on your canoe – DIY style:
Trolling motors are generally pretty low maintenance, but following a few key steps will ensure you get the most out of your motor.
- Don’t leave the motor hooked into the power source when not in use for extended periods of time. This can lead to corrosion of the battery terminals.
- Give the motor and propeller a good rinse in fresh water after each use. This is especially important if you use your motor in saltwater.
- Check the propeller for weeds or fishing line that might have become entangled. These can stress your motor and cause it to overwork.
- Apply some marine-friendly lubricant spray to the shaft and all moving parts to keep them well lubricated and protected from corrosion.
- Recharge your battery to full after each use to extend the battery life.
Wrapping it All Up
If you fish from your canoe or kayak frequently, then getting a trolling motor to mount on your boat is a no-brainer.
A trolling motor makes a great addition to any canoe or kayak – it enables you to cover more distance, maintain a constant speed while fishing, and allows you to rest your arms when you get tired of paddling.
Advancements in trolling motor technology have made them cheaper and more efficient than ever before. Modern trolling motors are highly efficient and draw far less battery power than older models.
Q: Do you need to register a canoe with a trolling motor?
A: In most states, you will need to register your canoe when you mount a trolling motor on it. This includes both electric and gas trolling motors.
Q: How long will a battery last with a trolling motor?
A: This depends on a number of factors, such as the weight of the boat, weather conditions, and age of the motor. A newer model 12-volt motor mounted on a canoe or kayak should last well over 8 hours of moderate usage in normal weather conditions.
Q: How fast will a 55 lbs. thrust trolling motor go?
A: Top speed will depend on boat weight, hull shape, and length-to-beam ratio. Typically a 55 lbs. trolling motor mounted on a canoe or kayak will top out at 4 – 6 mph.
Q: What kind of battery do you need for a trolling motor?
A: A deep cycle marine battery is needed for a trolling motor. Car batteries are not appropriate for use with trolling motors; they will not last long and can damage the motor.
Q: What is the point of a trolling motor?
A: A trolling motor allows you to cover a lot of distance without wearing yourself out from paddling. They also allow you to maintain a constant speed while trolling for fish. As they are relatively quiet and stealthy, trolling motors will not spook fish like gas-powered motors can.
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.