When it comes to trolling, getting your outboard motor to cooperate can be a real challenge. Trolling often requires you to slow your boat down to a crawl, which can be difficult or impossible – depending on the size of your motor. Trolling plates perform this task flawlessly.
They’ll let you slow your boat down significantly, so you can set just the right trolling speed for the job. The design is fairly straightforward, with the plate slowing your boat speed by decreasing the level of thrust generated by the motor.
While you might think all trolling plates are pretty much equal, there are several different designs and features that provide varying levels of performance. I’ll break down some of the best trolling plates for outboard motors, and how to pick the right one for your boat.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Trolling Plates for Outboards
What does a trolling plate do?
Beyond reducing the thrust from your outboard motor, trolling plates have several functions for both anglers and boaters.
Trolling plates create a physical barrier in front of your propeller, which acts like a giant brake. When the plate is the ‘down’ position, it reduces the trolling speed significantly. When it’s in the ‘up’ position, it acts as a stabilizer for your entire boat – reducing porpoising and smoothing out the entire ride.
The braking effect means you’ll be able to troll effectively in a variety of conditions without needing to purchase a separate trolling motor. You also won’t need to deploy multiple drift socks to slow down your boat.
Most trolling plates are fairly easy to install, mounting directly to the anti-cavitation plate on your motor. Plates without some form of hinged design are best avoided if your clumsy, as they can become bent or damaged if you accidentally gun the engine when it’s in the down position.
Top 5 Trolling Plates – Reviews
Rugged, well-made, and highly versatile, this hinged trolling plate is the perfect choice when you want a high-performance trolling plate that won’t sustain accidental damage. The spring-loaded aluminum hinged plate automatically flexes upward when it’s under heavy stress – preventing accidental damage or shear pin breakage. This means you won’t need to replace the entire unit if you accidentally gun it in the down position!
The plate mounts directly on top or underneath the anti-cavitation plate on any outboard or I/O motor, and two different sizes (30-45 HP and 50-300 HP) allow you to select the ideal size for your motor. Optional fins increase your stability and performance in the water, acting like a hydrofoil for your motor.
The design doesn’t interfere with your motor’s directional control or handling and can slow your craft down to a 1 Mph crawl – which is perfect for catching walleye and lake trout. Raising and lowering the plate is done with a simple pull cord, and the plate should be raised fully whenever you’re running at full speed.
- Two sizes available: Short (30-45 hp) and Standard (50-300 hp)
- Reduced trolling speed as low as 1 mph.
- Spring-loaded hinged plate flexes rather than breaking when under heavy stress.
- Available with or without optional hydrofoil fins.
- Made in the USA.
This well-designed trolling plate is the perfect choice for the forgetful angler. The built-in springs eliminate the need for raising and lowering the plate manually, which makes operation virtually fool-proof. This makes it ideal for a wide variety of trolling speeds, so you’ll be able to fine-tune your speed to match your quarry.
The plate is constructed from fiberglass filled nylon, making it completely rust and corrosion-proof. Installation takes mere minutes, mounting directly to the bottom of anti-cavitation plates of outboard and I/O motors. All you’ll need to do is drill four ¼” holes.
Unlike many other plates, it doesn’t lock completely in the horizontal position, so there’s no chance of accidentally damaging the plate by gunning the motor. The plate will fit most motors over 50 horsepower, and will also fit some smaller outboards.
- Fully automatic spring-loaded design.
- Glass-filled nylon construction.
- Virtually fool-proof operation.
- Will fit most motors over 50 horsepower.
While it doesn’t come with a spring-loaded hinge-like several other models, this anodized aluminum trolling plate is an excellent choice as long as you maintain a slow speed. It can be locked in either the ‘down’ position for reducing troll speeds and in the ‘up’ position for increases stability. There is also a middle 45° angle position, which works well for faster-trolling speeds.
Two sizes are available – a larger 50 hp and up, and a smaller 20 to 50 hp size. Both are less expensive than their equivalent made by EasyTrolller, so as long as you remember not to go full throttle, you’ll save a few bucks.
Stainless steel mounting hardware comes included, as well as installation and operation instructions. Like most other trolling plates, it installs directly to the anti-cavitation plate.
- Three locking positions for use in a variety of conditions.
- Two sizes available: Small (20 to 50 hp) and Large (50+ hp)
- No spring-loaded hinge included.
- Stainless steel mounting hardware included.
Best for Small Motors
If you’re looking for a trolling plate ideally suited for smaller outboard motors, the Davis Instruments Lil Fella is the one for you. It’s designed for motors up to 25 horsepower, so you’ll be able to fine-tune your trolling speed with a smaller motor.
The design is similar to the Davis Happy Troller reviewed above, but scaled down to fit a smaller outboard. It uses polycarbonate instead of aluminum for the main plate, but don’t let that discourage you from springing for it, the quality is still excellent. Stainless steel mounting hardware comes included, which allows for quick and easy installation.
It has two settings, down for slow trolling, and up for cruising. Keep in mind there is no spring-loaded hinge on this model, so you’ll want to avoid mashing the throttle when the plate is in the ‘down’ position.
- Smaller version of the Davis Instruments Happy Troller.
- Ideal for smaller motors up to 25 horsepower.
- Durable polycarbonate and stainless-steel construction.
- Two settings: Up for cruising and Down for slow trolling.
While it’s slightly different than your traditional trolling plate, these multi-use trolling tabs work both as a stabilizer system and trolling brakes. They mount directly to your boat’s transom, on either side of the motor.
When the tabs are in the down position, they act similarly to a trolling plate, significantly slowing your speed and increasing stability in the water. When they’re in the up position, they increase your tracking ability, handling at high speeds, and reduce porpoising and excessive bow rise.
The tabs automatically adjust to the water conditions, without the need for expensive hydraulics and electronics. They’re made from rust and corrosion-free molded composite, and can be assembled and installed in minutes with just a drill, 3/16″ bit, and a Phillips head screwdriver.
- Multi-purpose smart tabs greatly increase stability and reduce bow rise.
- When deployed in the ‘down’ position, they brake evenly on both sides.
- Quick and easy transom installation.
- Automatically adjust to the water conditions.
How to pick the right trolling plate?
Choosing the right trolling plates for your particular craft will depend on several different factors, including your motor size, fishing style, and safety features. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
First and foremost, you’ll need to make sure you get the right-sized trolling plate for your motor. Many trolling plates come in different sizes, often a smaller version for motors below 50 hp, and a larger version for motors above 50 hp.
Undersized trolling plates can excessively dampen your boat speed and could be difficult or impossible to mount. On the other hand, oversized plates won’t slow down your motor sufficiently, which can prevent you from trolling effectively. Also, always make sure to check the dimensions of your trolling plate before purchasing to ensure its compatible with your boat’s motor.
While it’s not strictly necessary, one of the best features to be on the lookout for is a spring-loaded hinge built into the plate. This will cause the plate to bend rather than break when put under excess stress – such as when you mash the throttle and forget to pull up the trolling plate!
If your forgetful like me, then it’s only a matter of time until this occurs. On the other hand, if you can remember to set the trolling plate to the ‘up’ position when using full power, then you may not need this safety feature.
Some models, like the Troll-A-Matic, are automatically spring-activated and don’t require you to set any position for the plate.
Optional hydrofoil fins are available with some models, which work to stabilize your craft and reduce the time it takes to get your boat on plane. If you frequently fish in choppy conditions and find yourself getting tossed around at slow speeds, then this can be a valuable addition.
Featured image source.
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.