Bow Mount Trolling Motors

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If you’re after ultimate control over your fishing boat – you can’t beat a bow mount trolling motor. These cutting-edge motors mount to the front of your boat with a bolt-on bracket and propel your craft by pulling it through the water rather than pushing it.

This increases the amount of control you’ll have over your boat while trolling, drifting, and changing direction. Like other trolling motors, these motors have the advantage of fine-tuning your trolling speed, freeing up your hands for fishing, and stealthily approaching fish without spooking them.

There are a wide variety of bow mount trolling motors available for both salt and freshwater use. They feature different control mechanisms, thrusts, shaft lengths, mounting options, and extra features. I’ll break down the different types, their respective strengths, and weaknesses, and help you find the ideal one for your needs.

Quick Answer: 5 Best Bow Mount Trolling Motors

Best Overall: MotorGuide X3 Bow Mount Foot-Control
Best Electric / Wireless Steer: Minn Kota PowerDrive with i-Pilot Control
Best High End: Lowrance Ghost
Best Saltwater: MotorGuide Xi5 Wireless Saltwater
Budget Pick: Watersnake Shadow Bow Mount Foot Control


Why do you need a bow mount trolling motor?

1 2022 07 best bow mount trolling motors why do you need

If you’re serious about fishing, a bow mount trolling motor is one of the best upgrades you can make to your boat.

One of the major advantages bow mounted trolling motors have over their transom-mounted counterparts is how they propel your boat.

Transom mounted motors work similarly to typical outboard motors in that they push your boat through the water. Bow mounted trolling motors pull your boat through the water – which gives you more precise control over your boat’s direction and side-to-side movement.

Mounting a trolling motor in the bow provides you with a secondary means of propulsion. You can use your outboard motor when you need to cover serious distances, and your trolling motor when you need fine-tuned precise control.

If you have a smaller craft – like a canoe, kayak, dinghy, or small Jon boat – then a transom-mounted trolling motor will offer you more than enough propulsion.  On the other hand, larger craft will benefit from a bow-mounted trolling motor.

Lastly, many bow mount motors offer foot and remote controls. This frees up your hands so you can keep fishing, rather than fiddling around with your trolling motor’s tiller.

Best Overall: MotorGuide X3 Bow Mount Foot-Control

Motorguide 940200090 x3 freshwater bow mount trolling motor — cable steer, foot-control — 45-inch shaft, 55-pound peak thrust

MotorGuide’s been a household name in the trolling motor game for decades – and for good reason. They manufacturer some of the best quality, longest-lasting trolling motors on the market. With whisper-quiet operation, precise 5-speed controls, and a 2-blade weedless prop, this motor more than lives up to its pedigree.

Proprietary variable-ratio steering gives you a precise level of control and lets you position your boat in rough water and high winds. It works by reducing torque steer feedback, which increases precision and responsiveness. A directional control arrow gives you a clear indication of the prop direction.

An ergonomic heel-toe foot pedal controls the cable steering system, allowing you to keep your hands free for catching fish! Three different thrust levels are available (45, 55, and 70 lbs.), so you can match the right thrust level to your boat’s size. Keep in mind the 45 lbs. and 55 lbs. thrust models are 12 Volt, while the 70 lbs. model is 24 Volt.

The shaft uses a 2-piece design, with a stainless-steel upper shaft and a premium composite lower shaft that comes with a lifetime guarantee against breaking. Three different shaft lengths (36”, 45”, and 50”) are available, and you’ll also be able to make precise adjustments to your motor height with the hinged mount.

The X3 also offers excellent value. You’ll get top-tier performance, battery life, and construction quality at a price that’s hard to pass up.

Key Features

  • Thrust: 45 (12 volt), 55 (12 volt) and 70 lbs. (24 volt)
  • Shaft Length: 36”, 45”, and 50”
  • Precision variable-ratio steering
  • Foot control unit with directional prop indicator arrow
  • Ultra-quiet operation thanks to composite locking pin and bushings

Best Electric / Wireless Steer: Minn Kota PowerDrive with i-Pilot Control

Minn kota 1358731 powerdrive freshwater electric-steer bow-mount trolling motor with digital maximizer & i-pilot gps, 70 lbs thrust, 54

If you’re looking for a remote-controlled trolling motor that can be piloted from anywhere on your craft, you’ll have a tough time beating this one. The i-Pilot control unit includes Bluetooth connectivity, integrated GPS, a large easy-to-read LCD, and intuitive controls. Because the controls are completely wireless, you won’t need to sacrifice any deck space for a foot-control pedal.

In addition to autopilot and cruise control, it also includes Minn Kota ‘spot lock’ feature, which lets you set a spot on the water and remain there with the touch of a button. This feature is great for fishing in strong current or near shore.

Minn Kota’s digital maximizer provides up to 5 times longer run time on a single battery charge. The variable-speed motor lets you fine-tune your boat’s speed and maximize efficiency while fishing.

The composite shaft is virtually indestructible and guaranteed for life. A deploy assist level lets you easily raise and lower the prop when it’s time to move. The weedless wedge 2 prop utilizes swept-back flared blades for powering through the rough stuff.

This model features a 54” shaft with the 12V, 55 lbs. thrust motor. A larger 24V 70lbs. thrust model and longer shaft lengths are also available for larger boats.

Key Features

  • Thrust: 55 lbs. (12 volt)
  • Shaft Length: 54”
  • Wireless remote with large LCD screen and intuitive controls
  • Spot lock feature keeps your boat in the same spot
  • Digital maximizer for greatly improved battery life and power efficiency
  • Made in the USA

Best High End: Lowrance Ghost

Lowrance ghost - freshwater trolling motor, 47

Whisper-quiet, incredibly powerful, and astonishingly eye-catching, the Lowrance Ghost is the without a doubt the pinnacle of bow mounted trolling motors. Lowrance has packed the Ghost with integrated plug-and-play CHIRP sonar and DownScan Imaging right out of the box, a customizable foot pedal, and a 360° breakaway mount. Precise waypoint anchoring lets you pick a spot and stay put – no matter how windy it is.

The foot control unit uses fly-by-wire steering gives you the precision of cable steering without the wear and tear over time. You can customize the flip switch location on the foot pedal, save waypoints, adjust motor speed, switch between anchor and heading mode, and monitor battery life all with your toe and heel!

The ghost motor is built for compatibility and can be rigged with your boat’s existing 24V or 36V marine battery system. When rigged with 24 volts it will put out 97 lbs. of thrust, and 120 lbs. of thrust when attached to 36 volts.

The mount itself is one of its strongest points. It has a 360° breakaway mount that takes the brunt of any impacts and automatically realigns itself after a collision. An integrated stabilizer bar reduces movement when on plane, while a dual-action gas spring lets you launch and stow the motor nearly effortlessly.

While it certainly costs more than most bow mounted trolling motors, if you’re looking for the cream of the crop – this is it.

Key Features

  • Thrust: 97 lbs. (24 volt), 120 lbs. (36 volt)
  • Shaft Length: 47”
  • Whisper-quiet brushless motor provides best-in-class performance
  • Plug and play Lowrance sonar with built-in HDI nosecone transducer
  • Customizable foot pedal
  • Motor emits zero electromagnetic interference
  • Impact-resistant breakaway mount with an integrated stabilizer bar

Best Saltwater: MotorGuide Xi5 Wireless Saltwater

Motorguide 941700170 xi5 wireless saltwater bow mount trolling motor — 72-inch shaft, 105-pound peak thrust — gps

If you’re looking for a bow mount trolling motor for both saltwater and freshwater use, this fully-encapsulated corrosion-resistant motor makes an excellent choice. All electronics are sealed off and protected from saltwater and dust.

Wireless steering lets you control the unit from anywhere on your boat with the included remote. It includes precise ‘spot lock’ anchoring, jog, heading lock, and cruise control settings. Precision steering gears and low-friction bearings create responsive electric steering that’s significantly faster than the competition.

The motor is available with or without MotorGuide’s Pinpiont GPS – which adds an ultra-precise receiver and 2 digital compasses for accurate GPS positioning. The unit is compatible with Lowrance, Garmin, Hummingbird, and Vexilar GPS screen units.

A tough composite shaft backed up with a lifetime warranty is designed to bend rather than break upon impact. It’s designed to take a beating from underwater rocks and stumps and keep on kicking. The 2-blade weedless prop circuit will automatically protect itself when stalled.

The mount features a unique gliding mechanism that aligns and guides the motor when stowing it.

Available in three different thrusts (55, 80, and 105 lbs.) as well as three corresponding voltages (12, 24, and 36 volt), you can easily find the ideal motor for your boat and existing wiring.

Key Features

  • Thrust: 55 lbs. (12 volt), 80 lbs. (24 volt), 105 lbs. (36 volt)
  • Shaft Length: 48”, 54”, and 72”
  • Stealthy quiet motor operation
  • Completely sealed electronic components for saltwater use
  • Optional Pinpoint GPS
  • Wireless steering offers convenient motor control

Budget Pick: Watersnake Shadow Bow Mount Foot Control

Watersnake - shadow bow mount foot control motor (44-pound thrust, 48-inch shaft, 12-volt)

If you’re looking for a bow mount trolling motor without spending the kid’s college fund, Watersnake makes an excellent budget-priced model. The freshwater model features a heel/toe foot control pedal, a corrosion-free composite shaft that bends on impact, and a 3-blade weedless prop for chewing through heavy weeds.

The motor is fairly quiet, responsive, and at several hundred bucks less than the competition, you’re getting excellent value for your dollar. Variable speed controls give you precision speed and directional control without having to keep your foot on the pedal, while all the mounting hardware you need comes included with purchase.

Keep in mind you won’t be getting advanced features like GPS or spot lock, but at this price that’s to be expected. Both 44 and 55 lbs. thrust models are available, both running on 12 volts of power.

Key Features

  • Thrust: 45 lbs. (12 volt), 55 lbs. (12 volt)
  • Shaft Length: 48”, 54”
  • Quiet, powerful and efficient motor
  • Composite shaft that bends on impact
  • Heel/toe foot control pedal

Bow Mount Trolling Motors Breakdown

2 2022 07 best bow mount trolling motors breakdown

Bow mounted trolling motors are self-contained propulsion units that mount to the bow of your boat. They require a flat mounting surface and enough space in the bow for the mount and controls.

These motors are often mounted on bass boats and are used as a secondary means of propulsion in addition to your outboard motor. Trolling motors mounted in the bow offer precise control while trolling, drifting, or staying put in current.

Newer models offer quiet operation, efficient battery usage, and easy to use mounts for deploying and stowing. 

How to pick the right bow mount trolling motor?

3 2022 07 best bow mount trolling motors how to pick

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing a bow mount trolling motor.

What sized motor? Shaft length? What voltage will I need? Should I go with foot control or wireless?

I’ll break down what you’ll need to know when choosing a bow-mounted trolling motor, so you can make the right choice the first time.

Motor Thrust

Thrust refers to the amount of power generated by the motor as it moves your boat through the water.

It’s measured in pounds of thrust and is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a motor. Too weak, and your motor will struggle to pull your boat through the water, while too much will be overkill and add unnecessary weight and cost.`

Luckily, there’s a simple rule-of-thumb calculation for determining the right motor size – 2 pounds of thrust per 100 pounds of boat weight. Put another way simply perform the following calculation:

Thrust Calculation: Total boat weight / 50 = Ideal pounds of thrust

If you frequently fish in rough water, fish with multiple partners, or store a lot of gear on board, then size up by an additional 10%. Also, if you’re in between sizes, go with the larger motor. Extra power is much less of an issue than too little.

If you don’t know your boat’s exact weight, you can use this chart as an approximate guide:

Boat Length Pounds of Thrust Required
12-13′30
14′32
15′36
16′40
17′50
18′55
19′65
20-21′74
22′101

Controls

Choosing between foot, hand, and wireless electrical control can be a difficult decision, especially if you don’t have much experience with trolling motors.

Foot control motors use a foot pedal attached to a cable to control the motors speed and direction. This control type allows you to operate the unit completely hands-free, so you can focus on catching fish. Most pedals use a heel/toe design that allows you to adjust speed and change direction with a simple foot tap.

Foot control units do require you to mount the pedal and control wire somewhere on your hull – so they’ll take up more space than the other types. Because they require physical cables and mechanical pedals, there’s more of a chance of something malfunctioning when you’re on the water.

Hand control motors are operated using a tiller handle to adjust the speed and direction of the motor. You’ll often find these controls on transom mount trolling motors, but some cheaper bow mount models also use them.

Hand controls are reliable and take up very little space, but will require you to physically control the tiller handle to change direction or adjust speed. This means you’ll need to stay close to the trolling motor and sacrifice the versatility of hands-free operation.

Wireless control uses a small hand-held remote control to steer the trolling motor. These units allow you to control the motor from anywhere in your boat, and keep your bow completely clutter-free. Of course, you have to operate the remote control with one of your hands, so they’re not completely hands-free like foot pedals. They also tend to be on the expensive side.

Some models offer multiple control options, so you can control the motor either through a foot pedal or a hand-operated remote control. These units also tend to be on the higher-priced side.

Shaft Length

Another key consideration is the motor’s shaft length. Too short and the prop may not be fully submerged, too long and you’ll hit bottom in shallow water.

An easy method to determine the right shaft length is measuring the distance from your bow to the waterline – and then add 12” to 20” to that number. Similar to calculating thrust, you’ll want to go a little longer if you frequently fish in rough water.

Voltage

Bow mounted trolling motors come in three different voltage levels: 12, 24, and 36.

12-volt models require the least amount of electrical current and run off a single 12V marine battery. 24-volt models require two 12v batteries, while 36-volt models require three.

12-volt trolling motors are the least expensive and provide lower thrust levels. Most 12-volt models provide 55 pounds of thrust or less, so they’re better suited to smaller craft.

24- and 36-volt models will cost more, but will provide higher thrust levels in the 55 to 100+ lbs. range. They also draw similar amp levels, so they’ll last longer on a single charge.

Saltwater vs. Freshwater

Saltwater trolling motors feature sealed electrical circuits and corrosion-resistant components that won’t break down in saltwater. Freshwater motors don’t have these features, and using them in the ocean can cause damage to the motor and may even void the warranty.

If there’s any chance you’ll use your motor in saltwater, then going with a saltwater motor makes sense. You can also use these motors in freshwater without worry.

Extra Features

Trolling motor manufacturers have added a ton of extra functionality to their higher-end models over recent years. Whereas these motors were once little more than simple means of propulsion, newer models feature integrated GPS, sonar and down-vu, Wi-Fi connectivity, self-directional operation, and spot-lock.

Mounting

4 2022 07 best bow mount trolling motors mounting

Mounting a bow mount trolling motor requires a flat space in the bow to attach the mounting base. Most motors come with mounting hardware and instructions, so getting everything set up won’t be too much of a chore.

One of the best accessories you can get for a bow mount trolling motor is a quick-release mounting bracket. These 2-piece brackets mount directly to the hull and allow you to quickly detach and remove the entire motor in seconds. This makes swapping the motor between different boats and removal for long term storage a breeze.

Check out these quick-release mounts for well-made and versatile bow mounting solutions:

Check out this short video for a look at installing a trolling motor in the bow:

Maintenance

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Maintaining a trolling motor is typically pretty low effort, but following a few key steps will ensure you get the most out of your motor:

  • Give the entire prop and shaft a good rinse after use. This is especially important for saltwater motors.
  • Inspect the prop and clean any weeds or fishing line that may have become entangled during use.
  • Disconnect the motor from your marine battery whenever it’s not in use for a prolonged period of time. Also, check for corrosion which can impact performance.
  • Apply some lubricant spray to the prop, shaft, and other moving parts every so often.
  • Make sure to fully charge your batteries after each use.

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