How to Use a Trolling Motor: Full Guide for Beginners

If you’re new to the world of fishing, you may be overwhelmed by all the different types of gear and accessories available, all the way down to the motors. One …

If you’re new to the world of fishing, you may be overwhelmed by all the different types of gear and accessories available, all the way down to the motors. One of the most popular motors for fishing is a trolling motor, which is designed to provide slow and steady propulsion from one fishing location to another. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how you should be using a trolling motor, from the basics of what it is, to how to attach it to a boat, and how to get the most out of it when fishing. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned angler looking to upgrade your gear, this guide will get you started.

Why Use a Trolling Motor

Garmin Force Trolling Motor
Trolling motors provide a quiet and user-friendly option for fishing, compared to loud outboard motors or manual paddling.

Trolling motors are a great tool for any angler that wants to get out on the water and start to enjoy fishing right away without having to rely on heavy and loud outboard motors or exhausting manual paddling. They are quiet and create very little noise, which is ideal for those who just want to enjoy a peaceful day out on the lake. 

Trolling motors are easy to use and can be powered by batteries or a combination of batteries and an onboard charging system. They provide a steady and controlled speed when moving your boat, allowing you to cover more water and find more fish. 

Are Trolling Motors Worth It?

When it comes to the overall cost, trolling motors are much more affordable than outboard motors, making them a great option for anglers on a budget. Trolling motors are reliable, easy to use, and can provide a great deal of power and maneuverability for their small size. 

In addition, they tend to be relatively quiet and lightweight, making them perfect for fishing and other water activities. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a reliable way to propel your boat, a trolling motor is definitely worth the cost.

Using a Trolling Motor

A trolling motor is a great tool for small boats, kayaks, and canoes. These lightweight motors are usually mounted on the stern of your boat, but can also be attached to the bow for improved maneuverability.

To use a trolling motor, first, make sure it is securely mounted to your boat or other vessels with the included brackets or mounting harness. Next, familiarize yourself with the controls and ensure you know how to use the speed control, and how to turn the motor off when needed. 

Even though a trolling motor will move your boat slowly, you should always make sure to keep an eye out for any obstacles in the water, such as rocks or logs, and be aware of other boats nearby as well.

When you are finished using the trolling motor, turn off the power and ensure the motor is still securely attached to the boat. Vibrations can work some bolts loose after the motor has been turned off. Be sure to check the propeller for any debris or damage before storing the motor too.

Controlling Your Trolling Motor

How to use a trolling motor fob control
Fob-controlled trolling motors allow for precise adjustments to speed and direction through remote operation.

Fob Control

Fob-controlled trolling motors are more convenient, as you can operate them from a distance and don’t have to be directly near the motor thanks to the remote control. This allows you to make precise adjustments to the speed and heading of the motor while you are at the other end of the boat with a fishing rod in your hand.

How to use a trolling motor foot control
A foot pedal control enables easy adjustment of the motor’s speed and direction without using hands.

Foot Control

Using a foot pedal control allows you to easily adjust the speed and direction of the motor without having to take your hands away from other tasks. A foot pedal control provides increased control, improved safety, and the ability to make small adjustments with the foot pedal that may not be possible otherwise.

How to use a trolling motor ipilot link
i-Pilot or spot lock fish finders can increase trolling motor efficiency and accuracy by using GPS to control speed and direction.

i-Pilot and Linking to Your Fish Finder

Using an i-Pilot or a fish finder with a spot lock to control higher-end trolling motors can be a great way to increase the accuracy and efficiency of the motor power when traveling from one fishing spot to another. With an i-Pilot or a spot lock, you are able to use GPS technology to precisely control the trolling motor and stay on a designated course without having to manually adjust the speed or direction yourself.

Taming Wind and Currents

Wind and currents can sometimes be a hassle for smaller vessels with a trolling motor. In order to get the most out of your motor in these conditions, first determine the heading of the breeze and the current. Knowing this will help you plan your route and decide which way you should turn to create the least amount of drag.

In windy conditions, you should always try to use the breeze to your advantage by angling the bow of your boat into the breeze and using the trolling motor to move at a slight angle. This will help you keep your boat in a straight line and also maximize the efficiency of the trolling motor’s battery power.

Similar to the breeze, underwater currents can vary in strength and heading, so try to use it to your advantage by angling the bow of your boat into the current. It’s important to remember to adjust your trolling motor speed to account for the current as well since this can affect how efficient your motor is at keeping your boat on course and moving forward.

Stealthy Approaches

A trolling motor is very quiet, making it ideal for quietly approaching a fishing spot without scaring the fish away. It is also highly maneuverable, allowing the boat to be steered at low speeds and with minimal vibrations. 

By using the trolling motor, your boat can be positioned in shallow waters, allowing you to get to fishing spots that a traditional outboard motor would not be able to access due to thick vegetation, nearby rocks, or sunken logs. 

How Do You Mount a Trolling Motor: Bow Mount vs Transom Mount

How to use a trolling motor bow mount
Anglers use bow-mounted trolling motors to maintain control and steering maneuverability in turbulent conditions.

Bow Mounted Trolling Motor

Mounting a trolling motor on the bow of the boat is one of the most popular locations for many anglers, and is a great way to maintain control and steering maneuverability while fishing in wind and currents. 

To begin, you will need to attach a mounting bracket to the boat’s bow. The trolling motor itself may have included a universal bracket that works for various boat models, but if not, you may need to purchase one separately.

Once the bracket is in place, you will need to attach the trolling motor to the bracket using the hardware that came with it. Once secured, you will connect the power cables from the motor to the power source on the boat.

How to use a trolling motor Transom mount
A transom-mounted trolling motor is attached using clamp/bolts onto bracket for stability in rough water/wind.

Transom Mount

A transom-mounted trolling motor is usually secured with a heavy-duty mounting clamp, but depending on the model of trolling motor you prefer to purchase, you may also be required to mount it using several screws or bolts instead.

Once the clamp or bracket is securely attached, the trolling motor can then be mounted onto the bracket and secured using the provided bolts. This provides a secure connection even in rough water or heavy wind.

Where to Mount a Trolling Motor on a Boat

Mounting a trolling motor on a boat gives you the option to use a bow mount set up or a transom mount set up. Bow mount is more common and the video below explains how to do it.

Where to Mount a Trolling Motor on a Kayak

The options with a kayak are a site mount or a rear mount for your trolling motor. There are pros and cons to each. This video explains that and explains how to do each set up.

Where to Mount a Trolling Motor on a Canoe

Mounting a trolling motor on a canoe usually involves putting some sort of bracket on the canoe towards the stern just behind the rear seat so it can be used with a tiller.

Here is a great video explaining how to mount it.

How to Mount a Trolling Motor on a Jon Boat

Trolling Motor Setup Guide

Determining What Size Battery You Need

There are various factors that need to be considered in order to properly determine what size battery you will need for your trolling motor. The first would be the size of the motor itself. Quite simply, larger trolling motors will require larger batteries up to 36v in order to run properly, while smaller motors can be powered perfectly well with smaller 12v or 24v batteries.

Also, consider the type of battery you prefer to use. Deep cycle cranking batteries are generally recommended, as they are designed to provide a steady power output over a long period of time, but AGM, lead-acid, and lithium batteries are used as well. Most boaters will keep two batteries or even three batteries on board, instead of relying on a single battery for their electronics and motor.

What Battery Life to Expect?

The battery life of your trolling motor will depend on a few factors, including the size of the battery itself, the type of motor that the battery is powering, and whether or not you are trolling through heavy wind or currents. 

In general, if you are using the trolling motor for light trolling on calm water, you can expect around 8-12 hours of battery life. If you are using the trolling motor for heavy trolling against wind or currents, you can expect around 4-6 hours of battery life.

Can an Electric Trolling Motor Get Rained On?

Yes, an electric trolling motor can get rained on without any problems. However, it is important for every angler to make sure that the electric trolling motor housing is properly sealed and that all of the electrical components are well protected from moisture caused by water spray, splashes, and rain. 

How Deep Should It Be in the Water?

For best results, the trolling motor should be mounted on the bow, stern, or along the transom so that the propeller is just below the surface of the water and the shaft is level with the bottom of the boat. This will help reduce drag and ensure that the propeller is as efficient as possible. 

Should It Be Centered?

If you have a large boat, such as a pontoon or cabin cruiser, it may be beneficial to center the trolling motor, as this will provide the most stability and maneuverability once mounted. On a smaller boat, such as a kayak or canoe, it may not be necessary to center the motor and will instead depend on your personal preference for one spot over another.

How Do You Mount a Trolling Motor on a Canoe or Kayak?

Mounting a trolling motor on a kayak or canoe is an easy task that can be completed in a few simple steps. First, make sure you have the appropriate mounting bracket for the trolling motor as well as for your kayak or canoe. 

Most trolling motors will include an optional extra bracket that is designed to fit on the stern of a kayak or canoe but be sure to test it for stability before fully mounting the motor. The location you mount your motor will depend on personal preference, but stern mounting is the most common.

After you’ve attached the right trolling motor bracket, attaching the trolling motor should be pretty straightforward. Bolt the trolling motor onto the bracket using the included hardware and connect the wiring. Once the wiring is connected, you are ready to hit the water and enjoy your new trolling motor.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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