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Trolling Motors

These electric motors can do more than save gas at low trolling speeds. The most modern trolling motors can even leverage GPS data and self-steering to serve as autopilots, helping anglers to precisely follow underwater features to find fish faster and, once found, to stay on them effortlessly.


Trolling Motor Basics

The idea's been in use for almost a century: affix a supplemental electric motor to a boat's hull for the specific task of slow fishing at at speeds that are inefficient for internal combustion engines. It's such a valuable mechanical niche that Minn Kota, the brand that first went to market with a commercial trolling motor in the 1930's, is still a market leader.

Any trolling motor consists of a few main components:

  • mount attaches the motor to the boat's hull. The mount may feature a hinge that allows the motor to be stowed away from the water when not in use. More advanced trolling motors mounts include servos to steer and stow the motor.
  • A shaft of varying length depending on the motor boat dimensions that can reach well into the water while in use. 
  • A motor housed in a pod at the lower end of the shaft, along with a propellor with typically two or three blades.
  • A control unit located at the upper end of the shaft. The control unit can feature a handle-like manual tiller, a wired foot pedal, or even a wireless remote control. Advanced control units tie in to GPS receivers and the trolling motor's own steering servos to act as autopilots.
  • battery dedicated to the trolling motor or, alternatively, the battery from a boat's existing electrical system.

Tech Injection

Trolling motors are seeing some interesting developments in parallel with other fishing technology. Married to GPS transducers, trolling motors with their own servo motors in the mounting brackets are able to maintain accurate fixed courses over long distances, making them effective autopilots.

Taken a step further, these auto-piloting trolling motors are able to maintain a fixed geographic position, essentially serving as powered anchors. Angler can station-keep at the push of a button, allowing them to fish onto a spotted or detected target in seconds.

Full-Size Electrics Ahead

Trolling motors aren't the end-state of the technology. Electric boat drives are benefiting from motor and battery developments coming from the auto industry. Manufacturers who have perfected the technology for trolling motors are starting to scale up. It's only a matter of time before electric boats become commonplace.

Best Of

The Best Trolling Motor [2019]

See our picks of the top five trolling motors for 2020, including the overall category winner and the winner of our accessible tech award. These are the best of the best. Read now >

The Best Bow Mount Trolling Motor

Bow mount trolling motors are probably the most popular style in the angling world. We will look at some key components you should know, and then look at five models that cover a wide spectrum of needs on the water. Read now >

The Best Saltwater Trolling Motor

Just like the salty sea dogs that run them, saltwater trolling motors are a different breed, standing up to elements that landlubber can hardly fathom. We take a look at the top five, including a tech innovator and a category winner. Read now >

The Best Kayak Trolling Motor

Kayak trolling motors need realistic thrust and shaft lengths. Don't overbuy for your kayak. See our top picks of trolling motors for kayaks and other small vessels. Read now >


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