The Best Saltwater Trolling Motor
2018 Edition

Huston Heatherly

by Huston Heatherly

A docked boat with a bow-mounted saltwater trolling motor

Model

Great White

Riptide Powerdrive

NV Series Transom

R5 Transom

Riptide Maxxum

Brand

MotorGuide

Minn Kota

Newport Vessels

MotorGuide

Minn Kota

Quickview

MotorGuide Great White saltwater trolling motor
Minn Kota Riptide Powerdrive  saltwater trolling motor
Newport Vessels NV Series saltwater trolling motor
MotorGuide R5 saltwater trolling motor
Minn Kota Riptide Maxxum saltwater trolling motor

Our Awards

Category Winner

Tech Innovator

See Pricing

Saltwater fishing encompasses a wide array of fish species, types of water, as well as the type of boats that are used. One commonality between all of these styles of fishing is that you often need a boat and, when facing the elements at sea, that boat needs a saltwater trolling motor.

In this article, we are going to take a look at five saltwater trolling motors that are going to hold up to the corrosive nature of saltwater and also provide the needed durability and control that anglers demand.


Measuring Saltwater Trolling Motor Value

Salt Resistance

The issue with saltwater is that it will corrode metal which obviously is going to lead to some major problems with your trolling motor. Not all trolling motors are designed to withstand the salt and even with cleaning of the machine after use you are going to run into major issues over time.

So, what characteristics should you be looking out for that lets you know that the trolling motor is better equipped to handle saltwater exposure?

  • Materials: In general, the fewer plastic parts, the more durable the trolling motor is going to be. You can find cheaper alternatives out there on the market, but you are not going to get the lifespan with the higher end brands. Regarding saltwater, composite materials work well in the salt, especially a composite fiberglass material. Stainless steel is also a popular material for saltwater use, and it is always nice to see an anodizing process is used to further add to the corrosion resistance.

  • Seals: It’s near impossible to keep all the inner workings of your trolling motor unexposed to saltwater, but saltwater trolling motors should have marine grade plastic that houses electronic parts and doesn't allow water in where fouling can occur.

  • Anodes: The top saltwater trolling motors are going to use a "sacrificial anode" that protects important metal components within your motor from corrosion. These are almost always zinc, and it's a component you should keep your eye out for when looking at trolling motors to be used in the salt.

Thrust

Regardless of salt or fresh water use, you should consider the amount of thrust that you are going to need. A wide range of vessels are used for saltwater fishing from personal kayaks to 21’ vessels that weigh a couple thousand pounds. The type of water you fish is also going to determine how much thrust you need. Heavy currents and constantly choppy waters are going to require more thrust than on calm water. A rule of thumb that is commonly accepted is that you need 5lbs of thrust for every 200lbs of boat. 

And with saltwater fishing you can be in pretty choppy water where an extra 10-20lbs of thrust might be warranted.

Mount

Another aspect you need to decide on when looking at a saltwater trolling motor, or any type of motor for that matter, is whether you want a transom or bow mount trolling motor.  Both have advantages and disadvantages, and you should weigh these differences based on the type of boat you are using and the applications. 

Bow mounts sit at the front of the boat and normally have a mounting mechanism that takes up a good deal of room on the floor of the bow. These can be controlled by a hand tiller or a foot pedal. Bow mounts using a pedal are excellent for hands-free fishing applications but take a little more practice to become accustomed to.

Transom mounts are mounted to the back of the boat by a c-clamp mechanism and are almost always controlled by a hand tiller. These are generally for smaller boats, but as you probably know, small boats and even personal watercraft are often better suited for some types of saltwater fishing.

Control

Your two options for handling the direction of your trolling motor is by hand or foot. Well, that is not true anymore now that several of the big name trolling motor brands now employ remote control of the trolling motor and even auto-pilot. 

Sometimes the mount dictates the style of control, but bow mounts usually have some options. It's really a personal preference as well as the type of boat and the type of fishing you have in mind. Hand tillers are often easier to master than a foot pedal, but you also lose the ability to go hands-free with a hand tiller.  

Shaft Length

Deciding on the length of the shaft of your trolling motor is another important decision that you need to make. As you can imagine, it won’t do you any good to have a trolling motor where the prop does not sit fully submerged. It also doesn’t do you any good to have a 60-inch shaft on a kayak you use for trolling shallow waters.

We have provided two small charts to give you an idea of the shaft length that you will use. 

Bow Mount

Bow to Waterline

(inches)

Shaft Length

(inches)

0-16

36

16-22

42

22-28

48-52

28-34

52-62

Transom Mount

Bow to Waterline

(inches)

Shaft Length

(inches)

0-10

30

10-16

36

16-22

42

22 or more

42 or more


Saltwater Trolling Motor Reviews

MotorGuide Great White

MotorGuide Great White saltwater trolling motor

See Manufacturer Specifications

The Great White Trolling motor is a bow mount motor and is built to handle much larger vessels with options for 82 or 109lb thrust options. With these thrust options, you can easily guide a larger vessel or smaller watercraft in more choppy waters. The 82lb thrust option requires 24volts while the 109lb thrust option requires 36volts so you will need room on the boat to house several deep cycling batteries.

This trolling motor is controlled via hand. While some might prefer a foot control, the extendable and tilting steering handle used on the Great White is highly responsive gives instant change of direction to the prop. The motor uses its Digital Guardian speed control which is a digital variable speed unit that helps maximize the exact amount of thrust you need while conserving battery power. It also uses a soft-start technology which creates smoother start-up motion and lessens the jerkiness found in a lot of trolling motors when adjusting speed.

Both model options come with the Machette III prop. This is a heavy duty, three-blade prop that can handle underwater vegetation with relative ease.

Both thrust options can be fitted with either a 50 or 60-inch shaft that is built for saltwater use. It has an aluminum outer coating that is protective against shallow water use. The shaft, mount, and other components are also anodized which greatly increases the motors resistance to galvanic corrosion. Like most top saltwater models, the Great White has dual saltwater anodes that take the brunt of corrosion away from more sensitive components. On top of all of this, the digital module is completely sealed protecting it from not only corrosive saltwater but also from heat and shock. The Great White is easily one of the top trolling motors for saltwater use when looking at its ability to resist corrosion. 

We give the MotorGuide Great White Saltwater trolling motor an A rating. This hand operated bow mount is a great high power, saltwater trolling motor. It has technology installed that maximizes battery life and maneuverability. While you do not get the benefit of hands-free use, its high salt resistance and reliability make it an excellent option for those needing a reliable trolling motor in saltwater settings.

Where to Buy


Minn Kota Riptide Powerdrive

Minn Kota Riptide Powerdrive saltwater trolling motor

See Manufacturer Specifications

If you’re on the hunt for a bow mount saltwater trolling motor that employs cutting-edge technology, the Riptide Powerdrive is one of the top options on the market.

There are several model options available, and they all share a lot of the same features. Your first choice is between a 55 or 70lb thrust options with both of these thrust options having the option for the innovative i-Pilot or Co-Pilot options for the Powerdrive and are major points of interest for this particular trolling motor option.

The 55lb model needs a 12V battery while the 70lb option requires a 24V deep cycling marine battery.

What really stands out to us for this model of trolling motor are the options for Minn Kota’s I-Pilot or Co-Pilot feature. I-pilot is a Bluetooth feature that allows you to control the direction and speed of the trolling motor through a mobile app on your phone. Through this app you have wireless GPS control, can record and retrace previous paths, and also use a GPS anchor where the trolling motor stays locked into a specific area allowing you to focus on fishing or whatever you have going on out on the water.

Co-Pilot also gives you wireless control over the angle and direction of the motor but is through a provided remote that is compact, waterproof, and can float. It can be easily attached to a lanyard or keychain though you do lose some of the GPS features you get through the I-Pilot. 

Besides the software, the Riptide Powerdrive has other great features built into the trolling motor such as the deploy-assist lever which allows you to simply press a lever to deploy the trolling motor. The trolling motor also has a push to test battery meter that is highly accurate. The trolling motor uses a digital maximize for speed control and comes with a weedless wedge two prop ad composite shaft that can stand up to underwater impact extremely well.

The Riptide Powerdrive has Minn Kota’s Saltwater Advantage which includes fully encapsulated and sealed electronics with marine grade urethane, anodized plating, powder primer, and zinc anode to reduce corrosion. On top of that, you also get Minn Kota’s 2-year warranty which covers a lot of damage or malfunctions that can occur to your trolling motor.

We give the Minn Kota Riptide Powerdrive an A rating. It is built to last in saltwater conditions, provides all of the key features most users want in their trolling motor, and the wireless GPS control software is the future of trolling motors.

See our in-depth Minn Kota Riptide Review.


Newport Vessels NV Series Transom Mount

Newport Vessels NV Series saltwater trolling motor

See Manufacturer Specifications

Under most circumstances, we wouldn’t recommend such a small motor for taking on the ocean, but the NV series of trolling motors from Newport have a 36 and 46lb thrust trolling motor that is a great option for smaller vessels, and a great third-party entrant into the best saltwater trolling motor category.

 These are transom mount trolling motors that are also designed for use in saltwater, though thorough washings should be used to extend the lifespan of these trolling motors.

Both the two thrust options have a telescoping handle (6inches) and a standard motor head. Unfortunately, these handles are locked into place and do not tilt to any degree. The motor head is also in a fixed position and cannot be reversed. Still, the handle is responsive and gives you excellent control of the motor.

Both the 36 and 46lb thrust options only require a single 12V deep cycling battery which is another reason they are a great option for smaller watercraft under 10’ in length. Newport also recommends purchasing a 50amp manual reset circuit breaker.  Both models have a 5forward/3 reverse speed settings that are easy to navigate between on the control handle. The motor itself runs quietly, and all the vast majority of user reviews from the major retail stores all back up this claim.

This trolling motor is easy to mount and the nylon mounting bracket I adjustable to give you the right angle for your mount. It features a durable fiberglass composite shaft (30inch) and the height is adjustable. Both models feature a 5 point LED Battery meter which gives you an accurate representation of remaining battery power.

The 36lb thrust option comes with a two blade prop that does well in very light vegetation but is not meant to get you through thick vegetation.  The 46lb thrust option comes with a three blade prop and is better suited to cut through tougher vegetation but again, these trolling motors are not dishing out a lot of torque, and thick undergrowth is going to jam up the prop.

Overall, we like the speed you can get out of these motors, and we think they perform very quietly out on the water which is wanted if you are using the boat for fishing or for getting access to your favorite hunting spot.  

We give the Newport NV Series 36 and 46lb trolling motors an A- rating. Overall, these are great options for small vessels where you just don’t have enough room for a bow mount trolling motor. They are well built and work reliably but are not as versatile when it comes to mounting options and the blades are not the best in thick vegetation.

Where to Buy


MotorGuide R5 Transom Mount

MotorGuide R5 saltwater trolling motor

See Manufacturer Specifications

This is our second saltwater trolling motor that is mounted on the boat’s transom. Like other MotorGuide trolling motors designed for the salt, the R5 comes sealed with marine grade plastic, anodized aluminum and steel parts, and a powder coating that provides extra corrosion and scratch resistance. This is a well built and rugged trolling motor that has been designed for heavy use as corroborated by reviews from major retail stores.

There are two thrust options for the R5; an 80 and 105lb thrust, with a 42 and 50-inch stainless steel shaft respectively. Both come with MotorGuide’s 3-Blade Machete prop, which is their standard design used on the majority of their trolling motors. It is an efficient prop that is designed to be weedless. Of course, it does have trouble with really heavy vegetation, but we have yet to come across a trolling motor that is truly weedless in every situation. Overall, it does well passing through and even cutting through the undergrowth.

Like all transom mounts, the R5 is controlled by a hand tiller that can extend up to six inches. We like the feel of the handle, and while it does not tilt to any angle on the motorhead, the aluminum 7-point taper-lock mount can adjust to several different angles. It's not as quick a fix as an adjusting hand tiller, but you can get the motor to an angle that is most comfortable for you.

An interesting feature of this trolling motor is the reversible motorhead. This allows the trolling motor not only to be used as a transom mount, but it can be used as a bow mount, though you will need to do some additional rigging to mount it somewhere else on the boat besides the transom. It's a small detail that often gets overlooked but can come in handy, especially if you have several boats you rotate a trolling motor through.

Both of the available models for the R5 saltwater trolling motor uses a digital variable speed control that is adjusted by twisting the hand tiller. By limiting the amp draw on the motor to exactly what you need when adjusting speeds, it greatly increases the battery life while on the water.

We give the R5 Transom Mount an A- rating. We like the ruggedness of this motor with its aluminum alloy and stainless steel construction in key areas of the motor. It has excellent saltwater resistance, and the digital variable speed increases battery life and aids in a quiet motor. This is a transom mount trolling motor designed for larger boats, but if you are in need of something smaller, the R3 is available with less thrust options. We wish that the motor had some extra features that are available on other motors such as a battery meter or an adjustable tilting handle, but there is little else we can complain about.


Minn Kota Riptide Maxxum

Minn Kota Riptide Maxxum saltwater trolling motor

See Manufacturer Specifications

One of our favorite aspects of the Riptide Maxxum bow mount is the number of model options that are available to you. With a 55, 70, and 80lb thrust motor option, the Maxxum is compatible with a lot of boats. You have a lot of options when it comes to each thrust model including the shaft length and the type of speed control (Digital Variable or 5Fwd/3Rev). 55lb thrust options require 12V while the 70 and 80lb thrust options require 24V.

Some might want a foot pedal control on this trolling motor, but the hand tiller gives you really fine control and can be adjusted to give you the most comfortable position. The tiller can extend up to 6 inches and will tilt up to a 45-degree angle. The handle and the control it gives you over the motor might be what we like most about the motor and is very important when working your boat in shallow water and around structures.

These are sturdy trolling motors with the tournament-tested Maxxum mount, and a composite shaft that can take a tremendous amount of pressure without breaking. The shaft height of these motors can be easily adjusted with a quick lock cam adjuster.

Like other Minn Kota trolling motors designed for saltwater use, the Maxxum models also use fully encapsulated and sealed electronics with marine grade urethane, anodized plating, powder primer, and zinc anode to reduce corrosion.

Overall, we give the Minn Kota Riptide Maxxum an A- rating. There is not much we can complain about, but we do wish these models had the option of a foot pedal.  

See our in-depth Minn Kota Maxxum Review.


The Bottom Line

We have covered a lot of information in this article and looked at a lot of quality products. While we endorse the use of all of these products, there are several accolades we like to give out for the best saltwater trolling motor category, including a Tech Innovator Winner, and an overall Category Winner.

Tech Innovator

Tech Innovator Award

Our Tech Innovator award goes to the Minn Kota Riptide Powerdrive. The I-Pilot and other GPS feature unlock a whole other world when it comes to fishing application and lets you dedicate a lot more of your time to presentation, retrieval, and putting fish in the boat rather than having to work the trolling motor. Besides the software, the lever assist mechanism is another small piece of technology incorporated into the Riptide Powerdrive that sets it in front of other trolling motors in the technology category.


Category Winner

Category Winner

Our choice for the overall winner for the best saltwater trolling motor goes to the MotorGuide Great White bow mount trolling motor. Now, this might not be the best fit for your specific needs, but overall, we felt that all of the features and versatility of this model makes it an excellent choice for a lot of different trolling needs.  The major reason for this choice is because it is extremely easy to use and mount with no unnecessary frills. And when it comes to handling the corrosive nature of saltwater, very few trolling motors can compete with the Great White.

Where to Buy