These days, kayak technology is improving all the time, and that includes accessories as well as the kayaks themselves.
We’re always looking for new ways to upgrade the way we fish, or enjoy our recreational experience out on the water.
In this article, we explore the best kayak trolling motors, which can offer a highly effective way to get around, control your kayak, and improve your fishing game.
A buyer’s guide with FAQ section will follow – which is highly recommended if you’re new to learning about this tech.
Table of Contents
- What to Look for in Good Kayak Trolling Motors
- TOP 6 Best Kayak Trolling Motors 2023
- How to Choose the Best Kayak Trolling Motor
- How big of a trolling motor do I need for a kayak?
- What kind of trolling motor do I need for a kayak?
- What is the best kayak trolling motor?
- Are trolling motors good for kayaks?
- How long will a trolling motor battery last on a kayak?
- How fast can a kayak go with a trolling motor?
- Can I put a trolling motor on my inflatable kayak?
Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.
What to Look for in Good Kayak Trolling Motors
Before we get started on the reviews, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with some information on the basic features you should know about.
Here’s what you should be looking out for:
- Battery and power.
- Mounting and kayak compatibility.
- Shaft length and overall adjustability.
- Salt or freshwater use.
- Local ordinance and legalities.
Of course, there might be other factors you wish to take into consideration depending on your own needs and circumstances, but this should cover most bases.
TOP 6 Best Kayak Trolling Motors 2023
How to Choose the Best Kayak Trolling Motor
There’s a lot of features and facts to consider when you’re in the market for a kayak trolling motor.
Below, you’ll find a handy guide with all the info you need to help you choose the right product for your needs.
What is a Kayak Trolling Motor?
For those who are unfamiliar with what a trolling motor actually is, let’s start with a short explanation.
A trolling motor is a battery-powered propeller that offers kayaks and small boats extra propulsion, without the need for paddles or pedals.
They can be mounted on the stern or bow of compatible craft – the latter being particularly useful on bass fishing boats.
While not as powerful as a gas outboard engine, depending on the type, a trolling motor can offer a nice, peppy speed, and near-silent operation.
As such, they’re perfect for anglers who want to get to the best fishing spots fast, without spooking the fish.
And as their name suggests, they’re designed for trailing a baited line behind the boat, which can be an enjoyable and relaxing way to get a catch.
Check out this article on the best kayak rod holders if you’d like to add more hardware to your kayak for trolling or organizational purposes.
Do You Need a Kayak Trolling Motor?
While all that might sound wonderful – you don’t actually need a kayak trolling motor to enjoy kayak fishing.
However, a decent kayak trolling motor is going to give you a real edge when you’re out there, and both seriously up your fishing game, all while raising your overall levels of enjoyment while out on the water.
Trolling motors can also be used to hold your position, dispensing with the need for and risks associated with a kayak anchor. Although you can follow this link for some quality kayak anchor solutions if you’d prefer.
And aside from this, recreational kayakers might enjoy using a trolling motor if they want to give their arms a rest, get somewhere fast, or just as a backup in case of emergencies.
So, no, you don’t need one – but boy are they practical and a lot of fun!
Battery and Power
The more power a trolling motor is capable of, the higher the voltage of battery required. Choosing the right battery is imperative for kayak fishing with a trolling motor.
Voltage increases in 12V increments, starting at 12 Volts, then 24V, then 36V, and so on.
For kayak fishing purposes, you’ll find that a 12V battery powering around 36 lbs of thrust is going to be perfectly adequate for your needs.
Remember, the larger and heavier the craft, the more power the battery is going to need in order to propel it forward.
It’s as simple as that, really.
Battery choice will depend on your own preferences, how much space you have on your kayak, the kayak’s weight capacity, and of course, the trolling motor voltage.
Take a look at the video below for some helpful tips and advice on choosing the right battery for your boat and trolling motor.
Speed and Thrust
Now, here’s where things often get a little confusing when it comes to the “fastest trolling motors for kayaks,” and those who want to attempt to break the water speed record.
First, you need to understand that thrust is a measurement of pushing or pulling power. Anyone familiar with Newton’s third law will understand this.
Higher thrust does not guarantee you greater speed.
What higher thrust will offer, is better compatibility and success at powering a heavier craft. The rule of thumb is that for every 100 pounds, you need two pounds of thrust.
When it comes to speed, how fast you can go depends on so many factors, it’s almost impossible to slap a definite figure on any trolling motor.
Kayak size, weight, load, water and wind conditions will all affect your speed, but for argument’s sake, for most kayak trolling motors, you’re not going to be going much faster than five miles per hour in optimum conditions.
For kayak fishing, you’re not going to need a foot-controlled trolling motor. They’re more suitable if you’re rocking a bass boat, or maybe even one of these pontoon-style boats for fishing.
Instead, look for motors that have an intuitive tiller control system, with extendable tiller handle – which usually comes to around six inches.
Depending on the type of motor, you’ll either be able to control the throttle with the turn of the handle – similar to an outboard gas motor – or by flicking a switch.
Remote-control trolling motors are also available, as well as foot-operated versions, although the latter isn’t particularly suitable for most kayaks, unless you’re using one of these models you can stand up in.
Remote-control trolling motors are also going to be much more expensive than any other kind, but there’s no denying how much fun they are for truly effortless propulsion and control.
Not to mention, they take up much less space as they don’t require a tiller handle – which can often get in the way – particularly if and when you need to paddle.
And if you have a craft where reaching a tiller isn’t practical, a remote-controlled motor can be a convenient solution.
Regular readers will know that I’m always banging on about kayak weight capacities, and how you should do your very best not to test them.
Well, if you’re adding a trolling motor – coupled with yourself and all your gear – plus whatever you might catch, then you’d better have a kayak that can take it all.
And don’t forget that you need a battery, too – which will add a significant amount of weight, depending on the type of power cell you decide to use.
As such, I would recommend you pay close attention to trolling motor weight, and lean towards the lighter models, especially if your kayak has a maximum weight capacity that’s on the low side.
Incidentally, if you find the weight capacity of your loadout is increasing, you might benefit from one of these back-saving kayak fishing carts, which can be great to get your kayak from A to B without damaging you or it.
Mounting and Kayak Compatibility
It’s important you check that the trolling motor you’re interested in is actually compatible with your kayak.
It’s infuriating that there are so many negative reviews out there because folks didn’t take this simple step into consideration.
Examine your craft, and then double-check the mounting hardware and capabilities of the trolling motor you’re interested in.
Most trolling motors are either bow or stern mounted. However, kayakers commonly rig up a mount on the side of the kayak in order to use the motor from the cockpit.
Make sure that if you do need to purchase additional hardware or brackets in order to successfully mount the motor, you know where and how to get them.
Remember, you don’t need to have a transom to mount a kayak trolling motor – you wouldn’t be able to reach it anyway on most fishing kayaks. And bow-mounted options aren’t that suitable either.
Check out this video on how to mount a kayak trolling motor with a bit of DIY know how and some readily available hardware from your local big box store.
Shaft Length and Overall Adjustability
As kayaks sit lower in the water than most other craft, the length of the trolling motor shaft is very important.
You certainly don’t want it getting damaged by underwater obstacles and hazards – or actually hitting off the floor.
As such, you should look for fully adjustable shafts that are capable of being used in a variety of depths – as the environment can change quickly when you’re out there.
It is recommended that the motor housing and propeller is capable of being submerged at least 12 inches for optimal performance.
Salt or Freshwater?
Saltwater ruins just about everything – unless it’s something that has been treated for saltwater use, that is.
Just like these durable, anti-corrosion saltwater fishing pliers, if you want to use a trolling motor in these challenging conditions, you need to make sure it’s going to withstand it.
Check to see if the trolling motor you’re interested in is saltwater compatible, or if it’s only meant for use in freshwater.
Otherwise, you might find yourself forking out a lot more cash on repairs and/or replacements.
And remember, even if your gear and equipment is rated for saltwater, you should always be sure to rinse it off with freshwater as soon as you return from your trip, and before putting it into storage.
Local Ordinance and Legalities
Once your craft has been kitted out with a trolling motor, it will be classed as a motorized vessel, and as such, will likely require registration with local authorities.
You may well require a license, so always check to see you’re keeping in line with local ordinance with reference to the type of motor you’re mounting on your boat.
The higher the trolling motor thrust, the more expensive the unit is going to be.
For kayak fishing, however, you don’t need to have the most powerful product on the water, and as such – you don’t need to break the bank.
A quality kayak fishing trolling motor will cost you somewhere between $130-200.
Just don’t forget, you also need to purchase the battery and any necessary mounting hardware separately.
How big of a trolling motor do I need for a kayak?
It’s not so much about how big as how heavy and how many pounds of thrust it offers.
For most fishing kayaks, something with no more than 36 lbs of thrust is all you’ll ever need.
Just remember to take the weight into consideration, as well as the weight of the battery, so you don’t exceed your kayak’s maximum weight capacity when it’s loaded with you and all your gear.
And don’t forget about factoring in the weight of any fish you might catch. This is something that’s easily and often overlooked.
What kind of trolling motor do I need for a kayak?
It depends on the size of the kayak and the weight of its load – including occupants.
The larger and heavier the kayak, the more thrust you’re going to need to propel it forward. The more trust offered, the larger and bulkier the trolling motor will be.
Having said that, kayaks are generally smaller than other craft, so you need to look for a unit that is compact and lightweight.
As a rule of thumb, for most kayaks around 10-12 feet long, I would suggest a 12V, 35 lbs thrust trolling motor is perfectly adequate for your needs.
What is the best kayak trolling motor?
This is almost impossible to answer, as the best trolling motor for my needs isn’t going to be the same as the best trolling motor for you.
All the motors in this review are top-quality products that will suit a variety of kayaks, conditions, and circumstances, and it’s up to you to figure out what they are and what is going to work for your setup.
You can lead a horse to water…
Are trolling motors good for kayaks?
Provided you stick to the weight capacities of the kayak, and the kayak is compatible with a trolling motor in the first place, then there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be good.
Having said that, some people might be reluctant to add a trolling motor if it means doing any surface work in the kayak, such as drilling holes or adding mounting brackets.
How long will a trolling motor battery last on a kayak?
That depends on so many factors – including how hard and fast you’re running the motor. Not to mention the type and quality of the battery and motor in the first place.
As a rule of thumb, however, just to offer you a ballpark figure, a trolling motor with a 30 lbs thrust running at full speed will probably last around three hours. At low speed, you’re looking at around 20.
But don’t quote me on it – there are so many variables to take into consideration. Just make sure to do your battery and trolling motor research well.
If you want more run time – don’t jack it to constant warp speed. Run it conservatively, and only when you need to, and you should get a full day out of it – at the very least.
How fast can a kayak go with a trolling motor?
Again, this depends on a number of factors mentioned in the article above, but for the most part, and in optimum conditions, with the right motor, battery, kayak, and weight load, you’re looking at no more than five miles per hour top speed.
Which might not sound like much in a car, but that’s fairly peppy on the water – particularly in a kayak.
Can I put a trolling motor on my inflatable kayak?
Yes, you can – but with a few caveats.
You need to make sure you’ve got a compatible mounting system, as most inflatable kayaks don’t automatically come with the means to add a trolling motor.
Trolling motor mounts might be available as aftermarket accessories, or you can have a go at building your own.
Remember, it’s important to stick to weight capacities, as well as balancing the load in your kayak – regardless of if it’s an inflatable or hardshell.
The best kayak trolling motors can turn a good fishing excursion into a great one.
But there’s a lot to consider and think about before you make a purchase.
I hope this article has helped point you in the right direction to find the most suitable motor option for you.
Let me know which one you’ve gone for and why, or if you have any trolling motor tips and tricks you’d like to share.
Happy kayak fishing!