trolling motor for kayak and canoe

Thinking about a Trolling Motor for a Kayak or Canoe?

Anyone who’s spent 10 minutes paddling in either a kayak or canoe has also spent at least 9 of those minutes thinking about getting an outboard trolling motor.

Can a trolling motor be mounted on a kayak/canoe? yes…but that’s just the beginning…

How can a trolling motor be installed on a canoe? A trolling motor can be mounted on a canoe in one of three locations. the stern, the transom, and the bow. The correct trolling motor must be purchased, a mount must be attached to the canoe (if it does not already have a squareback transom), and finally the motor mounting bracket bolts must be clamped and screwed into the mount.

Putting a gas or electric trolling motor on a canoe is a little trickier than that, but by the time you’re done reading this article you’ll know exactly what trolling motor you need.

Why would you mount a Trolling Motor on a Kayak or Canoe?

A trolling motor is made especially for “trolling”. What is trolling (in case you don’t already know)?

Trolling for fish involves keeping your canoe in continual motion, or “trolling,” to drag a lure or bait a specified distance, depth, and speed behind the boat.

…basically it helps you keep a consistent speed and direction while towing a fishing lure or bait behind a boat (i.e. “trolling”).

If you’re thinking about getting a trolling motor for your canoe then it’s probably for either:

  • Fishing (“trolling”)
  • Move faster with more weight (people and/or gear)

The idea is that the fish mistake your bait for prey happily swimming along and then hopefully decides to make a snack out of it.

Now you CAN troll your boat by continuously paddling….but a trolling motor is a better, less tiring solution if you plan to troll your canoe for hours.

Simply stated – any serious angler will tell you that a trolling motor allows them to save (1) Time and (2) Effort.

Basic Parts of a Canoe

…as a reminder – here’s what we’re talking about when we use some of thse terms

…now that you’ve have that as a refresher/reminder, let’s dive into the nitty gritty…

Trolling Motor Types: Electric vs. Gas

There are essentially just two types of trolling motors available: gas or electric. Each has its own advantages (and disadvantages) so, ultimately, it will come down to your preference…

Electric Trolling Motor Pros:

Using an electric trolling motor has a number of benefits including:

Quiet operation: Compared to gas-powered motors, electric trolling motors operate much more quietly, making them perfect for use in locations where noise pollution is a concern like smaller lakes near residential areas.

Low upkeep: Since there are no spark plugs, gasoline filters, or oil changes to worry about, electric trolling motors require extremely little maintenance (which is my personal favorite).

Environmentally friendly: Since electric trolling motors don’t emit any pollution, they are a better option for those looking for a “greener” alternative.

Simple to use: Electric trolling motors require little setup and are easy to use….basically “plug and play”!

Long run time: Electric trolling motors generally offer a long run time, which is obviously a nice feature when fishing all day without having to worry about refuling/ recharging.

Lightweight: Compared to gas-powered motors, electric trolling motors are often significantly lighter, making them simpler to transport and mount on your boat….for those of you looking at camping/travel options, this is especially important.

Gas Trolling Motor Pros:

Now…that’s not to say Gas trolling motors don’t have their own benefits…

Power: You can maneuver through rougher waters or against stronger currents thanks to the fact that gas-powered trolling motors are typically more powerful than electric trolling motors.

Speed: Gas-powered trolling motors often move more quickly than electric trolling motors, enabling you to travel farther in less time. So this might make sense for big-lake anglers (like my family up in the boundary waters)….

Range: Because gas-powered trolling motors do not require as frequent recharges as electric trolling motors, they offer a larger range….again, a nice option for bigger lakes/rivers

Fuel is easily accessible: You can easily refil your trolling motor pretty much anywhere since you just need a marina gas station (or really any gas station for that matter)….this won’t be the case with an electric trolling motor since you can’t just plug in anywhere…

Suitable for larger boats: Because of their higher power, gas-powered trolling motors are a better option for larger boats

Durability: Lastly (but certainly not least), gas-powered trolling motors are typically more dependable and long-lasting than electric trolling motors in terms of durability.

Saltwater vs. Freshwater Trolling Motors?

Now gas vs. electric isn’t the only important option…you also have to decide if you’ll need a freshwater or saltwater trolling motor. Both freshwater and saltwater trolling motors are created expressly for use in their respective environments, but there are some important distinctions to be aware of.

Importantly…saltwater trolling motors are specially made to withstand the salt water. This means that they are made of corrosion-resistant materials, like stainless steel or aluminum, to prevent rust from exposure to seawater. Freshwater trolling motors are not designed for saltwater and will corrode quickly if used in the ocean!

…trust me – I’ve made this mistake!

The type of motor utilized is another important difference between trolling motors for freshwater and saltwater. Brushless motors, which last longer and are more durable than the brushed motors frequently used in freshwater trolling motors, are the norm for most saltwater trolling motors. In addition to being more effective and requiring less maintenance, brushless motors are a superior option for usage in saltwater.

The last big difference is the trolling motor’s thrust rating. Since ocean-faring motors must be able to withstand the greater currents and waves, saltwater trolling motors often have higher thrust ratings than freshwater trolling motors.

Selecting the proper trolling motor for your needs is crucial don’t buy a freshwater motor thinking you can use it in the ocean! This is especially tough in places like florida where there are lots of freshwater lakes and streams but you’re ALWAYS surrounded by the sea air!

Also, always use fresh water to completely rinse the motor after using it in salt water, even if it is a saltwater trolling motor! This is especially crucial for gas engines because many of them draw in water and circulate it throughout the engine to keep it cool. This is just like a jet-ski..or any other sea-faring craft…you need to rinse it down after every use!

What Size Trolling Motor should you Get?

There are two key factors that will determine how large of a trolling motor you can mount on your canoe and/or kayak.

(1) Most importantly…your canoe should tell you it’s max just by looking at the USCG maximum capacities decal…don’t exceed that

(2) Once that’s established, you need to figure how much gear and people you intend on ferrying on a regular basis…

(3) Lastly, consider how you intend to use your canoe (how far you’ll be going, how long, what kind of conditions, who/what will you be carrying, etc).

The maximum weight that a canoe can carry as well as the maximum horsepower for an outboard canoe trolling motor are both listed on the USCG decal. This is what it should look like FYI:

How much Thrust do you need?

Here are some recommendations. But keep in mind that determining when power is “enough” is highly subjective. The concept of “enough” varies from person to person. You don’t want to have too little power when you need it, everyone can agree on that.

But when sizing an electric canoe trolling motor, length is only one factor to take into account. Because power as well as speed are factors in thrust. the force required to easily move your canoe, your gear, and your passengers through the water at their combined weight.

Just in case, it’s better to have a little bit more power than you anticipate needing.

How to Mount a Trolling Motor on a Canoe vs. Kayak?

As these smaller boats frequently lack the same mounting points as larger boats, placing a trolling motor on a canoe or kayak can be a little trickier. There are, however, a few ways to fasten a trolling motor to a canoe or kayak.

(1) You can use a motor mount made especially for canoes or kayaks. These mounts are probably the easiest and can be fastened to the stern (back) of the boat using bolts, straps, or other reliable fasteners. Additionally, some motor mounts contain built-in transducer mounts or battery compartments. The downside…they can get pricey 🙂

(2) You can use a universal transom mount, which can be modified to fit a canoe or kayak. You will need to secure a transom (a flat surface at the stern of the boat) to your canoe or kayak using bolts, screws, or other fasteners in order to use this kind of setup. The trolling motor can then be mounted using the mount after the transom has been installed.

It’s crucial to make sure the trolling motor is properly fastened to the canoe or kayak, regardless of the mounting technique you select, as any movement or instability could cause the motor to come loose or tip the boat over. When attaching the trolling motor, be careful and pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Here’s a good example of mounting a trolling motor on a kayak below:


By this point, hopefully you’re a bit more certain about what kind of trolling motor you need…what you should look for and considerations when you go to mount it. Remember…get a saltwater motor if you’re even REMOTELY thinking about using it near the ocean…always get a little more than you think you need and most importantly…have fun!

Chris Chamberlain Administrator
I am an outdoor nut and love researching and testing new gear. For me its about finding that diamond in the rough…not just shelling out $$ for the sake of it. Its tough to decide between the mountains and the ocean so I try and travel alot and bring my Australian Cattle dog where I can (but he does not like boats).

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