I think kayak fishing is one of the greatest developments in angling in the past couple of decades. I always feel much closer to nature and much closer to my food when I fish from a boat that has, in various forms, been in use for thousands of years.
Small outboard kayak trolling motors, while kind of cheating, are a necessary part of kayak fishing. Without one, fishing from a kayak in anything but current-free, calm conditions can be exhausting.
I love the little electric trolling motors that are on the market right now. It makes being a kayak angler so much more affordable and the kayak fishing experience much more efficient.
With that in mind, below is my list of the best kayak trolling motors out there. I’ve categorized them by use, as well as budget, so that you can choose one that makes sense for you. They are:
- Best Overall: MotorGuide Xi3 Wireless Freshwater Bow Mount Pontoon Trolling Motor
- Most Advanced: Minn Kota 1363740 Riptide Terrova Saltwater Electric-Steer Bow-Mount Trolling Motor
- Most Versatile: Newport Vessels Kayak Series 55lb Thrust Saltwater Transom Mount Electric Trolling Motor
- Fastest Trolling Motor: Newport Vessels NK180 Kayak Trolling Motor
- Best Kayak Trolling Motor for Travel: Newport Vessels Kayak Series 55lb Thrust Transom Mounted Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor
- Best Value: Minn Kota Endura C2
The Motorguide xi3 is definitely one of my favorite trolling motors, and it’s no wonder it is an industry leader when it comes to bow mount kayak trolling motors
I think it’s the best motor because the wireless remote, short shaft and very effective anchor mode are what seal the deal for me. These are the key features that make for a good trolling motor, in my opinion.
Despite the fact that it only runs on a 12V battery, it will propel fishing kayaks (with one angler in it) faster than you would be able to paddle for an extended amount of time. It’s quiet enough to GPS anchor in place without disturbing marine and local wildlife.
There is a saltwater option available for this motor, but it doesn’t have the 36” kayak-oriented short shafts. The shortest shaft you can get for the saltwater version is 48”, but it comes with all of the same features as the freshwater.
|Thrust: 55lb of thrust||Shaft length: 36”|
|Mount: bow||Battery: 12V|
|Warranty: 1-year||Weight: 44lbs|
- Only bow mount.
- Not a brushless motor. The xi3 predates brushless design in trolling motors, unfortunately.
Despite those two demerits, three-quarters of owners love the good performance of this great little kayak trolling motors enough to give it five stars.
The Terra Nova has been one of the best-selling saltwater trolling motors on the market for a while now (for kayaks and fishing boats).
You get the much loved Minn Kota i-Pilot system, the first wireless remote-controlled GPS-enabled navigation system. Satellite data and an electric steer motor mean you really don’t have to do much manual work whit this bad boy.
It has everything you’d expect from something this high-tech (and pricey). GPS anchoring that readjusts itself if you drift, a jog feature that lets you move five feet at a time in any direction away from your original GPS “lock” spot so you can follow the fish, an “iTracks” feature that lets you record your fishing routes (two miles max per route).
It’s also got a one-handed stow and deploy, as well as a lift-assist mechanism, so it’s extremely easy to use.
|Thrust: 80lbs||Shaft length:60”|
|Mount: bow||Battery: 24V|
|Warranty: two-year limited warranty||Weight: 57lbs|
- Definitely the weight. At 57lbs, it’s the heaviest on the list, and it also requires a 24V battery. The 24V battery is an important consideration.
- Zigzags a bit on smaller vessels. This is a motor designed for a 4000lb boat, so you get a ton of power but have to deal with some tracking issues.
Still, 85 percent of owners rate this very powerful and high-tech kayak trolling motor five stars.
Most Versatile Trolling Motor: Newport Vessels Kayak Series 55lb Thrust Transom Mounted Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor
Newport Vessels is a well-liked name in trolling motors and the Newport Vessels kayak series has a shorter shaft so that it works well in both salt and freshwater.
Combined with the extendable handle and various mounting options, which let you can find the most convenient and comfortable spot on your kayak, these are all the features that make the Newport Vessels Kayak Series the most versatile for my money. It’s also got a good speed range is handy for getting to and slowing down in spots.
|Thrust: 55lb thrust||Shaft length: 24”|
|Mount: transom mount||Battery: 12V|
|Warranty: 2-year||Weight: 23lbs|
- No GPS anchoring. No GPS anchoring means that you will have to be constantly adjusting speed and direction as you battle wind and current.
That aside, I think the fact that you are able to choose where to mount the motor and it’s designed for both salt and freshwater use more than makes up for the Newport Vessels Kayak Series lack of GPS anchoring. It’s definitely one of the lighter motors out there.
Definitely, one of the most popular kayak trolling motors among kayak anglers and one that over 80 percent of owners love enough to give 5 stars.
Fastest Trolling Motor: Newport Vessels NK180
Another Newport Vessels option, this is the fastest kayak trolling motor on the list. At 60lbs of thrust and 24V, it’s the equivalent of a 1.8HP engine that will get you going at around 5mph (top speed).
You forward and reverse with a step-less speed selector (no foot pedals) and you steer with either the rudder or using the provided cable system. It has multiple steering configurations, so you can choose the one you like best.
I think the fastest electric trolling motor for a kayak out there right now is the Torqeedo 1103 AC–which I haven’t covered on this list–and it’s double the price of the Newport Vessels NK180 while only giving one more mph.
For me, that’s another very good reason to go with the NK180, a high-quality, powerful motor for larger kayaks and small boats.
The Newport Vessels NK180 is a solid little electric trolling motor built to be used with small boats like bass boats, and it is definitely a powerful motor for kayak anglers looking for something a step up in propulsion.
|Thrust: 60lb||Shaft length: 19.7”|
|Mount: transom mount||Battery: 24V|
|Warranty: 2-year||Weight: 18.25lbs|
- Larger battery adds significant extra weight to your kayak. A 24V Lithium-Ion battery is going to weigh around 40-50 pounds. You might not want to use a 24V with most fishing kayaks.
- Short battery life at full throttle.
All in all, one of the most popular and certainly one of the fastest kayak trolling motors out there that over 80 percent of owners love enough to rate 5-stars.
Best Kayak Trolling Motor for the Traveling Kayak Angler: Watersnake T18 ASP
Trolling motors for kayaks can be all over the map when it comes to pricing, but you don’t necessarily need to pay big bucks to get something that’s going to work great.
The Watersnake T18 ASP is a cheaper trolling motor, but Watersnake makes quality products. The idea behind the Watersnake was to provide something economical that keeps your rig lean and lightweight so it’s easy to travel with.
The tradeoff is that it’s quite basic.
The control type is very simplistic. There is a switch for forward and reverse speeds and buttons for “high” and “low” forward speeds. Don’t expect a five forward speeds and multiple reverse speeds kayak motor.
It does have an extendable handle, so it’s comfortable to operate.
|Thrust: 18lbs||Shaft length: 24”|
|Mount: bow or transom mount||Battery: 12V|
|Warranty: one-year||Weight: 4.85|
- Frustrating mounting bracket. The bracket has a tendency to come loose while you’re on the water, so you need to be paying attention to it and readjust as necessary.
- Not much speed control. Slow and fast; those are your options.
- Low power. For under $200, you can’t really expect much power from a trolling motor. Would probably want to consider something more powerful, like the kayak series from Newport Vessels or NK180 if you’re using bass boats or bigger boats.
This is a great little cheaper kayak trolling motor made by a reputable company that is a nice option for kayak anglers either just getting into the hobby and don’t want to spend a ton of money or for people who want something nice and lightweight to travel with.
Over half of owners like the Watersnake enough to give it five stars.
Best Value: Minn Kota Endura C2 30
The Minn Kota Endura C2 is actually more versatile than the Watersnake above and cheaper, but it’s heavier, and I would definitely prefer to travel with the Watersnake.
The Endura series is a large part of the reason that Minn Kota has been so successful as a trawling motor manufacturer, and the C2 will mount nicely onto most fishing kayaks with the lever lock brackets.
The various thrust and shaft-length options make it easy to find a good match for whatever kayak setup you have.
I really like how you can quickly adjust the depth and tilt of the motor to get it up if there is an oncoming potential hazard or things get shallow fast.
The shorter shaft keeps the motor out of your way, and the bracket configuration makes it easy to secure and remove the Endura C2.
|Thrust: 30lbs||Shaft length:30”|
|Mount: transom||Battery: 12V|
|Warranty: one-year||Weight: 15lbs|
- Prop tends to stick in the weeds
- Not a lot of power.
Still, the Minn Kota C2 is an ideal trolling motor for a kayak setup that doesn’t have a ton of gear weighing it down and is something to use in calm inshore waters.
What Went Into My Selection Process for the Best Kayak Trolling Motor
I grew up on the west coast of Canada, an internationally acclaimed angling destination. Catching and eating fish is a big part of the culture in British Columbia, and it’s normal to see people kayaking out to toss a crab or spot prawn trap to catch dinner.
I’ve been angling and paddling my entire life–from the shore, off docks, from canoes and plenty from kayaks.
Kayak angling is my favourite way to fish because of how much more intimate of an experience it is. You’re right on the water and you’re making very little noise, so you feel much more like a part of the ecosystem.
I’ve used various trolling motors for kayaks over the years–in both freshwater lakes in places like Ontario as well as in the ocean.
I know what their limitations and strengths are and what to look out for in terms of their suitability for different types of most kayaks.
In addition to my own kayak fishing and paddling experience, I also spent a ton of time reading and watching reviews and product demonstrations (my social media feeds are full of Kayak fishermen and women) and talking to people about what they think makes a good kayak trolling motor.
I think I’ve combined all of that into a breakdown of some of the best motors out there from trusted manufacturers like Minn Kota and Newport Vessels at a variety of price points and designs.
Main Evaluation Criteria When Buying a Kayak Trolling Motor
After spending so much time around kayaks and trolling motors, I think the following are the most important buying criteria to keep in mind for most kayaks out there:
- Shaft length
- Standard features
- Power options
Cost and thrust are usually directly proportional when it comes to trolling motors, so shop with that in mind, but ideally, you want the most thrust possible out of a 12V battery (or 24V if you’re going more upmarket).
A good thing to keep in mind with these electric trolling motors is that the thrust specification is not 100% accurate. There are a variety of ways that thrust is measured, so what you see on a product breakdown is a rough estimate in ideal conditions.
Generally speaking, however, more thrust/power means higher top speed, as well as faster battery consumption.
Weight should be at the top of your list of considerations because different kayaks have different weight limits.
Your average fishing kayak has a capacity of several hundred pounds, but you lose stability the close you are to the top end of the weight range.
A heavier kayak is also not only harder to paddle but forces a trolling motor to work harder, which means to exhaust your battery faster.
Because a kayak is a lot closer to the water than something like a bass boat or other vessels, a trolling motor for kayaking doesn’t need as long a shaft.
Having a long shaft is only going to interfere with your ability to cast and retrieve, or it’s more likely your propeller will hit deadheads or the bottom. That is always the issue with long shafts.
Try not to go above a 36” shaft on a kayak trolling motor to avoid propeller damage.
Standard features of a trolling motor
The standard features offered refer to what has been designed into the motor. Some trolling motors are quite basic (like the Watersnake T18 ASP) and only go forward and backwards and “fast” or “slow.”
After you’ve used a simple trolling motor, you don’t take for granted things like GPS anchoring, remote-control steering and sonar.
These sorts of advanced features, of course, cost more money.
Keep in mind that if you’ve bought a purpose-built fishing kayak, then it might come with a kayak motor bracket.
Power options (12V and 24V batteries trolling motors)
There are basically two power options for a kayak angler when it comes to an electric trolling motor: 12V and 24V.
A 24V trolling motor is a 2x more powerful battery, so it is capable of generating more thrust and propelling you faster. The tradeoff is, of course, weight
24V batteries are going to add quite a bit more weight to your trolling motor setup.
A 12V battery trolling motor is usually enough to power a large fishing kayak across a lake (and even inshore saltwater areas) in low winds. For anything more “offshore” (you don’t want to go too offshore in a kayak), a 24V, despite the weight factor, is definitely an important consideration
Trolling Motor Types
When you’re doing your research on an electric trolling motor for kayaking, some recurring outboard motor types will include:
- Saltwater vs freshwater trolling motor
- Brushed vs brushless trolling motor
Saltwater vs freshwater trolling motors
If you’re a boater or kayak angler, then you’ve probably heard the term “sacrificial anodes” or possibly just “zincs” when talking about an electric motor. These are what are used to prevent the corrosion of metal boat parts.
Any trolling motor that advertises itself as purpose-built for saltwater is going to have metal parts (e.g., a saltwater transom) that are made with aluminium (newer, lighter, more environmentally friendly) or zinc anodes. If you use the wrong anode, you could do irreversible damage to your motor.
Any trolling motor that wasn’t purpose-built for saltwater (i.e., it’s a freshwater-only motor) is going to be made with magnesium anodes. Zinc and aluminum are not good for freshwater use because Zinc develops a hard coating in freshwater that renders it less effective and alumium only offers minimal protection from this.
Magnesium is the preferred material for a freshwater trolling motor because of its electrical properties.
Brushless vs brushed trolling motors
Brushless kayak motors are newer tech than brushed motors. Instead of deriving their energy from the small “brushes” inside the traditional brushed outboard motor, brushless motors use hall-effect sensors that detect magnet pole positions, which then drive a current to a dedicated phase of a winding coil. This then turns the magnet according to Fleming’s “left-hand” rule.
A brushless trolling motor tends to last longer than a brushed one because there is less wear and tear due to the lack of brushes. They are more expensive and quieter.
The Minn Kota C2, for instance, is a brushed motor. The torqeedo ultralight (which is not covered on this list), is a brushless motor. The Minn Kota will be more prone to overheating and require more maintenance, in theory, than the torqeedo ultralight will.
Brushed motors use brushes in their internal structure that charge the motor’s communicators. They require more energy to turn, are more susceptible to wear and tear and are noisier–which, of course, is not as good for fishing.
What is the Ideal Size for an electric Trolling Motor for Kayaks?
In my experience, the best size trolling motor for a kayak is going to be one with a 24 to a 36-inch long shaft that produces 55lbs of thrust and uses a 12V battery. The full answer depends on a few other factors, like your kayak’s weight, length and height.
You can power a smaller 10-foot kayak with a less powerful trolling motor and a shorter shaft. A 12-foot-plus kayak will probably need something with a longer shaft and more thrust.
It also depends on the conditions you’re fishing in.
Are you ocean fishing in wind and current? In that case, you will want a kayak motor capable of fighting both. Something with not much thrust is going to a) probably not be great for such conditions and b) will require you to be on full throttle, thus draining your battery.
If you’re fishing for trout in a smaller lake that’s well protected from the wind, any of the trolling motors on the above list will work just fine.
What Kind of Performance Can You Expect With an Electric Trolling Motor?
If you’ve never used a kayak trolling motor before, it’s important to temper your expectations. Something that runs on a 12 (or even 24V) battery is not going to produce the same thrust and propulsion as something that runs on gas.
A trolling motor is not a substitute for a 10HP gas kicker.
What you will get, depending on the make and model, is:
- something that will allow you to motor from spot to spot without having to paddle and relatively quietly, so you still feel immersed in nature and don’t disturb the fish.
- Something to keep you anchored in place (if the motor includes a GPS anchor feature) while you fish
- Something that can help you battle the wind and current and prevent exhaustion
The most powerful electric trolling motors are going to be able to power your kayak at about the speed of a brisk walk. Not fast by any stretch, but constant. Here’s a YouTube video that shows basically the kind of speed you can expect.
Things You Will Also Need to Use Your Motor
- A Deep cycle marine battery kayak trolling motor battery
- GPS-compatible sonar (if the trolling motor is GPS-compatible)
- Some heavy-duty wires (in the event you place your battery far away from the trolling motor and need to extend your cables)
A deep cycle 12V marine battery could cost you anywhere from $50 to a couple of hundred dollars, depending on what you’re looking at. This article from West Marine can help you better evaluate marine batteries.
Some of the motors on my list aren’t cheap, and if you’re buying a new motor, you want to get the most out of it (or any trolling motor), there are a few things you should be doing to maintain them:
- Make sure your deep cycle battery is conditioned for regular use
- Inspect your propeller for damage after each use
- Inspect the propeller and prop shaft for things like fishing line and weeds after each use
- Check your battery terminals for corrosion and your wiring for fraying and damage every so often
- Repair/replace things as needed
Why Investing in Good Quality Kayak Trolling Motor
Getting a trolling motor for kayak fishing is a good investment if you plan on taking the hobby seriously. For just a few hundred dollars (depending on what you’re willing to spend) you can turn a muscle-powered vessel into a legitimate fishing boat.
I hope my review has provided a comprehensive enough breakdown of what’s on the market, what to expect from a kayak trolling motor and why they are a worthwhile investment.