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If you’ve bought a fishing paddle board, aka a fishing SUP, you can mount a paddle board motor on it in the same way you would mount a kayak trolling motor and turn it into a motorized paddle board.
It can take a little bit of jerry-rigging or investing in a motor mount, and there are some paddling techniques that can help you track better, but if you whether you are using your paddle board to fish or just to get from A to B, a small bow or transom-mounted trolling motor is a nice piece of gear to have.
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Below is my list of the best paddle board motors out there, as well as some of the gear you should have to run a paddle board fishing set-up.
Click to read comprehensive product breakdowns
They are made by well-respected manufacturers in the electric trolling motor space and run the gamut in terms of thrust, speeds, shaft length and mount type.
- Best Paddle Board Motor Overall: MotorGuide Xi3 Wireless Freshwater Bow Mount Pontoon Trolling Motor
- Most Versatile: Newport Vessels Transom Mounted Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor
- Fastest: Newport Vessels NK180 Trolling Motor
- Most Value: Minn Kota Endura C2
- Honorable Mention: Aqua Marina Remote Control Bluedrive Power Fin
A Couple of Very Important Things to Understand Before Buying a Paddle Board Motor
I want to make this very clear so that no one wastes money. You can absolutely fit a trolling motor designed for kayaks and small fishing boats to a paddle board (inflatable SUP or hardshell) and create a motorized paddle board, but it involves doing one of two things:
- Buying a motor mount (likely bow)
- Or building a DIY transom mount
Option 1: After Market Motor Mount
With respect to option 1, there are already some really good motor mounts on the market–like the Brocraft Paddle Board Motor Mount.
This adjustable mount goes on with glue (so you aren’t drilling holes in your paddle board), and you can simply leave the mounts on after you’ve detached the motor. If you’ve got an inflatable SUP, it will still fold up nicely, even with the mounting brackets attached.
- The upside to this method is that it looks cleaner than the DIY method.
- The downside is that bow mounts on a paddle board can have tracking issues. I’ve read comments that complain a bow/side-mounted trolling motor on a paddle board can cause it to go in circles.
Option 2: DIY Transom Mount
With respect to option 2, if you want to try your hand at building a DIY transom mount for your paddle board motor, that is also easy enough. Check out this video from Inflatable Boats. Pretty jealous of this set-up.
The materials required to make it probably cost $50. It’s literally just a few pieces of two-by-four, some ratchet straps, and some metal mounting brackets (that you have to attach to the wood with a couple of screws).
I also really like that setup because the backboard elevates the motor and shortens the shaft length, which is nice because a paddle board is that much closer to the water, so a longer shaft just means more opportunities to hit bottom (or dead heads).
- The upside to the DIY method is that the transom mount is probably going to mean more effortless tracking and trolling.
- The downside is that it looks a tad silly.
I will take functionality over aesthetics any day of the week (by and large), so I’d go with the DIY option.
Final option: an electric paddle board or power fin
If you don’t like either of these options, I guess you could always just consider electric paddle boards (which have an integrated motor engine built into them and use wireless remote control), or something like the Current Drives Electrafin (a power fin) or even the ScubaJet Pro (which is also a sea scooter). They are both “low speed” options.
I think the trolling motor is a better option than an electric SUP or something like a ScubaJet Pro for fishing because it gives you more control and increases the board’s speed. A bigger battery pack is one of the trade offs.
Although, if you’re looking for something the whole family can use, then an electric fin or electric SUP is probably a safer paddling experience, and a wireless remote is going to be safer than a transom-mounted prop.
Anyways, let’s get into reviewing the actual motors.
Best Motor Overall: MotorGuide Xi3 Wireless Freshwater Bow Mount Pontoon Trolling Motor
This motor from xi3 is definitely an industry leader when it comes to bow mount trolling motors for SUPs and kayaks. It has a wireless remote control, a nice short shaft (yes, you can laugh), which, as previously discussed, is great for paddle boards because they are right at surface level, and feature a really nice “anchor” mode that lets you troll in place while fishing.
It uses a 12V deep cycle marine battery, and with that, it will propel a single person in a SUP faster than you would be able to paddle for a long period of time.
I also really like how quiet it is, which is a must-have for fishing, IMO, so you don’t disturb the fish and other marine life, and you stay immersed in nature.
MotorGuide also makes a saltwater version (you need to pay attention to freshwater and saltwater specifications), but it doesn’t have the shorter shaft (shortest is 48”), which is a little long for a paddle board, IMO.
If you created the DIY mount discussed above, however, you could make it work on most stand up paddle boards.
- Only bow mount. If you pull off the DIY transom mount, no issues with the bow mount.
- Not brushless. The xi3 was before the advent of brushless trolling motors, so this is a little bit noisier than its newer brushless counterparts.
All in all, some three-quarters of people who have bought this trolling motor have awarded it 5-stars.
Newport Vessels is another one of those storied names in trolling motors, and their 55lb thrust works well with a paddle board thanks to the shortened shaft (because a paddle board is closer to the water).
It advertises itself as the “#1 selling kayaks trolling motor”
There are various ways you can mount this motor, including transom mount, so it’s paddle board compatible. It also has a nice extendable handle, so you can play around with the mount a bit to make sure it works for you setup.
Has a nice speed range for the money, so quite a bit of control with this affordable trolling motor.
- Doesn’t anchor. This paddle board motor doesn’t give you the option to GPS anchor, so you will have to readjust your position as necessary.
That said, still one of the most popular electric trolling motors on the market and one that more than 80 percent of owners have awarded five stars.
Fastest: Newport Vessels NK180 Trolling Motor
The NK180 is more expensive, but holy cow, is it powerful.
At full speed you can get going at around 5mph, which doens’t sound like much, but you can’t lose sight of the fact that this is a small electric paddle board motor.
A stepless speed selector lets you move forwards and backwards with ease and with multiple steering setups, you can choose whichever makes the most sense for your board’s fishing set up.
A note of caution: While this is definitely one of the most powerful, high-quality trolling motors on the market, you really should carefully consider whether your SUP can handle it.
Because of the extra power, the NK180 requires a 24V instead of the standard 12V battery.
A 24V marine battery is going to weigh between 40-50 lbs, on top of around 18lbs for the motor itself.
|Shaft length: 19.7”
- 24V marine battery means faster top speed but extra weight.
- Because of how powerful this motor is, it has quite a short battery life at full throttle.
With that said, one of the best selling electric trolling motors out there and one that could, theoretically, go on your paddle board if you’re willing to factor in the weight and do the necessary DIY work to setup a transom mounting area.
More than 80 per cent of owners have given this motor five stars.
Most Value: Minn Kota Endura C2
Minn Kota is another immediately recognizable and well-liked trolling motor and marine gear brand, and the Endura C2 is one of the best paddle board motors because of how versatile it is.
It comes in various different shaft length and thrust options, so you can get something perfect for the conditions and environments you normally fish in.
I really appreciate how easy it is to adjust the depth and tilt of this motor, which is great for paddle boards because you are that much closer to the surface (and the bottom).
The bracket configuration on this motor would also be quite easy to mount to a DIY transom mount setup on a paddle board.
|Shaft length: 30”
- The prop has a tendency to get stuck in the weeds
- Not very powerful–but certainly something to use when you’re too tired or want something to help augment your paddling.
Still, a nice paddle board-compatible transom mount motor that would be quite easy to install and you get the Minn Kota brand name and engineering at a reasonable price.
Honorable Mention: Aqua Marina Bluedrive Wireless Remote Control Power Fin
The Aqua Marina Blue Drive Power Fin is a remote control electric fin that fits to the bottom of your SUP (similar to the ScubaJet pro and Current Drives options mentioned at the beginning of this article).
The Power Fin uses a lithium-ion battery pack, and it gives you pretty good power at one of its five speeds (top speed maxing out at around 5km/h or 3 mph), meaning you will probably have to do some extra paddling if you want to really move.
The Aqua Marina is probably the most popular e-fin on the market, but the low speed means using it in the wind will probably be tough.
On a full charge, you can expect to get one to two hours of run time.
I included this because the Aqua Marina has got decent power, and if you have safety concerns with the mounted trolling motor, the remote control style and bottom mount are nice.
The upside is that it’s compatible with pretty much any standup paddle board–inflatable or hard shell and it’s probably the best motor out there if you’re looking for a remote control e-fin.
The downsides are that the top speed is lacking, which means wind and current performance will be lacking, and there is no anchor mode, so you will likely have to do a lot of paddling to stay in place if it gets windy.
What Went Into My Selection Process for My Best Paddle Board Motor List
Growing up and living around lakes, rivers and the ocean, I’ve spent a ton of time paddle boarding, both fishing and exercising and used a wide range of trolling motors on all manner of boats.
What’s more, I’ve seen the emergence of paddle board fishing as a legitimate alternative to kayaking and boat fishing and, having done it now several times over the years, it’s something that I’ve seen work first-hand (I’ve even seen someone with a gas-powered trolling motor on the back of a paddle board that they had used an electric conversion kit on).
A lot of what went into this review was spending time watching people fish from their paddle boards and taking notes on what seemed to be the recurring features and themes. I think the most important one, which I will go into more detail about below, is the type of mount a paddle board motor needs in order to be effective.
Main Evaluation Criteria for Buying a Paddle Board Motor
While a stand up paddle board, even one that has been designed for fishing, is not the same as a good fishing kayak, it is entirely possible to fish with ease from one.
There is plenty of proof online (i.e., YouTube) that people can and do catch a lot of fish from a paddle board, but you need to be careful about what you’re buying and you need to be willing to do a bit of DIY work to set your SUP up right.
With that in mind, below are the main criteria to focus on when evaluating a paddle board motor option:
- Shaft length
There are basically two mount types when it comes to trolling motors (with some customization depending on the type of boat and motor): transom (i.e., rear) and bow mount.
With a paddle board motor, from what I’ve seen and experienced, you are almost certainly going to want something that is designed to be mounted on the transom of the board, rather than the bow.
Bow-mounted motors mean that the motor is mounted on the side of your board, which has a tendency to push the SUP in one direction and spin you in circles or require you to constantly adjust your trajectory.
You can, of course, steer using the motor, but paddle boards don’t tend to have amazing tracking, to begin with, so you might spend more time adjusting course than actually fishing.
A transom-mounted motor is likely going to require some DIY work on your part, but it will be a lot more functional.
I linked to a great video near the top of this article on setting up a simple two-by-four and ratchet strap transom mount, but here it is again in case you missed it.
I also linked the Brocraft Paddle Board Motor Mount, which is what you would need to mount a bow-mounted trolling motor to a paddle board.
In summation, the mount-style matters a lot more for paddle boards because paddle boards aren’t designed to track the same way that a boat is.
Weight is a critical factor for any electric trolling motor, but definitely when it comes to one you’re putting on a paddle board.
Most paddle boards are made to handle 300-500 pounds, give or take, and if you’re going to be fishing from your SUP, you are going to have to factor in your weight, the weight of the motor, the weight of the battery, and whatever gear you’re bringing with you.
You definitely don’t want to overload a paddle board because there is basically nothing between you and the water.
Shaft length matters in a paddle board motor because you are that much closer to the water when you’re on a SUP. A shorter shaft length is, therefore, almost always going to be better.
Bear in mind that if you end up constructing a transom mount on the back of your board, you can add 4-5 inches of clearance to your motor (or more, depending on the dimensions of the material you use).
Roughly speaking, thrust equates to the propulsion you’re going to get out of your motor. The fastest motor on the above list (the Newport Vessels NK180) is capable of producing around 60lbs of thrust, which equates to a speed of roughly 5.5mph.
“Fast” is relative, and for a paddle board motor, it’s pretty quick–definitely faster than you would be able to paddle yourself for any sustained amount of time.
When I’m looking at trolling motors for things that are manually powered, I like to know that I have something that can get me from A to B without paddling (if necessary), but I almost always use a trolling motor in tandem with paddling.
Battery and battery life
The battery type is both a weight and battery life consideration when buying an electric motor for a paddle board.
The rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs usually weigh more than the motor itself.
Three of the options on the above list use your standard 12V deep cycle marine battery–which probably weighs around 20lbs–while the NK180 requires a 24V battery pack, which could weigh (depending on the battery you get) up to 60lbs.
And different batteries (depending on the make and the power of your motor) last different times.
To charge a 12V battery pack, you can use a wall outlet and most other onshore power sources.
Tips for Using a Motor on Paddle Boards
Using a motor while paddle boarding, whether to fish or simply to get around quicker, involves some practice. It’s not like using a trolling motor for a bigger boat, namely because paddle boards don’t track as well as actual boats.
With that in mind, below are a few things to keep in mind while using a paddle board motor:
Tip 1: build the transom mount
From personal experience and what I’ve observed, the transom mount will make using a trolling motor on a SUP so much more enjoyable.
Not only is it much more convenient to reach, based on how you sit/stand on a paddle board, but it makes the most sense given the limitations of your standard paddle board design. Anyone with a lot of paddling experience will know what I mean.
Tip 2: Use extra fins
A lot of paddle board setups come with extra fins/skegs that you can attach if you choose. I recommend you use as many of the skegs attachment points as you can if you’re using a trolling motor because it will make the tracking more controlled.
Tip 3: Invest in a dual oar paddle (if you don’t already have one)
The easiest way to use a paddle board motor is to use your SUP paddle to steer while you are trolling.
Of course, you can steer using the motor itself, but I find it more comfortable to just let the trolling motor do its thing and use the paddle to direct the board.
It’s much easier to do this if you have a double-sided paddle.
Some SUPs come with a dual-use paddle that you can use as either a traditional SUP paddle or a kayak paddle, but it’s definitely more convenient and a smoother ride if you’ve got the double-sided oar.
Gear to make using a paddle board with a motor more comfortable/safer
If you’re putting a motor on your paddle board, there are a few pieces of gear that you’ll likely want to have to make using it more comfortable/safer. These are:
- A kill stop tether
- A SUP leash
- A paddle board seat
- A PFD
An emergency stop cord and tether
I think a kill switch/safety ring and tether are two of the most important pieces of additional gear you can get if you are mounting a trolling motor to a paddle board.
There is always the chance that you fall in the water while running the motor, especially if you’re standing, and if you’re not tethered to the board, even a relatively weak electric trolling motor can easily outrun an average swimmer in the water.
Things get even more dangerous if you’re in cold water or exhausted from paddling. Then, even if it’s not going at top speed, you might get left behind.
A waterproof battery disconnect switch for marine batteries and an ankle tether emergency stop leash will kill the battery in the event that you fall off your SUP while trolling.
You will probably want to buy some paracord so that you can extend the length of the tether, or you might end up accidentally turning the battery off when you don’t want to.
A SUP leash
A SUP leash and kill switch/tether combo are the best safety/insurance policy you have while using a motorized paddle board, IMP. Paddle board fishing with an electric motor, even on a low motor speed, exposes you to some risk.
You should always use a leash, regardless of whether you’re using a trolling motor or not (even a strong current can drag the board away from you) but having the leash there to keep you tethered to the board in the event that the kill switch doesn’t work is nice peace of mind.
A paddle board seat
If you’re going to be fishing from your paddle board, then a seat is probably going to be necessary. Yes, you will need and want to stand up while fishing at some point, but being able to sit while moving from spot to spot and paddling is nice.
A lot of boards have seat attachments and either come with a seat or sell a seat separately. If you’re planning on doing a lot of paddleboard fishing, I recommend using/getting a seat.
A seat also makes it easier to use the trolling motor.
A PFD is important while using a motorized paddle board because you never know when you might fall in the water and your board might get away from you.
As I said, if the board starts moving away from you at even a few miles/km per hour, you’re probably not going to be able to catch it.
Put it this way: Olympic gold medalist and swimming legend Michael Phelps can swim around 6mph while the average person swims at about 2mph.
Why Investing in a Paddle Board Motor Makes Sense
A motorized paddle board makes sense for some but certainly not all paddle boarding. If you see your paddle board as primarily a means of exercise, then the idea of a motor might seem like cheating.
If, on the other hand, your paddle board is also a fishing vessel or something that you use to get from A to B on the water on a regular basis, then a paddle board motor starts to make sense.
I hope the above review has provided a thorough enough breakdown of what’s on the market, what unique considerations you need to keep in mind when buying an electric motor for your SUP, and how to use it safely to get something that will suit your needs.
Happy paddle boarding!!