Best Saltwater Trolling Motors

A quality trolling motor can help saltwater anglers locate and catch more fish.

For generations, anglers have relied upon electric trolling motors to silently propel their boats into areas where an arrival using a gas powered outboard would spook every fish in the neighborhood. Although they were originally designed for use in freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers, over the past few decades, saltwater anglers have also begun to discover how valuable they can be when fishing in the ocean, a bay or a coastal lagoon. They can be used on a variety of boats but have become particularly popular with owners of small skiffs and kayaks.

Electric Trolling Motor

The concept of the electric trolling motor was created by its inventor, O.G. Schmidt, who initially developed and sold the revolutionary engine in Fargo, North Dakota in 1934. He called his company Minn Kota for the regions in which he envisioned his product being used, but during the many years since the name has come to be respected by anglers around the globe. Although their popular trolling motors may have the best retail sales numbers, there are still a couple of worthy competitors whose products deserve consideration before making a final purchasing decision.        

There are basically two types of electric trolling motor. One is designed to be attached to the bow of your craft and is controlled with a hard-wired foot pedal or a wireless remote. The other more commonly used trolling motor is made to be mounted on your boat’s transom, possibly next to a gas powered outboard. These are generally equipped with the control panel positioned on the steering handle.

Bow mounted trolling motors are best used on boats with a flat bow that sits closer to the water. Because they are out of the operator’s physical reach, they must allow for hands-free operation. For many years this meant having to use a pedal to control your speed. Today’s higher end bow mount motors offer sophisticated electronic features including a wireless remote and sometimes even autopilot controls.

One of the advantages of transom mount trolling motors is that they are generally simpler and much less expensive than those that are attached to the bow. The motor’s speed and direction are controlled by the extended steering bar that is mounted directly on the motor, which is always within easy grasp of the skipper seated nearby.

The most important thing to consider when shopping for the right unit to match the type and size of boat that you intend to use it on is its maximum thrust capability, which is designated in pounds. The bigger the boat, the greater the amount of thrust that is necessary to move it through the water at the correct speed. Whereas a saltwater kayak with a single occupant might only require 30 pounds of thrust, a larger skiff or dinghy could very well need a trolling motor capable of generating 100 pounds of thrust; over 3 times as much as required by the kayaker.

Of course, the greater the pound thrust the more electricity you will need in order to power it. This factor can make things rather dicey out on the water if your battery goes dead and you do not have a gas engine onboard to recharge it with a generator. One of the best solutions to this problem, particularly in sun-drenched regions, is to incorporate a flexible solar panel into your power configuration so that the battery can be refilled on an ongoing basis as long as the sun shines. Always be sure to use a 12-volt deep cycle marine grade battery to achieve the best performance from your trolling motor no matter what brand of model it happens to be.

Product Suggestions

Here are a few product suggestions ranging from the most economical to the priciest trolling units:

  • Newport Vessels NV Series 8 Speed Electric Trolling Motor – This transom mount unit generates 55 pounds of thrust and is made of the highest quality materials, in spite of its reasonable price tag. It offers a gearing configuration that includes 5 forward speeds and 3 reverse speeds linked to a 3-blade propeller that is 10 inches in diameter. The motor is fitted with an adjustable 30-inch fiberglass steering rod that can accommodate any operator. Average price: $200.00
  • Outsunny 12V Transom Mounted Thrust Electric Fishing Boat Trolling Motor - This highly rated transom mount motor is well made and delivers up to 50 pounds of thrust, and can be mounted in 10 different positions with a lever lock bracket that is simple to adjust. It offers 8 speeds; 5 forward and 3 reverse. It features a comfortable and durable 6-inch steering rod and has a metal head for additional support. Average price: $270.00
  • Minn Kota Riptide 55 SP Saltwater Bow-Mount Trolling Motor with CoPilot - At the higher end of the scale, Minn Kota’s Riptide 55 features a 48-inch shaft and 55 pounds of thrust. It also includes autopilot steering with their advanced CoPilot wireless remote system, which allows you to control the motor and its direction of thrust from anywhere on the boat. Average price: $789.00
  • Minn Kota Riptide EM 80 Engine Mounted Trolling Motor – This powerful unit generates an impressive 80 pounds of thrust, which can quickly transform your small skiff or dinghy into a bonafide fishing machine. It can also be easily stowed out of sight to provide you with more deck space when it is not in use. This motor is corrosion resistant and features an 18-foot speed control cable. Average price: $895.00
  • Minn Kota Riptide 70 SP Saltwater Bow-Mount Trolling Motor with CoPilot – This motor is specifically designed for larger V-hulled fishing boats weighing up to 4,000 pounds. It offers a strong 70 pounds of thrust and has an extra-long 54-inch shaft to help make sure that the propeller stays under the surface. It also allows you to use both a foot pedal and the wireless CoPilot controller simultaneously. Optional equipment for this high-end unit is also available through the manufacturer. Average price: $1,000.00