BoatingFishing

A Beginner’s Guide to Trolling Motors

Trolling motor on lake with sky at sunset

Sometimes fish are impossible to find. You go to all the usual hot spots, throw the magic lures, and … nothing. Where to next? One of the best tools you can use in these situations is a trolling motor.

Trolling motors are small, electrically-driven motors that can take your fishing game to a whole new level. Let’s go over some trolling motor basics and how you can best utilize these valuable gadgets during your fishing outings.

What Is trolling?

Nope, it’s not getting strangers riled up on the internet for the sake of entertainment (at least, not in this case). Trolling is essentially pulling your lure along at a constant speed as you navigate around the river, lake, reservoir etc. instead of casting and retrieving.

Rather than using your noisy outboard motor, electric trolling motors are quiet and can move your boat at slower speeds that are far more appropriate for your lures.

To troll, you should use a lure that creates action through movements like crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and swimbaits (not jigs or worms, for example). Adjust your speed on the motor to where the lure is active (i.e. blades are spinning or lure is wiggling) and the depth is right for the situation.

Cast your lure out as far as you can from the boat and engage your trolling motor. Navigate near suspended weed lines or structures across your body of water and wait for a strike.

This is a fantastic way to cover tons of water and maximize your efficiency when your usual routine isn’t working. Once you find a productive area, you can go ahead and cast around as usual.

Other Uses

Two men fishing on bass boat
Photo by Search Engine Pro on Unsplash

Cover Water as you Cast

Rather than proper trolling like I described above, most fishermen and fisherwomen use trolling motors to cover water as they cast at an area of interest.

If you want to work the shallows searching for largemouth, for example, you may want to repeatedly cast a Texas-rigged worm as you progress down the shoreline. Trolling motors allow you to move at a slow and steady pace very quietly, without ever needing to turn the key on your loud main engine.

Fight the Wind

If you’re battling 3-foot ‘white caps’ out on a massive lake like the famous walleye-rich Mille Lacs in Minnesota, or you just happen to have sustained 20+ mph winds, a trolling motor can do wonders to keep you in place.

There’s nothing more frustrating than the wind blowing you off of your hot spot. Although an anchor could do the trick, dropping one over the side can be a heavy, cumbersome ordeal and even dangerous in choppy conditions.

To stay put with a trolling motor, simply adjust your thrust and direction as needed and you might be surprised just how well these handy little motors can keep you in position.

How much Power Do I Need?

Two men fishing on pontoon boat with dogs and trolling motor
Image by Author

This is an important question that will not only ensure your fishing experience is as enjoyable as possible, but will also keep you from spending more cash than necessary.

In general, a good guideline for trolling motor size is one foot-pound of thrust for every 50 pounds of boat. Light, aluminum fishing boats will need minimal power to do the trick whereas a heavy fiberglass ‘fish and ski’ model will require quite a bit more heft. When calculating thrust needs, also be sure to account for the weight of your gear and your fishing buddies.

Standard voltage power classes for trolling motors are 12-volt and 24-volt. As you might suspect, 12-volt models have less thrust capacity than 24-volt models.

Due to their greater energy demand, 24-volt models are powered by 2 batteries instead of 1. Apart from power, these 24-volt models also allow anglers flexibility to go longer stints without recharging their batteries.

Bow or Transom-Mount?

Bow-Mount

Bow-mount motors are the primary choice of most anglers. This is because of their superior maneuverability. Bow-mount motors pull, rather than push your boat in whichever direction you choose, thus allowing you enhanced control.

These models also offer a bunch of accessories, such as remotes like this Minn Kota i-Pilot system. I love this system because it uses an autopilot function where you can direct the motor to maintain your current position, maintain a specific heading, or keep a consistent speed with cruise control.

You can do all of this with just a push of a button on a wireless remote that you can carry in your pocket or hang around your neck.

Transom-Mount

Transom-mount motors attach the rear of your boat with a simple clamp mechanism.  This is a much easier installation process as opposed to the bow-mount motors which require you to install a mounting plate onto the bow.

Transom-mount motors are good choices for cost-conscious anglers or those with smaller boats where minimizing equipment footprint is important.


Thinking about getting a trolling motor? Leave your comments or questions below.

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