Choosing an electric trolling motor for your fishing boat

Are you thinking about choosing a new electric trolling motor for your fishing boat? The other day a guy e-mailed to ask me the minimum power requirements for his rig, so I thought there might be other folks out there with the same thing in mind. The big problem with electrics: as voltage rises, so does your [...]

19th March 2010.
By Lenny Rudow

Are you thinking about choosing a new electric trolling motor for your fishing boat? The other day a guy e-mailed to ask me the minimum power requirements for his rig, so I thought there might be other folks out there with the same thing in mind.

The big problem with electrics: as voltage rises, so does your load. A 12-volt model requires only one deep-cycle battery, while a 24-volt systems requires two batteries and a 36-volt system requires three. Each of these batteries eats up space and adds 60 t0 90 pounds to your load, and a single battery system is only good for an hour or two of running time at full-tilt. Of course, few of us will run electrics at WOT and most guys can fish for four to six hours on a single charge. But hard-cores who expect to go all day will want a second power pack in reserve, which double the number of batteries you’ll need.

Just how much oomph do you need? Depending on several variables, one horsepower is about 60 pounds of thrust. 12-volt models aren’t rated much over 50-pounds, so a single battery will get you within spitting distance of one-hp. 24-Volt systems creep up into the 70 to 80 pound range, and three batteries can get you about two horses. What’s right for your boat? That depends greatly on how you fish, how much wind you’re generally fighting, and how big your boat is. But for a rule-of-thumb minimum, plan on one pound of thrust for every 25 pounds of load. A 500-pound jon boat rig, for example, will move at walking speeds with 20 pounds of thrust. But a 1,500 pound rig like the bay boat pictured below needs more like 60 pound of thrust at a bare minimum. And as is usually the case with powerplants on boats, most folks will find that more is better. A final word of caution: never, ever use a freshwater trolling motor in the brine, for obvious reasons. What about new-gen electrics, like the Torqeedo? That’s a whole topic unto its own – so stay tuned, we’ll cover it soon!

Choosing a new electric trolling motor for your boat can be tricky.

Choosing the right electric trolling motor for your boat can be tricky.


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Lenny Rudow

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Lenny Rudow is Senior Editor for Dominion Marine Media, including Boats.com and Yachtworld.com. With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, he has contributed to publications including Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design who has won 28 BWI and OWAA writing awards.
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