Do you have a saltwater trolling motor for your Jon boat, skiff or runabout? What about your fishing kayak or canoe?
You’re probably thinking you don’t need one. After all, the purpose of a kayak or canoe is to paddle, right? And most small boats have a motor.
So why even consider a trolling motor? It’s more beneficial than you might think. Read on for some solid advice on why you just might want to add a saltwater trolling motor to your water-going vessel.
What Does a Saltwater Trolling Motor Do?
A saltwater trolling motor works just like a freshwater trolling motor, but with the added ability to take on salty, brackish waters.
Stainless steel and other corrosion-resistant properties keep it from becoming a big piece of rust in saltwater conditions. As an added bonus, saltwater trolling motors can do double duty in freshwaters. However, you wouldn’t want to use a freshwater trolling motor in saltwater.
Here are some quick tips on how a saltwater trolling motor can help you out:
- Prevent damage to your main boat propeller if you’re in a shallow spot
- Get in or out of a harbor in a sailboat (especially if there’s no wind)
- Use while fishing to get in and out of tight spaces (you won’t have to start up a loud outboard motor and scare away all the fish)
- Use in a kayak for faster travel when storms or rough conditions come up
- Keep a small one in your jet ski for unintended strandings
Essential Features of a Saltwater Trolling Motor
Let’s take a minute to go over some of the main features of saltwater trolling motors.
- Motor Head — The motor head is the part at the top. Depending upon how high-tech it is, it has controls, LED displays and navigation information on it.
- Propeller — Just like a traditional boat motor, this part turns and “propels” the boat through the water. For saltwater boating, you’ll want stainless steel and other non-corrosive materials.
- Shaft — The shaft is the long “pole” that goes into the water, connecting the propeller to the head. The length determines the level of control you’ll have, but you’ll want to keep a happy medium with the shaft length. If it’s too long, it won’t be good for shallow water. If it’s too short, it won’t be good for rough conditions. The size and shape of the boat, as well as the height of the stern or bow, is a good indicator. For example, a deep V hull would need a longer shaft.
- Battery Power — Battery gauges are usually located in the head of the motor. This feature alerts you to low battery power so that you know when it needs to be charged. Most trolling motors are 12, 24 or 36 volts.
- Thrust Power — Thrust is the amount of strength that’s needed to move the boat in the water. More thrust equals better maneuverability. However, you also don’t want too much power, which can overwhelm a small boat.
- Corrosion Resistance — One of the most important things to search for when buying saltwater trolling motors is corrosion-resistant construction. Look for marine-grade alloys, stainless steel, powder-coated paints, anodized metal and zinc dichromate armor plating.
- Sacrificial Anode — This small metal tab is located on the bottom of the motor. It has more coverage and protective coatings than a freshwater motor.
What to Consider When Buying a Saltwater Trolling Motor
Size of the Boat
Contrary to our boating mindset, bigger isn’t always better.
Like I mentioned above, you’ll want to keep your saltwater trolling motor in line with the size of your boat. Don’t be tempted with super high thrust and 36 volts of power when you only have a 12-foot Jon boat.
Transom or Bow-Mounted
Bow mounts work by pulling the boat, and transom mounts push the boat.
If you do a lot of fishing from the front of your boat, a bow mount is a convenient option. Bow mounts are also a good choice for large boats that are more than 14 feet.
Transom mounts are great for smaller boats. If you have a lot of people on your boat, you might enjoy a transom mount for the extra space at the bow.
Hand or Foot-Controlled
Hand-controlled trolling motors provide a fuller range of control and real-time movement.
Foot-Controlled motors allow hands-free motion, great for when you’re holding a fishing pole in your hand. They’re also pretty simple to operate, but they take up more deck space than the hand-controlled variety. Some trolling motors even come with high-tech autopilot (or remote control) navigation.
Conditions Where You Normally Boat
Wind, waves and currents play a big part.
If you boat in shallow waters, you’ll want to make sure you find a trolling motor with a shorter shaft.
If you stay out for long periods of time, you’ll want a motor with a long battery life.
Unlike freshwaters, where you can usually just “stow and go,” you’ll need to rinse off a saltwater trolling motor after every use. It’s also not a good idea to leave it submerged in saltwater while the boat is docked.
Salinity Solutions: The 6 Absolute Best Saltwater Trolling Motors
Now that we’ve gone over some reasons why you might want a saltwater trolling motor, let’s check out some makes and models.
Aquos White Haswing Electric Trolling Motor
The Aquos White Haswing is a great choice because of its lightweight size, 48-inch shaft, corrosion resistance and cruise control. Yes, cruise control! This allows you to maintain a constant, and super quiet, speed while sneaking up on fish.
It’s made of stainless steel and has a sacrificial anode to protect metal parts. It has a wireless remote control and a 14.7-foot cable-wired foot control.
It’s a bow-mount, but you can also use clamps to use it as a transom mount.
- Mount: Bow (or transom with the use of clamps)
- Control: Foot
The Minn Kota Terrova is a top-of-the-line saltwater trolling motor.
GPS controls and and i-Pilot system automatically controls the motor and finds the fish while 55 pounds of thrust gets you where you’re going. And quickly!
The Lift-Assist design allows you to easily raise the motor. No worries with weeds, grasses and seaweed often found in shallow water boating. The Weedless Wedge 2 prop cuts right through it.
A composite shaft won’t rust in saltwater conditions. And I’m a big fan of the large LED screen.
- Mount: Interchangeable
- Control: Remote Control
The Minn Kota Riptide Maxxum has a rust-resistant composite shaft that’s virtually indestructible.
It has a tilting extended tiller and is made of aluminum, marine-grade alloys and anodized metal with a zinc dichromate armor plating. And powder-coat paint gives extra durability.
Minn Kota’s Weedless Wedge 2 prop cuts through grasses and seaweed. The streamlined design is a great addition to any sailboat, Jon boat or even a kayak.
- Mount: Bow
- Control: Hand
The Motorguide X3 Bow-Mount Trolling Motor has added features like composite stainless-steel bushings and a precision locking pin to make it extra quiet on the water.
Variable Ratio Steering gives you an accurate position even in wind and waves.
It’s a bit on the pricier side, but if you’re looking for more bells and whistles, it’s an excellent choice.
The Motorguide X3 is available in both a hand and foot-control models.
- Mount: Bow
- Control: Hand or Foot Models
Looking for a sturdy and reliable saltwater trolling motor for your kayak? The Newport Vessels Kayak Trolling Motor has an aluminum motor head with corrosion-resistant magnesium, zinc and stainless-steel hardware.
The 24-inch shaft is adjustable, and it’s a good size for the shallower depths used in kayaking or canoeing.
It has a 12-volt marine battery, 8 speeds and two blades for reduced drag and great balance.
You could also use it in your freshwater adventures.
- Mount: Transom
- Control: Hand
The U-BCOO 8-Speed Saltwater Trolling Motor is made of a corrosion-resistant composite for durability in the ocean, gulf or bay.
With five forward speeds (and three reverse) and 90 pounds of thrust, you’ll be able to catch all the fish.
It has a 36-inch shaft, two blades, a battery power indicator and an adjustable handle with a smooth grip.
It’s a nice basic trolling motor to use on a Jon boat or a sailboat. And the mid-range price point is a definite selling point.
- Mount: Transom
- Control: Hand
Crank Up Your Saltwater Trolling Motor Today!
Ready to run out and buy a saltwater trolling motor?
Hopefully this has given you some solid advice on the best type for your boat.
Sandy Allen is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Her specialties range from hotels, islands and yacht charters to theme parks and family fun. She enjoys boating, snorkeling and jet-skiing along the waterways of Virginia, Florida and North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Follow her adventures at Somewhere in the Sand.