Long paddles and strong currents can turn into deal breakers for kayak anglers.
Especially inshore or in tidal estuaries, the demands of paddling to prime fishing spots can be exhausting at the best of times and either impossible or dangerous when conditions are less than ideal. For instance, when the weather takes a sudden change for the worse, the waves pick up, and the wind really starts to blow, a good trolling motor can be a lifesaver.
But not just any trolling motor will do. Designed primarily for larger, heavier watercraft, most trolling motors aren’t compatible with kayaks, and that goes double for the heavy banks of batteries needed to run them.
That’s not to say that there aren't excellent trolling motor options for kayak anglers out there, and we’d like to help you pick the right one for your needs.
Below, you’ll find reviews of some of the best kayak trolling motors as well as a complete buying guide:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Thrust: 18 or 24 lbs.
Shaft Length: 24”
Weight: 4.85 lbs (ASP T18)
Watersnake offers two engine sizes on its trolling motors: the ASP T18 and ASP T24 producing thrust that matches those respective numbers in pounds.
A relative newcomer to the trolling game, these Watersnake motors offer some impressive numbers. When you look beyond a shaft length designed around the low gunnels of a kayak and past the very reasonable thrust outputs, you’ll see that the smaller of the two weighs in at just under 5 pounds!
That’s impressive, and it’s an important point to consider for a kayak angler who’ll be outfitting their ‘yak with a heavy battery. Keeping excess weight to a minimum is critical, as too much mass in either the bow or the stern can directly affect handling and trim.
Both models rely on simple controls: two switches mounted on the engine case allow you to select forward and reverse as well as low and high speed.
Available with either a bracket or transom mount, these motors are a versatile option that can be made to fit almost any kayak.
In high, expect top speeds of roughly 4 mph from the T18. Even then, most users find that these little motors sip electricity, leaving more than 2/3rds of your battery’s juice untouched after a full day’s fishing.
Of course, take that with a grain of salt. The harder you run these motors, the more they’ll drain a battery, and they can’t defy physics!
The build quality of these Watersnake motors is great, and very few people report any trouble with them.
The downside of these lightweight motors is that their levels of thrust are probably insufficient for heavy currents or the waves and wind common to inshore fishing. In calm water, you can expect reasonable speeds, but a 2 to 3 knot current will have you at a standstill.
That said, for quiet lakes and ponds, these Watersnake trolling motors are a very good choice.
Thrust: 55 lbs.
Shaft Length: 24” - adjustable
Weight: 23 lbs.
Newport Vessels’ Kayak Series is specifically designed with kayakers in mind. This motor offers an impressive 55 pounds of thrust; that’s enough motor for a 2,700-pound boat and more than enough for any ‘yak!
To translate that energy to the prop, it’s equipped with a 24-inch adjustable shaft, a good length to consider as you start your search for the best motor. That adjustability will come in handy, too, and it’s an important feature to consider.
Like most of its competitors, it comes equipped with a 6-inch telescoping handle and eight speeds: five forward and three reverse. Unlike older Newport Vessels models, however, customers say that the new throttle positions provide sturdy clicks to let you know when you’ve changed gears or turned the motor off. That’s important: trolling motors are quiet enough that at low speeds, you can accidentally leave them on, draining the battery.
Newport Vessels relies on a fiberglass shaft, and the head and prop are designed for saltwater. If lots of time in marshes, estuaries, or near shore is something you anticipate, this is something to consider. This trolling motor is equally at home in creeks, rivers, and lakes, too.
Battery life is reported to be very good, especially at lower speed settings. But perhaps most importantly, when people have had a problem, customer service has proven to be excellent.
*Be aware, however, that Newport Vessels does not recommend you use this motor with a lithium ion battery, as they claim that the true voltage output from this design will be higher than 12v.
Thrust: 36 lbs.
Shaft Length: 30” - adjustable
Weight: 18 lbs.
The second Newport Vessels trolling motor on our list is the well-respected NV-Series providing 36 pounds of thrust. Powerful, reliable, and real-world tested, this motor is an excellent choice for kayak anglers for whom a 30-inch shaft is acceptable.
Newport Vessels designed this trolling motor around the needs of saltwater boating, and from dinghies to inflatables, kayaks to small boats, this trolling motor can do it all.
Built tough to resist saltwater corrosion, it features high-end construction materials in the shaft and prop and the same 6-inch telescoping handle and excellent 8-speed transmission you’ll find on the 55.
With 5 forward speeds and 3 reverse settings, you can guarantee a smooth ride as well as a throttle setting that sips juice from your battery. And for a kayak, 36 pounds of thrust is a lot--speed in currents won’t be an issue!
In every way but thrust output, the NV-Series is the equal of the excellent 55, just with a smaller motor and less draw on your battery.
Thrust: 30 lbs.
Shaft Length: 30”
Weight: 17 lbs.
Minn Kota is a trusted name in trolling motors, and their Endura C2 30 shouldn’t disappoint. Offering 30 pounds of thrust, it’s got plenty of power for a kayak. It is designed for freshwater use, so if you’re planning to use your ‘yak on saltwater, you might want to give this motor a pass. That said, plenty of people do take this motor where it’s not intended to go, and if you decide to follow suit, it’s best to always rinse it after use and anticipate some corrosion.
A 6-inch telescoping tiller handle keeps its controls within reach. According to many users, build quality is excellent, and you can expect trouble-free operation.
The Endura delivers power to its prop through a 30-inch fiberglass shaft, and its transmission features the usual eight speeds: five forward and three reverse. A simple twist of the tiller revs up the throttle, and customers rave about battery life even at high speed. That’s something to keep firmly in mind.
As is usual for Minn Kota, quality control is excellent, as is battery life. Moreover, at just 17 pounds, this trolling motor is light, an important consideration on a kayak.
Traditionally, a trolling motor is a bow-mounted engine that’s used to steer a larger boat during fishing. Useful for the low-speed maneuvering common in bass and crappie angling, for instance, they’re typically controlled by a foot pedal, allowing a fisherman to keep fishing while steering.
Increasingly common as transom-mounted engines on kayaks, they offer more than enough power to keep a kayak going over long distances at much higher speeds than you can paddle.
Speed and distance - When you’ve got a long ride to get from your launch to your fishing site, a trolling motor is a godsend. Most motors can get your kayak moving at its physical maximum, somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 to 10 knots.
Given that it can maintain that speed for hours without seriously discharging a good battery that’s been properly cared for, you can see why this option is something kayak anglers are eager to embrace.
Stealth - Nearly as silent as a paddle, an electric trolling motor won’t spook fish.
You’ll notice that our reviews include a variety of thrust output options, and you may be worried that anything less than Newport Vessels’ 55 will be underpowered.
Trolling motors are electric engines, and they take power systems in multiples of 12v: 12v, 24v, and 36v. More electricity is required to run more powerful trolling motors, and a 24v system requires two 12v batteries, whereas a 36v system obviously takes three. But given the thrust to weight ratio on a kayak, you should stick with 12v systems that demand a single battery.
Perhaps most importantly, you’ll want a motor that sips electricity, keeping your battery alive for as long as possible.
This is where things can get a bit complicated.
Most trolling motors are designed for bow-mounting on a larger boat, and to help anglers enter a launch, they can be pulled from the water via a massive hinge that bolts into the deck.
Obviously, that design won’t work for a kayak!
Instead, you’ll need a motor designed for a transom mounting system that fits the scuppers behind your cockpit. These are adjustable and provide a solid bar on which to mount your new motor.
All the models on our list can use a transom mount.
This, too, is tricky for kayakers.
The shaft that runs between the engine and the prop tends to be longer than 30 inches on most trolling motors--often quite a bit longer. That’s to allow for the distance between the deck and the waterline on a bass boat, as you need to keep the prop submerged at least a foot underwater for optimal performance and silence.
For kayaks, those long shafts are a problem, and in these reviews, we’ve selected products that have the shortest shafts we could find. But there are some things to keep in mind.
For really poor conditions, you might want to add 5-6 inches instead.
While bow-mounted trolling motors are controlled by a foot pedal, that system is useless on a ‘yak.
All the products we review offer just that.
Your kayak has a maximum capacity above which it’ll begin to founder and take on water.
You may think that as long as you, your gear, and your motor and battery don’t exceed that, everything’s fine.
But that’s not quite right.
Keep in mind that where that weight is distributed matters a lot, and too much mass in the bow or stern can cause the trim to shift in your ‘yak, submerging one end or forcing it to ride far too low in the water.
For that reason, be weight conscious and go with the lightest option that meets your thrust needs.
Many states require any boat equipped with an engine to be registered, and that includes trolling motors! Check with your local wildlife and fisheries agency and be sure you comply with the law.
The needs of kayak anglers vary quite a bit depending on what and where they fish, and there’s no one trolling motor that’s ideal for every situation and ‘yak.
Instead, you need to think carefully about capacity and the conditions you fish, assess whether you need to buck currents and tide, and select the lightest motor that meets your thrust needs.
Rest assured that any of the trolling motors we’ve reviewed will be an excellent option.
If this article has helped you choose your next trolling motor, or if you have anything to add, we’d love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment below.