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Best Saltwater Trolling Motors for 2022 Reviewed: Maneuvering in the Salt

Written by: John B
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Saltwater trolling motors take on two very different roles.

First, there are trolling motors designed for transom mounting that replace a small gasoline-powered outboard. These are used as primary propulsion for small boats and kayaks, allowing anglers to get to and from their hot spots.

Then there are the bow-mounted trolling motors for maneuvering large fishing boats. Designed with long shafts and powerful thrusts, these advanced motors can in some cases pair with your electronics to create sophisticated, professional navigation options.

Whatever your needs, if you’re in the market for a new saltwater trolling motor, we’re here to help!

Below, you’ll find reviews of the best saltwater trolling motors on the market, as well as a complete buying guide to get you up to speed quickly:

Also Read: 

Best Saltwater Trolling Motors Reviewed

Minn Kota 1363740 Riptide Terrova - The Best Bow-Mounted Saltwater Trolling Motor for Pros and Serious Amateurs

Minn Kota 1363740 Riptide Terrova Saltwater Electric-Steer Bow-Mount Trolling Motor with Digital Maximizer & i-Pilot GPS, 80 lbs Thrust, 54' Shaft

Amazon 

Thrust: 55, 80, and 112 lbs.
Shaft Length: 54”, 60”, 72”, and 87”
Mounting: bow
Control: electronic
Voltage: 12V, 24V, and 36V
Weight: ?

The Riptide Terrova series is Minn Kota’s king of the salt, and if you’re looking for a powerful, teched-up, bow-mounted trolling motor that can get you into position and keep you there, look no further.

The Riptide Terrova is capable of 55, 80, or 112 pounds of thrust depending on whether it’s powered by a 12V, 24V, or 36V system. Following Minn Kota’s standard of 2 lbs. of thrust per 100 lbs. of loaded boat - with a bit of leeway for tide, current, and wind - the Riptide Terrova produces enough thrust to maneuver a 5000 lb. boat.

Four shaft lengths are on offer, allowing bow mounting even for the big boys. They’re virtually unbreakable and guaranteed for life, and they’re tipped by powerful, weed-cutting swept-back flared blades.

That’s all awesome, already explaining why we love this trolling motor, but the tech Minn Kota equips the Riptide Terrova with is simply unbeatable.

First off, your Riptide Terrova can communicate via “One-Boat Network” and “I-Pilot” with your Humminbird fish finder and outboard to allow seamless integration and navigation. That’s professional tech that matters in the real world when you need to fish tight to a contour, retrace your path, or work specific features without stopping the action.

Spot-lock is essential for pros and avid amateurs as well, as the automatic place holding is simply unbeatable when the pressure’s on and you’ve found a hot spot. Autopilot, too, has a place in your fishing arsenal, especially when you’re busy setting up gear or putting the final touches on your tackle.

Battery life is stretched for all its worth by the “Digital Maximizer,” ensuring you can stay on the water longer.

There’s nothing in the salt that can touch Minn Kota’s Riptide Terrova, and for pros and serious amateurs alike, it’s worth every penny.

Pros:

  • Designed for pros and serious amateurs
  • Powerful thrust options
  • Long, unbreakable shafts
  • Excellent electronic control
  • Networking with your Humminbird fish finder and outboard
  • Autopilot
  • Spot-lock
  • Powerful navigation options
  • Long battery life
  • Great prop

Cons:

  • ?

Newport Vessels X-Series - The Best Transom-Mounted Saltwater Trolling Motor for Runabouts

Newport Vessels X-Series 55lb Thrust Transom Mounted Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor w/LED Battery Indicator (36' Shaft)

Amazon 

Thrust: 40 or 44 lbs.
Shaft Length: 36”
Mounting: transom
Control: hand
Voltage: 12V
Weight: 23 lbs.

For small boats and runabouts, a transom-mounted trolling motor is often the best engine option. The engineers and designers at Newport Vessels know small boats inside and out, being a respected manufacturer of inflatable boats themselves.

Their excellent X-Series is designed around the needs of small boat anglers, and you can be sure either motor will deliver the goods.

Two thrust options are available: 40 or 44 pounds. Both sport a 36-inch shaft that should keep the prop deep enough to maximize efficiency and minimize noise. 

Newport Vessels equips these motors with a powerful three-blade prop with plenty of low-end grunt. It’ll get you up to speed quickly, and depending on the specifics of your boat and the conditions you find yourself in, you can expect roughly 4 miles per hour.

Of course, the higher your throttle setting and the heavier your boat, the faster the drain on your battery.

As with all Newport Vessels transom-mounting trolling motors, expect a 6-inch telescoping handle and eight speeds, five forward and three reverse. Each is marked by an easy-to-feel click, letting you know when you’ve adjusted your throttle position.

According to them, “12V lithium batteries that output less than 14V are safe to use, check battery makers specs to ensure compatibility.” So unlike the Kayak Series, some lithium-ion batteries should be safe to use with these motors.

If I were looking for a transom-mounted trolling motor for a small boat or inflatable, this is the series I’d pick.

Pros:

  • Designed specifically for small boats
  • Great thrust options
  • Short fiberglass composite shafts
  • Excellent hand control
  • Should be compatible with lithium-ion batteries, but check the details carefully

Cons:

  • ?

Newport Vessels Kayak Series - The Best Saltwater Trolling Motor for Kayaks

Newport Vessels Kayak Series 55lb Thrust Transom Mounted Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor w/LED Battery Indicator (24' Shaft)

Amazon 

Thrust: 36 or 55 lbs.
Shaft Length: 24”
Mounting: transom
Control: hand
Voltage: 12V
Weight: 23 lbs.

Kayak anglers need a trolling motor designed for them, as most transom-mounted options feature shafts that are far too long and battery cables that are far too short.

Newport Vessels has heard these complaints and responded with a fantastic series of trolling motors perfect for kayaks.

Their Kayak Series sports short, 24-inch shafts that keep the prop deep enough to avoid cavitation while still allowing the shallow draught kayakers prize. Available in two thrust options, 36 or 55 pounds, either will be more than enough for a kayak. 

In fact, I’d strongly recommend the smaller of the two motors. It will provide way more than enough thrust to get you where you’re going, and battery life will be superior as well. The larger of the two is noticeably faster, however, so if you feel the need for speed, that might be the best choice.

A six-inch telescoping handle keeps you in command from your seat. Expect five forward and three reverse speeds, each delivering a notable click to let you know you’ve changed your throttle position or turned the motor off.

The battery cables are long enough - 5 feet, six inches - to allow you to position your battery for proper trim without any worries, something you’ll really appreciate if you’ve struggled with short cables before.

Newport Vessels has a well-earned reputation for reliability, and you can count on their Kayak Series to deliver years of dependable service.

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.

Check out the rest of our top choices for kayak trolling motors

Pros:

  • Designed specifically for kayaks
  • Great thrust options
  • Short fiberglass composite shafts
  • Excellent hand control
  • Long battery cables

Cons:

  • Not compatible with lithium-ion batteries, as per the manufacturer

Minn Kota 1363559 Riptide PowerDrive

Minn Kota 1363559 Riptide PowerDrive Saltwater Electric-Steer Bow-Mount Trolling Motor with Digital Maximizer & Copilot, 55 lbs Thrust, 54' Shaft

Amazon 

Thrust: 55 and 70 lbs.
Shaft Length: 48” and 54”
Mounting: bow
Control: electronic
Voltage: 12V and 24V
Weight: ?

Minn Kota’s Riptide PowerDrive is the trolling motor to have for serious saltwater anglers, offering fantastic performance while keeping costs in check compared to the Riptide Terrova.

Two thrust options are offered: a 55- and a 70-pound motor running on a 12V and 24V system, respectively. For smaller center consoles, that’s plenty of thrust, capable of maneuvering up to a 3500-pound boat.

Two indestructible shaft lengths pair well with these thrust ratings, filling the gap for boats that need less length than the Terrova delivers. Minn Kota’s not skimping here, and you get the identical shaft material and the awesome prop design that drives their top-flight model.

The tech the PowerDrive delivers is worthy of its name, and you get the same incredible Autopilot, I-Pilot, and Spot-lock as the Terrova. You can pair your Humminbird fish finder with your trolling motor, using it to navigate (and hold to) the hot spots and contours like a pro.

All you miss is the advanced networking options, which, while excellent in their own right, aren’t necessary for anglers who don’t earn a living on the water.

And just as you’d expect, battery life is excellent, thanks to Minn Kota’s Digital Maximizer.

If your boat doesn’t need a shaft length in excess of 54 inches, and you can live without advanced networking, this is a very hard trolling motor to beat.

Pros:

  • Designed for serious amateurs
  • Great thrust options
  • Unbreakable shafts
  • Excellent electronic control
  • Networking with your Humminbird fish finder 
  • Autopilot
  • Spot-lock
  • Long battery life
  • Great prop

Cons:

  • Lacks advanced networking features

Garmin Force

Garmin Force Trolling Motor 50', 010-02024-00

Amazon 

Thrust: 80 or 100 lbs.
Shaft Length: 50” and 57”
Mounting: bow
Control: electric and pedal
Voltage: 24V and 36V
Weight: 98.68 lbs.

Not to be outdone by Minn Kota, Garmin introduced the Force in 2019. A powerful trolling motor built to tackle the salt just as easily as it navigates a pond, Garmin’s Force is a competitor to be reckoned with.

Available in two thrust ratings, 80 or 100 pounds, the Force is powered by either a 24V or 36V system, respectively. Two shaft lengths are on offer, too: a 50-inch and a 57-inch. The longer of the two gives the Force enough reach for slightly bigger boats than the Riptide PowerDrive, but the Riptide Terrova is the better choice for tall decks and healing waves.

That’s just a fact, and Garmin is clearly giving ground to Minn Kota. 

Garmin equips the Force with a pedal and electronic control, and it pairs with Garmin chartplotters, unleashing advanced navigation features like waypointing, autopilot, and “anchor-lock,” all features that serious anglers want.

And unlike the Minn Kota trolling motors, Garmin builds a transducer right into the prop head, enabling CHIRP traditional and Ultra High-Definition ClearVü and SideVü scanning sonars. 

Unfortunately, Garmin isn’t manufacturing fishing electronics that can compete directly with high-end Lowrance and Humminbird offerings like the HDS Live and Solix series, so this is less impressive than it seems.

And that’s the issue we have with this trolling motor: Garmin isn’t in the business of supplying the pros with their fishing tech, focusing instead on weekend anglers. That certainly leaves folks who earn their money on the water looking elsewhere, and even serious amateurs will probably prefer the Minn Kota’s pairing with Humminbird.

Pros:

  • Designed for serious amateurs
  • Powerful thrust options
  • Tough shafts
  • Excellent electronic control
  • Networking with your Garmin chartplotter
  • Autopilot
  • Anchor-lock
  • Built-in transducer

Cons:

  • Lacks advanced networking features
  • Garmin’s fishing electronics can’t compete with Lowrance or Humminbird

Aquos Haswing

AQUOS White Haswing 12V55LBS 48inch Electric Bow Mount Trolling Motor with Remote Control, Wired Foot Control, Quick Release Bracket for Inflatable Boat Bass Boat Freshwater Saltwater Use

Amazon 

Thrust: 55 lbs.
Shaft Length: 48”
Mounting: bow
Control: electronic and pedal
Voltage: 12V
Weight: 34 lbs.

Aquos offers their Haswing trolling motor for anglers whose budget just can’t stretch to options like the Minn Kotas. This is a basic bow-mounted trolling motor that gets the job done, and if that sounds like a good deal to you, keep reading.

The Haswing is only available in 55-pounds of thrust, allowing it to comfortably maneuver a boat that weighs roughly 2500 pounds fully loaded. Yes, you can theoretically push the bow of a boat as heavy as 2750 pounds, as Aquos says, but that’s assuming calm water, little to no wind, and no tide or current.

A single shaft length of 48 inches is available on the Haswing, and that’s a good length for most center consoles and the like. It should provide plenty of depth to prevent cavitation even in swells.

Control is managed either by a remote or through a foot pedal, and both systems work well, providing instantaneous response.

And for anglers worried about theft, the Haswing is easy to remove and reinstall, as well as being light enough to carry with no real risk to your back!

That’s nothing to sneeze at, and if you’re counting your pennies, the Haswing isn’t a bad option.

Long-term durability may not be what you want, and customer service is virtually non-existent. That’s not a great combination, but it’s realistic at this price point for a bow-mounted saltwater-capable trolling motor.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Excellent electronic and foot control

Cons:

  • Durability isn’t up to the standard of Newport Vessels, Minn Kota, or Garmin
  • Almost no customer service

Buying Guide: What You Want in a Saltwater Trolling Motor

Transom or bow mount?

Small runabouts, dinghies, and kayaks are often equipped with an electric trolling motor that’s mounted to the transom.

Telling motors are outstanding primary propulsion for small boats.

This provides reliable propulsion that can get a small boat moving pretty quickly, making a run to a fishing spot fast and hassle-free.

Occasionally, you’ll also see a transom-mounted trolling motor on a larger boat, but this system creates some problems, most notably with control.

You can use a transom-mounted trolling motor on larger boats…but why?

Since transom-mounted trolling motors have a tiller-style handle, you can’t operate the motor and have both hands free. For anglers, that’s a less-than-optimal situation.

Bow-mounted trolling motors are where they can do the most good maneuvering a boat, giving you more control over your heading than a transom mount on the stern.

Bow-mounted trolling motors are ideal for precise maneuvering in the salt.

In the salt, these motors are typically designed with tall bows and rougher waters in mind, two issues we’ll discuss more thoroughly below.

As you can see, though, our recommendations are pretty clear: for kayaks, inflatables, and dinghies, a transom-mounted trolling motor is excellent. For maneuvering a larger boat equipped with an outboard, you want a bow-mounted trolling motor.

Power

Power matters - a lot.

For transom-mounted motors pushing a small boat, even the weakest trolling motors provide plenty of power, and adding more engine won’t dramatically increase your speed because of basic hydrodynamics.

Unless your boat is designed to plane, riding up on the water to reduce drag, you’re very quickly going to hit maximum speed no matter how many pounds of thrust your motor delivers.

For larger boats, the standard rule is 2 pounds of thrust per 100 pounds of loaded weight - at a minimum. The 2 pound rule is great for calm water like bass ponds, but in the salt, where the wind, tide, current, and waves will force your trolling motor to contend with greater forces, you want a conservative margin of error.

I’d recommend at least a bit of extra power, say, 112 pounds of thrust for a 5000 pound boat.

That gives you some extra oomph when it's needed, and it will be needed.

But keep in mind that more power comes at the cost of more batteries and heavier power draws.

Shaft length

Shaft length is critical, and this is not a decision to be made by guesswork.

The shaft of your trolling motor needs to keep the prop submerged 12 inches under water to stop it from sucking air from the surface and making a lot of noise, a process called cavitation. 

Cavitating isn’t just loud; it will also reduce your motor’s performance, robbing it of power.

On a kayak or small boat, a long shaft can be a problem as it will reduce your boat’s draught. That’s why we recommend short-shafted models for these applications.

But on larger boats, the opposite is generally true, and you’ll need to measure carefully to get it right.

First, measure the distance from your bow to the water line in calm seas.

Add twelve to 16 inches to that length, and then another 5 to 8 inches for waves.

Minn Kota recommends the following shaft lengths for each measurement:

BOW TO WATERLINE RECOMMENDED SHAFT LENGTH
0" - 10" 36"
16" - 22" 42" - 45"
22" - 28" 48" - 52"
28" - 44" 54" - 72"
45"+ 87"

Features and networking

Much of what separates trolling motors like the Minn Kota Riptide Terrova from its competition is its advanced networking.

Because it can link with your outboard and Humminbird fishfinder, you can use contour maps to waypoint, navigate, and hold your position, introducing you to a new world of precision fishing.

For pros and serious amateurs, that’s tech not to be missed, but you will pay for it.

In my estimation, features like spot-locking are well worth the money you’ll fork out.

Final Thoughts

Saltwater trolling motors aren’t one size fits all. The best bow-mounted designs won’t do you much good on an inflatable runabout, and a powerful transom-mounted motor is all but useless on a 20-foot center console.

If you need a small electric motor as primary propulsion on a kayak, look no further than the excellent Newport Vessels’ Kayak Series. Designed with a short shaft and long battery cables, these reliable motors are ideal alternatives to small outboards, offering quiet, spill-free operation.

For small boats like dinghies and runabouts, Newport Vessels’ X-Series have proven themselves reliable while offering the power and range you need to get you to where you want to fish. With prop designs that offer tons of low-end torque, they’re great for maneuvering small craft and getting you up to speed now, while still allowing quiet operation.

And for larger boats fishing inshore and offshore, Minn Kota’s Riptide Terrova offers the shaft lengths, power, and teched-up networking to provide hands-free, precision control. Ideal for pros and serious amateurs alike, these trolling motors are impossible to beat.

Finally, if you need a shorter shaft than the Terrova offers, the amazing Minn Kota 1363559 Riptide PowerDrive may not have every feature of the Terrova, but it’s more than capable and sized right for boats with a bow to waterline length of less than 28 inches.

As always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have, so please leave a comment below.

About The Author
John B
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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