Best Trolling Motors for Jon Boats: Transom and Bow Mounts for 2024

Written by: John Baltes
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Jon boats of all sizes can be equipped with trolling motors, though there’s a big difference between a transom-mounted electric motor pushing an 16-foot jon boat and a bow-mounted trolling motor fighting a gentle current to hold a fisherman in place while he casts.

Both of these options have a place on the water, solving different problems with essentially the same tech.

If you’re in the market for a trolling motor for your jon boat, we’ve got you covered!

Whether you’re looking for a powerful bow-mounting motor for greater maneuverability and control while fishing or need a transom-mounted engine for a small jon, you’ll find reviews of your best options as well as a through, easy-to-digest buying guide:

Bow-Mounted Trolling Motors for Jon Boats

Transom-Mounted Trolling Motors for Jon Boats

Related:

Best Bow-Mounted Trolling Motors For Jon Boats Reviewed

Minn Kota Fortrex 80 - Best All-Around

No products found.

Available at: Bass Pro | No products found. | West Marine

Shaft lengths: 45” and 52”

Thrust: 80 lbs. 

Battery requirement: 24v

There’s no brand of trolling motor that gets more love than Minn Kota, and if you’re looking for an affordable bow-mounted model with thrust to spare, your search is over. While not as teched-up as the Terrova, the Fortrex offers the advantage of simplicity, and this time-tested trolling motor will get the job done season after season.

Available in two thrust options, 80 pounds and 112 pounds, these telling motors require a 24 and 36 volt system, respectively.

Given the relatively light weight of even large jon boats, the 80 is more than enough power to move your bow with ease or hold your position in the wind or current. At least twice what’s necessary for a fully-loaded 16-foot jon boat, you won't be disappointed in the thrust the Fortex has to offer.

Minn Kota supplied the Fortrex 80 with a composite shaft in one of two lengths: 45 or 52 inches. On the working end, you’ll find an excellent weedless prop, the Weedless Wedge 2, which all but a necessity in shallow water.

The Fortrex is controlled by the usual foot pedal, making it easy to operate and hands-free. Battery life is typically outstanding in low throttle positions, but fighting current and wind will shorten that time. That said, this is a lot of motor for a jon boat, and you probably won’t need everything the Fortex can deliver to stay put.

At 31 pounds, this isn’t a lightweight motor by any means, and you'll appreciate that Minn Kota designed the Fortrex with a gas-filled piston and spring, cutting the felt weight in half when you’re lowering or raising your trolling motor. You’ll thank the engineers who made that decision every time you fish!

For jon boat anglers, the powerful Minn Kota Fortrex 80 is a great buy.

Pros:

  • Power to spare on the bow of even the biggest jon boats
  • Awesome mounting system makes deployment easy
  • Precise pedal
  • Awesome battery life
  • Bomb-proof simplicity

Cons:

  • Expensive

Minn Kota Terrova 80 - Best High-End

No products found.

Available at: Bass Pro | No products found. | West Marine

Shaft lengths: 45”, 54”, 60”, and 72”

Thrust: 80 lbs. 

Battery requirement: 24v

Minn Kota’s Terrova 80 is their high-tech option, offering dazzling features like spot lock and smartphone control. Powerful enough for even the biggest jon boats, this amazing bow-mounted trolling motor’s only weakness is the longevity of that sensitive tech.

Related: Best Spot Lock Trolling Motor

The Terrova shares its basic power plant with the Fortrex, and everything we said about that model above applies here as well. You’ll find that 80 pounds of thrust is more than enough to keep your bow pointed where you want or maintain your position in the wind, and Minn Kota’s Digital Maximizer pretty much guarantees long battery life on a jon boat, given their relative feather weight.

The tough composite shaft and weedless prop are also shared by the Fortrex and Terrova, offering durable, weedless performance that’s just perfect for a shallow-running jon.

But the Terrova offers more shaft-length options than the Fortrex, as well as a lot more high-end tech.

Four composite shaft lengths are available on the Terrova, though jon boat fishermen probably won’t need the longer options. For you, that’s not really where the Terrova shines.

What explains the enduring popularity of this trolling motor among avid anglers is the i-Pilot system controlling its function and offering a long list of amazing features. When paired with iOS or Android smartphones, you can control your direction and speed from your phone, or rely on the Terrova’s large LCD screen. It’s also transducer-friendly, offering a mount for the heart of your fish finder.

The i-Pilot system also offers “Spot-Lock,” which is effectively a GPS-enabled automatic anchor that can keep your boat in place without you needing to do anything. This position can be adjusted in five-foot increments, too.

Add to that “iTracks” that can record as many as 16 two-mile routes, and you have an unbeatable hands-free trolling system.

Long-term issues with some of those features are unfortunately common, but Minn Kota has been working on them. One problem has been the inability of the Spot-Lock system to hold boats in place in rough water; for jon boats, that’s probably not an issue, and thus one less thing to worry about.

If you like what the Fortex has to offer but want a more technologically capable trolling motor, the Terrova is a good fit for you.

Pros:

  • Power to spare with even the largest jon boats
  • Awesome mounting system
  • Awesome battery life
  • Innovate remote control
  • Awesome high-tech features

Cons:

  • Some durability issues with the electronics
  • Expensive

MotorGuide X3 - Best Budget

No products found.

Available at: Bass Pro | No products found. | West Marine

Shaft lengths: 36” and 45”

Thrust: 45 lbs.

Battery requirement: 12 volts

Even when fully loaded with motors, extras, and anglers, jon boats are considerably lighter than fiberglass-hulled bass boats. Chances are, your jon is well under 2000 pounds, and you really don't need the thrust offered by either of the excellent Minn Kota trolling motors we reviewed above.

MotorGuide’s X3 has the added advantage of being considerably less expensive than the more powerful Fortrex or the teched-up Terrova, and for anglers without an unlimited budget, that can really make a huge difference.

The X3 has a well-earned reputation for reliable performance, delivering 45 pounds of quiet thrust. Two shaft lengths are available - 36 inches and 45 inches - allowing you to keep the prop buried in the water where it belongs. Made of composite and stainless steel, they’re plenty durable, too, and corrosion isn’t going to be an issue.

Controlled by the usual foot pedal, the X3 is easy to use, offering plenty of thrust for jon boats to maneuver in tight spots, hold in the wind, or fight a current. And that smaller electric motor sips juice from a single 12v battery, leaving you more space on deck for your gear and more time on the water.

When we look at the long term, MotorGuide’s X3 doesn’t present any problems, and the build quality and attention to detail are excellent.

MotorGuide’s X3 doesn’t offer fancy bells and whistles, and you won’t find it delivers more power than you need. But if you’re looking for an affordable, reliable trolling motor that’ll stand the test of time, this is a great place to start.

Pros:

  • Plenty of power for boats weighing less than 2500 pounds when loaded
  • Easy to install
  • Awesome battery life
  • Easy to operate
  • Affordable
  • Reliable

Cons:

  • ???

Best Transom-Mounted Trolling Motors For Jon Boats Reviewed

Minn Kota Endura Max - Best High-End

Endura Max 45 lb. / Hand - 36'

Available at: Bass Pro | Amazon  | West Marine

Shaft lengths: 36” and 42”

Thrust: 40, 45, 50, and 55 lbs.

Battery requirement: 12 volts

Some anglers who fish from jon boats skip the outboard and use a transom-mounted trolling motor as their primary engine. For that application, Minn Kota’s Endura Max is a great choice.

Available in 40-, 45-, 50-, and 55-pound thrust models, the Endura Max provides enough power to push a lighter jon boat pretty well. Of course, you won’t be racing ahead of similar jons equipped with an outboard, but you will be stealth and you won’t be scaring fish out the water as you creep into place. 

Minn Kota offers the Endura Max in either a 36- or 42-inch shaft. That should work well with most jon boats, but be sure to measure carefully. The mounting bracket is strong and secure, so you don’t need to worry about your motor taking a dive.

The Endura Max is controlled by a long, telescoping tiller, and it’s equipped with a truly variable speed throttle, which prevents problems like leaving the throttle on low by accident, and thereby draining the battery.

That’s something you really want on a transom-mounted trolling motor. 

On the water, the Endura Max provides easy turning and simple 180-degree thrust. Just push the tiller over hard and the prop will turn around, providing reverse thrust.

Like the bow-mounted Minn Kotas we review above, the Endura Max is equipped with a Digital Maximizer that extends battery life. Real-world use - and really hard use - still provides 9 to 10 hours of power, more than enough for most anglers.

The Endura Max comes standard with the 3 ¼ inch Power Prop to produce maximum thrust. If you don’t need that, or weeds really become a problem, you can switch to an aftermarket Weedless Wedge 2. The Endura Max’s composite shaft is as tough as they come, and it can take a licking without calling it quits.

This is an excellent transom-mounted trolling motor for jon boats, and you’ll be impressed with its performance.

Pros:

  • Plenty of power for jon boats
  • Easy to mount
  • Awesome battery life
  • Awesome throttle
  • Reliable

Cons:

  • ???

MotorGuide R3 55 - Best Budget

No products found.

Available at: Bass Pro | No products found.

Shaft lengths: 36” and 42”

Thrust: 55 lbs.

Battery requirement: 12 volts

MotorGuide’s R3 in its 55-pound thrust configuration is an inexpensive, powerful, reliable option for transom mounting a motor on your jon boat. And while it may not offer the range of shaft lengths or run as quietly as the Endura Max, it’s still an excellent primary engine when speed isn’t essential.

The R3 55 delivers 55 pounds of thrust, and for most jon boats, that’s plenty to get them moving 3 or 4 mph. The mount is easy to use and plenty secure, though not as confidence inspiring as the more expensive Minn Kota.

You control the R3 with a telescoping tiller that offers five forward and two reverse speeds. 

With six inches of telescoping capacity, reach won’t be an issue, either, wherever you’re sitting in the stern. Overall, we prefer the continuous throttle options on the Minn Kota, but we really can’t complain about the MotorGuide in actual use.

The R3 has earned a reputation for reliable performance, and for jon boat anglers on a tight budget, it’s a great choice.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Plenty of power for jon boats
  • Easy to mount
  • Awesome battery life
  • Easy to operate
  • Reliable

Cons:

  • Mount not as robust as the Minn Kota Endura Max

Newport Vessels NV 62 - Best All-Around

No products found.

Available at:No products found.

Shaft lengths: 36”

Thrust: 62 lbs.

Battery requirement: 12v

Newport Vessels doesn’t yet have the name recognition of Minn Kota or MotorGuide, but that’s just a matter of time. Designed around the needs of small boats, their NV series trolling motors are simply awesome performers.

If you’re looking for more power than the Minn Kota or MotorGuide can provide, the Newport Vessels’ NV 62 is a good place to start. And while the company does offer an 86-pound thrust model, that’s probably overkill on a jon boat, even fully loaded. 

Quiet, powerful, and reliable: that’s what you can expect from the NV 62, despite its very reasonable price tag. For anglers worried about making way under a headwind, or getting back to the dock in a hurry, it’s an excellent choice that still offers low speeds for fishing.

Built tough to resist saltwater corrosion, the NV 62 features high-end construction materials in the shaft and prop and a 6-inch telescoping handle and excellent 8-speed transmission. 

Expect 5 forward speeds and 3 reverse settings, as well as plenty of battery life from a 12v system.

Pros

  • Great price!
  • Excellent battery life
  • Excellent customer service
  • Excellent transmission
  • Freshwater/saltwater

Cons

  • ???

Sizing Up the Trolling Motor Competition

In all our reviews, we strive to be fair and honest, and we won’t recommend a product we wouldn’t buy with our own hard-earned money. 

There are plenty of trolling motor manufacturers, but very few that we’d trust to perform day after day, season after season. These new players, companies like Goplus and Haswing, just don’t deliver a level of quality that we can recommend, especially if you’re running them as a primary motor.

An exception to this is Newport Vessels, which offers simply excellent products every bit as good as MotorGuide and Minn Kota.

Many anglers prefer Minn Kota for two reasons. Its trolling motors offer more shaft length and power options, and the high-tech models are unmatched by MotorGuide or Newport Vessels.

But don’t take our word for it; see what the experts have to say!

Every trolling motor we’ve reviewed is a model we’d buy or recommend to a friend.

No “One Size Fits All:” What We Consider When Selecting a Trolling Motor

Trolling motors come in a range of thrust outputs, shaft lengths, and mounting/control options.

To make the right choice, you need to know what to look for, and match that to your fishing conditions and boat specifications.

Batteries

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. 

According to the experts at Minn Kota, motors rated for 55 pounds of thrust or less will probably need one 12v battery, while those producing 68-80 pounds of thrust will usually demand two. The most powerful trolling motors, those generating a full 101-112 pounds of thrust, will require three.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll want a motor that sips electricity, keeping your battery alive for as long as possible. 

As plenty of anglers can attest, it’s going to be a really bad day when your batteries die just as the fish really start biting!

Thrust Options

Unlike outboards which measure their output in horsepower, electric trolling motors have thrust ratings measured in pounds.

When picking a trolling motor, you need to measure and calculate, not guess!

Already, it’s easy to see why anglers get confused.

But don’t guess - measure.

The experts at Minn Kota note that a good rule of thumb is 2 pounds of thrust for every 100 pounds of boat (fully loaded, including fuel and anglers).

The calculation is pretty easy.

You need to know how much your fully loaded boat weighs, then divide that number by 100 and multiply that answer by 2.

(Boat weight/100) x 2 = minimum thrust rating

For instance, for a 2500 pound boat (fully loaded):

2500/100 = 25

25 x 2 = 50

50 pounds of thrust is what you need.

This chart, provided by Minn Kota, offers ready calculations for recommended minimum thrust ratings:

Keep in mind that wind and current will demand more thrust than calm water.

Shaft Length

To ensure excellent performance, you need to keep the top of the prop section of your trolling motor 12 inches under water.

If it’s higher than that, the prop will suck air down into the water, creating cavitation. Not only is that very, very loud under water, but it’s also terribly inefficient.

You’ll spook nearby fish and have less power than you paid for: a lose-lose if ever there were one.

Jon boats: transom-mounted trolling motors

For jon boats that use a transom-mount trolling motor as primary propulsion, typical shaft lengths will be more than adequate.

Trolling motors are excellent options for jon boats.

Jon boats: bow-mounted trolling motors

It’s safe to say that most bow-mounted trolling motors are equipped on bass boats, but they work just as well on jon boats.

But depending on your hull design and the foredeck, a bow-mount may not work without modification. You’ll need a flat deck to mount these trolling motors, and if you don’t have one or can’t make one, you’ll need a transom-mounted model on the bow.

Bow-mounted trolling motors provide jon boat anglers maneuverability and control.

Assuming that you’re using a foot pedal or electronic control, measurement is easy:

Carefully measure from the mounting surface bow to the water level. Add 12 inches to ensure the prop is submerged and another 5 inches to this waterline measurement to create a margin for rough water.

Bow to waterline measurement + 12 + 5 = proper shaft length

For instance, if your bow to waterline measurement is 24 inches:

24 + 12 + 5 = 41”

A 41” shaft or slightly longer will be perfect for your boat.

Minn Kota adds even more length, probably as a margin to cover mis-measurement:

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

Final Thoughts

Trolling motors are ideal upgrades for a jon boat, and whether you use them to maneuver while fishing or as a primary motor, the right model makes all the difference.

It bears repeating that you need to measure carefully and make sure your hull is compatible with a bow-mounted trolling motor.

But if you do your homework and select the right model for your needs, you’ll be really happy with the performance you get from any of the options we've reviewed today.

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

About The Author
John Baltes
Chief Editor & Contributor
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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