The most common way to power your kayak through the water is with paddles. After all, kayaking is a sport, a recreational activity, and a highly beneficial form of exercise too. In some ways, doing anything but paddling your kayak could be construed as cheating!
That said, if you are an angler, photographer, or just want to cover long distances with minimal effort, motorizing your kayak could be useful. Adding a motor to your kayak gives your arms a break and also frees up your hands so you can cast a fishing line or get some great photos of nature.
Engines for kayaks are called trolling motors. They attach temporarily to the back of your kayak and can be removed when you don’t need it.
The Best Trolling Motors For Your Kayak…
Minn kota EnduraWeight:
- Volts: 12V
- Speed: 5 speeds
- Controlled with handle/throttle
19.62lb (incl. Battery)
- Already includes a battery
- Up to 24mi
- Easy to mount on a kayak
Newport Vessels MotorWeight:
- 36 or 55lb thrust
- 24in shaft
- LONG battery cables (5'6") for ideal 12V battery mount
Trolling motors typically run on 12v rechargeable batteries and are very quiet, so you won’t scare off the fish or disturb other water users. They are also quite fast and will power you through the water at a decent speed. Most trolling motors are light and easy to operate, and you won’t need to make many if any modifications to your kayak to use one.
1. Torqeedo Ultralight 403 Trolling Motor – 1 HP
The Torqeedo Ultralight 403 Trolling Motor is the Rolls Royce of its class. It’s packed with features and is also incredibly light too. Unlike most trolling motors, this model has a built-in battery, so you won’t need to buy anything else to get out on the water. Designed for serious anglers, this is a fantastic motor that comes with a hefty price tag.
- Weighs just under 20 pounds, including the rechargeable battery
- 66 pounds of thrust
- Top speed of 6mph
- 24-mile range
- Universal mounting ball for attachment to most kayaks
- Remote-controlled throttle for precise speed control
- Supplied with an onboard computer with GPS, range calculator, and charger
This product really has all the bells and whistles a serious angler could ever want or need. The built-in battery charges quickly and has a large capacity so you’ll be able to spend hours out on the water. It’s also light and compact, so it’s easy to carry from your car to the water’s edge. It’s not a cheap trolling motor, but you do get a lot of features for your money.
- Very lightweight but powerful motor with a good top speed
- Excellent range
- Lots of handy functions and features, including built-in GPS and range calculator
- Easy to install, and should fit most makes of kayak
- Auto tilt to protect propeller in shallow/rocky water
- Foot-controlled steering requires some minor modifications to your kayak
- Integrated battery will be hard to replace if it’s damaged, faulty, or wears out
The Torqeedo Ultralight 403 certainly isn’t cheap. But if you want a durable, reliable, trolling motor that has an impressive 24-mile range, this is the model for you. Easy to fit, low maintenance, and with all the features you could ever ask for in a trolling motor, this really is a top-quality product.
2. Minn Kota Endura Transom Mount Trolling Motor
One of the biggest worries when buying a trolling motor for a kayak is whether it will fit and how easy it will be to install and remove. This product can be installed and removed in seconds and is suitable for mounting on most kayak transoms. It’s not the most powerful motor, but it’s ideal for leisurely kayak fishing.
- 12v motor with 30 lbs. of thrust
- 6-inch telescopic handle
- Twist and go speed controls
- Tiller steering
- Five forward speeds, and three reverse speeds
- Weighs 16 lbs.
- Indestructible prop shaft
Recommended 12V Battery:
- Dimensions: L=7.7" W=5" H=6.1"
- Long lasting battery, ideal for kayak fishing
- Mountable in any position
This motor is so quiet that it won’t spook the fish, and, because of its low power output, it won’t drain your battery too quickly either. Mounting on your kayak is very quick and easy. It’s lightweight, so you won’t have any issues carrying it from your car to the shoreline. There are bigger, more powerful motors available, but for the price, this one is tough to beat.
- Easy to use
- Simple to install
- Good range
- Light and easy to carry
- Exceptionally quiet
- No tiller tilt function
If you want a trolling motor for kayak fishing, but don’t want to break the bank buying one, this product is an excellent choice. You’ll still have to get a battery but, because of its low power output, a single 12v is all you’ll need. The Minn Kota Endura is the perfect choice for kayakers looking for a simple to operate, no-frills trolling motor.
3. Newport Vessels Kayak Series Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor
While you don’t need an exceptionally powerful motor to power your kayak through the water, a little extra “giddy up” is often welcome. A more powerful motor will give you a higher top speed, and also means you’ll be able to make better progress against the tide or wind. With its 55 pounds of thrust, this product is about as powerful as a trolling motor needs to be.
- Easy-mount transom bracket
- Telescopic handle with twist and go speed controls
- 12v motor with 55 lbs. of thrust
- Five forward and three reverse speeds
- 5-point LED battery charge indicator
- Directional steering lock
- Weighs 23 lbs.
- 4mph maximum speed
- Reinforced fiberglass propeller
- Powder-coated for corrosion resistance
Despite its competitive price and lightweight design, this trolling motor still has some handy features. Because you can tilt it, you can flip it up and out of the way if you decide you want to paddle and don’t want any extra drag or are operating in shallow water. It’s easy to mount, operate, and remove and has a decent top speed and range. All in all, this is an excellent value trolling motor.
- Simple to fit and remove
- Good performance
- Built to last
- 55 lbs. of thrust may be too much for small/lightweight kayaks
Light and easy to install, this trolling motor is a joy to use. Because it has a tilt function, you can flip it up as you near the beach, so you won’t damage the prop in shallow water. This function is often missing from budget products. 55 lbs. maybe a little too powerful for some users but, with five speeds to choose from, you don’t have to use all of it. This compact motor is well-made and should provide years of faithful service.
How To Choose The Best Kayak Trolling Motor – 9 Tips
Trolling motors can be expensive, and even the cheaper models represent a significant investment, so it’s crucial you buy the right one for your needs. Otherwise, you could end up wasting money.
This is what to look for when buying the best trolling motor
Outboard engines for boats are rated by horsepower, but trolling motors are rated by pounds of thrust. Ideally, you need a minimum of two pounds of thrust per 100 pounds of weight you want to move.
Most trolling motors are made for small boats, which means they have more than enough power to drive your kayak through the water. That said, power is still an important consideration because you don’t want too much. Look for motors with about 30-60 pounds of thrust. More than that is unusable overkill. 1HP = 66.6 pounds of thrust.
Trolling motors are powered by batteries. Like gas-driven engines, you need more power to drive a bigger trolling motor, and a 24v system requires two 12v batteries. Given the thrust to weight ratio on a kayak, you can stick with a simple single battery 12v system. A smaller motor will also mean your battery lasts longer.
Here you can find some ideal batteries for your trolling motor…
- Dimensions: L=7.7" W=5" H=6.1"
- Long lasting battery, ideal for kayak fishing
- Mountable in any position
Mighty Max BatteryAh:
- 9.02 inches x 5.43 inches x 9.13 inches
- Weight: 38.58 Lbs
- I fish 4 hours and sometimes still have 50% battery left.
Renogy 100AH BatteryAh
- Ideal for RV, Solar, Marine, and Off-grid Applications
- 2000+ cycles of life
- Safe Lithium Iron phosphate cells
Optima BlueTop BatteryAh:
- Size: 10 inches x 6 7/8 inches x 7 13/16
- Weight: 43.5 pounds
- Works great even in bad weather
Some motors have built-in battery indicators. This is a useful function if you anticipate testing the range limits of your trolling setup. A battery indicator takes the guesswork out of calculating how far you can go on a single charge and is a useful feature to have.
3. Mounting system
Trolling motors for kayaks use a transom mounting system so that they fit behind your cockpit. These are adjustable to fit most kayaks, and they provide a solid bar on which to mount your new motor. Avoid bow mounts as that configuration doesn’t add any functionality and will adversely affect the handling of your kayak.
4. Shaft Length
The best trolling motors for kayaks have relatively short shafts as they won’t be mounted very high above the water. Long shafts, which are more commonly used on boats, will keep you out of the shallows and will make taking your ‘yak back to shore harder than it needs to be. Choose a shaft length that will keep your prop about 12 inches below the surface of the water.
Make sure your trolling motor and battery will not exceed your kayak’s maximum weight capacity. The last thing you want is for your stern to sink below the waterline! For this reason, lighter motors are generally a better choice. You’ll also appreciate that lightness when you have to carry your motor and battery from the water to your car.
6. Control type
The best trolling motors for kayaks use hand controls. This allows for much more precise speed adjustments. Where some kayak motors use a simple tiller for steering, which can be operated with one hand, others are steered with your feet, but this usually involves some modifications to your kayak.
Most trolling motors have preset speeds, both forward and reverse. The more gears you have, the easier it will be to achieve the best speed for the water and weather conditions. Cheaper trolling motors usually have fewer gears, which may mean you end up going too fast or too slow. Look for products with at least five forward and three reversing speeds.
8. Tilting vs non-tilting drive shaft
A non-tilting driveshaft remains vertical all the time, which is fine out on the water but can be a problem when you approach the beach or are kayaking in very shallow water. In contrast, a tilting drive shaft can be lifted and locked out of the water, so the propeller won’t hit the ground or rocks. Budget trolling motors tend not to tilt, so consider this when you make your purchase.
Arguably, the most important thing to consider when buying a trolling motor is your budget. The price of a decent trolling motor can vary from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars, so decide on what you are comfortable spending and then look for the model that most closely matches your criteria. Remember that more expensive is not always better, and a high-spec motor may have features that you don’t need and will never use.
Armed with all that information, you should now be able to choose the best kayak trolling motor for your needs. Still not sure where to start? Here are three of our favorite trolling motors.
Conclusion: Motorizing YOUR Kayak Made Easy!
Buying a trolling motor for your kayak can add a whole new dimension to your angling or photography outings.
Increasing your range and freeing up your hands means you’ll be able to explore further afield, using less energy, and use your hands when it really matters.
Because they are battery-powered, trolling motors are all but silent in use, which is useful when you don’t want to scare away fish or disturb the local wildlife. These motors are so quiet that you will barely be able to hear them working.
Of course, you need to make sure your motor fits your kayak, and that you have the space you need for the battery.
Ideally, you should also have long cables so you can position the battery wherever it is best for stability and balance. Adding a trolling motor to your kayak may also affect the handling, which is an essential consideration if you want to paddle as well as use your motor.
Finally, remember that even the best motors can break down or run out of battery power. Because of this, you should not rely on your motor entirely, and should always carry a paddle with you too. That way, if you are unlucky enough to experience technical difficulties, you won’t be stranded out on the water. It’s worth noting that while the shaft and propeller are designed to be waterproof, the motor housing often isn’t, and if submerged in water, it may short out.