Trolling motors offer serious benefits when it comes to fishing from a kayak. Once you start using a trolling motor, you'll never go back.
Last updated: April 14, 2023
By: Brandon Sanders
You simply can’t go past a popular lake these days without noticing at least a few kayaks on trailers or in the water.
Indeed, kayak fishing has grown immensely in popularity over the past few years. Anglers often wonder what kind of upgrades they could place on their kayak to get the most out of their fishing. While there are many such as rod holders, depth finders, ice chests, and camera mounts, there are none as enabling or alluring as the trolling motor.
However there is much to consider when upgrading any vessel, most especially a kayak. While the allure of a kayak is its size and simplicity, there are many things that can enable the kayak fisherman to catch even more and stay longer. There is a constant tension between fishing from a gas-powered bass boat compared to a kayak, as the two constantly seek to find a middle ground and have the best of both worlds.
While bass boats seek to access shallow water with less aggressive rakes and shallow water anchors, kayaks attempt to catch up to bass boats range and speed by using trolling motors. Before deciding to lean toward the middle and upgrade your kayak, there are several things to consider.
Range is possibly the most obvious benefit of having a trolling motor on a kayak for fishing. While still being able to paddle, you can go much farther away from the launch without expanding tons of precious energy. Depending on your weight, battery life, and in particular motor, trolling motor run time can be significant. This allows you to access areas that were out of reach before.
Control of the boat is especially important when it comes to fishing. Having the boat angled correctly allows for the right presentation to the fish to be made and keeps you in the strike zone longer. There isn’t a kayak fisherman on this earth that hasn’t had to fight the wind or juggle a paddle and a pole. A trolling motor is instant relief to this problem especially if it is foot controlled.
We always want the proper equipment when kayak fishing so that we have a pleasurable time fishing. A trolling motor aids immensely in this. Being able to relax in your seat and let the motor do all the work is the perfect solution to a long day of paddling and fishing.
Being able to control the boat with a stick steer or a foot control setup allows you to put the paddle down and focus on the bass fishing. This greatly increases the experience and decreases the work it takes to get to the perfect fishing hole.
Let’s quickly recap the benefits of using a trolling motor on a kayak for fishing:
☑️ Increased range
☑️ Kayak control, especially in wind
Just remember that with these benefits, there are some safety risks that need to be accounted for as well. Safely and securely transporting a fishing kayak requires careful attention and appropriate preparation.
Choosing to put a trolling motor on your kayak is not a simple or inexpensive task. The motor alone can easily be as expensive as the boat itself if not more depending on the type and brand. Therefore it is important to rightly consider all the aspects of what you intend on using the kayak for.
For largemouth bass fishing in flat water, a trolling motor will likely be worth the installation and registration as it will open up more of the lake to you. However, if your primary water is shallow mountain rivers, it is unlikely that you will ever fully realize the trolling motor’s potential. Setting the intention of how you plan on using the kayak will help you discern if a trolling motor is worth the investment.
Placement is as important on a kayak as it is on a bass boat. Different mount types are available from every trolling motor manufacturer. They vary from bow mount foot controlled to stern mount hand control.
Out of all of our recommendations for bass fishing from a kayak, the most important thing is to match the placement of the trolling motor to your individual needs. Transom mounted trolling motors controlled by stick steer is a very effective way to have the motor out of the way for fishing and at the most effective place on the boat. However, some may not want to permanently affix the motor and a hand controlled bow mount may be more appropriate.
When actually mounting the trolling motor there are several ways to attach it to the boat itself. While aftermarket mounts exist to accomplish the task, it is much more likely you will want to make your own to meet your needs. It is common for many people to use PVC to create transom mounts. Others use wood to create removable mid-vessel mounts. Both are very low cost and highly customizable.
One of the greatest draws of a kayak as your primary fishing vessel is the freedom it affords you. You don’t have to worry about complicated electronics, engines, or legal constraints.
However, when you choose to put a trolling motor on your kayak you change the class of vessel it is. Therefore, most states in the US require you to register a motorized kayak.
This is effectively trading a small amount of your hassle free paddling for much more operational range. Each state is different and yours may make an exception for a trolling motor that is not considered permanently affixed to the boat. However, more common is the requirement to register it. Once it is registered, it is perfectly legal to operate on public waterways.
The major complication and sticking point to putting a trolling motor on your kayak is the battery. The extra weight and technical complications such as charging and wiring increase the complexity of a kayak fisherman’s life.
One of the biggest considerations with batteries is how long they will last. This will largely depend on how you use the trolling motor. If you put the trolling motor on the highest setting and leave it on, you will exhaust the battery within hours. However, if you use it moderately and still rely on your paddling as the primary mode of propulsion, battery life will never be a concern.
Wondering what size trolling motor you need? There are certainly a few factors at play. Trolling motors come in 12vdc or 24vdc systems. The trade off of the two is between size and capability. The 24vdc systems will be able to produce more thrust and last longer when used correctly. However, the battery is significantly more heavy. Most bass boats and kayaks will typically only need a 12vdc system as both the motor and the battery in a 24vdc system is overkill for their needs.
Typically when you consider bass fishing as the most labor intensive type of fishing for a trolling motor, a 12vdc marine battery is more than enough. When considering the typical food that bass feed on, a trolling motor can get you to the areas where they feed far easier and more stealthy than paddling.
It is vital that you do this with as little disturbance as possible, however. A large, 24vdc motor will likely be far too much to make the approach you need. Therefore, it’s best to stick with the smaller 12vdc system.
Once again, knowing what you intend on using the kayak for is crucial for deciding what size your trolling motor needs to be. If you intend on crossing large bodies of water and anticipate a lot of wind and current, a larger trolling motor may be the answer for you.
If you intend on catching bass in a river from a kayak, then perhaps you may not need a trolling motor at all. However, most all anglers will agree that the standard 55lbs thrust trolling motor is more than enough to meet their needs.
Bigger motors are available and can be fitted onto the kayak. There is a variety of different trolling motors for fishing kayaks that come in a wide array of different sizes. However, larger motors with higher thrust and longer battery life will likely come at a cost.
A trolling motor on a kayak is a great enabler for many fishermen provided that they know what they are getting into and are willing to make certain tradeoffs. It can open up waters that were too far for just a day’s worth of paddling. When coupled together, trolling motors and the top fishing kayaks can truly yield affordable, impressive bass fishing.
It is worth the consideration for any kayak fisherman that wants to enhance the control, range, and general pleasurability of their fishing trips. Adding a trolling motor to your kayak fishing equipment can really bring your kayak fishing experience to another level.
It is worth putting a trolling motor on your kayak if you don’t mind the added complexity to your fishing experience. The inherent advantage of a kayak is the simplicity in terms of regulation and equipment.
Putting a trolling motor on a kayak will give you more range and be much less inexpensive than a bass boat, but you will sacrifice some of the things that make a kayak alluring. If that trade off is worth it to you, then it is more than worth it.
You can put a motor on any kayak with the proper modifications and DIY spirit. Many people use transom mounted kayaks on homemade mounts from wood or PVC. There are also universal kayak mounts that can be purchased for those that are less mechanically inclined.
A 55lb thrust trolling motor should be more than enough to propel your kayak at acceptable speeds. However, there are other options available. Consulting a thrust guide can shed some light on how each level of thrust is expected to perform and it can be tailored as needed.
A 55lb thrust trolling motor is generally regarded as being the best for kayak fishing. It is readily available and more than enough to push your kayak quickly and safely. Given their efficient energy consumption, a single battery should be more than enough to get you where you want to go all day long.
A trolling motor can be mounted on an inflatable kayak with the same DIY transoms that are required with rigid kayaks. However, special consideration must be given to the attachment points since there is nothing to bolt on to. It can be done but the methodology will depend largely on the model of kayak in question and what it offers to the builder.
It is absolutely not dangerous to use a trolling motor on a kayak for fishing. The only time it would become dangerous is when the wiring is done improperly or a trolling motor that is too large for the vessel is attached. In most cases, neither presents any real hazard and are easily mitigated by proper motor selection and installation.
About the author: Brandon Sanders, who goes by BBSanders, is a freelance outdoors writer that enjoys hunting and fishing across the world. He is a combat veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other smaller deployments. He lives in East Texas in a small cabin with his wife and two dogs. You can learn more about him on his own website, here.