Kayak fishing with a motor is an activity that is absolutely increasing in popularity every year. New technologies in motors, batteries, and kayaks themselves are making it easier to have a motorized fishing vessel for an affordable price.
I own several canoes and kayaks to which I can attach my electric trolling motors and I’ll help you figure out whether or not you actually should get a motor, and if you do, which motor, which battery, how to install it, and even which kayak to get if you don’t already own one!
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Should I Put a Trolling Motor on my Kayak?
The first question to answer is that of whether or not to mount a trolling motor to a kayak. For the sake of keeping hands free during a fishing session, a motor is not needed. For the sake of fitness, it might be better to consider a leg-powered kayak propulsion method instead of an electric motor option.
A pedal kayak (which has pedals like a bicycle and moves the kayak at around 5 mph) is less expensive than a motor-equipped kayak and moves just as fast.
You’ll enjoy the benefits of fitness without stressing your body too much, carrying a heavy battery and motor, and you’ll still be fishing hands-free.
Because I love fitness, I prefer to use my leg-powered pedal kayak (to turn the propeller) instead of replacing the pedal mechanism with an electric motor that turns the propeller.
Having said that, trolling motors are rising in popularity and I can see the allure.
Can I Put a Trolling Motor on a Kayak?
A trolling motor can be easily attached to many kayak styles and brands (though not all). Many kayak manufacturers even make a trolling motor mount for their sit-on and some sit-in models. The mounts usually are located just to the stern of the main seat. Other brands offer a drop-in style of motor mount between the paddler’s feet.
Having said this, there are also many styles of kayak that do not offer an easy solution to mount a trolling motor. Some of these styles (like whitewater models) make a trolling motor unnecessary and nonsensical.
Other styles are simply designed in such a way as to make it very difficult and even dangerous to attach a motor because of the other very specific qualities of the kayak (ie. sea kayaks and lake expedition kayaks – they are too narrow with a covered and arched deck along the entire length).
Without question, the best type of kayak on which to mount an electric motor is a fishing kayak because of its exceptional stability features, battery storage options, and open deck.
How to Mount a Trolling Motor on a Kayak
Mounting a trolling motor on a kayak is a very simple process, but only if the proper hardware and accessories are used. There are three typical methods of mounting a motor on a kayak. Firstly, it can be mounted directly on the stern (with a proper motor mount). Secondly, it can be mounted on a motor mount just behind the seat and protruding over the water a few inches, and thirdly, it can be placed in a hole/well between the legs of the paddler.
Every mounting technique will be based mostly on the style of your kayak.
1 – Stern/Transom Mount
A stern mount or transom mount motor can be either a standard electric motor with a motor head and control arm, etc. (like a Minn Kota C3 or Endura) or an invisible, fully (or almost fully) submerged model like the one pictured below.
In any case, with a stern-mounted (transom) motor, you’ll need some way of operating it. Common operation mechanisms included a hand-controlled steering cable or a steering pole that connects to the motor’s shaft and can steer easily from the paddler’s seated position.
This style is the least convenient because you still need a way to control the power and speed. With a transom-mounted Minn-Kota traditional motor, you’ll need to be able to reach the steering handle to operate the power and speed controls.
2 – Side Mount
This method is probably the most common mounting method and many kayak manufacturers make mounts that accommodate trolling motors using this method.
A bar is typically mounted to the kayak body just behind the main seat, and on one end of the bar is situated a flat piece of some material that is designed to allow a standard electric trolling motor to attach to, and hang from it conveniently.
This mount style is more convenient to operate than a transom mount and it’s especially appropriate for any angler who would like to mount and remove the motor for use on another craft, or to use the kayak without a motor easily.
3 – Center Mount
I’m not sure exactly what to call this, but it’s a system whereby the motor can be mounted conveniently in front of the operator. It is most often mounted through the hole where the pedal mechanism is usually located.
This system is an option for those with a pedal or paddle kayak, and can’t be used on kayaks without a center hole.
Some kayak manufacturers will make a whole optional system including the motor. A good example is the Old Town Sportsman Autopilot 120 which shows what a collaboration between kayak-maker and motor manufacturer can produce.
4 – Bow Mount
Another method you’ll see in many cases is the bow mount kayak motor. This mounting system looks similar to a bass boat bow mount system but the motor on the kayak has a shorter shaft and the system itself is tailored to fit a kayak.
How Big a Trolling Motor Should I Use in a Kayak?
The question of how big a motor should be used in a kayak is largely a question of personal preference, budget, weight and other factors. That said, there’s no real reason a kayak needs a motor with more than 45 lbs of thrust. A kayak with a motor as low-powered as 30 lbs of thrust is typically very adequate.
Some researchers and bloggers have suggested that a good target size for a kayak motor is 2 pounds of thrust for every 100 pounds you want to move.
That would mean a 30-lb thrust motor is only needed if you’d like to move 1500 pounds. I’m not so sure that’s exactly true.
Our research has led me to the conclusion that a 45-lb thrust motor is typically about as big as a regular (non-modified) kayak will be designed and equipped with. Old Town offers a large kayak with a Minn Kota 45-lb thrust motor and it’s designed for heavy-duty saltwater use.
Having said that, NEWPORT VESSELS offers a 36-lb kayak motor and a 55-lb motor also designed for a kayak. The 24-inch shaft is the perfect length and does not need to be modified (as several Minn Kota models do).
The Newport Vessels Kayak Series 36lb/55lb Thrust Transom Mounted Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor is our top pick for transom and side mount kayak motors
How Fast Will a Trolling Motor Move a Kayak?
The speed at which a kayak will move with a given motor is dependent on factors like drag, size, hull design, and weight. However, on average, a 30-lb thrust motor will move a kayak at around 3 mph, a 40-lb thrust motor will move it at 4 mph and a 55-lb thrust motor will move an average kayak at a top speed of around 5.5 mph.
By way of comparison, HERE IS A VIDEO I did recently showing you the speed of my 16-foot canoe using a 30-lb thrust and a 40-lb thrust trolling motor.
As an interesting side-note, my pedal-powered Das King Nautilus kayak was able to move at 5 mph (top speed) for about 1 minute of only my leg power! That’s faster than a 30-lb motor, but of course I couldn’t sustain that speed over time.
Can You Attach a Trolling Motor to Any Kayak?
You certainly can attach a trolling motor to any kayak if you allow for the option of using any of the 4 methods I outlined earlier in the article. Any kayak can be fitted with any one of several options, and if you’re handy around tools, you can create a DIY kayak mounting option to fit a motor to your specific kayak.
Probably the easiest DIY option is the side-mount method. One of the easiest ways to do that is to use the 2 rod-holders that most fishing kayaks have behind the seat as the base for your motor mount by using PVC piping.
How Long Will a Trolling Motor Battery Last on a Kayak?
The longest-lasting trolling motor battery is the one with the highest Amp Hour rating. As an example, a good Lithium 100Ah battery running on relatively slow speeds can last up to 20 hours.
Lithium batteries are the most expensive, but they are by far the best in terms of ultra-light weight, longevity, power and number or recycles before failure. We REALLY like the 100 Ah battery from Lossigy since the cost is not insanely out of reach.
The Lossigy is one of the best deals online right now. At around $400, the 100 Ah battery is light, small, and very long-lasting.
I’ve written an extensive article detailing various batteries and how long they’ll last at what speeds. You can see it HERE.
Where Do I Put my Kayak Motor Battery? (Location and protection)
Your motor battery (especially if it’s Lithium) is the second most expensive item on your kayak next to the kayak itself (typically). To that end, I’d suggest protecting the battery with a case and keeping it in a secure location (not loosely hanging near the edge of the kayak).
Kayaks come in all sizes and have many varied storage compartments. That means that I can’t tell you EXACTLY where to store your battery, but I can give you some direction in that respect.
To start with, you’ll need a battery storage box if you’d like to protect your battery from water and environmental damage. It’s not 100% necessary (especially if you have a hatch that can securely hold a battery without a case) but highly recommended.
The type of case you get will be largely dependent on the size and shape of the battery, so it’s best to research the battery and the case at around the same time to be sure they are compatible.
One of the better cases on the market is the Yak-Power YP-BBK Power Pack Battery Box available on Amazon. If offers storage for 4 – 7Ah batteries or 2 – 12Ah batteries.
The Yak Power YP-BBK Power Pack Battery Box is the best solution for securely storing your batteries onboard your kayak.
Many kayaks have a perfect “well” just behind the seat that would allow for a battery (preferably a Lithium, but even a monster Gel or AGM battery) to be secured. In a case like this, it’s best to have a protective battery case.
I own the Minn Kota battery box, but Amazon has a number of others that are just as good.
It’s super important to consider the balance of your kayak. If you use a transom-mount style and then a heavy AGM battery behind the seat, AND you have a small 10-foot kayak, you may run into some balance/trim issues with your craft.
You’ll have a similar challenge with a bow-mounted motor and a batter that sits near the front of the kayak.
The idea is to keep a front-to-back balance (trim) as even as possible (since the bow of the kayak has a natural upsweep)
How Much do Kayak Trolling Motors Weigh?
The average weight of a typical portable electric trolling motor for kayaks is 12 lbs. This weight assumes most kayaks will have a 20-lb to 40-lb thrust motor.
However, there are excellent motors in the 20-lb thrust range that weigh only around 8 lbs. They are meant mostly for mounting either on the bow or in the center of the kayak between the angler’s legs in the well that would be used for a pedal propeller system.
The AQUOS Haswing Black 12V 20LBS Bow Mount Hand Control Electric Trolling Motor is a high-quality premium motor that weighs only 8 pounds!
Watersnake is a unique company that originates in Australia. They have a catchy-looking product and their philosophy was to make “better” motors than were available back in the early 2000s. With an emphasis on innovation, Watersnake is one of our recommendations.
The Watersnake T18 ASP – 18 Pound Thrust 12v Electric Saltwater Trolling Motor comes with a Kayak Bracket
How Much Does a Kayak Trolling Motor Cost?
The average cost of a kayak trolling motor in the 20-lb to 40-lb range is $160 based on MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing) on Brand websites and Amazon.
While most trolling motors available at any retail outlet online or in-store are 40-lb thrust and higher, I believe it’s more realistic to consider 20-lb to 40-lb thrust motors for kayaks.
To that end, I’ve researched the best 6 motors I could find in this power range (3 of them are pictured and referenced in this article above) and found the average price to be $160 USD.
Kayak Trolling Motor Key Takeaways
Trolling motors for kayaks can be super-helpful for anyone not in the position to safely and comfortably propel a kayak for an extended period of time with either a hand-operated paddle or a leg-powered pedal system.
You can attach a trolling motor to any kayak and your battery should be (if possible) a Lithium deep cycle battery that is far lighter and longer-lasting than other deep cycle battery options.
Don’t expect to travel much faster than 5 mph with a motor, but you can hold that speed for a couple of hours in most cases before your battery runs out.
I’d suggest getting a motor as small as you can get away with. I say that not only because the price will be the lowest, but if you have to move it around a lot, you’ll appreciate lighter weight. Actual trolling speeds won’t be better achieved with a bigger motor since trolling speeds can be attained by any trolling motor.