Kayak fishing has become increasingly popular over the past years, which is in no small part due to the technological advances that have made humble kayaks more effective fishing vessels than ever before.
And one of the most powerful of these technological improvements is the ability to motorize your kayak with a trolling motor.
Just think about it: simply by adding a motor to your kayak you can turn the time you usually spend traveling into quality fishing time!
But while using trolling motors with fishing kayaks has become much easier over the years, you still need to make sure you do it correctly, in order to save yourself trouble on the water.
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What kind of kayak do you need for using a trolling motor?
One of the first things an angler needs to consider when adding a trolling motor to a fishing kayak, is which kayak will work best for this purpose. You should pick a kayak which is at least 42-inches wide, and has a capacity of at least 390 pounds, since this is necessary to handle the extra weight of a trolling motor plus battery.
Lots of kayaks nowadays come with factory features designed to hold a trolling motor. That means you can choose either a paddle kayak, or a pedal driven kayak, and then add a trolling motor to it after market, in most cases.
What are the advantages of using a trolling motor on your kayak?
When I asked Florida angler and professional fishing guide Eric Bartlett how he uses a trolling motor on his Hobie Mirage Pro Angler, he told me he uses the trolling motor to reach the best fishing grounds quickly, and then switches over to using pedal propulsion while moving around the fishing spot.
In addition to using a trolling motor to get your kayak to the best fishing grounds as fast as possible, you can also use it for actual trolling, which is still one of the most effective tactics to catch fish, since it allows you to cover a lot of water in a short time.
Also, if you’re using your fishing kayak in coastal waters, or on a big river system or lake, you need to be extra careful if a storm comes up. If you find yourself in that situation, having a trolling motor will help you to get back to base as fast as possible
What trolling motor should you choose for your kayak?
One of the best ways to power a kayak is by attaching an electric trolling motor to it. Kayakers who want to go fishing without the hustle of paddling can easily install an electric trolling motor, since this type of trolling motor doesn’t require much space, is easy to mount, and is surprisingly affordable these days.
If you need an electric trolling motor for your Kayak, the best way to do this is by attaching it on the side of the kayak, and the cheapest option is to choose a regular tiller controlled model. But if you’re willing to spend a little extra money, you can also opt for a more advanced spot lock trolling motor, which uses GPS to keep you in a specific position without dropping an anchor.
A GPS controlled trolling motor can also be used with some mapping devices, such as chartplotters and advanced kayak fish finders with mapping functionality, to navigate your kayak along saved routes, or to waypoints saved on your map. This takes the functionality of a trolling motor powered kayak to a whole other level, but obviously also comes with additional costs.
Eric Bartlett uses a MotorGuide XI36 GPS anchor trolling motor on his Hobie Mirage Pro Angler. This trolling motor model was specifically designed for use on a kayak, and comes with a short 36” trolling motor shaft. In general, you need to look for trolling motors with a short shaft length between 24” and 36”, so you don’t end up with the propeller churning up mud and weeds in shallow water.
Where to mount a trolling motor on a kayak
The most commonly used style of mounting a trolling motor on a kayak is with a side mount. Basically, this consists of a bar that is clamped across the top of the kayak, and protrudes on one side of the kayak. The trolling motor is then clamped to the protruding part of the bar, and the nice thing about this option is that you can use a regular transom mounting bracket on the trolling motor, which is readily available for most models.
Another option is to mount the trolling motor on the stern of your kayak, but this is only possible on models that have a stern specifically designed for this purpose. Finally, some kayaks also come with the option of using a thru hull mount for your trolling motor, which comes with the advantage of providing the greatest stability for the kayak.
When choosing the best location to mount your trolling motor, always keep in mind that you need to be able to steer it from where you are sitting in the kayak. If using a tiller controlled trolling motor, you’ll want the tiller to be easy to reach with your hand, while a GPS controlled trolling motor can be positioned further away from your reach.
How to steer a kayak with a trolling motor
As already mentioned, the most common way to steer a trolling motor powered kayak is by pointing the tiller in the direction in which you want to go. But many anglers don’t realize that you can also use your paddle to steer a kayak which is powered by a trolling motor.
However, no matter which option you choose, make sure you familiarize yourself with all the maneuvers needed to stay out of harm’s way on the water. That includes having a kill switch readily available that allows you to turn off the trolling motor if you need to stop the kayak quickly.
What battery should you use for a kayak trolling motor?
While you can in principle use any battery that is compatible with your trolling motor, an important consideration for every kayak owner is figuring out how to reduce weight and make more of the limited space on a kayak.
Because of this, using a lithium trolling motor battery is highly recommended, since it comes with great capacity and run time, which allows you to get more mileage with a smaller and lighter battery.
Which battery you need to choose also depends on the voltage of your trolling motor. In most cases, a small 12 volt trolling motor is absolutely sufficient for a kayak, and so you need to get a 12 volt battery.