An electric trolling motor is an important tool for any angler who fishes from a bass boat. But which type is best for you? How much power do you need? Let’s look at what you need to consider.
Trolling motors come in bow and transom mounts, with foot controls, tiller-steer, and remote control versions. In virtually all bass boat scenarios, you’ll want a bow mount. Transom mounts are usually reserved for very small boats, which use the electric motor as their main propulsion. And if the motor is on the bow, you’ll almost certainly be better served with foot controls, as opposed to a tiller-steer. One exception: boats that don’t have pedestal-mounted seats or leaning posts on the foredeck; if you’re dealing with a low seat or a bench seat, the tiller-steer is going to suit you better. What about the remote option? Obviously, you can comfortably use a remote from just about anywhere on just about any boat. But there is one drawback to remember: unlike a foot control or a tiller, remotes can be dropped over the side, or lost.
Understanding power is a little tougher, because electrics aren’t usually rated by horsepower. Instead, pounds of thrust are the standard measurement. How does this relate to HP? Unfortunately, this is a complex subject. Because of current draw, variable motor RPM, declining amperage, and differences between electric motor manufacturers, direct conversion between pounds of thrust and horsepower simply isn’t possible. But a few years back while researching an article, I did compare speeds directly and found that a 70 pound thrust motor pushes you along about as fast as a two horsepower outboard, on identical boats with identical loads.
How much power is enough for your boat? That depends on how patient you are, but as a general rule of thumb, electrics in the 50 pound thrust range will do the trick for boats up to about 16 feet in length. Larger boats need more oomph, and bass boats larger than this should stick with trolling motors that have at least 70 pounds of thrust. Monster bassers in the 21 foot range will want 101 or more pounds of thrust.
But when you consider power, also consider voltage. Most motors of 55 or fewer pounds of thrust run on 12-volts, but if you need more power you’ll need to go to 24-volts. That means you have to carry twice as much battery power. Go over 100 pounds of thrust, and you’ll need 36 volts. As a result, the range of a 12 volt motor used with multiple batteries is far better than a more powerful motor requiring more voltage, using the same number of batteries. So if you fish from sunrise to sunset and use an electric extensively, a smaller, low-voltage motor may be the better choice.