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If you’ve ever paddled a canoe out to your favorite fishing spot, then you understand the appeal of a canoe motor. Imagine how easy it would be to glide out to that fishing hole, paddle the last few feet into the exact spot you want, and use your energy as intended — to catch fish!

Most of the world is covered by water. A fisherman’s job is simple: Pick out the best parts.
— Charles Waterman

More time in the best fishing spots means more fish, so why waste your time in the wrong spots? 

Using a motor with a canoe will help get you to your favorite fishing spot much faster than you could if you were paddling. While both traditional canoes and square stern canoes can be paddled, it’s nice to get to your favorite spot without paddling.  

Types of Canoe Motors

Most anglers typically attach a trolling motor to their canoe, but there a few options for attachable motors. 

2-stroke or 4-stroke outboard motor

2-stroke or 4-stroke outboard motors can be used on canoes, but they can be a little bulky. This is the type of motor that you typically see on the back of most powerboats. They are typically gas or gas-and-oil powered, so they can move quickly. However, they are noisier than battery-operated motors. 

A 4-stroke outboard motor is typically a bit too large for a canoe unless you’ve got an extra-large canoe. 2-stroke outboard motors can be attached to the stern of many square back canoes, but they’re tough to attach to traditional canoes. 

If you’re planning to get a 2-stroke or 4-stroke outboard motor for your canoe, make sure it’s a small one. You don’t want to get a motor that’s going to overpower your boat or weigh it down too much. 

Battery-powered trolling motor

Electric motors are great for boats like a canoe or a kayak that don’t need a ton of power. Since canoes are so lightweight, it doesn’t take much power to move them. Most battery-powered trolling motors come in either a 12, 24, or 36-volt motor. A 12-volt motor typically provides enough power for a boat under 16 feet.

If your boat is longer than 16 feet, consider buying a 24-volt motor. 

Since they’re battery operated, electric trolling motors are much quieter than gas motors. This allows you to move through the water smoothly without scaring the fish. 

Gas-powered trolling motor

Gas-powered motors work similarly to battery-operated motors, but they require gasoline. As with the outboard motors, this will add to the overall weight of your boat. 

Gas-powered motors can be a little better for larger boats, but they won’t provide the same amount of power that an outboard motor would. If you’re just attaching it to a canoe or kayak, you likely won’t need the power of an outboard board.

Types of Canoe Trolling Motors

Trolling motors come in various sizes and are designed to meet various needs. Before you start looking into which motor is right for you, make sure you know a little more about your boat.

  • How long is your boat?
  • What is the distance from the bow of your boat to the water?
  • What is the distance from the stern of your boat to the water?
  • How much weight will your boat typically have to carry?
  • Is it a square stern canoe or a traditional canoe?

Knowing all of that beforehand will save you a lot of time when choosing the right motor for your canoe. Less time learning, more time fishing!

Transom trolling motors

Transom motors attach to the back of the boat (like a traditional boat motor). If you have a square back canoe, it will be pretty easy to attach a transom trolling motor to the stern of your boat. 

If you have a traditionally shaped canoe, you’ll need a canoe trolling motor mount to attach the motor to your boat. You can either buy one from a fishing/boating store or you can try to make one yourself. There are a lot of YouTube videos showing demos of how to make your own canoe motor mount. 

Bow trolling motors

As the name implies, bow motors are attached to the front of the boat. They typically require a canoe trolling motor mount in order to attach the motor to the boat. That being the case, it doesn’t really matter if you have a square back canoe or a traditional canoe if you buy a bow motor. 

Bow motors can be better for larger boats because they pull the boat through the water rather than push it like a traditional stern motor. This allows you to take a larger boat into areas that would otherwise be difficult to maneuver into.

Saltwater trolling motors

A saltwater trolling motor has a lot of anti-corrosion measures built-in. Saltwater can seriously damage metal and wires by corroding them much faster than normal. If you will be taking your canoe or kayak into saltwater, plan on buying a saltwater motor. 

If you are planning to bring your canoe or kayak into both saltwater and freshwater, that’s fine. Saltwater trolling motors can be used in freshwater, but not vise versa. 

Freshwater trolling motors

Freshwater trolling motors are specifically designed to be used in freshwater. They typically have all of the same features as a saltwater motor EXCEPT the anti-corrosion materials. Your freshwater motor can be seriously damaged if you use it in saltwater. 

Standard Trolling Motor Features

Battery and Power

Most electric trolling motors will allow a canoe to travel at 4-6mph. Anything faster than that would be a little too much for a typical canoe to handle. The combination of your motor’s ability and the battery that you use with it will determine how fast your canoe will travel and how long the battery will last.

The battery life on a canoe motor depends on the amperage of the battery. Simply, batteries with a higher amperage last longer than batteries with lower amperage. Buy one that will let you stay out as long as you want to be out there.

How to calculate battery life

NERD ALERT! THESE ARE THE DETAILS OF HOW THE BATTERY WORKS!
SKIP THIS IF YOU DON’T CARE!

In case you like to know more about how to calculate your battery’s life:

  • You can calculate the run time of your battery by dividing the amp rating by the draw rating. For example, if you have a 100 amp hour battery and you have a motor that draws 25 amps per hour, your run time would be 4 hours. 
  • Your trolling motor should come with more information about the number of amps that it draws, so you can do those calculations if you’d like to. 

If doing a bunch of math isn’t your strong suit, just make sure you know the battery life for the canoe motor that you purchase, but don’t nitpick each and every one. For most canoes, a 55lb motor combined with the recommended battery will provide enough thrust to let the boat travel at 4-6pmh.

Shaft Length

All jokes aside, the length of the shaft is extremely important in selecting the right motor for your canoe.

You definitely don’t want the motor to come out of the water while you’re underway, but you also don’t want it to be so long that it crashes and snags on rocks and debris. If you will be boating in waves or a heavy chop, you should get a slightly longer shaft to make sure that it doesn’t come out when the boat rocks. 

To make sure you’re getting a motor with the proper length shaft, you’ll have to measure your boat. If you have a square back canoe, measure the length from the rear gunwale to the water. If you are using a traditional canoe with a canoe trolling motor mount, measure the length from the motor mount to the water.

It’s best to do these measurements when it’s calm so you get an accurate reading. Also, take the measurements with your boat weighted as it would typically be. Then add 12 inches to that measurement.

Since you want the top of the motor to be AT LEAST 12 inches below the surface of the water, buy a motor that is a little longer than the number you come up with. When in doubt, go with a shaft that’s definitely long enough for your canoe.

Controls

Most trolling motors can be controlled in one of two ways: hand controlled or foot controlled. Some can even be controlled with a remote, but those tend to cost a little more. 

Hand-controlled motors give you a little better control over steering, but they can be a little tough to use if you’re trying to fish and steer simultaneously. It’s nearly impossible to use this type of motor without using your hands.

If your hands are busy reeling in a fish, they won’t be available for the motor. If you’re somewhat new to fishing, you might want to consider a foot-controlled trolling motor. 

Foot-controlled motors allow you to keep your hands focused on fishing and use your feet for steering. They’re not quite as responsive as hand-controlled motors, but they still get the job done. If you plan on having multiple people on the boat with you, foot-controlled trolling motors can get in the way. But if it’s just you on the boat, you should be fine. 

There are always new places to go fishing. For any fisherman, there’s always a new place, always a new horizon.   
– Jack Nicklaus

Top 3 Saltwater Canoe Trolling Motors

Now that we’ve covered all of the basics about what you need from a canoe motor, on to the fun part: talking about which motors you should buy! Keep in mind that what’s best for some canoes is not great for others. Although all of these trolling motors are top-rated, you’ll need to dig a little deeper to make sure it’s right for you. 

Newport Vessel L Series Transom Mounted Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor

Newport Vessels L-Series 62lb Thrust Transom Mounted Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor w/ LED Battery Indicator (40'' Shaft) Buy on Amazon

Features and benefits

  • Options for 62lb of thrust or 86lb of thrust. So it gives you plenty of power for a small or large canoe. 
  • Quiet electric motor, so it won’t scare away fish. 
  • 6″ telescoping handle — more options to position the handle at a comfortable length for the driver. 
  • 8 adjustable speeds, including 3 reverse speeds.
  • Though it is intended to be a transom motor, it can be used as a bow motor. More versatility!

Potential downsides

  • The motor itself is waterproof, but the handle and shaft are not. So if you’re caught in a downpour, this could cause problems. 
  • Some people find this motor to be too powerful for small boats. If you have a small canoe or a kayak, this might not be the right motor for you. 

Newport Vessel NV Series Saltwater Transom Mounted Electric Trolling Motor

Newport Vessels NV-Series 46lb Thrust Saltwater Transom Mounted Trolling Electric Trolling Motor w/ LED Battery Indicator & 30' Shaft Buy on Amazon

Features and Benefits

  • Multiple thrust options including 36lb, 46lb, 55lb, 62lb, and 86lb. You should be able to find a model with the right amount of thrust for your boat.
  • 30″ adjustable fiberglass shaft. So long as your canoe isn’t especially tall, you should be able to adjust the shaft to the proper depth for your boat.
  • 6″ telescoping handle — more options to position the handle at a comfortable length for the driver.
  • 8 adjustable speeds, including 3 reverse speeds.
  • It has a very bright battery meter, so you can easily see how much life your battery has in it. 
  • Though it is intended to be a transom motor, it can be used as a bow motor. More versatility!

Potential downsides

  • The motor itself is waterproof, but the handle and shaft are not. So if you’re caught in a downpour, this could cause problems. 
  • The 55lb thrust model is not great for heavy boats. If you’re planning to bring a lot of people or a lot of gear, you’ll need a bigger motor. 

Minn Kota Riptide Power Drive

Features and Benefits

  • A deploy-assist lever to make it easier to get in and out of the water. 
  • Includes the iPilot GPS Trolling System. If you know where you want to go, you can plug the coordinates into the GPS and let it do the work for you! 
  • Multiple speed options are included.  
  • Shaft length options are 48″ or 54″ 
  • The shaft is made of an extremely durable composite that allows it to be flexible if the motor strikes something underwater. Minn Kota backs up the shaft durability with a lifetime warranty. 

Possible downsides

  • The shaft can be a bit long for some boats.
  • More susceptible to breaking down

Top 3 Freshwater Canoe Trolling Motors

Minn Kota Endura Transom Mount Trolling Motor

Features and Benefits

  • 6″ telescoping handle — more options to position the handle at a comfortable length for the driver.
  • 8 adjustable speeds, including 3 reverse speeds.
  • The shaft is made of an extremely durable composite that allows it to be flexible if the motor strikes something underwater. Minn Kota backs up the shaft durability with a lifetime warranty.
  • Many people find that it has a great battery life for standards sized canoes, even when the boat is weighed down with people or gear.

Possible downsides

  • It’s not meant for especially large or heavy boats. 
  • Durability is questionable

Minn Kota Edge Freshwater Bow Mount Trolling Motor

Features and benefits

  • The shaft is made of an extremely durable composite that allows it to be flexible if the motor strikes something underwater. Minn Kota backs up the shaft durability with a lifetime warranty.
  • This model is foot-controlled. That will allow you to keep your hands busy with fishing since you can use your feet to control the motor. 
  • 45″ shaft, so it should fit most canoes.
  • It has two thrust options: 45ln and 55lb. Whether you have a small or large canoe, this motor should have enough power for your boat. 

Possible downsides

  • If the seller doesn’t provide the correct propeller blades, the blades can get easily tangled in weeds. Double-check that your seller is including the Weedless Wedge 2 propeller blades. 
  • If you plan to have multiple people on your boat, a foot-control can get in the way. If it’s just one or two people on the boat, you should be fine. 

MotorGuide R5 Transom-Mount Freshwater Trolling Motor

Features and benefits

  • Thrust options include 70 or 80lbs. This would be plenty of power for a canoe.
  • Digital Power Management technology monitors multiple outputs and allows you to dial in the precise speed you want for longer-lasting battery life.
  • Whisper quiet motor gets you closer to the fish!
  • Great value pick offering lots of options for a reasonable price.

Possible downsides

  • Durability is questionable  

Last update on 2020-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Heather West

Heather West

Heather West is a professional outdoorswoman from New Orleans who loves sharing her passion for the outdoors with others. After Hurricane Katrina, Heather transferred to a college in Tennessee and went on her first camping trip. She fell in love with the outdoors and decided that she wanted a career in the outdoor industry. Two weeks after graduating, Heather began working for Outward Bound leading 14-28 day canoe expeditions for teens in Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, and Maine. Heather currently works for a local nonprofit leading day-trips for students of all ages.

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