Can you put a trolling motor on a kayak? (Buyers Guide)

Can you put a trolling motor on a kayak?

Yes yes yes. You can totally attach a trolling motor to your kayak, and it is becoming increasingly common. Some kayaks also have separate compartments only for a battery to power the trolling motor. Keep in mind that not all kayaks will allow you to do this, but the majority of them will, even inflatable kayaks, particularly if you get a fishing kayak.

Is it legal to put a trolling motor on a kayak?

Yes but each state may have variations on the rules pertaining to the laws.

In California for example: “Every motor-driven vessel (regardless of length) is subject to registration by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).”

While you’re at it check things like life jacket laws etc.

For California check here.

What kind of motor can you put on a kayak?

You can choose between:
A gas-powered outboard motor.
While a gas-powered motor can be mounted on a kayak, you will be limited to a very low horsepower engine. A gas motor with a capacity of no more than 2 horsepower should be fitted to a kayak in order to hold weight down and carry fuel. (Warning) You may run into environmental restrictions at some places.

An electric trolling motor. (Recommended).
An electric trolling motor is the most affordable way to motorize a kayak. Almost every kayak can be outfitted with a xx-pound thrust trolling motor and 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery for a few hundred dollars.

How big of a trolling motor do I need for a kayak?

The rule is 2 pounds per 100 pounds of loaded weight

The drive motors are designed to move a bass boat. A bass boat has an average dry weight of about 1700 lbs. The thrust of a trolling motor is measured in pounds rather than in horse-power and even the smaller electric motors are more than enough power for kayaking.

A boat’s hull and design is a big factor in how fast it’s going to go, so adding more power isn’t necessarily going to make it go faster, especially inflatables. It’s definitely going to go faster than you can paddle and a lot further.

Power

With an electric trolling motor, designed for boats weighing more than 1.500 pounds, you won’t have to worry that your kayak is under-powered!
The combined weight of your kayak and your body weight is the minimum amount of weight your motor should be capable of moving. A motor on the back of a 70-pound kayak carrying a 150-pound passenger, for example, must be capable of propelling at least 220 pounds.

Returning to our original estimate of how much thrust is needed to move 100 pounds, this means that you’ll need at least 4.4 pounds of thrust to move 220 pounds (220 x 0.02 = 4.4).

Where a trolling slowly moves a larger boat for fishing, kayaks are driven much more quickly in the water. Most trolling engines, which offer 35-45 lbs of thrust power, normally move smaller kayaks in the range of 7 feet at little under 4 mph in calm water like lakes and rivers. Fishing kayaks and tandem kayaks, as well as many popular models, are more than 10 feet long so that it is very common to step up to 50-60 lbs. Those who are fishing at tournaments, that want to move quickly can find jump right up to 86 lb.

Batteries

Trolling motors are electric motors and run in 12 volts, 24 volts, and 36 volts configurations. A 24-volt system uses 2 batteries which adds considerable weight and draws down faster than a 12-volt system. You’re better off sticking to a single battery 12-volt system.

A 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery is typically used to fuel trolling motors. Although these are the most popular batteries for this application, different motors need different amounts of electricity.

Batteries are determined by their total energy storage power, which is normally measured in milliamp-hours, in addition to their voltage (mAh). When discharging an average current of 2 milliamps over a period of time, a battery with a capacity of 250 mAh would last approximately 125 hours.

As a result, you’ll need to know not only the appropriate voltage for your trolling motor but also how many amps it can draw at full power. This will indicate how long your battery will last when out on the water.

We simply want to make you aware that you will need to purchase a suitable battery to power your trolling motor. You’ll need to strike a balance between a battery that’s big enough to meet your motor’s power requirements and one that’s not so bulky that it adds too much weight to your kayaking setup when making this decision.

The weather and fishing conditions should also factor into your decision. You should be able to stick to the specified minimum thrust if you normally fish or cruise on smooth lakes with no current. However, if you spend the majority of your time in fast-moving water with a strong current or waves, you’ll want to increase your thrust to ensure adequate strength in all conditions.

Smart Battery Solution

The most important piece to making this all work would be to add a smart battery solution to your kayak motor system. It’s overall a lighter solution and feature-rich.

  • Built-in LED Battery Meter
    • Measure battery charge level with the push of a button. (The feature is not compatible with Lithium batteries)
  • External Battery Posts
    • Safely and easily connect your trolling motor or accessory to the battery posts without opening the box. This also allows you to charge your battery without having to remove it!
  • Dual Integrated Circuit Breakers
    • Integrated with 10 AMP and 60 AMP circuit breakers to protect your trolling motor and other accessories from electrical damage
      • NOTE: TROLLING MOTORS AND DEVICES WILL HAVE DIFFERENT CIRCUIT BREAKER RECOMMENDATIONS. PLEASE CHECK THESE BEFORE CONNECTING YOUR DEVICE.
  • Non-Slip Rubber Feet
    • Non-slip feet inserts enable your batter box to stay in its place.
  • Direct USB Charger and Accessory Port
    • Includes one USB charger (5V – 0.5Amp) and one 12V accessory port for charging accessories
  • Fits Most Common Batteries
    • Interior space fits the most common batteries Group 24 and 27 (Not included). Interior dimensions are 13-3/8″ Long x 7-3/8″ Wide x 8-3/4″ Tall. The maximum battery dimensions that fit inside the Smart Battery Box are 13-3/8″ Long x 7-3/8″ Wide x 10″ Tall.

In general terms voltage/thrust ratios are as follows

12v motors = 55lbs. of thrust or less

24v motors = Over 55lbs. up to 80lbs. of thrust

36v motors = Over 80lbs. up to approximately 115lbs. of thrust 

Boat Weight (lbs) 1,500 2,000 2,500
Boat Lenght
Sub 14'
15-16'
17'
Minimum Thrust
30
40
50
Perfomance Thrust*
40
50
60
Perfomance Thrust*Motor Voltage
12v
12v
12v

Mounting System

Choose Mounting Location

You’ll need to determine where you want to put your trolling motor on your kayak before you go out and buy one and all of the accessories that go with it. Kayak trolling motors are designed to be mounted on your kayak’s bow, stern, or gunwales.

The benefit of mounting a motor on your kayak’s gunwale is that you’ll have better access to it while still sitting comfortably in your seat. If you want to put the motor on the bow or stern of the kayak, you’ll need a motor with remote control or the ability to attach to your kayak’s foot braces so you can correct course while on the water.

However, in some situations, having a motor mounted on the side of your kayak can cause navigational issues. Since the motor provides more thrust on one side of your kayak than the other, adjusting your motor to make your kayak go straight or in the direction you prefer can take some practice.

Choose A Compatible Motor Mount

The truth is that you’ll need a compatible motor mount to fit a trolling motor on a kayak. The motor mount is the part of the trolling motor that sticks to your kayak and keeps it in place.

On the market, there are several mounts to choose from. Others are designed to attach to your kayak’s bow or stern, while others allow you to attach your trolling motor to the side.

However, compatibility with your trolling motor and kayak is the most important consideration to consider when selecting a motor frame. You’ll need a mount that matches the width of your kayak, for example, if you want to mount your motor on the side of your kayak.

If you choose a motor mount that is intended to connect to the bow or stern of your kayak, make sure the mounting clamps or bolts are compatible with your kayak’s bow or stern configuration.
There is seldom a sturdy handle or edge of the kayak at the bow or stern of sit-in kayaks, for example. If you have a sit-in kayak, this means you’ll probably need a mount that helps you to connect your motor to the side of the kayak.

However, the configuration of some sit-on-top kayaks allows you to choose between a bow/stern or a gunwale mount. As a result, these kayaks can allow you to mount your motor in a variety of locations on your kayak.

Shaft Length

For a trolling electric motor, the shaft or tube length has to be just right. You can mount them in two different places, on the stern or on the side. Wherever the trolling motor is me, the shaft length should be sufficient to submerge the propel under about 12 inches. Remember kayaks are used to get in tight, sometimes shallow places so an extra long shaft will get in the way.
In addition, the motor’s shaft size has an effect on its output. A longer shaft would typically have more thrust since it will extend deeper into the water, but it may not be the best choice for fishing in shallow waters.

How fast will a kayak go with a trolling motor?

Two 55-pound thrust motors, on the other hand, will not propel you much faster than one 30-pound thrust motor. Larger, heavier boats with larger payloads need higher thrust 12V trolling motors. A trolling motor’s top speed is 5 mph, regardless of how much thrust it produces.
Thrust is simply a static measurement of pushing or pulling power, and higher thrust does not necessarily mean greater speed

How Long Will My Motor Run?

Amp Hours Amp Draw Hours Use
100
30
2.8
100
40
2.1
100
50
1.7

How long will a 55 lb thrust trolling motor run?

To use an example, a 55 lb thrust motor unit has a peak power draw of 40 amps. If you use the trolling motor for 6 hours at an average 50% load of 20 amps, the trolling motor will then require a battery load of 120 Ah. (6 hours X 20 amps=120 amp hours).

Factors that might impact its speed:

Load: Your boat’s speed is largely determined by its weight and the amount of cargo it carries. As the boat’s weight increases, more thrust is needed to propel it forward. It also takes longer to transport it, slowing down the boat’s pace.

Maintenance: The speed of your trolling motor is affected by regular maintenance. Always follow the maintenance instructions and schedule given by the manufacturer. Often, keep the electrical system in good working order, which includes batteries, cables, connectors, sockets, switches, and fuses or breakers.

Water conditions: The type of water you want to cruise in has a huge effect on how well your trolling motor can do. A boat can sail faster in still and calm water than in rough water. This is due to the numerous disruptions in turbulent water, which necessitates further thrust to propel the boat. A bow-mounted trolling motor can also come out of the water if the water is rough with big waves, resulting in a loss of control.

Trolling Motor Brand: Electric trolling motors come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They aren’t all the same, either. Some models, such as Minn Kota, are extremely common, and for good purpose. They are incredibly dependable.

Trolling Motor Recomendations

We like this one for smaller Kayaks-

It has a great mounting kit that’s really clean. I also like the 24″ shaft. Long shafts are cumbersome as they either stick up too high or they draft too far down in the water, creating problems in shallower water. If your fishing this can be a problem.

Watersnake – ASP 18 and 24 Pound Thrust

Watersnake Trolling Motor

ASP T24 Motor – With Bracket

  • 18lb or 24lb Thrust
  • 12v
  • 9-20 Amps
  • 24″ shaft

Newport Vessels Kayak Series 36lb/55lb Thrust Transom Mount

Again we like this one because of the 24″ shaft and the clean kayak mounting accessories available. I’ve seen a lot of homemade, modified trolling motors that may work ok, it’s just that over time these tend to not hold with a lot of activity. This would be a great one for a fishing kaya with a lot of gear.

Newport Vessels

Kayak Series – Kayak Trolling Motor

  • 36lb or 55lb
  • 24″ shaft
  • Vari speed – 8 speeds (5 forward & 3 Reverse)
  • 29amps 
  • 12v

Here's a video on the clean mount for the motor

RAILBLAZA Kayak Motor Mount