What are Trolling Motors?

Bryan Pedersen

Large boat motors may sometimes scare fish away before the boat even gets within fishing distance. For these situations, there are special types of outboard motors called trolling motors. Small and quiet, trolling motors allow boats to slowly and silently move through the water without scaring away the prey.

Small and quiet, trolling motors allow fishing boats to move through the water without scaring away fish.
Small and quiet, trolling motors allow fishing boats to move through the water without scaring away fish.

Trolling itself refers to a boat moving through the water at a slow speed with a baited line trailing from behind. This allows the bait to "swim" through the water and appear more lifelike. This technique can be applied to many different types of fish such as Bass, Salmon and Trout. While large boats with gas powered engines can troll, a trolling motor is usually small, and electrically powered.

The benefit of electric power is important because it limits the noise output of the boat. When cruising through a quiet lake, the virtual silence of an electric trolling motor becomes even more apparent. But as with everything else, there is a trade off. Trolling motors provide far less power and speed than their gas powered cousins. As a result, it can sometimes be difficult to control the watercraft with a small trolling motor.

As a rule, most experts believe that the most powerful motor within reason and budget is the best one to purchase. That way, it will provide enough power if the weather turns bad and the water becomes choppy and difficult to navigate. The extra power can really pay off.

In electric motors, the power comes from batteries which are generally available in 12, 24 and 36 volt varieties. For boats 16 feet and smaller, 12 volts is usually sufficient, but for anything larger it's best to have a higher voltage battery. More voltage means more power, and don't forget a backup in case one fails.

One unique feature about trolling motors is the choice between both front mount and rear mount models. The advantage of a front mount motor is greater control and maneuverability, similar to the advantage of a front wheel drive car. Another choice is the type of control. Trolling motors are available in both foot and hand control models. The hand control models provide better responsiveness and free up space on the boat floor since there are no extra foot pedals or cables. Of course, the disadvantage is having to fish with only one hand. Foot controls, on the other hand, free up the hands for fishing and to troll more effectively. The choice is up to the user for the best way to quietly move through the water.

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Discussion Comments


I live in a private lake community that has restricted the use of boat motors --*all* boat motors. The concern seems to be noise + pollution. A Planning Committee is collecting research on electric trolling motors (environmentally clean and quiet).

I can't find data on the dB of trolling motors to build a case for permitting their use. Are there any technical bulletins or research on decibel levels that anyone can point me to?



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