Trolling Motors For Pontoon Boats: A Buyer’s Guide
Investing in a trolling motor for your pontoon boat can drastically improve your ability to catch and keep fish. Making the appropriate choice in a trolling motor isn’t difficult, but there are a few crucial things to be aware of before parting with your money.
We’ll start by choosing a trolling motor brand, then a model, and finally installation and other options.
Step 1: Decide on a brand
Take a step back and consider your options before making a brand selection. Boaters, in my experience, have a propensity to base their selections on one or two encounters with a brand or what they’ve heard from other anglers.
If you currently own a fish finder, this element may influence your choice of brand. (I covered this in my pontoon fish finder buyer’s guide.) Manufacturers of trolling motors and fish finders frequently collaborate to make their products interoperable. If you’re buying a more modern trolling motor with GPS, this can be a huge benefit.
If you buy a trolling motor with GPS, your fish finder can plot plots for the trolling motor, and you can manage it using an on-fish finder control panel, which is useful when strolling about the boat.
If you have a Lowrance fish finder that can connect to a trolling motor, you’ll want to go with a Motor Guide trolling motor.
Motor Guide and MinnKota are competitors that keep a close eye on each other. When one company introduces a new product, the others are likely to follow suit and improve. So don’t expect a cool feature on one brand to be unique just because you read about it.
Step 2: Decide on a model
The first step in determining the trolling motor model you want is to figure out where you’ll put it. Bow, transom (rear), or engine mount are the three basic alternatives. Each has advantages and disadvantages, but if you plan on performing any true trolling (dragging your bait across the lake with the force of the machine), a bow mount trolling motor is the way to go.
Many anglers have trolling engines, but they never really troll (drag baits around the lake). If you fish for bass, for example, you will almost certainly never troll but will want a trolling motor to make precise changes to the boat without the engine noise that scares fish away.
With a bow positioned trolling motor, I’ve always found it much easier to handle the boat. After all, pulling a rope is easier than pushing it. Many fisherman, on the other hand, prefer the ease of an engine-mounted trolling motor.
Because many pontoon boats lack a front lip around the fence on the front of the deck, installing a trolling motor on one might be difficult. This implies that the trolling motor cannot be installed without changing the front gate. This prompts some pontoon boat owners to opt for an engine mount for ease of installation, but I believe it is well worth the effort to put on the bow.
Length of Shaft
You’ll need to choose a shaft length when selecting a trolling motor model at the store. It’s not difficult to make the appropriate decision on most boats. It’s a little more difficult in a pontoon boat because of the high deck. Fortunately, I’ve written a comprehensive guide on choosing the right trolling motor shaft length for pontoons. The article covers everything, but if you’re reading this on your phone in line at Cabela’s, you’ll probably want a trolling motor shaft that’s 60 inches (152.4 centimeters) long.
Trolling Motor Thrust for Pontoon Boats
Don’t scrimp on the electricity. It’s the most common way you come to regret buying a trolling motor. Because pontoon boats are huge and lack the hydrodynamics of a V-hull boat, I recommend traveling as fast as you can.
The usual method for determining how much thrust you require is to divide the overall weight of your boat in pounds by 100. Then divide the result by two to get the final result. So a normal 22′ pontoon boat filled with gas, gear, and a couple of passengers will weigh roughly 3,000 pounds, requiring a 60-pound thrust trolling motor according to the calculation.
Because of the hydrodynamics, I believe the “rule of thumb” estimate above isn’t appropriate for most pontoon boats. Most boat owners would be better with a trolling motor with a thrust of 65, 70, or even 80 pounds. You’ll be trolling like a king with a 24v or 26v (2 or 3 battery) setup.
If you’re going to spend the money on the ever-popular Motor Guide Xi5, you should also know that MinnKota now manufactures trolling motors with comparable functionality and some intriguing technical modifications. If you’re considering the Xi5, you should also consider the MinnKota Terrova with iPilot. The iPilot system is rather impressive.
What I appreciate about the Terrova and Xi5 is that they come with a lanyard-mounted remote control that allows you to operate the trolling motor from wherever on the boat. You may also use the controls on the motor or, if compatible, the controls on your fish finder to regulate the motor. Awesome!
Resources That Can Help
If you believe you might want to go with a Motor Guide trolling motor, I strongly advise you to use their trolling motor wizard. After you answer a few questions, it will tell you which motor is best for your pontoon. It’s worth looking through to see if they have any recommendations, but the wizard only has one recommendation—and it’s not the one I want.
Trolling Motors for Pontoon Boats
Each of these trolling motors meets the criteria I specified earlier: an 80-pound thrust, a 60-inch shaft, and a Lowrance or Humminbird fish finder GPS system.
My Personal Pick for a Trolling Motor for a Pontoon
I chose this MinnKota Terrova after much investigation (Check Price on Amazon). It works seamlessly with my Humminbird fish finder, provides the power I require for trolling in my 22′ pontoon boat, and has the GPS and wireless control that I want. It’s essential for me to be able to handle a huge pontoon boat from anyplace, therefore it’s ideal. I particularly appreciate that, unlike the MotorGuide Xi5, the remote includes an LCD screen that shows specifics of what’s going on with the motor.
Step 3: Select Mounting and Accessory Options
The trolling motor, unlike your boat’s engine, is battery-powered and does not require running to recharge. This means you’ll have to charge the batteries before each journey at home. To connect the charger, we’ll need a few attachments, as well as some optional accessories.
As long as you purchase the correct sort of battery, the battery question boils down to how much you want to pay and which brand you want. A deep cycle battery is the sort of battery you’ll need for a trolling motor. A deep cycle battery is designed for prolonged battery drains that may frequently completely drain the battery.
You’d exhaust your pontoon boat’s main engine battery if you used it to power your trolling motor, and you’d be unable to start the engine. If you buy a marine starting battery instead of a deep cycle battery, the battery’s lifetime will be affected, and you won’t get as much usage out of each charge on a trolling motor.
In terms of battery brand, this is a matter of personal taste. Optima Blue Top is one of the most well-known and well-liked alternatives (Check Price on Amazon). It’s a good starting and deep cycle battery, but after reading a lot of unfavorable reviews on Amazon, I decided to go with something else.
My Personal Pick for a Marine Deep Cycle Battery
I prefer an AGM battery, such as this Vmaxtanks Marine AGM SLA Deep Cycle Battery, because it does not contain replacement water (Available on Amazon).
There’s a lot more to selecting a battery for your pontoon’s trolling motor. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this buyer’s guide.
You might also be asking if a regular vehicle battery can be used on your pontoon. Even while many boaters do it without issue, the answer is probably no.
You’ll need two or perhaps three batteries because pontoon boats aren’t as hydrodynamic as conventional boats.
Because you have to climb up on the pontoon each time you want to move the charger to a second or third battery for your trolling motor system, charging the batteries on your pontoon might be a bit more of a pain.
Make sure it’s rated for marine usage, has enough connections for the amount of batteries you’ll be using, and comes with a “smart” charger to extend the battery’s life. Going cheap on a charger is a certain way to end up spending twice as much on fresh batteries in the future.
If you want two batteries, I’d recommend the NOCO Genius On-Board Battery Charger (available on Amazon).