Trolling Motors, the Best Options in Bow Mounts

Depending on performance you need, budget, if you’re going to be cruising freshwater waterways or hitting saltwater and of course whether you already have a trolling motor brand in mind.

This is the criteria we’re taking a close look at here:

  • the best bow mount trolling motor for the money
  • a cheap bow mount trolling motor
  • 12 volt bow mount trolling motors
  • 24v bow mounts
  • saltwater bow mount trolling motor
The first thing you have to do is work out motor size. (Click on the links below for guides)
Motor and thrust needed for the size of boat
Determine shaft length for bow mounts

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more detail, see our disclosure page.

Important note: The price guide provided is approximate only at the time of writing and price varies according to the specs chosen and retailers. It’s provided to help determine which brand/model fits your budget profile. We’ve attached links to the best prices we’ve found.

There’s a lot to drill down here. I’ve just gone through this process myself for bow mounts and transoms, so we’ve pulled together comparison information.

You’ll know the names Minn Kota and MotorGuide for sure. But we’ve also thrown in Aquos Haswing and Newport Vessels brands into the mix for some cheap bow mount trolling motors and to have a closer look at these budget brands.

Choosing the right option among the best trolling motors on the market is an important choice because you’re not just buying another piece of gear. You’re buying a tool that will help you get right into the habitats and hotspots where your preferred catch likes to stay.

You have a go-to source for lures and other baits, right? You wouldn’t buy a rod and reel from a no-name company with zero reputation in the market, would you? The same thing applies when it comes to trolling motors. You need to know the major players in the game so you can avoid cheap, inferior products that could leave you in the lurch. So, what are the names you should know?

Minn Kota Terrova

A bow mount trolling motor with 3 different power output options – a 55lb system, an 80lb setup, and a 112lb system. The lower-end motor is better for smaller boats, but the 80 and 112 lbs systems can be used on boats between 14 and 24 to 25 feet in length. A popular choice with happy buyers.

Price guide (approx): $1,700 $3,200

Recommended for: Anglers with medium-sized craft who need power, performance and reliability. They’re cost-effective, and Minn Kota is one of the most recognized manufactures of trolling motors.

Features: Wireless remote to a foot pedal to operate the motor. The motor also integrates with Minn Kota’s i-Pilot system, as well as its separate CoPilot functionality.

The lift-assistance system allows you to stow or lift the motor with a single hand, which is why this is one of the models we recommend checking out if you have a bad back. Power steering and  universal sonar built-in. The 36-volt system ensures more time on the water. There’s also a simple connection with most sonar systems. Weedless Wedge™ 2 prop.

Water Type: Freshwater only

Shaft length: Choose from 45 or 60 inch lengths for the 80lb; 60″ or 72″ for 112lb; or 54″ for the smaller 55lb system

Motor features: Digital Maximizer™  gives you the advantage with technology on your side providing battery efficiency. Being able to dial in the steady speed you want means you can conserve power through only using what you need. Minn Kota boasts it achieves 5x longer run time on your battery charge. Stow and deploy lever, as well as a low-profile design and plenty of output power. Like all other Minn Kota trolling motors, the Terrova offers quiet running and fast cool down times.

2 year manufacturer warranty

Battery: 12v for 55lb model, 24v 80lb model; 112lbs 36v

Available upgrades: The Terrova is available in 55, 80 and 112 pound variations.

Minn Kota Riptide Terrova - saltwater

Minn Kota manufactures a number of Riptide motors, all of which are designed for use in saltwater. The Riptide Terrova brings the features of the freshwater motor to the saltwater environment.

Minn Kota Ultrex

Winner of the 2016 ICAST Best of Show Award the Minn Kota Ultrex is a powerful, capable trolling motor that offers a lot of benefits and features. It’s the first cable-steer trolling motor to feature electronic assistance steering with GPS technology integrated within it.

Price guide: sitting between $2,500- $5,000 for larger models

Recommended for: Medium size craft 16 feet or longer.

Features: I-Pilot, spot-lock, stable head control, remote operation, and better command of the foot pedal through a central interface. Lift Assist, the game changer to cut the weight of stowing & deploying. Weedless Wedge™ 2 prop

Water type: Freshwater only

Shaft length: Choose from 45″, 52″ or 60″

Motor features: The Ultrex offers important features that speak directly to usability and experience, including power steering and an improved foot pedal design. The built-in steering lock feature allows you to set your direction and then lock the motor in place so you don’t have to hold the wheel, and this feature integrates with, and is expanded on with the i-Pilot system. The advanced lift system makes it simple to stow or deploy the motor, too.

3 year Minn Kota warranty

Battery: 24v for80lbs; 36v 112lbs

Available upgrades: The base model offers 80lbs of thrust or upgrade to the 112lb model

‘good choice if there’s a lot of debris and objects in the water’

This is an all-round performer and Fortrex might be the ideal option for you if you’re wanting plenty of power and toughness for a medium or larger boat but also has nimble controls. 80lbs 24v and 112 lbs 36v.

The point of difference to other trolling models is the shaft mechanism. The advantage Fortrex has is the motor housing and the spring-loaded break-away part on the bracket. What this means is it can take a blow if you hit a reasonably solid object in the water. It’ll deflect off thick weeds and stump fields without damaging the trolling motor. Although other shafts flex and are designed to be pliable, they miss the spring-loaded breakaway part that gives Fortrex the edge for toughness.

Price guide: $1,400 – $2,500 depending on size

Recommended for: Amateurs and serious anglers. It has the capability to combat wind, waves and currents for the entire day. Max boat length 25′.

Features: Heel/toe, responsive, cable-steer foot control for hands-free operation of the boat. Weedless Wedge™ prop.

Removable Bowguard 360™ bracket. The beauty of this addition is 3 fold. The dual bearing system eliminates noise, it’s built to break-away on impact from any angle and reset itself and it’s easily removed.

Water type: Freshwater only

Shaft length: 45″ or 52″

Motor features: You’ll find some useful features on offer here, including the motor’s mono-arm design for better strength and resilience. Like most of the company’s motors, it also includes a lift assistance lever to make stowing and deployment simpler. (Helpful addition for bad back sufferers.) An illuminated directional indicator shows your location at all times, and the foot pedal is designed for maximize responsiveness.

2 year manufacturer warranty

Battery:  24v for 80lb model, 35v for 112lbs

Available upgrades: Available in 80lb or 112lb

A family of trolling motors that gives you a nice range inclusions and options for power outputs (ranging from 55 lbs to 80lbs of thrust) at a nice budget price.

Price guide: $600 – $1050 depending on size and options you choose

Recommended for:  An excellent option for anyone in the market for a medium-sized trolling motor designed for freshwater. It can teamed with most medium-sized boats (12 to 17 feet). The 80lb can go a little bigger.

Features: The mounting bracket on the Maxxum is one of the strongest on the market, and the motor also features the company’s unique Bowguard 360 Breakaway Mount® for impact protection. Weedless Wedge 2™prop. Foot control models feature a directional indicator.

Water type: Freshwater

Shaft length: impact resistant composite shaft 42 inches or 52 inches

Motor Features: Minn Kota’s trademark Digital Maximizer™ to extend battery life up to 5 times longer. Motor includes a heel-toe/cable steer foot pedal. The composite shaft is backed by a lifetime guarantee, and the motor also features extra-wide windings to cool down faster.

2 year manufactures warranty

Battery: Maxxum 55 12v/ 70 and 80lb models 24v

Available upgrades: Step up from the 55 lb to 70 or 80 pound thrust models.

Maxxum 55 has a hand control and shaft length of 52″

The choices that are available for Maxxum 70 and 80; either foot or hand control and 42 or 52 ” shafts. Digital Maximiser is an extra on the base models.

Ranging in size from 45, 55 to 70lb model. These are compact bow mounted and have foot controlled options. Note: Edge 45 and 55 models also offer a hand-control option.

Price guide: $360 -$1050 These motors are cheap but offer excellent value for price.

Recommended for: Edge 45 is recommended for smaller craft under 17 feet in length ranging up to 23′ for the largest model. 

Features: The latch and door bracket is one of the most important features here, and it secures the motor very well. The cable-steer, heel/toe control foot pedal is highly responsive, and the directional indicator delivers information at a glance. Power Prop™ to push through the weeds on the edge 45 model. All other sizes have a Weedless Wedge 2™ prop.

Water type: Freshwater only

Shaft length: Choose from 36, 45, 50 and 52 inches depending on motor size.

Motor features: One of the most important features of this motor family is the use of the composite shaft, which is guaranteed for life. Given this is a very affordable trolling motor, this is a boon. The motor is protected by a 2 year warranty, and the foot pedal features an ergonomic design for better comfort and usability. You also have 5 forward speeds and 3 reverse.

Battery: 45lbs and 55lbs 12v; 70lb 24v

Available upgrades: Edge 45 is the base model, but you can upgrade to the 55, or 70 for a bigger boat.

Part of the company’s wider Riptide line of saltwater tolerant trolling motors. Ulterra comes in 2 flavors – an 80 ST model with a 24-volt system, and a 112 pound setup with a 36-volt system. It also includes a 2 year warranty (as do most Minn Kota products).

Price guide: $3400- $7000

Recommended for: Medium sized craft where saltwater performance is a consideration.

Features: Saltwater-proof engineering protects the motor from corrosion. Features we’ve come to expect from Minn Kota – easy to stow and deploy, includes the i-Pilot system pre-installed for you, spot lock with jog, integrated battery meter to show charge so you don’t get caught out; conserve power with the Digital Maximiser™  providing up to 5x run time on a charge.

Water type: Freshwater or saltwater

Shaft length: Optional length combinations are available depending on whether you choose an i-pilot remote or i-pilot link remote. 112 lb 60″ or 72″ shaft with either  i-pilot remote or ipilot link remote/ 80lb 54″, 60″, or 72″ shaft choice with an i-pilot remote or an 80lb 60″ shaft with an i-pilot link remote.

Motor features: The composite shaft, carries a lifetime guarantee. There is also a sacrificial zinc anode to help improve saltwater resistance, and the i-Pilot system offers greater utility and value. In addition, a foot pedal can be ordered as an accessory,Weedless Wedge™2 prop

The whole motor is covered by a 2-year MinnKota warranty.

Battery: 80lb 24v; 112lb 36v 

Available upgrades: The base model offers 80 lbs of thrust, but you can upgrade to the 112 lb model.

‘cheap option for deck boats’

Purpose designed for pontoon boats and deck boats as evidenced by the 55″ shaft length. The bow mount design allows plenty of room for fishing from sides and back of boat. 

Price guide: $430 – $470

Recommended for:  Pontoon boat or deck boat

Features: 10 point LED battery meter to easily keep an eye on the remaining charge in the battery. 8 speeds – 5 forward and 3 reverse. 3 blade 10″ diameter prop. 66″ battery cable for plenty of reach. 2 year limited warranty

Water type: Freshwater or saltwater. Manufactured from corrosion resistance components. Eg stainless steel and fiberglass composite shaft.

Shaft length: 55 inches

Motor features: 30° tilting head with flexibility of 6″ telescoping handle.

Available upgrades: choose either 55lbs or 86lbs of power

Batteries: 12v lead-acid style deep cycle marine batteries with a rating of 50amp/hr at least. (86lb model –  2 x 12v batteries)

Run time guide: 50AH (amperage hour) powers 2 1/2 hrs at speed 3 or 1 hr at speed 5.

Note: Doesn’t fold down, so may be a consideration for you

Our view: This trolling motor gets some mixed reviews from customers. At the end of the day, if you’re wanting something to team with your 20ft deck boat it’s cheap, has a 2 year limited warranty and that might be all that’s needed.

quiet mover, easy deployment, remote control’

The bow mount Cayman trolling motor offers 55lbs of thrust. Even though this is only a 12-volt system, it offers plenty of life. And can be used in both fresh and saltwater.

Price guide: $590 – $700 depending on model & upgrades

Suitable for: Smaller watercraft, including aluminum boats and small fishing boats up to 2750 lbs. The maximum boat length recommended is 18ft. It’s a good option for long hours of use with lightweight crafts.

Features: A bow cradle mount that offers easy deployment via a foot pedal. Wireless operation within 150 feet of the motor with a remote is a handy addition so you can control the boat from the shore. Remote can be worn around your neck on a lanyard or attached to a belt and something you’ll appreciate when you’re fishing from the back of a bigger boat. Low noise technology keeps you running relatively quiet. Battery status indicator means that you can always tell what’s going on with a quick glance at the display (shows 3 levels).

Water type: Freshwater or saltwater (components are protected via sacrificial anode for corrosion resistance)

Shaft length: 48″ or 54 ” (aluminum alloy shaft)

Motor features: This motor offers some unexpected features. The remote control is one of those, but the hand control and foot-pedal, with 14.7 ft of cable, deployment system, are also nice additions. The shaft is adjustable to fit different boats and different user needs. The motor also offers a digital control that locks onto programmed coordinates and can even auto steer while traveling. (Note: It’s not Spot-Lock) 9.3″ x 3 blade prop. A 2-year warranty covers the motor.

Battery: 1 x 105AH deep cycle battery (not included in package)

Available upgrades: Cayman B 24v 80lbs

Downgrades: You can purchase this model without the wired foot control and quick release bracket

Footnote: We’ve noted that Aquos Haswing products generally are very well reviewed but there has an occasional challenge with customer support when there’s a problem.

This trolling motor offers good performance and plenty of thrust, as well as innovative, unique features that improve usability. A wireless trolling motor option from MotorGuide. 

Price guide: starting at $600 – $2,500, depending on weights and additions

eg 55lb models $1600; 80lb 45″ $1800, 80lb 54″;  $1840, 80lb 60″ $1850, 80lb 72″ $2000, 

Recommended for:  smaller to medium boats; deep V boats

Features: Advanced GPS functionality that allows pinpoint location precision. The freshwater model has a foot pedal as a standard inclusion, or use the wireless GPS system to automate it. Sonar is easy to connect. Note that the Xi5 wireless trolling motor can be configured with any size motor you might need, from 55 pounds of thrust, all the way up to 105 pounds of thrust.

Water type: Freshwater (saltwater models are available)

Shaft length: Choose from as short as 45″ or increments 48″, 54″, 60″ all the way up to 72 inches. depending on your boat size and the motor strength. Composite shaft is backed by MotorGuide’s lifetime warranty.

Motor features: A number of things make this motor stand out, including the easy to read LED battery check system and electric steer. The pedal that controls the motor is wireless (but it has been reported to be prone to moisture related corrosion). The shaft is made from a durable composite material, and the mount is low profile for better usability.

*Motorguide boasts their responsive steering has 50% faster steering rotation than competitors.

Available upgrades: This motor can be upgraded to any thrust rating from 55lb, 70lb, 80lb to 105lbs.

shaft lengths:

  • 55lb 48″, 54″
  • 80lb 45″, 54″ 60′, 72″
  • 105lbs 48″, 54″, 60″, 72″ 

MotorGuide offers a comprehensive product line with Pinpoint® GPS giving the functionality to jog, anchor, cruise control etc. Dashboard has inbuilt LED display notifications to check motor functions such as remaining battery life, power, prop activity, pinpoint GPS and to show remaining battery life.

Battery:

  • 12v for 55lb models
  • 24v for 80lb trolling motors
  • 36v for 105lb model

Saltwater

Xi5 model is available in saltwater options 55lb, 80lb 105lb

All the inclusions you’d expect wireless control or wireless foot pedal, Pinpoint® GPS, digital power management, LED dashboard

  • 55lb – 54″ shaft – 12v battery
  • 80lb – 48″, 60″ 72″ shaft – 24v battery
  • 105lb – 60″, 72″ – 36v

Price guide: 80lb 72″ $2,050, 48″ $1850, 60″ $1,860

Motor size guidelines

Boat weight determines how much thrust is needed. At least 2lbs per 100lbs of fully loaded (gear and people) boat weight. Factor in a little extra thrust if current and windy conditions are a concern.

Boat length Boat weight Thrust level recommended (lbs) Batteries needed
14ft 1,500 lbs or under 30 1x12 lb
17 -18 ft 2,000 lbs 40 - 45 1 x 12v
20 - 21 ft 2,500 lbs 50 - 55 lbs 1 x 12v
23ft 3,000 - 3,500 70 lbs 2 x 24v
25 ft 4,000 lbs 80 lbs 2 x 24v
25 ft+ 4,500 lbs or more 101 - 112 lbs 3 x 36v

Shaft length guide for bow mounts

Centre of the motor section should be submerged at least 12″. If the shaft is too short, the prop will not be submerged enough for proper operation.

To choose trolling motor shaft length for bow mounts

Measure from mounting surface of the trolling motor to water level. Centre of the motor section should then be submerged at least 12″. Note: If you’re fishing in rough waters add an extra 5″ to the bow to water line measurement.

  • If the shaft is too short the motor can cavitate (create bubbles) and become noisy.
Bow to waterline Shaft length recommended
0 - 10" 36"
16" to 22" 42 to 45"
22" to 28" 48" to 52"
28" to 34" 54" to 72"
34" - 44" 72"

Note: These are the guidelines as recommended by Minn Kota for their products.

Conclusion

Maintenance: It’s good practice to always thoroughly wash your trolling motor with fresh water after being in saltwater.

In the end, there is a trolling motor out there for every fisherman. Whether you prefer the name recognition of MinnKota, or want to investigate advanced wireless technology, like that available through MotorGuide’s motors, or the i-Pilot system, you’ll find a motor that will work for you.

Further resources

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