Getting an electric trolling motor for your inflatable raft or dinghy is a great upgrade. It makes boating fun for the family, and fishing trips much easier.
Choosing an engine to power your inflatable boat can be very difficult though. A lot of motors have features that are appealing, but there is no way of knowing which claims are true unless purchased and tested. In these cases, regret and buyers remorse will emerge.
We’ve put together a thorough guide on everything you need to know about electric trolling motors to help you in deciding which one is the perfect engine for your SIB.
Most Reliable Trolling Motors
First of all, let’s have a look at the products I can recommend to anybody looking for a strong, reliable motor.
There are 2 companies in 2020 that fit the bill, if you have experience with other manufacturers please leave them in a comment:
- Newport Vessels
- Minn Kota
Let’s have a look at the motors these companies make, along with their specifications.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand the detailed specs just yet, I’ll go over what you need to be mindful of below.
Newport Vessels Trolling Motors
Newport Vessels manufactures a series of great-value electric motors. They are a reliable company, not a cheap far-east alternative. This means that their motors are covered by a 2 year guarantee and are serviceable in case something goes wrong.
These electric motors are plastic encased, which makes them light, thus easy to move around.
Here are the specifications of each, which will be followed by a review.
|55 Pound Thrust X-Series||55 Pound NV Series||62 Pound NV Series||86 Pound NV Series||86 Pound L Series|
|Weight||23 lbs||23 lbs||23 lbs||25 lbs||25 lbs|
|Battery meter||10 point LED||5 point LED||5 point LED||5 point LED||10 point LED|
|Propeller||3 blade||3 blade||3 blade||3 blade||3 blade|
|Handle/tiller||6″ extension & 30° tilt||6″ extension||6″ extension||6″ extension||6″ extension|
|Max amp draw||52 amps||52 amps||58 amps||48 amps||48 amps|
|Water compatibility||Freshwater & seawater||Freshwater & seawater||Freshwater & seawater||Freshwater & seawater||Freshwater & seawater|
|Battery||One 12V deep cycle||One 12V deep cycle||One 12V deep cycle||Two 12V deep cycle||Two 12V deep cycle|
A quick note on how long the shaft length should be: long enough to immerse the propeller 6 inches into the water while you can still comfortably control the tiller.
If the shaft is too long and the propeller is down too deep, you will have control issues and possibly flip your boat over. Conversely, if the shaft is too short, the propeller will not be fully immersed in the water when running.
Newport Vessels 55 Pound Thrust X-Series Motor
The Newport X-Series Saltwater Trolling Motor is a 55 lb thrust electronic engine built with 5 forward speeds and 3 reverse speeds. It’s made from stainless steel, suitable for use in both fresh and salt bodies of water.
The shaft is made from fiberglass, and has a length of 36”. It also uses a transom mount constructed with strengthening nylon. The handle is designed to extend up to 6” and tilt up to 30 degrees upwards and downwards. Its propeller has 3 blades and is 10” in diameter.
This trolling motor is suitable for watercrafts like fishing boats, kayaks, tenders, and SIBs with a transom.
The motor works best with a 12-volt marine or deep-cycle battery, but you will have to purchase it separately.
Newport Vessels 55 Pound Thrust NV Series Motor
The 55 Pound NV Series Electronic Trolling Motor has an exterior of stainless steel infused with zinc properties that can make it resistant to corrosion.
Despite its remarkable thrust power, the engine hums quietly while operating. The motor also features 8 speed levels – 5 selections for forward speed and 3 for backwards.
Its shaft is constructed with fiberglass that sizes up to 30” in length. It also has a telescoping handle with a firm grip, and a 5 point LED battery indicator.
The motor works best with a 12-volt marine or deep-cycle battery, but you will have to purchase it separately.
Newport Vessels 62 Pound NV Series Motor
This NV Series Electronic Trolling Motor has a powerful thrust of 62 pounds.
It has a nylon mount and a 36” fiberglass composite shaft.
It has a standard 8 speed controls, with 5 forward and 3 reverse speed selections. It features a firm-grip telescoping handle that can extend up to 6” in length.
The motor has a 3-blade propeller.
The battery requirement is a 12-volt marine or deep-cycle battery to be purchased separately.
Newport Vessels 86 Pound NV Series Motor
The 86 Pound NV Series Electronic Trolling Motor has a stainless steel housing, which makes it suitable to use in freshwater or saltwater bodies.
The motor also features 8 speed levels – 5 selections for forward speed and 3 for backwards.
Its shaft is also composite fiberglass that sizes up to 36” in length.
It also showcases a telescoping handle with a firm grip, and a 5 point LED battery indicator.
The battery requirement for this trolling motor is two 12-volt or one 24-volt marine or deep-cycle batteries, but you will have to purchase it separately.
Newport Vessels 86 Pound L Series Motor
The L Series Electronic Trolling Motor has an 86 thrust power than can provide enough juice to push a mid-size boat. This trolling motor is nicknamed the “big daddy” of electronic motors.
Like other Newport Vessels, it also features 5 forward speed and 3 in reverse and a 3-blade propeller.
It also has a stainless steel exterior. The shaft, however, has a 6” aluminum grip and is a whopping 40″ in length.
To power this heavy-duty engine, you will need two 12-volt or one 24-volt marine or deep-cycle batteries.
Minn Kota Trolling Motors
Minn Kota is another quality manufacturer of trolling motors. Their motors are priced below the same thrust motors of Newport Vessels, which only adds to their appeal.
This is not a Far-Eastern company either. The name Minn Kota comes from MINNesota – Noth DaKOTA. This was heart of fishing country back in the 1930s when the company was founded.
The company is great at supplying parts to their products as well, which is reassuring with a purchase like this.
These motors come with a 2 year warranty, which just goes to show you that they are confident in the quality of their product.
Minn Kota Endura C2 Transom Mounted Trolling Motor
The Minn Kota Endura features a lever lock bracket that acts as a sturdy mount.
It also boasts a virtually indestructible composite shaft of various lengths based on what you buy (30″, 36″, 42″). It is resistant to flexing, warping, rusting, and UV damage.
Minn Kota also has large windings that offer cooler operation and extended battery life.
This trolling motor has 5 forward speeds and 3 reverse speeds. The handle has a tilt twist tiller telescopic design that provides the ultimate hands-on control for speed and steering.
These motors require a 12-volt battery.
The only negative to the Minn Kota Endura line is that they are meant for freshwater use.
Can you use Minn Kota Endura motors in saltwater though? I think if you can rinse the motor with fresh water after each saltwater use, you’ll be fine. Try at your own risk though, as it is not recommended by the manufacturer and voids the warranty.
What Size (Strength) Trolling Motor Do You Need?
If you have gotten this far in the article, you will no doubt be asking yourself this question.
Strength in trolling motors is measured by the amount of thrust they are able to generate. The more thrust coming from the motor, the stronger it can push the boat forward.
However, this does not translate directly into speed.
How fast can an electric trolling motor move an inflatable boat?
Electric trolling motors can propel an inflatable boat at around 5 MPH maximum, not faster.
The speed you can reach is not linear to the thrust of the trolling motor, or the number of trolling motors you have mounted on a boat. So for example, mounting two 55 lbs motors will not move your boat 2x as fast. Nor will an 86 lbs thrust motor move your boat 1.5x faster than a 55 lbs one.
There is a considerable price increase with electric motors though. An 86 lbs one will cost much more than 55 lbs one.
When do you need a motor with 86+ lbs thrust?
The only reason to get a really strong trolling motor is if you have a larger boat or big payloads.
Save your money if you have a smaller boat and not much gear.
Small motors are too weak though
I would not recommend getting a motor with less than 50 lbs thrust.
The reason is that a small 30 lbs motor is not able to propel 2 people against wind. Even a 50 will struggle if you have 2 people + a considerable payload.
When you’re out on a larger lake, wind can pick up in an instant. If you’re far from shore, you will have real problems with a small motor.
How long will an electric motor run?
When a trolling motor is used, it drains battery power. The amount of battery power drained is determined by the thrust it is generating.
This means that the more thrust you are applying, the shorter your battery will last. This is evident.
To calculate exactly how long your battery will run your electric motor, you need to know:
- your motor’s amperage draw,
- your battery’s amperage hour (Ah) rating. Ah is the amount of current the battery can supply for a certain period of time.
To understand amperage hour (Ah), let’s look at an example. A 100 Ah battery is one that would be able to supply 50 amps of power for 2 hours, or alternatively, 25 amps for 4 hours. Or all 100 amps in 1 hour.
If you know how many amps your electric motor draws at a given speed setting, and you know your battery’s Ah, you can quickly calculate how long the battery will run the motor.
Battery types for electric trolling motors
All electric trolling motors need a battery to run. There are 3 main types of batteries you can buy to power your motor:
- Lead Acid – Lead Acid Wet Cell batteries have lead insulated plates floating on liquid acid, which are placed in separate chambers. Nowadays, these batteries are used less and less because it can sometimes pose danger when mishandled. They are highly sensitive to cold temperature and have a tendency to release flammable gasses. When stored and used improperly, they also tend to spill acid. Not recommended.
- Sealed AGM – Sealed AGM batteries are more powerful than their Lead Acid counterparts. They will not spill, and resist shocks and vibration. They do not require heavy maintenance either.
For these reasons, AGM batteries are becoming a favorite pick among boaters.
- Lithium-Ion batteries – Li-Ion batteries are the latest model of battery that has been introduced to the market. They have a high amp-hour to weight ratio compared to other types of batteries. These batteries are lightweight and fast-charging. They also have a high amp output. With these kinds of features, it’s probably the best type of battery in today’s market; unfortunately, they do cost a lot. They are twice more expensive than any AGM or Lead battery. Some motor manufacturers do not recommend using Li-Ion batteries with their motors though.
Under normal use and care, a battery should last between 3-5 years. When it finally fails, do not throw it into the trash can, as it is toxic. Batteries need to be recycled.
Calculating your battery requirements
Before buying a battery, there are 2 things to consider.
- The voltage
- The amp output (Ah – amperage hour)
Voltage is easy enough, it’s either 12 or 24. Trolling motors up to 60 lbs thrust usually require a 12V battery, while larger motors will need a 24V battery.
Amperage hour (AH) is a bit more complicated. As we have already learned, AH stands for amp hour, which measures the amp output of a battery in a definite number of hours.
From this number, you can calculate your battery requirements. For example, a motor that needs 5 amps will last 40 hours if equipped with a battery with 200 amp hours.
In simple terms, you have to consider the battery’s capacity to run your motor for a long time during its operation.
Here are various batteries of differing amp hours that I can recommend for your trolling motors. They are all AGM marine batteries, meaning they won’t short if they get wet. Useful feature out on the water 😉
35AH – DCM0035 Interstate Marine Battery
Power: 12 V 35 AH
Size (Lx W x H): 7.68 x 5.16 x 6.14
Weight: 23 lbs
This sealed AGM battery by Interstate has 35 AH. It comes with a detachable handle.
It weighs around 23.1 lbs. It also has a battery charge indicator represented by 3 lights that glow when connected to a charger. It is best used with a trolling power center and a portable battery charger.
55AH – Mighty Max Trolling Motor Battery
Power: 12 V 55 AH
Size (L x W x H): 7.68 x 5.16 x 7.13 inches
Weight: 38 lbs
This battery is a sealed deep cycle AMG battery with 55 AH.
It can be mounted in any position and has 1-year warranty. The carrying handle is integrated into the body, you just need to flip it upwards.
100AH – VMAX MR127 Trolling Motor Battery
Power: 12 V 100 AH
Size (L x W x H): 7.7 x 5 x 6.1 inches
Weight: 65 lbs
VMAX features a sealed AGM deep cycle battery with 100 AH. It is an all-around battery that allows accessories and turns into a battery kit.
It is a high-performing and trust-worthy battery. The only downside is that it’s a little expensive compared to other batteries.
This is a group 27 battery, meaning it fits perfectly into the MinnKota power center.
Tip: Here are a few ways you can extend the life of your battery:
- Wipe the connectors of the battery regularly. Dirty/wet connectors can lead to battery discharge even when the battery is idle.
- Don’t fully deplete your battery. Recharge it before it is completely empty.
- Never leave a battery uncharged for months. Remember this in the off-season as well.
- A larger 24v or 36 v motor can provide the same amount of thrust as a smaller motor, but with less amperage draw.
Do you need a power center (battery box) on your boat?
Inflatable boats do not have a dedicated battery compartment, and having an exposed battery in your boat out on open water is not a good idea (even though AGM batteries can get wet without any problems arising).
This is why they invented the battery box, also known as the power station, power center.
The role of the battery box has developed over the years to provide safety and comfort out on the water. The best power stations have:
- Visual battery meters
- External battery ports, so you can connect your battery to the motor or the charger without opening the box
- Integrated circuit breakers to protect your motor from electrical damage
- USB chargers to charge your phone
- 12V port for any accessories you have
My main battery box is this MinnKota power center. It has worked well for the last 3 years without any issues.
I used to have this power station by Newport Vessels, but it just stopped working after a few months. It comes with a 24-month warranty, but I just returned it. First the battery meter, then the USB charger, then the whole thing. It’s a shame, as the MinnKota doesn’t have the USB charger. Maybe mine was a dud, since looking at Amazon, it has 4 stars out of 5, so most people like it.
Do you absolutely need a power station to go boating? No. Nothing will happen to AGM marine batteries if they get moderately wet.
There are several types of chargers you can use to charge your batteries and to keep them charged when not in use.
- On-board chargers – This type of charger has to be connected to a battery even when it’s not charging. It also needs to be linked to an AC Power Source to charge. It can be further classified into three types:
- Precision chargers – It is a standard on-board charger that has the fastest charging time.
- Digital control chargers – This charger is similarly designed to a precision charger, but has less power than one.
- DC alternator chargers – This type of charger allows it to draw power from boat’s alternator aside from the usual AC power source.
- Portable Chargers – Unlike on-board chargers, this type of charger is lightweight and only requires to be attached to a battery when in need of a charge. You can quickly remove it once the battery is full.
If you only have an inflatable boat battery to be charged, you just need a portable charger. On-board chargers are built into traditional boats.
Before you buy a charger, there are a few things you need to be mindful of.
- Bank Capacity – Bank capacity refers to the number of batteries that the charger can power. A single bank will only have enough to power up one battery; a double bank will have enough power to charge two batteries, and so on and so forth.
- Amperage – This refers to the time a charger can fully charge a battery. A charger with 15 amps offers the fastest charging time, while 5 amp-chargers are the slowest.
Here is a guide of how long the charging time is per designated charger amperage:
- 15 amps = 3 to 5 hours charging time
- 10 amps = 4 to 6 hours charging time
- 5 amps = 10 to 12 hours charging time
Here are a few great chargers.
Ampeak 2/5/15A 12v smart charger
This nifty device can charge your boat’s battery pretty quickly, thanks to its 15 amp charging rate.
But what I really like about it are the smart features:
- winter charging
- LCD display
- 6 step charing program for optimization of battery power
The downside is that it only has 1 bank, so if you have more than 1 battery to charge, this might not be ideal.
Minn Kota MK 110PD 12v 10A
This portable charger is a bit simpler, but will do the job just fine.
This is a pretty smart charger as well. It has:
- automatic temperature compensation
- microprocessor-based control
- LED indicators to inform you of the charge state
- automatically controls the voltage and current
This charger also has a 5 amp version, the MK 105PD.
NOCO Genius G7200 12-24V 70A charger
If you have a larger thrust motor, you will probably have a 24v battery. This charger can handle it.
The NOCO Genius comes in several amp output versions: 7.2, 15, 26. All 3 have 12 or 24V charging capability.
This is a very high-quality charge. It comes with a 5-year warranty and has a multitude of advanced features:
- totally automated battery maintenance
- optimized charging
- can be used with 12V or 24V batteries
All 3 of the chargers above are good choices.
Maintenance of Electric Trolling Motors
To keep your electric motor running as long as possible, you need to take good care of it.
Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your motor and battery.
Electric trolling motor maintenance tips:
- Rinse trolling motor with water after every use, especially saltwater trolling motors.
- Inspect your propeller after each use. Debris and seaweed can sometimes get stuck on it and will need to be removed.
- Routinely clean and lubricate the composite shaft. Consider lubricating any exposed metal parts of your motor as well. This can help prevent corrosion, especially in saltwater trolling motors.
Trolling motor battery maintenance tips:
- Keep your battery in full charge while in storage.
- Make sure your battery is not drained of power when disconnecting it from the motor.
- To clean corroded battery terminals, use baking soda and water.
- Coat battery terminals with petroleum jelly after cleaning to prevent it from corroding.
- Do not expose your battery to cold temperature. Store it away especially during the winter season.