Choosing a Trolling Motor – Most Important Factor

The trolling motor and its batteries are the two most important pieces of equipment on a bass boat. Proper selection means many days of fishing without frustration.

Always select a trolling motor with more pounds of thrust than you think you will need. It will run more efficiently and the batteries will last longer.

I see this mistake often and anglers then regret the decisions they made. 

Popular Sizing Chart for Trolling Motors

Boat Weight (In Lbs)Recommended Minimum Thrust (lbs of Thrust)Batteries Needed
1,500 or less301 Battery (12v)
2,00040-451 Battery (12v)
2,50050-551 Battery (12v)
3,000-3,500702 Batteries (24v)
4,000802 Batteries (24v)
4,500 +101-1123 Batteries (36v)
Please note, the middle column says MINIMUM recommended.

Most sizing charts that you will find across the Internet will suggest 2 lbs of thrust for every 100 lbs of boat weight. 

What I find interesting, is even though you can purchase trolling motors for bass boats with over 100 lbs of thrust, most charts I have seen never get that far.

That should inherently tell you there is a problem.

Always Buy The Most Pounds Thrust You Can (That Will Work on Your Boat)

My boat originally came with a 46-pound thrust trolling motor. It was a 12v system.

I hated it. If the slightest breeze showed up I had to run the motor on high to make any headway at all. Not only was this inefficient, but it drained the batteries incredibly fast. 

If I fished a river with current, I was literally dead in the water. I had to drift with the current. As a bass angler, you know that is the worst thing we can do when fishing rivers. Bass face into the current and casting up into it and letting our lures work back with the flow is much more effective.

I upgraded my boat to an 86 lb thrust motor and the benefits are amazing.

Under normal fishing conditions, I can run the motor on 20-30% power. This makes for a cooler motor, less strain, and much more battery life. And when I do need the power I have plenty. 

The wind kicks up? No problem.

Fishing heavy current? No problem.

Need to maneuver quickly for safety? No problem.

The new boat I am looking at is significantly heavier than my current bass boat. It comes standard with an 86 lb thrust motor. Nope. I am upgrading to the 110 lb thrust immediately. Trying to save money with an underpowered trolling motor is always going to end in a lot of frustration.

When fishing rivers, like the Mississippi in the above photo, it is important to work into the current.

Why I Mentioned (That Will Work on Your Boat)

Depending on the size of your battery compartment, and your budget, there may or may not be room to store the extra battery needed to upgrade your trolling motor.

Lithium batteries give us a lot more options as anglers, but they are still quite pricey. Lithium batteries can be mounted in any direction and do not have a liquid that will spill all over. They are also lighter than traditional lead-acid batteries and have a much longer draw-down life. 

If your battery compartment is cramped for space, lithium may be the way to go.

Lithium batteries also give you the option to buy a single 36-volt battery – no need for three. This is also a tremendous option if space is limited. 

Choosing the Correct Onboard Battery Charger for Your Bass Boat

A quality onboard battery charger will give you many more years of battery life and less worry when you go to step on the pedal for a day of fishing.

A good onboard system will not only charge your deep cycle batteries, but it will monitor them, draw them down when needed, and then recharge them for maximum life and efficiency.

I have used the Minn Kota Precision charger for many years now and highly recommend it. I am not sponsored by Minn Kota so this is a completely unbiased suggestion. It works great.

Amps Output and Per Bank Rating for Onboard Chargers

 Chargers will be listed as having a certain number of banks and amps per bank. These are two important factors to consider.

Bass boats are rigged with trolling motor batteries and then a starting/cranking battery for the big motor.

A boat with a 12v trolling motor will have two batteries. One for the trolling motor and one for the big engine to turn over. A boat with a 24v trolling motor will have three total batteries, and a 36v system will have a total of four batteries in the boat.

(Lithium batteries are changing this somewhat. There are single lithium batteries that can be 24v or 36v. Make sure to match your charger to the batteries you have.)

If you have two total batteries in the boat, a two-bank system is what I suggest. A three-bank for three batteries and a four-bank system for four batteries.

(Here is an article on the types of batteries you can buy for your boat.)

Amp Ratings on the Charger

You may see onboard chargers that say something like 2-bank/20 amps. This means that each of the two banks is charging at a total of 10 amps each.

Other manufacturers will list their products in the per-bank amperage. 

Just be aware that you want to know how many amps per bank.

I could buy a three-bank charger that is 6 amps per bank, 10, or 15.

All of them work, but the 15 amp per bank charger will top the batteries off much faster than the 6. 

There can be a significant price difference between the lower amp-rated chargers and the higher ones, but if you can afford it, I suggest getting the higher amp-rated charger. I am so glad I did.

You’ll Never Regret Having Too Much Power With Your Trolling Motor

There are few things as frustrating for a bass angler as not having enough power.

It is extremely nice to fish the upper Mississippi River and never have a problem with the current. Not only have I caught many more bass because of fishing the current properly, but I have also kept my boat from getting banged up on riprap shorelines when wind or boat current is pushing my rig right into it.

Your Equipment Will Last Longer

It is hard on a trolling motor to be running at 80-100% power all the time. 

The motor itself can overheat and trip fuses or breakers. I have even seen wires get so hot that connections fail.

It is also likely that you will run out of battery if you are constantly pushing the maximum your trolling motor can handle. 

I recommend the most pounds thrust you can afford for the same reason I suggest buying the maximum rated outboard for your boat. 

Having the power doesn’t mean you have to use it. Therefore your equipment will be more efficient and not fail as often. It is truly a win-win situation.

Let me Tell You a Little Story About Trolling Motors and a Dealership

I still can’t believe this.

I was browsing through a popular boat dealer and dreaming about new rigs. I came across a 20ft fiberglass bass boat. It had a 46 lb thrust trolling motor sitting on the bow. I was shocked. 

I thought that there is no way the trolling motor was actually fixed to the boat, it had to be just sitting there. I tried to move it. Nope. It was affixed.

Whoever bought that boat was going to be frustrated to the point of anger. That motor was so undersized for that rig I couldn’t believe it. My 18 ft aluminum bass boat originally came with the same motor and I switched mine out because it was so underpowered. 

Be safe out there and make sure to encourage someone today. You never know how you may change their life forever.

Isaiah 6:8 

Steve Rogers

Steve spends his time filming and writing about bass fishing. You may even see him in your area. If so, stop and say "hi."

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