12 Volt Trolling Motors: A Guide to Choosing & Using Them
Trolling motors have developed extensively over the last few years. No longer are they small engines only designed to propel the boat at trolling speeds.
Now, with the advanced models, they can be programmed to act as an anchor, to troll along a preset route, and in some cases, to provide underwater views.
At a Glance:
1️⃣ Trolling motors are sold in two configurations, bow mounts or stern mounts.
2️⃣ It is important to select the optimal motor to suit your boat and your fishing activities. Just as important, but possibly less exciting, is the need to select the most suitable battery for the trolling motor.
3️⃣ The motor should be used strictly in accordance with the guidelines provided by the manufacturer, and all safety precautions should be followed.
4️⃣ Several problems sometimes occur, including the propellor fouling, the battery developing issues, and problems with the electrical components on the motor. Each of these is relatively easy to correct.
The rest of this article will explore each of these in deeper detail so that you’ll be up to speed on your modern 12V trolling motor knowledge. Let’s get into it!
🚤 Overview Of 12-Volt Trolling Motors
With the many trolling motor options available, it is easy to become overwhelmed when trying to select the optimum trolling motor for your boat.
Trolling motors are available in several different battery voltage levels, including 12-volt, combination 12/24-volt, 24-volt, and 36-volt configurations.
Gas-powered outboard motors are rated in horsepower, and electric outboard motors are rated in kilowatts. To make life less simple, trolling motor power ratings are measured in pounds of thrust.
The main factor (apart from the trolling motor size) that affects the trolling motor thrust is the voltage of the battery that is used. A motor that accepts a 36-volt battery is more powerful than one running on a 12-volt battery.
As a general rule, the higher the thrust, the better the trolling motor. It is better to have more power on hand than to be left to the mercy of strong currents.
Most boaters work on having 2 lbs. of thrust for every 100 lbs the boat weighs when loaded. In this article, we will restrict the content to 12-volt trolling motors.
📋 Types Of 12 Volt Trolling Motor
There are two main categories of trolling motors – mounted on the bow and stern (transom).
Transom Mount Trolling Motors
Transom motors are mounted at the stern of the craft and are usually steered with a hand tiller. Transom-mounted motors are best suited for smaller boats, dinghies, and canoes.
Bow Mount Trolling Motors
It is much easier to pull a boat along a specific course than to push it. Pulling allows the bow to be turned, and the rest of the boat will follow along.
It is also easier to push the bow sideways than it is to push the stern.
Because of this, a bow-mounted trolling motor provides greater directional control than a unit mounted at the stern.
Pros And Cons Of Each Type
Bow-mounted motors provide the greatest control and allow quicker more precise maneuvering.
As the bow-mounted units are superior, the only reason to opt for a stern-mounted trolling motor is if the shape of the bow makes it an unsuitable location.
A stern-mounted trolling motor is rarely located in the center of the stern, and therefore its thrust line is never straight ahead and will always push the boat offline.
✅ Choosing The Right Size Trolling Motor
Several factors need to be considered when selecting a new trolling motor.
The Trolling Motor Output
As discussed earlier, it is safer to err on the side of a trolling motor with too much power instead of too little.
Running a more powerful motor at half speed is safer than an inadequately sized engine screaming at full power and still not providing the necessary control.
Using the rule of 2 lbs. of thrust for every 100 lbs. of loaded weight, a boat weighing 2,300 lbs. will need a trolling motor producing at least 46 lbs. of thrust. Models meeting this requirement include the following.
|Minn Kota||Ulterra||80 Lbs.||12v, 24v|
|Motorguide||Xi5 Wireless Trolling Motor||55 Lbs.||12v|
The Trolling Motors Shaft Length
The correct shaft length must be chosen. If the propellor is not deep enough in the water, two problems may occur.
If the propellor is too near the water’s surface, it may cause cavitation.
The Hull May Block The Waterflow To The Propellor
If the hull blocks the flow of water to the trolling motor propellor, it will restrict its output and reduce its effectiveness.
Bow-mounted motors have the greatest variation in shaft length requirements.
The propellor should be in at least 12 inches of water. If the boat is being used on rough waters, add 6 inches to this length to cater to any wave action.
🔋 Battery Considerations
Once you have selected the most suitable 12-volt trolling motor, it is time to choose the optimally sized battery.
The Batteries Technology That Can Be Used With 12 Volt Trolling Motors
Any commercially available deep-cycle batteries can be used to power a trolling motor, including:
- Lead Acid Batteries
- Absorbent Glass Matt (AGM) batteries.
- Gel Cell Batteries Hydrogen batteries
- Lithium-Ion Batteries
How To Choose The Most Suitable Battery For Your Trolling Motor?
The battery is rated in volts and amps. Volts indicate the power available, and the available amp hours are the maximum that the battery can discharge in one hour.
If the battery is rated at 200-amp hours, it means that it will produce 200 amps for one hour and will then be discharged.
Assuming the trolling motor consumes 200 amps at full power, it will have the following endurance from a 200-amp hour battery.
|Top speed||1 hour|
|Half speed||2 hours|
|10% speed||10 hours|
Tips For Extending The Life Of Your Battery
To ensure the trolling motor battery lasts for as long as possible, it must be cared for and used within the manufacturers operating parameters.
How To Store The Battery
Always store the battery in a fully charged state, attached to a trickle charger. Make sure that the storage space is clean and dry and that there it is not subject to large temperature variations.
If you fail to recharge a lead acid battery within twenty-four hours, damage may be caused.
Keep The Battery Clean
Always clean the terminals and ensure there is no corrosion present. If you notice battery corrosion, this can be removed with baking soda, water, and a brush to keep a good connection.
While periodically cleaning that battery to ensure there are no electrolyte leaks.
The following is a list of general principles relating to battery care:
- Never mix different battery types in the same circuit.
- Never mix batteries with different voltages in a circuit.
- Never allow the terminals to be shorted.
- Place a circuit breaker into the circuit to protect the battery from damage.
- When not in use, disconnect the battery from the motor circuit.
🎣 Using Your Trolling Motor
Using a trolling motor is very easy. The throttle control may be on a hand grip or a peddle interface.
Similarly, the direction changes are made using the tiller or via the pedal. The pedal is pushed up and down to steer the motor.
By pushing the toe of the foot pedal down, the motor will turn right, and pushing the heel of the pedal downturns the motor left.
Several safety considerations should be exercised:
- Always ensure the water is deep enough to prevent the trolling motor propeller from grounding.
- Never use the trolling motor with anyone nearby in the water.
- Keep electrical connections clean and dry.
- If the trolling motor propellor becomes entangled in a net or other obstruction, first clear the problem before proceeding. If you don’t, you will risk the motor overheating.
- When the motor is in the stored position, always ensure that it is tightly attached and cannot lift up when the boat hits rough water.
- Always wear safety goggles when working on the electrical connections at the battery.
Tips For Operating Your Trolling Motor Effectively
To operate the trolling motor effectively, try the following:
- Never use more thrust than is necessary; this will ensure that you do not discharge the battery too fast and have sufficient range for the day.
- If you use the trolling motors anchor facility, don’t do so in very strong currents as this will use more battery capacity.
- Use a separate battery (or series of batteries) to run the trolling motor compared to powering the main engine.
🔧 Maintenance And Troubleshooting
Maintain the trolling motor and correct any maintenance issues promptly. It will help to extend the life of the unit. Maintenance items to check and resolve include the following:
- Ensure the space behind the propellor is clean, and there is no debris restricting movement.
- Check that the Trolling Motor Prop Drive Pin is in place and secure.
- After use, clean the trolling motor and its individual parts.
- Keep the Shaft of the trolling motor clean and lubricated.
- Check the security of the mounting bolts and tighten them as necessary.
- Remove the battery when not in use.
- When in use, check and tighten battery connections.
- Always maintain the batteries at full charge when not in use.
- Check all of the cables (electrical and mechanical) for bends, kinks, or damage.
Common Issues That Can Arise With Trolling Motors
The most common problems experienced with trolling motors are listed below:
- The battery is not accepting a full charge. If this is a lead acid unit, it is a natural aging issue that happens at the end of the battery’s life (3 – 4 years.)
- The prop shaft is fouled with old fishing lines, seaweed, or other debris.
- The motor brushes are worn (does not affect brushless motors) and need to be renewed.
- The electrical components have git wet or otherwise damaged.
- The wiring connections have become corroded, and contact has been impeded.
I’ve covered issues on many popular models, such as the Lowrance Ghost, Garmin Force, the MotorGuide TP, and Minn Kota, if you are interested.
🔑 Key Takeaways
Let’s recap on this comprehensive description of 12-volt trolling motors with the key points.
1️⃣ Trolling motors are available in bow-mounted and stern-mounted configurations, each with unique advantages.
2️⃣ When selecting a motor, consider thrust, shaft length, and voltage based on your boat and fishing needs.
3️⃣ Choose optimal battery technologies, like AGM, gel, or lithium, and calculate amp-hours for sufficient runtime.
4️⃣ Prioritize safety, efficient motor usage, regular maintenance, and addressing common issues to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience on the water.
How Long Will A 12V Battery Run A Trolling Motor?
The range of a 12volt battery provides a trolling motor depends on the following variables:
- The amp hour rating of the battery.
- The amps are consumed by the motor.
- The throttle setting.
What Is The Highest Thrust 12 Volt Trolling Motor?
The Minn Kota Terrova will accept a 12-volt or 24-volt battery. At the different battery sizes, it produces the following thrust levels:
- 12 volt – 55 lbs.
- 24 volt – 80 lbs.
- 36 volt – 112 lbs.