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A Trolling Motor for Pontoon Boat: Guide to Buying One

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Unless you’re a millennial or a Gen Z-er, chances are, a trolling motor is exactly what you think it is. Aside from its unfortunate naming, a trolling motor has found applications mostly in aquatic settings, such as pontoon boats. Now what is a trolling motor for pontoon boat, you might ask. Let’s get into it,

A Trolling Motor

Almost all boats, except for a rowing boat use some kind of an internal combustion engine to drive their prop shaft and the whole boat itself. These are the primary engines, one that a boat requires to move forward. A trolling motor, on the other hand, can be considered an auxiliary engine, a sort of an outbound backup engine that is primarily used for steering and direction, but can be used for thrust. A trolling motor is described as a ‘a self-contained unit that includes an electric motor, propeller and controls, and is affixed to an angler’s boat, either at the bow or stern’. While it can be used for propelling and thrusting the boat, a trolling motor is always used as a secondary, an auxiliary power source and is usually removed or made non-functional once the primary engine is running. It is a self-contained unit, as in that the motor can run without requiring any aid or installation. It has two uses,

  • Trolling motors for fishing. Used for this purpose, a trolling motor will be used as a secondary motor to power the rotors when extra power or thrust is required.
  • Trolling motors for steering purposes. An outboard trolling motor can also act as a precision-manoeuvring engine, used to steer a boat with increased accuracy and greater turning angles.

A Pontoon Boat

A pontoon boat is defined as a boat that uses float structures (buoyant bodies) to float on water, unlike conventional boats that use buoyancy as a structural element to float. A pontoon boat will always have two or more buoyant bodies underneath it that helps it keep afloat. Using the rules of reserve buoyancy in the pontoons (also called tubes) below the boat or any structure, for that matter, designers have managed to accommodate large payloads or even entire accommodation structures over a single buoyant tube. A pontoon boat uses the same concept and uses it float and stay buoyant, thereby making it much safer against capsizing incidents.

Buying a Trolling Motor for Pontoon Boat: The Basics

Buying a trolling motor for pontoon boat can be a difficult task, especially if you’ve just hit the retirement age that demands a boat for you to go for your favourite fishing spot. However, with this guide you can easily understand the difference between various engine configurations, their mounting points and which trolling motor best suits which pontoon boat.

  • Selecting a brand: For your first step of choosing a trolling motor for pontoon boat, you need to research and understand what different brands offer. One of the main two players in this market are MinnKota and Motor Guide. And as many people who buy these things pay heed to advices from fellow fishers or the retirement community, be sure to go with the best-rated piece of motor technology. Another thing to remember with both the competitors is that they both stay in close competition and follow each other with upgraded products. Don’t get fooled by one selling a higher-end model; both the companies bring out innovations almost together.
  1. Selecting mounting points/ installation: The first step to determine the model you’ll want is deciding where you’ll mount the trolling motor. Your main options are bow, transom (rear), or engine mount. There are benefits and drawbacks to each one, but if you’ll be doing any actual trolling (dragging your bait around the lake with the power of the motor) with your trolling motor then definitely pick a bow mount trolling motor.

Installing a trolling motor on a pontoon boat can actually be a bit tricky because many pontoon boats don’t have a front lip around the fence on the front of the deck. This means that there is no room for the trolling motor to be mounted without modifying the front gate. This leads some pontoon boat owners to choose an engine mount for install convenience, but it’s worth the trouble to install on the bow.

  1. Length of the shaft: When you pick the model of trolling motor out at the store, you’ll need to choose a shaft length. On most boats, it’s not difficult to make the right choice. On a pontoon boat, it’s a bit trickier because of the high deck of pontoon boats. You probably want a 60″ (152.4 centimetres) trolling motor shaft for your pontoon boat.
  2. Thrust of trolling motor for pontoon boat: Do not skimp out on power. It’s the #1 way to regret your trolling motor purchase. Pontoon boats are large and do not have the hydrodynamics of a V-hull boat, so it is advised going as strong as you can.

The traditional calculation for choosing the amount of thrust you need is to divide the total weight of your boat in pounds by 100. Then take the result and multiply it by two. So, a typical 22′ pontoon boat loaded with gas and gear and a couple people will be around 3,000 pounds, which after the formula would mean you need a 60-pound thrust trolling motor. However, the rule of thumb calculation above isn’t suitable for most pontoon boats due to the hydrodynamics. Most boat owners would be happier with a 65, 70 or even 80-pound thrust trolling motor. Coupled with a 24v or 26v (2 or 3 battery) system, you’ll be trolling like a king.

Best Trolling Motors for Pontoon Boat

  1. MinnKota Terrova 80 Bow-Mount Trolling Motor- with electric steer, LCD screen.
  2. MotorGuide Xi5 Wireless Trolling Motor- with 3x precision control, corrosion-resistant construction and 80lbs of max torque.
  3. MinnKota Riptide 80 ST Saltwater Bow-Mount Trolling Motor- with composite shaft, pre-installed iPilot and a two-year warranty.
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