Can I Put A Trolling Motor On My Kayak?

Kayaking has been a very popular sport for many years, but in the past five years or so, it has blown up quite a bit more, especially for fishing. Kayaks used to be for extreme river rafters only, and required a lot of experience and learning to understand how to use one, and because you were basically locked in, a lot of training to flip yourself back over if you went under the water.

In today’s market though, kayaks have come a long way and are much more common out on lakes and ponds than ever before. For starters, they are much cheaper now, and have been made so you do not have to lock yourself in, you basically sit in an open cockpit, and if you do fall out, you can easily get away from the kayak to flip it back over.

So what does this mean for fishing? Well, it is very popular to fish from kayaks, and they have even made a TV show about fishing in the ocean for big fish on them.

The great thing about this is, it’s much cheaper than a typical bass boat, and you still can paddle out to deeper water and not be strapped to the shoreline. What if you are still wanting to go a little bit faster, and save your arms for pulling in a fish instead of paddling, can you mount a trolling motor to the back of your kayak?

So, Can You Put a Trolling Motor on Your Kayak?

You can absolutely mount a trolling motor to your kayak, and it is very popular to do so now days. There are even extra compartments in some kayaks that are just for a battery to operate the trolling motor.

Keep in mind that not all kayaks will allow for this, but most of them will, especially if you get a kayak that is specifically designed for fishing. You can check out an example of a great fishing kayak here.

Also not that it is not safe, or recommended to put a motor on the back of a stand up kayak, or paddle board. Even though it is very common, and popular to put motors on kayaks, it is also very important to stress safety first. Kayaks are not full blown boats, so they should not have anything larger than a trolling motor on them, and always wear a life jacket when operating one. Sheriffs, and other law enforcement can stop anyone on the water and check them for safety.

Will a Trolling Motor Mount Onto my Kayak?

The first thing you will want to check if you are serious about mounting a trolling motor, is to make sure the kayak you are going to buy has the mounts for it.

Mounting a trolling motor can be as easy as using the two pole holes in the back of your kayak, and putting a two by four board on it and mounting the motor to it, but you must make sure that the motor clears the kayak, and is not going to tear your propeller, or kayak apart or you will get stuck out on the lake with a sunk kayak, or torn up propeller.

You can find a trolling motor and mounting kit specifically for a kayak, and a great example is the Newport Vessel setup shown below.

Newport Vessels Kayak Series 36lb Thrust Transom Mounted Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor w/ LED Battery Indicator (24' Shaft)
1,355 Reviews
Newport Vessels Kayak Series 36lb Thrust Transom Mounted Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor w/ LED Battery Indicator (24" Shaft)
  • Kayak Shaft: 24-Inch Fiberglass Shaft Allows For Variable Depth Placement, While Offering A Lifetime Of Dependable...
  • Variable Speed: 8 Speeds (5 Forward & 3 Reverse) With 6-Inch Telescoping Handle Puts You In Total Control Of Your Ride
  • Saltwater Rated: Durable All Aluminum Motor Head W/ Corrosion Resistant Magnesium, Zinc, And Stainless-Steel Hardware...

As long as you have the right holes in your kayak, you should be able to mount a motor with ease, and about a couple hours? worth of work. You can easily test it because trolling motors are not water cooled, so you can just hook up your battery and turn the motor on.

NEVER, NEVER, EVER drill extra holes in your kayak just to make something fit, unless you are extremely well versed in making things water tight and have worked on boats before. If you drill a hole to custom fit something, you must make sure water is not going to rush in and sink your kayak with you and all your gear in it.

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Battery and Longevity Considerations

When deciding whether to mount a motor on your kayak, another question that might come up is what type of batter you might need, and how long you can actually run your trolling motor for before it actually dies.

Trolling motors take a 12 volt battery, with around 35 amps, and it is very important to get a marine battery, and not a normal car battery. The reason for this is that normal car batteries are designed to turn the motor over and that’s it. A trolling motor is going to require a deep charge battery like Mighty Max 12V shown below.

ML18-12 12V 18 AH SLA Battery - Mighty Max Battery Brand Product
5,094 Reviews
ML18-12 12V 18 AH SLA Battery - Mighty Max Battery Brand Product
  • Ml18-12 Sla Is A 12V 18Ah Sealed Lead Acid (Sla) Rechargeable Maintenance Free Battery
  • Dimensions 7 13 Inches X 3 01 Inches X 6 57 Inches Terminal Nut And Bolt Listing Is For The Battery And Screws Only No...
  • Compatibility Yamaha 700 Yfm7Fg Grizzly 2007-2015 Fm12180 Briggs Stratton Generator B4489Gs Champion Generator 9000 7000...

Another good thing to have is a water tight battery box that will keep your battery dry in case water does get in, or if you were to fall out of your kayak and it flipped upside down in the water.

A great battery box that includes a lot of extra features like a place to plug in a charger for your phone is the Newport Vessels Smart Battery.

Newport Vessels Trolling Motor Smart Battery Box Power Center with USB and DC Ports
3,993 Reviews
Newport Vessels Trolling Motor Smart Battery Box Power Center with USB and DC Ports
  • EXTERNAL BATTERY PORTS - Safely and easily connect your trolling motor or accessory to the battery ports without opening...
  • DUAL INTEGRATED CIRCUIT BREAKERS - Integrated with 10 Amp and 60 Amp circuit breakers to protect your trolling motor and...
  • DIRECT USB CHARGER AND ACCESSORY PORT - Provides one USB Charger and one 12V accessory port for convenient connection of...

This thing has all the buttons and bells, and will keep your battery dry and protected. The longevity of a battery really depends on how fast you go and for how long. To break this down you can think about the following for a trolling motor with five speeds:

  • Full throttle, Speed 5: You can bet that you will get about 2 hours of run time for full throttle no breaks.
  • Speed 4: You should average about 4 hours of run time.
  • Speed 3: You should average about 8 hours of run time.
  • Speed 2: About 12 hours of run time.
  • Speed 1: About 16 hours of run time.

Please take the above as an average, and depending on what motor you buy, these times could vary a bit, but all in all, if you run it the motor at about speed 3 or 4, you should be able to get a whole day on the lake or pond, no problem.

Is It Legal to Put a Motor on a Kayak?

Yes, it is legal to attach a trolling motor to your vessel, just like any other boat, but you must also follow all the normal boat safety laws. Just because it is a kayak, does not mean that you are not responsible for all boating laws because its smaller and a one person craft.

You normally do not have to show proof of ownership like DMV registration unless your craft is bigger than 12-14 feet, and has an outboard motor of 10HP or more, but you ALWAYS want to check with your state agency on their laws about this, as they can be different from state to state.

kayak fishing

This means that typically you do not have to pay registration, and do not need to have a sticker on the side of it, so yay for us anglers. Most of what I have seen is for fresh water, so if you plan to take a kayak out to the ocean with a motor, you will definitely want to check with your Motor Vehicle Office before you go out, so you do not get a ticket.

Is It Safe to Do?

Even though some kayaks are made differently, they are actually pretty safe to be on the water with, even with a trolling motor attached. There is a huge difference that I have noticed between a flat bottom kayak and a rounded, V shaped kayak, and so if you are planning on fishing, I would highly suggest that you get a flat bottom boat, so you are not trying to keep from rolling out of it while you are fighting a big fish on the line.

I have been kayaking for quite a few years, and have only rolled mine over a couple of times when I first bought it. I highly suggest that when you get a kayak, you take it out to your closest lake or pond, and test it out a few times so you get comfortable in it before actually attaching a motor to it. This will give you much more security and confidence when fishing with a motor if you know how to handle yourself in one first.

How Fast Will I Go with a Motor?

When you think about trolling motors, you have to think about thrust first, and not really speed. There are a couple different models of thrust, one being the 30 pound thrust motor, and the other is a 55 pound thrust motor, that are very common for almost all trolling motors. The max speed of a trolling motor is designed to go a top speed of 5 mph (miles per hour), and no more than that.

kayak fishing on rivers and lakes

The reason we have to think about thrust, is because the bigger your boat, the more thrust you will need to move it at 5 mph. It is very important that even though you are in a kayak, you do not torque the throttle down, and just stay at a safe speed for fishing.

Faster is not always better, so when looking to mount a trolling motor for your kayak, a 30 pound thrust motor should be more than sufficient to suite your needs unless you have a huge kayak loaded with a ton of gear.

In Summary

Kayak fishing is an awesome sport to get into, and they are very easy to store and move, and does not require a truck or SUV to get it to the lake. It has also become extremely popular in the last few years so pricing on extra stuff has gone way down and will not cost you an arm or leg any more. Please remember that safety should be first, so please do not go out there and MacGyver stuff just to get a trolling motor installed.

Spend the extra time and money on real mounts, and a solid foundation so when you do take it to the lake, you can keep your mind on fishing, and not if your kayak is going to make it back to shore. Always wear a life vest, and if you are going to drink, do it very responsibly, or you might be facing law enforcement on the water.

I have caught some big trout and large bass on a kayak because I was able to get to places where walking the shore was impossible, so you have a lot of added benefit of being on the water. Kayaks are also much cheaper than a full sized bass boat, so you will be able to save the money and still get on the water for a great day of fishing.

We would love to hear from you about your experiences with kayak fishing, so leave us a comment below and tell us how you have yours setup.

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