How to Mount a Trolling Motor on a Kayak

Whether you want to free your hands for kayak fishing, garner faster speeds, or even stop disturbing the fish while paddling, installing a trolling motor on your kayak is sure to tackle all those issues.

There are many types of trolling motors for anglers, and most kayaks only accommodate battery-powered motors. That said, you can also find trolling motors that run on fuel (diesel or gasoline) and kayak trolling motors that operate on remote control (it’s rare to find an electric motor or electric outboard motor mounted on a kayak).

Freeing up your fishing hands means you’ll typically have to use some sort of foot control most of the time. Provided you’re good at following instructions, mounting a motor is an easy process if you follow the steps below.

Mounting a Trolling Motor on Your Kayak

Before proceeding to put up your motor, you’ll need to get a few accessories:

  • bolts and nuts;
  • a drill; 
  • a compatible propeller; and
  • a flat mount.

If you’ve gathered your tools, follow these steps.

1. Choose Where You’ll Mount Your Trolling Motor

There are three safe locations for you to put up your kayak trolling motor:

  • the stern (the rear end);
  • the bow (the front end); and
  • the gunwales (the upper edge).

There’s no one place that’s the best out of the three, but if you want to control the trolling motor without much hassle, mounting it on your gunwales is best as it’s close to where you sit.

That said, this also means that one side of your kayak has more power than the other side, though most anglers adjust to this with time. 

When mounted on the stern or bow, however, your kayak will move in a straighter direction. You may have some trouble operating it as it’s likely that it will be a bit far from your reach.

2. Choose the Right Motor Mount

There are several motor mounts for kayaks in today’s market. 

Some mounts require rod holders, some don’t. Most mounts are specifically designed for certain parts of a kayak i.e., a motor mount for the stern, the bow, or the gunwales of the boat.

When buying a trolling motor mount, make sure that it’s for the right location. For example, don’t buy a mount designed for the stern when you want to put up your trolling motor on the bow.

The second thing you should ensure is that it’s compatible with your kayak. If you don’t know how to tell, ask the seller at the store to help you out.

The worst possible scenario is buying an incompatible trolling motor mount designed for a location you didn’t intend to put it on.

3. Install Your Propeller onto Your Trolling Motor

The mounting bracket isn’t the only thing that needs to be compatible with your motor, your propeller should be too. 

It’s likely that your trolling motor didn’t come with one. This is because propellers are more sensitive to shipping damages than trolling motors.

Everything you need to install it is in the kit when you buy it, and the process depends on your type of propeller. Generally, though, it’s always a simple process of tightening the prop nut with the propeller and then attaching it onto the motor.

4. Mount Your Trolling Motor

Depending on where you prefer to mount a trolling motor on a kayak, you’ll need to drill some holes on the surface. If your mount is designed for the gunwales, you don’t drill into the hull as it’s likely to come with clamps you can use to fit it onto the edge of your fishing kayak.

If you want to put up your mount on the stern or bow, however, you’ll need to drill some holes and, using some bolts and nuts, secure your trolling motor in place. Once again, your mounting kit is likely to provide you with more information on how to properly do this.

Your holes need to be watertight and to do this, you’ll need to apply some sort of liquid sealant. You’ll also notice that you need to secure your trolling motor onto a kind of pin on the mount.

This pin allows you to raise the motor when in certain parts of the water. Make sure that it’s secure enough before testing out your new trolling motor.

5. Build Your Steering Linkages

As mentioned, installing trolling motors onto the stern or bow results in a near inability to control the boat as those locations are far from where you are seated—not what you want when you fish.

To make it possible for you to operate your boat, you’ll need to carry out some extra work by building steering linkages on the location you’ve placed your trolling motor. The setup allows you to operate your boat using your feet while freeing up your hands.

One thing to note here is that you can only build this setup if the fishing kayak already has foot pedals to accommodate it. 

For sit-inside kayaks that don’t, stick to installing your trolling motor on the gunwales. Even though your hands won’t be as free, remember that a motor doesn’t require anywhere near as much energy as a paddle.

For kayaks that already have a skeg or rudder, simply replace this with your trolling motor. 

Locate the steering linkages on your stern and remove the fittings designed to hold your skeg in place. When done, safely take it out.

You then need to attach a couple of metal eye bolts to the shaft at the height of your linkages. Make sure that the steering linkages are not too tight to the point of restricting movement; make sure they’re not too loose either.

Test out your kayak on land and see whether this works before trying out some hands-free fishing.

6. Connect the Kayak Motor to a Marine Battery

Unless you have a remote-controlled motor, it won’t function without wiring it to the deep-cycle marine battery. To do this, open the cap of your kayak trolling motor and locate the two wires you’ll need to connect to the battery. 

Black is almost always the negative wire with red signifying a positive terminal (check the instructions just in case).

Take your wires and simply attach them to the battery. When done, confirm that everything is in place and take your motorized kayak out for a test drive on the shore.

Remember to bring a paddle just in case anything happens to the watercraft.

What to Consider Before Buying a Trolling Motor

There are three things you should prioritize before mounting a trolling motor on a kayak:

1. Battery Power

Make sure that you’re aware of the needed voltage (V) and storage capacity (mAh) of your kayak motor battery. The former tells you how much power your motor will generate, while the latter tells you how long your trolling motor will last.

A good kayak motor battery generates enough speed and energy but also exceeds expectations in lasting power. 

While it’s always advisable to check with the seller at the store, it’s even more advisable to do your research beforehand—you might come home with an expensive trolling motor while you could’ve got a cheaper one with the same (or better) features.

2. Size

This covers not only the size of your motor but the weight of your fishing kayak. 

Don’t get a kayak motor that takes up needless space on your boat. This brings about imbalance when fishing on your battery-powered boat.

You should also keep an eye on the shaft of the trolling motor. When fishing in shallow waters, long shafts on boats amount to more harm than good.

With kayaks, they should weigh enough to accommodate you, your gear, and your trolling motor. If you’re only 20 pounds shy of equaling the weight of your kayak and you just got a 40-pound motor, buy another motor or start looking at larger kayaks.

3. Thrust

Thrust is the power needed to move a kayak in a certain direction. It’s measured in pounds.

Getting a kayak motor with a good thrust rating ensures that the speed and power generated accommodate the total weight.

Two pounds of thrust moves 100 pounds of weight. This is an easy way to check if the thrust advertised on your trolling motor fits the total weight of you, your gear, the motor, and the kayak. 

As you can’t be too sure about weight, it’s always safe to add some extra pounds on the final number just for precaution.

Do I Need a DMV Registration for My Kayak?

Because your kayak is not human-powered anymore (for the most part, at least), you may or may not need to register your kayak with your state. A simple answer on whether or not to do this is to check the state regulations for anglers like you.

If you find that you need to register your kayak and don’t, you might get hit with some hefty fines along the way.

Conclusion

Mounting a motor to your kayak is a simple process for experienced anglers. If you’ve just got a new kayak and are not familiar with the fundamentals, you have a bunch of information around you to help you with the process e.g., the instruction manuals and tutorials like this one.

Set aside a weekend and work on your kayak at a safe speed. When done, you can say goodbye to sore paddling arms and hello to more productive kayak fishing trips where you can actually fish in peace.