Looking to improve the outcomes of your next fishing trip? It might be time to cop a trolling motor. These motors are often considered some of the most effective motors for fishing because of how they let you mimic the speed and movement of live fish. What’s more, trolling in general will let you cover more water than any other fishing method. The result? More fish, of course.
If your inflatable boat didn’t come with a trolling motor out of the shop, then you might have to buy one after sales. But because there are a ton of options out there, it might be tough to zero in on the best trolling motor for inflatable boat use. And that’s exactly why we’ve put this nifty guide together.
How Are Trolling Motors for Inflatable Boats Different?
The obvious difference between trolling motors for inflatable boats versus those designed for other vessels is that they deliver less thrust. In general, inflatable boat trolling motors won’t have to push too much weight over the surface of the water. So they can manage with relatively low thrust ratings versus motors designed for bigger boats like standard pontoons.
Another thing is that they’re pretty small. The shaft itself won’t have to be too long since inflatable boats tend to sit pretty close to the water’s surface. Plus, since you can’t permanently fix a motor to your inflatable boat, these trolling motors can easily be dismounted and tucked away for storage or transport.
How to Work Out the Right Size
As the old adage goes, bigger is better. And the same goes for trolling motors. Generally speaking, you’re going to need 2lbs of thrust for every 100lbs of boat weight including your gear and yourself. But most experts will tell you to err on the side of caution, and crank it up by at least 2.5lbs of thrust for every 100lbs of weight.
This should provide you enough power to push you through choppy waters, strong currents, and other environmental factors that could make it tougher for a weaker, smaller motor to operate through.
How to Choose the Right Trolling Motor for an Inflatable Boat
Feeling overwhelmed? That’s totally understandable. There are way too many choices on the market, so finding the right trolling motor for your inflatable pontoon boat might not be too obvious at the get-go.
To help you land the right choice, see to it that you consider these factors when choosing the appropriate trolling motor for your inflatable boat:
Again, we’re getting into thrust, and that’s because you can’t really talk about trolling motors without dissecting the topic of thrust. If you’re not quite sure what thrust is, it’s basically the propulsive force of your motor. Thus the more thrust it has, the more easily it can push your boat across the water - even in tough conditions.
Let it be known though that more thrust does not equal more speed. Trolling motors, by design, are intended to propel your boat through the water at average speeds of about 5mph. So regardless of whether you’ve got 50lbs of thrust behind your boat or less than 30lbs of thrust, you’re going to go at pretty much the same speed.
The importance of thrust therefore is not to help you run faster. But to make it possible for you to navigate tough water conditions without overworking your motor. More thrust allows your trolling motor to operate without a hitch in choppy waters or strong winds, or to push greater weight across the water.
Again, the general rule is that you should have at least 2 to 2.5lbs of thrust for every 100lbs of weight, including any supplies or people that might hop on your inflatable boat during your trip.
Unlike outboard motors that use gas to operate, trolling motors need a battery. And just like the trolling motor itself, batteries come in a wide selection that might make the process of picking and buying a bit confusing. Fortunately, it doesn’t really have to be as technical as most sources brandish it to be.
In general, you will need a 12-volt trolling motor battery for virtually any trolling motor you get for your inflatable boat. Keep in mind though that if you’ve got more thrust, you might need more than just one battery especially if you’re planning to stay out on the water for a longer period of time.
It’s also equally important to remember that trolling motor batteries will add significant weight to your watercraft. So if you’re packing two or three batteries, it would be wise to factor in their weight and see how they might affect the performance of your motor.
You might think that your motor’s propellers just need to get below the surface of the water and you’re in the clear. But it’s actually more complicated than that. A motor that’s too close to the surface or too deep beneath the water can pose a performance threat and may even cause your trolling motor to fail all together.
Before you buy a trolling motor, it’s of vital importance that you check how long its shaft needs to be to optimize performance. Here’s a quick guide to help you decide:
Measurement from Transom to Waterline
Ideal Shaft Length
0 to 10 inches
10 to 16 inches
16 to 20 inches
Over 22 inches
Consult a specialist
There are three different ways to mount a trolling motor. The first is the stern trolling motor mount, which would obviously mount at the back of your boat. They’re great for people who don’t want a lot of hassle during the installation process. Stern mounting motors are also the cheapest across the board.
Bow Mounting Motors
This is attached to the front and may be a little more expensive but they’re easier to control. And since the bow typically doesn’t have a flat surface to install a motor, you might have to install a plate first before you can securely attach your trolling motor.
Engine Mounted Trolling Motors
These work best for inflatable boat owners who might already have an outboard engine in place. This lets you switch between your outboard motor or your trolling motor with greater ease, making your vessel more versatile and responsive to its surroundings.
There’s more than one way to control a trolling motor. Some of the come with a foot pedal that can definitely work better for anglers who want to free up their hands. But while they can be easier to use, they also slow down reaction times especially when you need to respond quickly to changing currents.
Hand controls are more intuitive and let anglers steer their boat with more efficiency and precision. They’re great for boaters who might be a little older or slower, since they make it easier to respond to potential dangers and obstacles. The downside of course, is that you’re going to have to free up your hands to use them.
Which one is better, you might ask? Well, it’s really a matter of preference. Neither of these choices are inherently better than the other. So taking your pick depends solely on which one you think would work best for your taste.
A motor that meets your needs and preferences for the previously mentioned criteria should be more than good enough. But if you find that you want to add convenience to the package, then you can try looking for a motor with a few added features. These can include:
Of course, these are all optional. But if you’ve got the extra money to spend and you want a trolling motor that can really bump up your fishing experience, then these added features might not be a bad idea.
The Best Trolling Motors for Inflatable Boats
Available in 36, 46, 55, 62, and 86lbs of thrust, there’s bound to be a NV-Series Trolling Motor by Newport Vessels for your inflatable boat. Often considered the best trolling motor for an inflatable pontoon boat, the highly efficient motor provides maximum propulsive power without generating too much noise, so you won’t have to worry about scaring fish away.
Designed with a telescoping tiller handle, this motor sits on a 30 inch shaft, making it perfect for inflatable vessels that perch close to the water surface. It comes with 8 speed settings, 5 of which are forward and 3 are backward. It also touts a 5 LED battery meter that tells you exactly how much power you have left before you need to head back to shore.
Complete with a three blade propeller, this pick provides optimal performance that keeps your boat moving at a top speed of 4mph. We’re also happy to report that it comes with a 2-year warranty to cover your purchase against a variety of malfunctions and defects you might encounter during use.
This bow-mounting trolling motor makes its mark with an intuitive i-Pilot remote control. The intuitive feature lets you operate your trolling motor with the push of a button, optimizing speed, direction, and more from the comfort of your hands. It also features an impressive Spot Lock feature that uses GPS functionality to remember your place on the water.
This feature keeps you locked in your spot, perfect for when you find a lively area to catch fish. Plus, the controls also feature what the brand calls Digital Maximizer that lets you fine tune your propulsion so you can optimize your pace and keep your boat moving at just the perfect speed.
Developed for freshwater environments, the Riptide PowerDrive also comes with a foot pedal for more versatile performance. Oh, and did we mention it comes with an indestructible composite shaft that can add years to its usable lifespan?
The portable Watersnake ASP Saltwater Trolling Motor is a lightweight machine weighing a mere 4.85lbs. Offering up to 24lbs of thrust, this compact unit is perfect for solo anglers who want to effortlessly and efficiently propel their boat over relatively calmer waters.
Complete with a 24 inch shaft, the Watersnake ASP touts an incredibly sturdy yet simple design, allowing intuitive operation for beginners and amateurs. Offering eight different speeds, you can be sure the Watersnake will adapt to your environment and reduce any disturbance that might scare fish away.
Lightweight, easy, and simplified, the Watersnake ASP makes a great choice if you’re looking for something that won’t cost a fortune, but won’t disappoint out on the water either. Bundled with 1 year warranty, this trolling motor promises exceptional, reliable performance for all those trips out to your favorite lake or river.
Now here’s a motor with power. Touting a thrust rating of 55lbs, this monster of a trolling motor also features a 48 inch shaft. Designed specifically for bigger inflatable boats, or even small fishing vessels, this pick comes with both foot and hand controls for versatile and adaptable performance.
The variable speed feature lets you zero in on the perfect pace so you can operate rough waters or cruise effortlessly through calm lakes. The ultra silent motor also does its part to make sure you don’t scare any fish away as you discreetly pass through the waves.
For added convenience, the trolling motor features an easy mount release feature that lets you remove the motor without too much effort. This allows boaters to dismount the entire unit for storage or transport, perfect for fishermen who don’t want to spend too much time setting up and packing away.
Here’s a trolling motor that just uncomplicates your business. The Minn Kota Edge Bow-Mount Trolling Motor lets you control your boat effortlessly with a foot pedal that attaches to the motor via a discreet motor. Its latch and door mount also extend convenience by allowing installation and removal within mere seconds.
Just like the rest of Minn Kota’s line up, this trolling motor features an indestructible shaft that withstands the elements and the typical wear and tear you might experience on rough waters. Most of its parts are constructed from extruded, anonized aluminum, paving the way for no-nonesense strength that you can rely on.
Other Things You’re Going to Need
If you thought you just needed to buy a trolling motor, there are actually a few other accessories you might want to consider buying to complete the package. Keep in mind that some of these might be optional, but even then, having them around can make a major difference in the way you enjoy your fishing trips.
Portable Battery Charger
You can have a trolling motor and a battery in hand, but without a charger, you’re a sitting duck. A portable battery charger lets you juice up your motor so you can enjoy extended hours of fishing at your favorite spot. Some choices, like the Amazon Basics Battery Charger, can be pretty affordable for penny pinching anglers.
But if you want something that designed for marine use, you really can’t go wrong with the Minn Kota On-Shore Portable Digital Marine Battery Charger. Aside from the fact that it comes equipped with indicator lights for more intuitive use, comes with an automatic temperature compensation feature that prevents overheating.
The last thing you’d want exposed on a wet, moist boat would be a live battery. That spells trouble for even the most experienced anglers. So a battery box becomes a no-brainer. Minn Kota’s Trolling Motor Battery Power Center protects your battery against water damage, preventing potential accidents.
But more than that, it also features a built-in battery meter with 4 LED lights to let you know your power status at a glance. Terminals for charging also sit on the exterior of the box, and connect directly to your battery so you won’t have to open the box and risk moisture exposure whenever it’s time to charge.
As a rule of thumb, most manufacturers will toss the mount in with the motor itself so you won’t have to worry about buying one after sales. But then again, there are other motors that require preliminary preparations, like bow-mounted motors.
If that’s the case, you can ask the manufacturer if they sell the part you need in order to provide a stable spot on your boat for your motor to mount. Otherwise, you can check online for mounting hardware and essentials that are almost always universal.
A trolling motor can significantly improve your fishing gains, so make sure you cop one for your inflatable. But watch out - there are tons of options on the market making it easier to choose a motor that might not match exactly what you’re looking for. Not quite sure which one to get for your boat? Our list of the best trolling motors for inflatable boats should steer you in the right direction so you can buy a motor that won’t let you down.