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Buyer's Guide: The Best in Brushless Trolling Motors

New technology offers added efficiency, more power and a host of upgrades to keep anglers on fish.

Buyer's Guide: The Best in Brushless Trolling Motors

New brushless trolling motor technology offers anglers advantages in power and efficiency. Pictured: Garmin Force Kraken. (Photo courtesy of Garmin)


Trolling motors have come a long way in the 90 years since O.G. Schmidt used the starter from a Model A Ford to build the first in his garage, located near the border between Minnesota and North Dakota. That company became Minn Kota, of course, and spawned a number of other names now widely known among anglers: Garmin, Lowrance, MotorGuide, Power-Pole and Rhodan.

The 2024 crop is especially significant because many motors have made a quantum engineering leap to produce more power on less current. They’re “brushless” motors, greatly reducing friction and thus adding efficiency. They’re quieter and last much longer than traditional designs. Bass, muskie and walleye anglers will find they can fish multiple days without recharging, especially if they team the new motors with high-output, lightweight lithium-based batteries.

Many of the new motors are also designed to function on far larger boats. Some bow-mount designs have shaft lengths up to 108 inches long—that’s right, a full 9 feet. This allows them to be used on 45-foot offshore boats designed to chase snapper, grouper and even marlin and wahoo.

Most of the new-generation motors are pricey compared to their predecessors, costing from $3,500 to more than $6,400. Good whiskey costs money, as they say. But they do so much more and promise to remain so much more dependable that many anglers will find them a good investment that can be amortized over many years of service. When choosing a new trolling motor this spring, it’s smart to look beyond price because all the well-known brands will last through many years of hard service. Here’s a look at some of the top options.

LOWRANCE

trolling motor
Brushless technology prevents the Lowrance Ghost from interfering with on-screen sonar performance.

The Lowrance Ghost series trolling motors, designed for bass and walleye anglers, are available in 47-, 52- and 60-inch shaft lengths to fit a variety of boats. The company says the brushless motor generates 25 percent greater thrust than equivalent competing models and delivers 45 percent longer run times on the same charge, which represents nearly one additional day of operation. Max output with 36 volts is 120 pounds of thrust.

The brushless design cuts noise and ensures greater reliability and longer life. Lowrance says the Ghost emits no electromagnetic interference, giving anglers the clearest sonar views possible with zero on-screen interference.

trolling motors
Lowrance Ghost series trolling motors

Users can steer, adjust speed, set up route navigation or anchor at a current location with touchscreen control from a Lowrance display. The Ghost pairs with Lowrance sonar and GPS units via NMEA 2000 connection. The foot control has fly-by-wire steering, which the company says has the feel and speed of a cable-steer motor, lasts longer and can be customized to suit the preference of the user. A FOB-type remote is also included to allow control from anywhere in the boat. lowrance.com

GARMIN

man fishing at sunset
The Garmin Force Kraken comes with shaft lengths up to 90 inches and offers 100 pounds of thrust in the 36-volt version.

The Force Kraken series offers 63-, 75- and 90-inch shaft lengths, and is rated at 80 pounds of thrust in the 24-volt version and 100 pounds of thrust in the 36-volt version. It’s a brushless motor, which Garmin says makes it quieter and also far more energy efficient, as well as longer-lasting.

The motors wirelessly integrate with Garmin chartplotters, allowing an angler to plot a course on screen for the motor to follow without any added input. This is a huge advantage for walleye and musky anglers trolling the edge of a weedbed or reef, as well as for bass anglers working ledge contours. The Kraken’s “anchor lock” feature can keep the boat in one spot using saved GPS coordinates, a big plus for anglers wishing to hold position against wind or current.




trolling motor
Garmin Force Kraken

It can also be great for offshore snapper and grouper anglers, since they no longer need to handle hundreds of feet of anchor line to maintain position over a wreck or reef.

While the Force Kraken motors can be controlled by a remote handheld unit (that floats), they can also link to Garmin smartwatches for control. The foot control has adjustable tension steering settings. The motor also has an improved top-end cable management system, with the cable wound closely around the head of the motor. garmin.com

MINN KOTA

trolling motor
The power stow, deploy and trim features of the Minn Kota Ulterra (pictured) and Riptide Instinct Quest make motor management as easy as pressing a button.

The top-of-the-line Riptide Instinct Quest saltwater motor delivers 90 pounds of thrust on 24 volts and 115 pounds on 36 volts. It has all the bells and whistles including auto stow and deploy, and power trim to adjust prop height at a touch—a big advantage in choppy seas. It’s perhaps the most expensive troller on the market at about $6,100 for 100-inch shaft models.

Recommended


For freshwater use, the Ulterra brushless series is similarly capable and includes power stow and deploy as well as power trim. It comes in 45-, 60- and 72-inch models, priced from about $4,200 to $4,500.

Both series have multiple auto-navigation modes including one that takes the boat in a circle, allowing forward-scanning anglers to deliver lures from every angle as they ease around targeted fish. Other modes follow depth contours, bottom composition or weed lines automatically.

trolling motor
Minn Kota Instinct Quest trolling motor

The controlled-drift mode adjusts for wind and current to maintain a selected drift angle and speed. The motors also have a “go-to” mode—just tap the screen of your Humminbird GPS, and it takes the boat to that spot.

The top-of-the-line models have a Humminbird transducer already built into the lower unit. That means no wires, no clamps and a transducer producing clear 3D sonar returns with the appropriate Humminbird sonar and GPS. Composite shafts have a lifetime replacement guarantee. minnkota.johnsonoutdoors.com

MOTORGUIDE

trolling motor
Motorguide’s Zero-G lift-assist system on the Tour series motors cuts the effort required to stow the unit in half.

The Motorguide Tour series runs on 36 volts and produces up to 109 pounds of thrust. The motors link with most GPS systems for navigation, anchoring and drift, and the Zero-G nitrogen lift-assist system requires only half the effort versus competitors’ assist mounts. The Tour is more affordable than some competitors, too, at about $3,000 for a 45-inch-shaft version.

trolling motor
Motorguide Tour trolling motor

The Xi5 Wireless is available in shaft lengths to 72 inches and power to 105 pounds of thrust. Both saltwater and freshwater models are available. They are GPS capable and offer an optional built-in sonar puck.

MotorGuide also introduces a 36-inch-shaft motor, the Xi3, specifically for kayaks. The lightweight design and SecureStep system make it simple to stow and deploy the motor, even in a seated position. It’s a 12-volt model with 55 pounds of thrust and includes available Pinpoint GPS functions like anchor, heading lock, route record and more. motorguide.com

POWER-POLE

trolling motor on boat
Power-Pole builds its Move motor with a titanium shaft for increased durability.

Power-Pole, the company that originated the automatic shallow-water anchor now seen on thousands of bass and flats boats, introduced the Move positioning motor at ICAST last summer. It’s a brushless motor with an electronic circuit spinning the armature that drives the propeller. It’s the only motor with a titanium shaft, assuring lifetime durability.

The system is whisper-quiet, and the company notes it has more thrust with less current use. Power-Pole says the Move gets 30 percent more thrust on a given amount of energy or 30 percent greater efficiency. The motor has Anchor Mode to lock on a spot and can also maintain a heading despite changes in wind and current, with no input from the user, which might be of use when working a weed line, for example.

trolling motor
Power-Pole Move trolling motor

The Move system can be linked to compatible Lowrance and Simrad multifunction displays for remote touchscreen control. The underside of the Move motor’s housing on the ZR series also has an option for a built-in plug-and-play sonar transducer to display on a Lowrance multifunction display. The motor can also be controlled by smart devices via the ProNav app. Move motors produce up to 100 pounds of thrust and are available in 45-, 52-, 60- and 72-inch lengths. Prices start at about $5,000. power-pole.com

RHODAN

trolling motor
The 36-volt Rhodan HD GPS Anchor+ generates a whopping 120 pounds of thrust for controlling larger boats in offshore conditions.

This Florida company is a regional favorite among coastal anglers, particularly for its ultra-long-shaft options, maxing out at 108 inches. Its HD GPS Anchor+ motors might also be a good fit for Great Lakes salmon anglers as well as for those who fish off the Pacific Coast.

trolling motor
Rhodan HD GPS Anchor+ trolling motor

The 36-volt model produces 120 pounds of thrust, allowing it to power boats that previously were considered too large for trolling motors and to hold position in offshore wind, waves and currents.

The motors integrate with a variety of GPS systems to allow positioning and drift control, and have a lift-assist mount to provide easy deployment. Price is around $5,000 for the largest models. rhodanmarine.com

Mulling Over Motors

Four things to consider before buying a new model

  • Thrust: The maximum power available will rarely be used, but it’s a mark of the likely performance at lower settings. There’s no point in putting a giant 100-pound-thrust model on a 16-foot aluminum crappie rig, but you’ll need that power for walleye fishing on the Great Lakes.
  • Shaft Length: A longer shaft allows keeping the prop deep enough to avoid cavitation in rough water. Boats with high bows require more shaft length to do this correctly. Consult your boat dealer for what will work on the waters you fish most often.
  • Navigation: All high-end motors now offer GPS control, allowing you to lock onto a particular location without any added input—a huge advantage, but also one that adds cost.
  • Service Reputation: Everything mechanical will eventually have issues. Check the company’s reputation for solving problems quickly before you part with your hard-earned cash.

  • This article was featured in the February 2024 issue of Game & Fish Magazine. Click to subscribe.

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