How to Mount a Trolling Motor on a Canoe

Canoeing with a trolling motor has a lot of benefits, and are very easy to install and learn to use. Using a trolling motor helps provide the comfortable, relaxing, and stress free experience of fishing, all while giving the best access to the best spots for fishing.

To mount a trolling motor, you need to:

  1. Know what mount and motor that is needed for the canoe
  2. Decide where the mount and motor need to go (stern, engine, or bow)
  3. Screw in and secure the mount
  4. Attach and secure the motor
  5. Test the motor in the water

There is more than one location to put a trolling motor, so the steps vary depending on where you want to put your motor. There are different types and sizes of motors, so make sure you know what you want ahead of time.

Mounting a Trolling Motor

Mounting a trolling motor on a canoe is such a smart decision, especially if you are an avid fisher. Rowing can take a lot of energy out of you.

Putting on a motor is not too difficult. You can put the motor on the bow, engine or the stern. The steps for each are different, so let’s break it down.

Mounting a Bow Motor

Bow mounts are most popular with serious fisherman. Bow mounts and motor provide way better control than a transom motor, because it pulls the boat through the water, rather than pushing it.

Bow mounts and motors often have more options available and offer a larger set of features. However, they are harder to install and they take up a lot of room. A flat deck is needed for it to rest on, and they are more expensive than transom motors.

To mount a bow motor, make sure that the mount base can fit the motor comfortably. Make sure that the base is placed with enough space for the motor to break away from the base (if it is a breakaway motor) and where the mounting screws will penetrate the deck but not the hull.

Mark the holes as they are to be drilled onto the deck. Make sure to use the mount base as your template. Then drill the holes about 1/4 of an inch deep and clear out the debris. Then thread a bolt through each hole in the mount base.

Put a washer on each bolt, underneath the mount base. Then, place the mount base into the holes. Make sure that the base is level to the deck and then thread a steel washer onto each bolt. Finally, as always, make sure that the motor and mount are secure.

This trolling motor should be at least 5 inches below the water. However, if you fish from a standing position while running the motor, the motor should be at least 12 inches deep in the water.

Mounting an Engine Motor

Engine mounted motors are mounted to an anti-cavitation plate on an outboard engine. These motors simply provide thrust, while the boat is steered from the outboard motor.

Engine mounted motors are best for multi-purpose boats and they save a lot of space. The motor is underwater while the engine is off and comes out when the boat is on full speed. However, engine motors are much harder to control and they don’t have a lot of features.

To mount an engine motor, place the bracket on the anti-cavitation plate with the motor up. The anti-cavitation plate is the horizontal plate above the propeller.

Mark holes on the anti-cavitation plate using the mount as a template.

Remember to use a sharp drill bit to pierce the metal of the plate. Then, place the mounting bracket on top of the anti-cavitation plate and insert the mounting bolts. Again, make sure that the engine motor is secure before using.

The anti-cavitation plate should be at least 13 inches in the water so that the motor will run 6 inches deep when in use.

Mounting A Transom (Stern) Motor

Transom motors are more popular with smaller boats and they are easier to mount than a bow motor. They attach to the stern of the canoe with a clamp. Transom motors also don’t take up a lot of space, and they are a lot less expensive.

Transom motors are often the preferred choice for canoes because canoes are generally smaller boats. However, transom motors have less precise control and they have fewer options available.

To mount a motor on the transom is simple.

Firstly, turn the clamps counterclockwise to open them, then make sure that the motor is placed as close to the center of the stern as possible. Once placed turn the clamps clockwise as far as they will go to secure the motor.

Sidenote: Transom motors should be mounted so that the center of the motor section will be about 9 inches under the water. Otherwise, the motor will poke out from the surface of the water and create noise, which will spook the fish.

What Are Trolling Motors?

A trolling motor is a small electric motor that is used on canoes when fishing. Trolling motors help guide a canoe through the water quietly so that they don’t scare away the fish.

Motors come in 12 volts, 12/24 volts, 24 volts, and 36 volts. Higher voltage means that there is higher power rotating the propellers.

Unlike outboard engines, which are measured by horsepower, trolling motors are measured in pounds of thrust, and the higher the thrust, the higher engine power. So a 12-volt motor would only put out about 40 pounds of thrust versus a 36-volt motor putting out 100 pounds of thrust.

Depending on what motor is best for the canoe and for the buyer, the motor could either run on batteries or on gasoline.

How Does a Trolling Motor Work?

A trolling motor consists of three parts: The motor, the propeller, and the controls.

The Motor – Again, the motor comes in sizes of volts, and the higher the voltage the higher the power, and most people always want more power. And for avid canoers more power means less stress and less work.

The motor is always sealed in a waterproof compartment at the end of the shaft. As the motor is being used it is submerged in water, which will keep it from overheating.

The Propeller – Most everyone knows what a propeller looks like. If not, it is located on the bottom of the shaft of the motor. Depending on the motor, a propeller can have 2 long and skinny blades or 3 to 4 short and stubby blades that turn and push the canoe through the water.

Controls – There are usually 3 types of controls on a trolling motor: Hand controls, Foot controls, and Wireless controls. Of course, each set of controls has pros and cons, which can help a canoe figure our what is best for them.

Hand Controls:

  • They are easy to use
  • They attach to the canoe with one clamp
  • Least expensive option


  • They always require the use of one hand

Foot Controls:

  • Both hands are always free


  • It can be difficult to coordinate steering and speed
  • They require a certain bracket to attach to the canoe

Wireless Controls:

  • They’re wireless! Nothing gets in the way!
  • Both hands are free
  • They’re easy once you know how to use them


  • They are difficult to learn how to use
  • They are the most expensive motors

Of course, picking the motor that is best for the user and the canoe is all part of the process. Always pick whichever works the best for you.

Why You Should Use A Trolling Motor

There are a lot of great reasons to have a trolling motor on a canoe.

  • More fishing – Trolling motors allow for more time to fish and relax.
  • Less paddling – Trolling motors take away the need for constantly paddling the canoe. It allows canoers to get from one place to another quickly, allows them more time to fish, and allows them to experience less fatigue.
  • Safety precaution – If anything ever happens that a paddle is lost or not onboard, a motor is a great thing to have.
  • Quiet – The motor is quiet and moves the canoe through the water without a lot of noise which doesn’t disturb or scare away the fish.

What to Look For In a Trolling Motor

There is a lot to consider when thinking about purchasing a trolling motor. Purchasing the wrong motor can cause a lot of problems. Make sure to take into consideration these aspects of a canoe before purchasing a motor.

Size of the Canoe – The size of the canoe plays a crucial role in what motor to buy. Motors are not ‘one size fits all’. The larger the canoe is the larger the motor it will need.

Freshwater/Saltwater – This is a crucial detail that most canoers overlook. Many people ask whether or not they can use a freshwater canoe in saltwater. The answer is no!

Saltwater motors are specifically designed to keep away corrosion. The motor is created with stainless steel and sealed electric parts which help to prevent corrosion.

Using a freshwater motor in saltwater will quickly corrode the motor, which will make it completely useless. It is perfectly fine to use a saltwater motor in freshwater, but the other way around is a lot trickier and more complicated.

Not only could the freshwater motor corrode, but the warranty will be void if it is used in saltwater. The motor will no longer be able to be returned!

Sidenote: If you do use a freshwater motor in saltwater, all is not lost. As soon as possible, make sure to rinse off the motor thoroughly to rid it of salt and keep it from corroding.

Shaft or Tube Length – The shaft of the motor should be long enough that the motor and propeller are fully submerged in the water. Ideally, the motor should be at least one foot deep in the water.

However, be careful that the shaft isn’t too long. If the shaft is too long it can hit the bottom or hit rocks in shallow water. This, of course, will damage the propeller and the motor. A long shaft also makes a canoe more difficult to store.

Voltage, Power, and Pounds of Thrust – Again, motors come in voltages of 12, 24, and 36. The only disadvantages of the 24 volts and the 36 volts require additional batteries.

Pounds of thrust is related to the amount of power the motor takes to push or pull the canoe through the water. Keep in mind that the weight of the boat, the current, and the wind are factors that affect the thrust.

When buying a motor, make sure to know how many pounds of thrust is best. 12 volts will usually max out at 55 pounds of thrust, 24 volts usually maxes out at 80 pounds of thrust and 36 volts will max out at about 105 pounds of thrust.

Mounting Location- Depending on the canoe, the motor will fit in 1 of 3 places or possibly 2 of 3 places. One motor can be attached to the bow (front) of the canoe, one motor can be attached to the transom or stern (back) of the canoe, or a motor could be mounted to the engine.

Two motors can be placed on a canoe as well. One engine at the transom (stern) and one at the bow.

Make Your Own Mount

Making a mount and creating a motor is completely possible. We all know people who prefer to make things themselves rather than buy something from the store.

Perhaps Uncle Joe refuses to buy something that he can make himself and asks for advice on building his own mount. There is no need to worry because building a motor mount is actually pretty easy.

Before starting make sure to have these materials:

  • A canoe
  • The trolling motor of choice
  • A 2×4 (must be longer than the width of the canoe)
  • 2 bolts (3/8 inches by 4 inches)
  • 2 nuts (3/8 inches)
  • A 12-volt deep cycle marine battery
  • A drill
  • 2 washers (3/8 inches, and 1.5 inches diameter)
  • Sand Paper
  • Saw


  1. Take the 2×4 and set it two inches behind the rear seat of the canoe.
  2. On the right side of the 2×4 make sure there is at least a foot of space for the trolling motor.
  3. Mark and thread two 3/8″ holes that touch the outside of the canoe edges.
  4. Take a drill bit and push the bolts further down to make room for the nuts.
  5. Mark the inside and outside edges of the canoe, where the bolt pokes out of the bottom of the 2×4. These will make notches that hold the mount
  6. Cut half of an inch down the lines and chisel out the excess.
  7. Sand down the rough edges.
  8. Dry fit the mount on the canoe (thread the bolts, put washers on, thread nuts on).
  9. Cut the mount down (left side at the bolt and right side foot away from the bolt.
  10. Sand down the surface edges. (Optional: spray paint the mount. This creates a more finished look).
  11. Connect the battery.
  12. Secure the mount on the canoe by tightening the nuts.
  13. Mount the trolling motor on the mount by tightening the larger bolts.
  14. Connect the leads from the motor to the positive and negative terminals.
  15. Test the motor!

Now if Uncle Joe is more of a visual learner, this video covers all the steps above.

Best Motors and Mounts To Buy

Picking a good motor is crucial for your canoe. I have found that the best motor for my use is the Minn Kota Endura Transom Mount Trolling Motor. This is a freshwater motor only and starts at 93 dollars on Amazon.

Another favorite of mine that has great reviews is the Newport Vessels NV-Series 55lb Thrust Saltwater Transom Mounted Motor. This is a saltwater motor and so it can be used in freshwater as well. It can be found on Amazon as well for about 200 dollars.

The bow mount that I find is preferred for most boat users is the Motorguide 940200060 Motorguide X3, which can be found on Amazon for about 450 dollars.

The engine motor that is the MINN KOTA EM or RT EM motor. The MINN KOTA motors can range from 750-1,250 dollars.

Although trolling motors are not essential for canoeing or fishing they provide a great number of benefits and are fairly easy to install and use.

However, make sure to talk to a professional so that you choose the best and safest motor for you and your boat. Remember, safety makes it all worthwhile!

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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