Best Trolling Motor for Pontoon Boats: A Comprehensive Buying Guide for 2024

Reviewed by Tim West

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best trolling motor for pontoon boat

As someone who’s clocked in many hours steering a pontoon boat, I understand that choosing the best trolling motor for pontoon boats is indispensable for any fishing trip. 

It’s not just about propelling your pontoon, but about gaining crucial insights for a fruitful fishing experience and ensuring your on-water adventures are smooth as a well-cast line.

I know, though – with a sea of choices and features out there, picking the right trolling motor can feel like trying to reel in a trophy catch on a turbulent day. 

You’re balancing thrust, durability, and control options, plus advanced features like GPS, digital maximizers, silent operation, and more.

But cast your worries aside! I’ve navigated these waters before, and I’m here to guide you through. 

So, let’s set sail on this journey to uncover the perfect trolling motor to enhance your pontoon fishing escapades. 

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Best Trolling Motors for Pontoon Boats – At a Glance

Garmin Force: Best Equipped Trolling Motor

MotorGuide Xi5: Best Contender Trolling Motor 

MotorGuide Xi3: Best Foundational Trolling Motor

Minn Kota Pontoon Trolling Motor: Budget-Friendly Solution

Trolling Motors For Pontoons Reviewed

Now that we’ve set the scene, it’s time to take a closer look at the real stars of the show: the trolling motors themselves. These game-changing gadgets are the silent heroes of any successful pontoon fishing trip, and choosing the right one can make all the difference.

Garmin Force Trolling Motor 

Garmin Force Trolling Motor

Thrust: 80 lbs at 24V, 100 lbs at 36V

Shaft length: 50″, 57”

Mounting location: Bow mount

Water type: Freshwater, Brackish water, and Saltwater

Volts: 24V/36V

Control options: Wireless foot pedal and wireless remote control

Warranty: 3 Years

Pros

The Garmin Force has exceptional power efficiency and is superbly quiet, making it the best bow mount trolling motor available today for pontoons. Plus, its wireless chartplotter connectivity, top-notch sonar capabilities, and easy stow-and-deploy mechanisms make it a winner for every pontoon owner.

Cons

The cost is a tad high and the high-tech features can be a touch overwhelming for the less tech-oriented folks. But it’s worth every penny!

After switching from another leading brand, my recent upgrade to the Garmin Force has been a game-changer. Garmin has a stellar reputation for top-quality navigation and communication devices, and this trolling motor fits right in its suite of excellence.

The first time I fired up the Garmin Force on my pontoon, the power was impressive. The amazing 80 pounds of thrust in my unit (you can get 100 lbs thrust with the same unit if connected to 36V), cut through currents and winds like a hot knife through butter. My boat’s never moved so effortlessly, that’s what I call power!

What’s even better, the high-efficiency brushless motor gives the Force impressive run times. During my long fishing trips, this trolling motor outlasted every other I’ve used. It’s like having a secret stash of endurance, always ready to give me more time on the water.

One of the best features is how hushed it is. You’d expect a motor this powerful to make some noise, but it’s the exact opposite. Even at full speed, it’s so quiet that the fish around me don’t have a clue. Stealth fishing? Check!

I’ve found the wireless connectivity to my Echomap Ultra to be a fantastic feature. I can create routes, visualize the sonar, follow tracks, and even return to my favorite fishing spots with ease. It’s a seamless experience that’s improved my fishing tenfold.

The integrated autopilot, complete with a heading sensor and GPS, is like having a trusted co-captain on board. The anchor lock feature, which holds my boat in position, lets me focus on fishing. It’s been a revelation in my pontoon adventures.

The control options, too, are simply wonderful. The wireless foot pedal is responsive and feels intuitive. The handheld remote, with its clear display, makes controlling this beast a breeze, even in bright sunlight. 

Moreover, upgrading the software of the Garmin Force motor is a breeze with Garmin’s Active Captain App. This user-friendly application allows you to easily install software updates, ensuring that your motor always benefits from the latest features and enhancements.

Yes, the Garmin Force electric trolling motor is on the pricey side, but the upgrade has been worth every penny. If you’re considering a new trolling motor with gps for your pontoon, do yourself a favor and check out the Garmin Force. Your boating experience will never be the same again.

MotorGuide Xi5 Trolling Motor

MotorGuide Xi5 Trolling Motor

Thrust: 80 lbs at 24V, 105 lbs at 36V

Shaft length: 45”, 48″, 54″, 60″, 72″

Mounting location: Bow mount

Volts: 24V, 36V

Control options: Wireless foot pedal and wireless remote control

Warranty: 2 Years

Pros

The MotorGuide Xi5 delivers top-notch control with its advanced wireless pedal and GPS capabilities, making it a fantastic and more cost-friendly alternative to the Garmin Force.

Cons

While the price point is lower than the Garmin Force, it still might be a bit steep for some. The initial setup may also need a bit of extra time and patience as some users have reported issues with the pedal.

When it comes to reliable trolling motors, MotorGuide stands out, known for its robust performance and innovative features. The Xi5 Trolling Motor is their impressive offering that raises the bar, yet remains reasonably priced compared to the Garmin Force.

What makes the Xi5 one of the best pontoon trolling motors for a pontoon boat? Well, it starts with its 80 lbs of thrust. This powerhouse delivers variable speed control that some trolling motors for pontoons struggle with, and at a lower cost than the Garmin Force, you’re getting excellent value.

Then there’s the Pinpoint GPS. This isn’t just any GPS; it’s like having an onboard navigator that locks onto fishing spots with pinpoint precision. It’s this accuracy and control that makes the Xi5 a leading contender among pontoon boat trolling motors.

Additionally, with the MotorGuide gateway kit, you have the ability to seamlessly connect your Xi5 Trolling motor to a Lowrance HDS fishfinder/chartplotter. This integration empowers you to leverage the advanced capabilities of your fishfinder to precisely position your boat, ensuring optimal navigation and angling.

Now onto the wireless foot pedal, a standout feature where the this model again outshines many. The freedom it offers to operate the motor from anywhere on the boat is second to none. Navigate your pontoon while having the liberty to move around, fish, or simply enjoy the scenery. It’s all about convenience.

The availability of 54″, 60″, and 72″ shaft length options ensures a perfect match with various boat models. A long shaft helps keep the propeller submerged even in choppy waters, thereby guaranteeing a smooth and efficient ride every time.

The MotorGuide Xi5 trolling motor is one of the top choices for pontoons, offering advanced GPS, wireless control, and powerful thrust, enhancing your boating experience significantly.

Comparing the feature-rich MotorGuide Xi5 with the more expensive Garmin Force, it’s easy to see why I consider the Xi5 as the best contender trolling motor. While the price may still be a stretch for some, the value is undeniable. Give the MotorGuide Xi5 a look. You’re not just saving money; you’re investing in top-tier features for a better pontooning experience.

MotorGuide Xi3 Trolling Motor

MotorGuide Xi3 Trolling Motor

Thrust: 54 lbs at 12V, 68 lbs at 24V

Shaft length: 48″

Mounting location: Bow mount

Volts: 12V, 24V

Control options: Wireless remote control, with optional wireless foot pedal

Warranty: 2 Years

Pros

The MotorGuide Xi3 Trolling Motor’s quiet operation and wireless remote control make it an absolute gem for any pontoon owner.

Cons

On the downside, the Pinpoint GPS feature isn’t included as standard and requires an additional purchase.

MotorGuide is a renowned brand in the boating industry, celebrated for its innovative designs and the production of top-notch trolling motors that incorporate advanced technology. It’s a brand that has consistently pushed the boundaries for over 50 years, guaranteeing precision, and quiet operation for anglers around the globe.

Now, when we talk about the top selling trolling motors, the MotorGuide Xi3 truly stands out. With a thrust of 54 lbs or 68 lbs and a single shaft length of 48″, it’s specifically designed to suit the needs of pontoon owners looking for a basic but reliable trolling motor solution. It’s more entry-level compared to its big brother, the Xi5, but don’t let that fool you.

Its optional wireless remote control lets you precisely operate the motor from anywhere on your boat. It means you’re not tied to one spot.

One of the things that struck me about this trolling motor was how quiet it was. If you’re out to catch fish, the last thing you want is a noisy motor scaring them away. The Xi3 ensures that fish won’t hear you coming.

For those who appreciate simplicity and convenience, the SecureStep system is a great feature. With a single step, you can stow and deploy this trolling motor. No complicated procedures or wasted time. That’s one less thing to worry about when you’re eager to start your fishing expedition.

Another feature that stands out is Digital Power Management. It means longer battery life. As an angler and pontoon boat owner, I know how valuable that is. More time on the water, less time worrying about power.

Though the Xi3 doesn’t come with Pinpoint GPS out of the box like its more advanced brother, the Xi5, the good news is, it’s GPS compatible. So, if you choose to upgrade later, you can. GPS can be a great addition for precise control and a tighter hold on your anchor point.

In summary, the MotorGuide Xi3 freshwater bow mount trolling motor packs a punch with its features. It provides the simplicity and functionality you need, offering a fantastic experience whether you’re fishing or simply enjoying your time on the water. 

It’s more than just a freshwater trolling motor; it’s one of the top-rated models for pontoons. Packing all the basic features and built to last, this entry-level model offers high value at an affordable price. Don’t let its entry-level status dissuade you. Check it out and see the difference it can make to your boating experience.

Minn Kota Trolling Motor

Minn Kota Trolling Pontoon Motor

Thrust: 54 lbs at 12V, 70 lbs at 24V

Shaft length: 48″

Mounting location: Bow mount

Volts: 24v

Control options: Foot Pedal

Warranty: 2 Years

Pros

This motor provides cool, quiet power, making your boat operation smooth and undisturbed, perfect for a peaceful day of fishing. Plus, the Digital Maximizer extends your battery life up to five times, letting you fish from dawn till dusk.

Cons

It lacks some of the advanced features like GPS capabilities, wireless remote control, and built-in sonar found in higher-end models. Its sole foot pedal control might not fit every angler’s preference.

Alright, my fellow boaters! Let me introduce you to Minn Kota, a brand known for offering a dependable workhorse for all your trolling needs. They’re famous for their durable and efficient trolling motors, and this pontoon-specific model is no exception.

So, you’re looking for a solid trolling motor for your pontoon boat, but on a budget, right? Minn Kota has got you covered. This motor is specifically designed for us pontooners, with its Deploy-Assist Lever making getting in and out of the water as easy as pie.

The PowerDrive foot pedal lets you control speed, steering, and on/off functions. You might not have the fancy GPS or wireless control found in more expensive models, but hey, it’s all about getting the basics right for a comfortable day on the lake.

Now, let’s talk about battery life. This trolling motor has the Digital Maximizer feature. In simple terms, it lets you fish longer. It is designed to give you up to five times longer run time on a single charge. It’s like the little engine that could, going and going so you can keep casting and reeling all day.

With a power prop, this trolling motor offers extra power to push through any fishing scenario, and it excels in open water. For an affordable trolling motor, it does pack a punch!

One thing I love about this motor is its Indestructible composite shaft. It’s tough as nails and guaranteed for life. This was my initial trolling motor (now upgraded with a more advanced one) and it went through its fair share of knocks and bumps on my boat and was still as sturdy as the day I got it.

If you’re the kind of angler who likes a quiet, peaceful day on the water, this motor’s Cool, Quiet Power feature will be your best friend. It’s practically silent, so it won’t scare off the fish or disrupt your tranquillity.

This Minn Kota Pontoon Trolling Motor might be the budget option that is specifically designed for pontoons, but it still offers reliable performance for all your fishing adventures. 

Buy on

Buying Guide: Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Trolling Motor for a Pontoon

Ready to jump in and start choosing the best trolling motor for your boat? Great! But, before we dive headfirst into the motor specifics, it’s key to understand the essentials you need to consider when making your selection. 

Let’s start off by discussing one of the most important factors – thrust.

Thrust

When you’re picking a motor, you need to consider how heavy your boat gets with everything on board—people, gear, even the fuel. As a rule of thumb, for every 100 lbs your boat weighs, you need 2 lbs of thrust. So if your boat is fully loaded up to 3000 lbs, you’ll need a trolling motor with at least 60 lbs of thrust to move the boat (the math is like this (3000 / 100) * 2).

The boat’s shape matters too. Thankfully, a pontoon doesn’t drag much in the water, but it’s light and breezes can push it around. That’s where the thrust you need becomes important. A good trolling motor, especially one with GPS, can help maintain your position.

Remember, having more thrust doesn’t mean you’ll go faster. It’s more about control and staying power. Too little and you’ll find the motor struggling and your deep cycle battery running low. Too much thrust? That’s usually not a problem. So it’s better to have a bit more thrust than just enough. 

Voltage

Now, let’s talk voltage. You see, trolling motors come in three different voltage ratings: 12v, 24v, and 36v. Just like a car with a bigger engine, motors with higher voltage deliver more power. 

Here’s a breakdown: generally a 12v motor gives you around 55lbs of thrust or less, a 24v motor provides over 55lbs up to 80lbs of thrust, and with a 36v motor, you’re looking at over 80lbs up to around 115lbs of thrust.

The catch is, you’re going to need a battery for each 12 volts. So a 24v motor needs two batteries, and a 36v motor needs three. Remember, these should be deep-cycle marine batteries for easy recharging, and this setup should also be fully separate from your starting battery.

Your choice should also factor in your fishing conditions. If you’re mostly on calm lakes, you can get by with less. But if you’re up against swift currents, you’ll need more power capacity. And if you’re planning on multi-day fishing trips without charging opportunities, you might want to opt for a larger battery setup. So, choose wisely, folks!

Power Consumption

Time to talk power consumption. The size of your boat matters when deciding the right battery capacity for your electric trolling motor. Why? Larger motors drink more battery juice. So if your boat is pretty sizeable, or if you love those all-day fishing trips from sunrise to sunset, you’ll need a battery that can keep up.

When considering the use of electric trolling motors for extended periods, the amp hour (Ah) rating of the battery becomes a key factor to consider. Amp hours indicate the capacity of a battery to provide a certain amount of current over a specified period of time.

For longer trips or continuous usage, a higher amp hour rating is desirable. A higher amp hour rating means that the battery can supply a larger amount of current over a longer period without requiring recharging. This ensures that your trolling motor can run for an extended duration without depleting the battery.

To estimate the required amp hour capacity for your specific boat needs, you can consider the power consumption of your trolling motor. Typically, trolling motors provide information about their amperage draw at various speeds. Multiply the amperage draw of the motor by the number of hours you intend to use it to get an estimate of the total amp hours consumed.

It’s important to choose a battery with an amp hour rating that exceeds the estimated consumption. This provides a safety margin and prevents excessive discharge that can damage the battery or lead to a loss of power when you need it the most.

Additionally, keep in mind that other factors such as the size of your boat, weather conditions, and trolling motor efficiency can also influence the amp hour requirement. It’s advisable to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations or seek expert advice to ensure you select a battery with adequate amp-hour capacity for prolonged usage of your trolling motor.

Fresh vs. Saltwater Trolling Motor

This one’s a no-brainer. If you’re venturing into the salty seas with your pontoon boat, make sure your trolling motor can handle it. Saltwater motors are specifically designed to resist corrosion, protecting the mechanical and electrical parts. Sure, you can use a freshwater motor in saltwater, but it’s like wearing a suit to the beach – not the best fit! So, think about where you’ll be casting your lines, and pick a motor that’s made for those waters.

Mounting Location

Alright, let’s chat about mounting locations for your trolling motor. There’s the bow, the transom and engine-mounted options.

Bow-mounted trolling motors go at the front of your boat. They pull the boat through the water and offer better control and maneuverability. They are excellent for navigating tight spots and are typically the choice for larger pontoons.

Something to note, fitting a trolling motor on a pontoon bow can be tricky because many don’t have an edge. This usually means there’s not enough space for the trolling motor to be mounted unless you modify the front of the boat. Also, ensure you have enough clearance for the motor when it’s in the stowed position to avoid any obstructions or damage.

Transom mounted motors hang off the stern, or the back of your boat. They push the boat and are often easier to install and operate, which makes them popular for smaller boats.

Engine-mounted trolling motors attach directly to the outboard engine. These motors are a great choice for those looking to save deck space, as they don’t require a separate mounting spot. Engine mount motors can be lifted out of the water when not in use and you can control the motor through the boat’s existing steering system.

So, where you mount your trolling motor really depends on the size of your boat and how convenient it is to have it at the front, at the back or attached to the engine. Each has its perks, so weigh them out before making your choice!

Shaft Length

Let’s dig into shaft length now. A trolling motor shaft usually measures 42 inches or more. But how do you pick the perfect shaft length for your pontoon? Well, start by measuring from where the shaft mounts on your deck or transom to the water’s surface.

Here’s a handy trick: add 16 inches if you’ve got a MotorGuide, or 20 inches for a Minn Kota, to that distance. From there, go for the nearest measurement based on those extra inches. 

Going for a longer shaft is a good move, especially for rough waters. This ensures the propeller stays about 6 inches of more beneath the water, even when your boat is doing a bit of a dance on the waves. 

And remember, you can always tweak the vertical position of your motor using the adjustments on the mount to get the best performance out of your trolling motor. 

Features

Alright, now let’s talk about the fun stuff – motor features! And trust me, the leading motor models come packed with these.

First up is control method. Some of you might prefer a foot pedal, others a hand tiller, and some even favor wireless control. It’s all about what suits your style and how you usually use your boat.

Durability and material quality can’t be overlooked either. For all you adventurers tackling harsh conditions or cruising long distances, you want a trolling motor that’s tough as nails.

Noise level, now that’s a biggie for us anglers. Sure, most trolling motors are designed to be quiet, but some models take the silent approach to a whole new level. A quiet motor lets you creep up on the fish without giving the game away.

And for the tech-savvy among us, features like GPS and plotter connectivity can be game-changers. It’s like having a fishing buddy who always knows where the fish are hiding!

Remember, features can make or break your experience on the water, so choose a trolling motor that matches your needs and style.

Brand Reputation

A reputable trolling motor brand means you’re more likely to get a quality unit that’ll stand the test of time. It also gives you peace of mind knowing you’re backed by a brand that cares about customer satisfaction. Stick to well-known brands such as Garmin, MotorGuide, and Minn Kota, and you’ll find they’re usually the ones delivering the best value for money.

Customer Reviews

These are like a gold mine of information. Hearing directly from people who’ve used the trolling motor gives you real insights into its performance and reliability. Always take some time to read reviews. They often highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly, which can help you make a well-informed decision.

Warranty

When choosing your trolling motor, consider the warranty period and what it covers. A two-year warranty is the minimum to consider, as it’s a sign of a brand’s confidence in their product’s quality and longevity. After all, the top selling trolling motor isn’t just about performance, it’s also about after-sales support.

Price

Price is an essential factor to consider when choosing your ideal trolling motor. Now, I’m not saying to grab the cheapest motor on the shelf. Instead, look for the best value for your money. A more expensive motor might have features that’ll save you time and effort in the long run.

Consider your boating habits, fishing style, and the waters you frequent. If you’re out on the water every weekend or battling swift currents, investing a bit more in a powerful, feature-packed trolling motor could pay off.

Remember, “value” isn’t just about price. It’s about getting a reliable, efficient motor that meets your needs without breaking the bank. Consider it an investment in smooth sailing and great fishing trips.

Some Extras You May Need

Batteries: these powerhouses are what keep your motor running, so don’t overlook them. Make sure you have enough batteries to match your trolling motor’s voltage and amp-hour requirements. And always keep a spare handy, especially for those long fishing trips.

Battery Charger: A good charger will extend the life of your batteries and keep them in top shape. Look for a smart charger that prevents overcharging, which can damage your batteries over time.

Fishfinder: Ever tried finding a fish without a fish finder? It’s like playing hide and seek in the dark! A quality fish finder will make your fishing trips much more productive and enjoyable. Check our Best Fish Finders For Small Boats article for some recommended models. If your trolling motor comes equipped with a built-in sonar feature, it’s worth checking out compatible chart plotters for enhanced sonar visualization..

Connectors and mounting brackets: These little guys are the unsung heroes that keep your motor securely attached to your boat without fail. Reliable connectors and sturdy brackets will ensure a stable and secure mount, helping to prolong the life of your motor.

Remember, it’s these small additions that can turn a good day on the water into a great one! So, consider these when choosing your next motor purchase.


Final Words

Well, there you have it, fellow boaters! After exploring a number of trolling motors, it’s clear that the Garmin Force Trolling Motor is the captain steering the fleet of the best trolling motors on the market for your pontoon. It’s loaded with everything a pontooner could dream of – from its robust thrust power to the pinpoint precision of its GPS, not to mention the boatload of friendly features it’s got under the hood.


FAQ

What is a Trolling Motor?

A trolling motor is a self-contained unit that includes an electric motor, controls, and propeller, all mounted on a boat. It’s primarily designed for small boats used on fishing boats as an auxiliary power source and is designed to propel, maneuver, and control the boat’s speed while fishing. For more information check the trolling motor buying guide included in this article.

Why use a trolling motor on a pontoon boat alongside the outboard motor?

Trolling motors are essential for pontoon boats as they allow for precise maneuvering into shallow waters where fish hide, a task challenging for outboard motors. They also enable navigation in tight or vegetated areas where larger motors are impractical. Plus, their smaller propellers operate more quietly, reducing the chance of startling fish, thereby enhancing the fishing experience.

What size trolling motor do you need for a pontoon?

The size of the trolling motor you need for a pontoon is determined by the total weight of your boat when it’s fully loaded. As a rule of thumb, for every 100 pounds your boat weighs, you need a minimum of 2 pounds of thrust. So if your boat is fully loaded up to 3000 lbs, you’ll need a trolling motor with at least 60 lbs of thrust (3000/100 *2 = 60 lbs). It’s always better to have a bit more thrust than just enough.

Do you need a special trolling motor for a pontoon?

Not necessarily. However, considering the unique design and performance characteristics of pontoon boats, it’s recommended to use a trolling motor with a longer shaft and sufficient thrust for better control and maneuverability.

Will a 55 lb thrust trolling motor push a pontoon?

A 55 lb thrust trolling motor can push a pontoon, but its suitability will greatly depend on the weight of your boat. If your boat is light and usually operates in calm waters, a 55 lb thrust motor might do the job. However, for a fully-loaded pontoon that weighs 2750 lbs or more, a 55 lb thrust motor may not offer the best performance, particularly in rougher water conditions or strong currents. It’s always better to have more thrust than the minimum recommended.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into the world of pontoons, we’ve got you covered! Check out our curated list of the Top Anchors for Pontoons to ensure your boat stays put. Also, get informed about how the width of your pontoon can affect your boating experience in our guide Pontoon Width and Its Impact. Your dream pontoon experience is just a few clicks away!

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AUTHOR

Hello there, I'm Shaun! As your go-to enthusiast for pontoons, fishing, and all things watersport, I live for the thrill of a good catch and a smooth sail. When I'm not making waves, you can find me swapping my life jacket for a captivating book, soothing tunes, and a robust laugh. Because hey, humor is the life preserver in the sea of life, right? So come on, dive into my world, and prepare for quite the splash!