What Size Trolling Motor for a Canoe (And How to Mount One)


There are lots of options when buying a trolling motor for your canoe. With so much choice, the decision can be a bit overwhelming. I decided to take my canoe out on the lake with several different sized motors in order to find the best fit. 

​What size trolling motor is right for a canoe? A 55 lb thrust motor will provide your canoe with enough power to fight potential wind and chop, without being too bulky. While smaller motors are temptingly cheaper and lighter, the extra power of a larger motor can help you get back to the dock when weather conditions aren’t ideal.

The right trolling motor, however, is only half of the equation. Now we need to decide on a battery and learn how to properly place and wire it in our canoe. Safety should be our main concern as we examine our options.

Note: Check here for my guide on the best trolling motors for a canoe.


Choosing an Electric Trolling Motor for Your Canoe

55 lb is not the weight of the motor. ‘Pounds of thrust’ is a standard measurement of motor power. When outfitting a larger boat for a secondary motor, the general rule is to calculate the weight of your boat to find the right amount of required pounds of thrust. Don’t do that.

Even though a canoe is a very light type of boat, you’ll want a higher capacity motor that will be effective in any situation, most importantly inclement weather conditions or unexpected waterfalls.

A 55 lb thrust motor is big enough to propel a personal fishing boat, so it’s easy to assume that it’s more than you’d need for a canoe. A 30 ​lb thrust motor will push your canoe around just fine, but only in fair weather and standing water. But when the water starts getting rough, that fishing boat has a gas motor to rely on. We, on the other hand, aside from our trusty paddles, have the electric trolley as our primary motor.  

Boat safety means looking ahead to account for the worst case scenario. And what could be worse than being caught in the middle of a lake, when the wind whips up out of nowhere, and your tiny motor doesn’t have enough strength to get you back to shore?


How to Pick the Right Battery for an Electric Motor

Your 55 lb thrust trolling motor is going to be able to push your boat against a stiff wind or current when you need it to, but not without power. Trolling motors are electric, so you’ll need the right 12 V battery to pair with your new motor. You’ll want a deep cycle battery, but which one?

There are many brands of ‘marine’ specific batteries to choose from, but you are not necessarily limited to them. It is important to note that this is something you’ll be lifting in and out of your canoe every trip, and batteries can be quite heavy, so opting for one with a built-in handle is a great choice. 

If you have a bad back, or just don’t want to lug a heavy battery around, you may want to opt for 2 smaller deep cycle batteries like the ones designed for motorcycles.

The important number to consider on your battery specification sheet is amp hour (Ah). This number tells you how much power the battery can store, and therefore, how long it will run your motor. 

For example, a fully charged battery rated at 10 Ah is able to supply 1 ​A of current continuously for 10 hours, or conversely, 10 A for 1 hour.  

​Listed below are averages of 3 battery types with respective Ah and weight. Motor run times will depend on speed, motor type, and other factors:

​Battery Type​Ampere Hour​Weight
​Motorcycle​10 Ah​15 lb
​Car​30 Ah​40 lb
RV​80 Ah​60 lb

​On average, a 50 lb thrust trolling motor is going to require about 20 ​A to run at half throttle. This means that the 10 ​A motorcycle battery will only last half an hour. 

The car battery will run your motor for 1.5 hours, and the RV battery for 4 hours. Make absolutely sure that you have paddles with you, and that you know how to use them. Batteries die. Engines fail. The only 100% reliable power is good old fashioned elbow grease.


How to Charge Your Trolling Motor Battery

The most common method of ​charging is with a plug-in type battery charger. 

A small 100 watt portable solar panel is also a great option, and will surprisingly charge most batteries just as fast as the plug-in option. That is, if the sun cooperates. 

Regardless of your charging method, it is important to realize that a 30 Ah battery is going to take about a day to charge.

Many battery chargers have a ‘quick charge’ option that dials up the amperage to 6 ​A, rather than the standard 2. I do not recommend quick-charging a battery, as it considerably shortens its life.

You’ll want to purchase a good voltmeter, in order to properly read and maintain your battery. A fully charged 12 V battery will read at about 12.8 V, and once drained will give you a reading of 12.2.  

You’ll notice that immediately after taking the battery off the charger, your battery will read as charged, whether or not it is actually charged. This is known as a ‘surface charge’ and it is one of the most common mistakes people make when reading batteries. To get a true reading, allow the battery to rest, off the charger for at least 12 hours.


How to Mount a Trolling Motor on a Canoe

Canoes come in an endless variety of shapes and sizes, and a trolling motor can be attached to almost all of them. A ​square stern canoe has a built-in transom, where a motor can easily be attached to.  

The traditional style of canoe, with a pointed stern, creates a problem for motor attachment. This issue can be solved by making your own detachable side transom.

​How to ​make your own canoe transom

  • 1
    You’ll need 2 x 6 lumber, two C shaped carpenter’s clamps, and tools.
  • 2
    ​Measure for length, ensuring your motor hangs off the side of the canoe just enough that turning the propeller towards the canoe won’t impact with the hull.
  • 3
    ​Create an L shaped bracket, securing it with 3 inch screws, and bracing with triangular side supports.
  • 4
    Clamp the former structure to the gunwales of your canoe, using your C clamps.
Canoe mount for a trolling motor

Canoe mount for a trolling motor


Battery ​placement in ​your ​canoe

Canoes, even flatback canoes, are not designed for a motor. Sure, a flatback has a transom, and can easily accommodate the clamping attachment of your trolling motor; but the shape and width of the canoe were never intended to have all that weight in the extreme back end.

Putting all your weight in one end of the canoe causes the other end to lift out of the water. This is extremely dangerous. The less of your hull that is in contact with the water, the less stable your boat.  

Tipping a canoe with a trolling motor attached can happen easily if you don’t distribute the weight properly, and it will be nearly impossible to right your boat once you are in the water.

Sit as far away from the motor as possible, and place your battery as close to the bow of the boat as you can. If your motor has short battery cords that don’t allow you to do this, consider buying a set of jumper cables to extend your range.

Battery placement on a canoe with a trolling motor

Battery placement on a canoe with a trolling motor


Trolling Motors Extra Features

Many modern trolling motors come with features like telescopic handles, battery gauges, microprocessor controlled throttles, and some even have Bluetooth enabled direction and speed control that will let you operate the motor from anywhere in the boat. 

Your canoe is too small to allow for a mechanized steering assembly, so the Bluetooth is unnecessary. The telescopic handle, however, is a must. The longer the better. It will allow you to comfortably sit further away from the motor, enhancing the stability of the canoe.

A microchip controlled throttle sounds like a fancy gimmick, but it will actually add hours of run time to your battery life. Older model trolling motors relied on resistors for speed control. This results in wasted energy when switching between high and low speeds.  

Modern microchipped motors control the energy usage itself, using less to go slow and more to go fast. A microchipped motor can make all the difference in the length of your outing.

Battery gauges ensure that you won’t be stranded by surprise with a dead battery. I highly recommend this feature.


What Are the Laws About Trolling Motors on Canoes 

Laws vary from region to region. It’s important to check your local laws on this matter. Often, once you switch your water vessel from self-propelled, to motor assisted, you fall into a new classification, and under new laws. These may include vessel registration and additional safety equipment requirements.


How Fast Will My Canoe Go With a Trolling Motor

The average paddling speed is about 2 miles per hour. Top speed with any size trolling motor is about 5 miles per hour. A 55 lb thrust motor isn’t any faster than a 30 lb thrust, but it will allow you to carry heavier loads, and fight strong winds and currents much more effectively.


Related Article: What Size Trolling Motor for a Kayak

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