We pick out 8 of the best trolling motors that have enough electric power to punch an incoming tide without breaking the bank
So you’re looking for an electric outboard to whizz your RIB around the harbour. Who wouldn’t want a fancy Torqeedo to hang off your transom? But at £1,450 and up, chances are it’s not in the budget. A solid alternative, however, is the trusty trolling motor at a fraction of the cost. With prices starting at under £100, the best trolling motors are lightweight, dependable, and if you pay a bit extra, extremely well-built.
But which one to buy? With more than 40 or more on offer, and with tongue-twisting brand names like Fayelong and Flyhero, U-BCOO and Caroute, sorting out the good from the bad and the ugly, can be a challenge. Remember, many of the motors you’ll see advertised will be aimed at fisher-folk looking to slowly sneak-up on a snook, rather than punch an incoming tide. Power here is important.
And talking of power, know that when it comes to trolling motors, they’re rated in pounds of thrust, not horsepower. They can start off as low as 18 pounds, but load-up your RIB with crew and supplies and you’ll be going nowhere fast. Go for at least 45 pounds of thrust – 55 is better – and you’ll have power in reserve when you need it.
Also, when looking at prices, remember you’re going to need to add-in the cost of a 12-volt battery. Unlike that fancy Torqeedo with its snap-on battery pack, trollers need a separate battery for juice. Budget between £80 and £120 for a good one. And we recommend nothing less than a 105 amp-hour deep-cycle marine battery to give you the range you’ll want. Sorry, that Halfords cheapo won’t cut it.
You’ll also want a trolling motor that’s designed for saltwater rather than fresh, and with a transom mount rather than one at the bow. So which electric trolling motors should be on your wishlist?
Best trolling motors available right now
Minn Kota Riptide 45 SC trolling motor
It’s hard to beat this rugged, reliable troller from the company that essentially invented the trolling motor, and has been building them since 1934. Available in sizes from a 45-pound version with a 91cm shaft, to a muscular 112-pounder, our favourite is still the entry-level Riptide 45 SC, packing 45 pounds of thrust.
With five forward speeds and three in reverse, a 15cm telescoping tiller, indestructible, guaranteed-for-life composite shaft, and full two-year warranty it’s a great balance between performance and value. A icy-cool white finish too. We also like the clever Digital Maximiser tech that helps extend battery power.
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Newport Vessels X-Series 55 trolling motor
This California-based company’s electric troller delivers a 55-pound punch yet tips the scales at a lightweight 10.4kg. For us, what sets it apart is its 30-degree tilting tiller handle – it also extends by 15cm – as well as its large three-blade prop and, our favourite, the 10-point LED battery meter.
It’s also got a durable composite shaft and five forward and three reverse speeds. The company reckons that powering an eight-foot RIB, the 55 would give a top speed of 4mph, depending on weight in the boat. The X-Series is also fully saltwater-resistant and comes with a two-year warranty. Another plus; that 25cm diameter three-blade prop is made of tough fibreglass-reinforced nylon rather than cheap plastic.
RRP: $229 / £175
Bison Neraus 55 trolling motor
The best-selling electric trolling motor on Amazon UK right now, the US-built Bison Neraus 55 is all about value. At £159.99 with a free spare prop thrown-in for good measure, the price is hard to beat, especially as it’s designed for saltwater. And it has all the typical trolling motor goodies, like a composite shaft and transom bracket, an LED battery level indicator, five forward and three reverse speeds, plus a two-year warranty with Bison’s UK service centre.
Despite the value price, there’s no shortage of 5-star reviews on Amazon UK praising the solid performance and silent running. Of course, if you need more oomph, there’s always the 68-pound version.
Motorguide R3 Digital 55 trolling motor
MotorGuide is part of US-based Brunswick Corporation – they own Mercury Marine – and have been engineering trolling motors for over half a century. Their big focus is on developing trollers for serious fishing machines and have a tight relationship with Lowrance, integrating hi-tech sonar transducers and chartplotter technology into trolling motors. Serious stuff.
For more humble applications, like pushing RIBs and dinks, they have the high-quality, transom-mounted R3 and R5 digital saltwater series. Yes, they’re pricey, but they’re built using aluminium alloy and stainless steel topped off with a three-coat corrosion protection process. We like the R3 55-pound thruster with a 91cm shaft, which at around £280 is still excellent value.
RRP: £280 / $400
Haswing Osapian 55 trolling motor
Up and coming Chinese trolling motor maker Haswing offers everything from a £119 30-pound thruster to a Torqeedo-rivalling lithium-ion-juiced outboard for a hefty £1,240. For value hunters, we like the simple delights of the Osapian 55 costing around £147. Weighing only 8.2kg, it packs a 55-pound punch, features five forward and three reverse gears, and offers a five-level LED battery indicator.
The cast aluminium drive shaft won’t be as durable as composite versions, and the plastic head cover is definitely on the flimsy side. But there’s a sturdy fin at the base of the motor to protect the prop and the tiller extends up to 35cm and angles up nicely. For the money, it’s hard to beat.
RRP: £147 / $240
Watersnake Venom SXW trolling motor
Call it the quiet thunder from Down Under. This Aussie-made saltwater troller from Dandenong, Victoria, comes with a choice of 34, 44 and 54-pound thrust motors and 66, 76 or 91cm shafts. All run on separate 12-volt battery power and operate with five forward and three reverse speeds.
There’s plenty of tough composites in their construction – including the shaft – and refrigerator-white paint. We’d go for the torquey, yet super-quiet 54-pound Venom with its three-bladed prop, telescopic tiller and digital volt meter on the head cover. A fair dinkum price at around £317.
EP Carry trolling motor
Most trolling motors tend to look the same, right? The same lozenge-shaped head, skinny shaft, underwater pod with a prop on the end, and wires leading down to a separate lead-acid battery. The US-made EP Carry shakes things up by looking more like a traditional outboard, with a traditional cover and long steering tiller.
Yes, there’s still a separate battery, but here it’s a lithium-ion pack in a soft case weighing just 2.9kg. The motor and battery combined tip the scales at just 9.5kg. Plug in its fast charger and it’ll re-juice the battery in less than five hours. According to makers PropEle, it can easily push something like a three-metre Walker Bay RIB at over 3.5 knots. Right now, it’s only available in the US at $1,600 – roughly £1,220 – though they’ll happily ship one over.
Torqeedo Travel 1003 trolling motor
Yes, it’s pricey at £1,449 and up, but to power your RIB with the least fuss this German-made Torqeedo Travel 1003 is still the Gold Standard of electric outboards. With 68 pounds of thrust – that’s roughly equivalent to a 3hp petrol outboard – it’ll push a decent-sized RIB at around five knots at full throttle. Throttle back to three knots and it should run for three and a half hours on a charge.
And it’s such a lovely piece of design with its built-in high-performance lithium-ion battery pack and distinctive grey and orange colour scheme. The base version comes with a 530Wh battery, though for around £250 extra you can get the bigger 915Wh battery pack for extra range.