Gear Review: New Trolling Motors

These four latest models practically think for themselves

Field & Stream Online Editors

In the domain of trolling motors, where brands have come and gone, only Minn Kota and MotorGuide remain. They've prevailed with more powerful motors that maneuver large boats with multiple batteries and run longer because of greater electric efficiency. Features are smarter than ever, including hands- and foot-free navigation based on compass headings or depth-reading technology. We tested four units that stand above the others; one of these should be right for the fishing you do.

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Minn Kota Engine-Mount
FEATURES Quiet oomph from the back of the boat-that's the ticket with these new motors that bolt to the main engine's cavitation plate and ride out of the water when on plane. They're excellent for trolling shallow water or pulling spinner rigs below 1 mph. They provide power from the stern to augment the thrust when you maneuver with a bow-mount in current, and have strength to spare.
MODELS Available in 12-, 24-, and 36-volt models, with single or dual props, for a range of thrust from 55 to 202 pounds. $550¿¿¿$1,450 for freshwater units; $600¿¿¿$1,500 for salt; www.minnkotamotors.com
HITS You adjust trolling speed with a rheostat, so it's possible to dial in increments of .1 mph.
MISSES Don't expect to go backward, as pulling water past the shaft of the big engine saps strength.
FEATURES AutoPilot automatically steers your craft in the direction you select, adjusting for wind, waves, and current. (A wireless remote is optional.) Combine a PowerDrive with a gas motor on the transom and you can control speed to tenths of a mile per hour.
MODELS Includes 12- and 24-volt versions, with shaft lengths of 48 to 60 inches. Power levels range from 40 to 80 pounds of thrust. $340¿¿¿$1,050; www.minnkotamotors.com
HITS Set the AutoPilot and you can fish without attention to the foot pedal.
MISSES Electronic steering is somewhat slow to respond when a river rips.
FEATURES This freshwater series is ideal for moderate watercraft. These electrics are more reliable than ever and have better seals to protect against moisture. Internal communication is digital, to monitor amp draw and heat.
MODELS A collection of 12- and 24-volt motors provides a range of thrust from 30 to 82 pounds. The bigger electric has variable speeds and an extension handle. $100¿¿¿$400; motorguide.com
HITS To back-troll, you can turn the motor around so it operates in forward mode when it's pointed in reverse.
MISSES It's trickier to steer when you're pushing a boat from the transom.

MotorGuide PTSv Bow-Mount
FEATURES Set a PTSv to follow a contour, or steer it manually with a foot pedal. When you want to navigate a precise depth, this motor lets you do it hands-free, using five transducers in the lower unit. Catch something? Return to the scene by punching the 180 feature, which allows you to backtrack.
MODELS There are models that can power bass boats measuring up to 22 feet. $1,600¿¿¿$1,800; motorguide.com
HITS The 36-volt model has a power curve, so it can blast a 20-foot boat at 5 mph or just creep along.
MISSES The Bottom Track mode has some difficulty over flat lake bottoms.