By: Field & Stream Commerce Team
A fishing kayak is light, small and adaptable. The only disadvantage is propelling the boat with human power for long periods to get where you want to go. Many people consider paddling and pedaling to be part of the fun, but some anglers want to propel their kayaks as quickly as possible. To get to the fishing grounds quickly and safely, anglers are adding a motor to their kayak. With the sport’s popularity growing and technology improving, this is a great time to look for the best kayak motor.
The movement to motorize kayaks started with shade tree engineers rigging their kayaks with all manner of motors. Over the past decade, we’ve seen anglers show up at the launch with everything from a homemade trolling motor to a bastardized leaf blower. Kayak manufacturers experimented with motor power, too. But early motorized boats were slow to catch on.
The trend finally kicked into high gear when kayak fishing tournaments allowed competitors to use a motor. To stay ahead of the race, competitive anglers demand power options capable of carrying them to the podium. Now, it seems like purpose-built kayak motors are popping up everywhere. The DIY jalopies of the past are replaced by high quality, reliable kayak motors.
After years of research and development, there are great choices to power any kayak. Whether you’re looking for a little extra help getting to the fishing grounds or you want to motor to the horizon, there is a high-quality, powerful and reliable kayak motor to meet your needs.
Converting your fishing kayak into a motorized kayak isn’t as easy as it sounds. First, kayaks are designed to power with a paddle or via a pedal system. Kayaks use a displacement hull to cut through the water. Motors favor a planing hull that skims over the surface. Moreover, adding a battery and motor can increase the weight by 30 or more pounds, reducing the capacity and affecting the balance.
Rigging, maintaining, and transporting a motor also adds a layer of complexity. Before and after each trip, expect to spend 10 to 15 minutes rigging and unrigging the boat. On top of the extra work, motors and batteries are heavy and bulky. Most motorized kayaks will be too heavy to car top, so a trailer or pickup truck is the best way to carry a motorized kayak. And don’t forget the extra-large cart to move the kayak from the parking lot to the water.
To address the challenges of operating a motor-powered kayak, companies have come up with ingenious solutions. We compared models in each class to find the toughest and simplest kayak motors. Whether powered with an electric outboard, trolling motor or gas outboard, motorized kayaks are going places paddle and pedal kayaks could never go.
What You Should Consider Before Buying a Kayak Motor
Consider several factors when choosing the best kayak motor. First, what kayak will the motor push? There are simple motors for small kayaks and more powerful options for bigger boats.
Then, how far will you be going? Some systems are great for short trips, while other motors have no limits. Will the motor carry the boat to the fishing grounds, where the angler switches to pedal or paddle power? Or, will the motor control the boat for fishing? To cover a long distance, an electric kayak outboard or gas motor is faster with a longer range. If you want to use the motor for kayak fishing, a trolling motor is a better choice, because it swivels 360 degrees to guide the kayak into tight spaces where big fish live.
Finally, what is your budget? There are options for a cheap kayak motor. Do-it-yourselfers can get on the water with a couple hundred bucks. Or, for anglers looking to go the distance with a motor powered kayak, the sky’s the limit.
Several kayak manufacturers offer motorized kayak models, but many anglers choose to add an electric kayak outboard or kayak gas motor. Many of them want the freedom to switch between pedal and motor. In other cases, adding a motor is less expensive than a factory-motorized kayak. For the ultimate set-up, die-hards add an electric or gas engine to the stern and a trolling motor to the bow.
Kayak companies have embraced the trend, designing boats with mounting points for the motor base. To make installation easy, several companies manufacture brackets, mounts and controls to match a motor mount to any boat.
Better batteries were the gateway to a flood of kayak motors. While most motors can be powered by a 12-volt deep-cycle battery, the latest lithium ion batteries offer significant weight and space savings while providing superior power. A lithium ion battery makes removing, charging and re-installing the battery easier. The convenience comes at a cost, but for anglers who fish often and go hard, lithium batteries are worth the price tag.
Most important, consider the kayak that will hold the motor. A kayak’s capacity measures the weight the kayak will safely carry. Be sure to subtract the weight of motor and battery before loading the boat with gear and angler. Then, look at where to place the battery and how the boat will balance with the weight of a motor on the stern.
With so many motors to power a kayak, it may be difficult to make a choice. Fortunately, there is a perfect motor for almost every kayak. Kayak motors fall into four categories: gas outboards, electric motors, trolling motors and compact jets. Each has a best use and appropriate owner. The following will guide you to choosing the best kayak motor for your fishing.
- Best Compact Jet Motor for a Kayak: Bixpy Outboard Motor Kit
- Best Electric Kayak Fishing Motor for Speed: Torqeedo Ultralight 403 AC
- Best Kayak Trolling Motor: MotorGuide R3 Saltwater Transom Mount Trolling Motor
- Best Kayak Gas Motor: Honda 2.3 hp Short Shaft
- Best Cheap Trolling Motor: Minn Kota Endura C2 Transom Mount
Do you need a small and lightweight electric kayak motor?
If space and/or weight are a concern, and you simply want to increase propulsion, a compact jet motor is one of the easiest ways. About the size and shape of a football, the tiny motor and propeller packs a powerful punch. The motor is charged with a compact lithium ion battery and a handheld remote controls speed. These systems are great for a little extra help covering a long distance without affecting the padding or pedaling performance of the kayak.
Best Compact Jet Motor: Bixpy Outboard Motor Kit
Tiny but Mighty
The battery and motor together weigh only nine pounds. Bixby
At just nine pounds for battery and motor, the Bixpy is a marvel of engineering. The tiny but powerful kayak outboard motor runs off a matching lithium-ion battery and generates 30 pounds of thrust. Forward and reverse speed are controlled with a wireless remote. The tough little unit is waterproof and dirt proof and the remote floats. The modular motor is easy to move between kayaks or attach to a standup paddleboard. The battery only powers the motor at full speed for 75 minutes, but compact jet will run for 10 hours at slow speed. Bixpy matches the system with a variety of accessories, making it easy to install on almost any kayak.
For a small kayak, or for a little extra help paddling or pedaling, the Bixpy is the best compact jet and battery.
Are you looking for an electric kayak motor that generates a lot of speed?
For all day power and blazing top speed, an electric outboard motor is the most popular choice. Electric outboards use an efficient brushless motor to pack power in a small package. Most units run off a compact lithium ion battery. Install the outboard on the stern of the kayak and run steering controls to the seat, or tie it into the boat’s foot-controlled rudder rigging. A digital throttle controls speed, forward and reverse. Electric outboards offer great handling, especially at speed. Talking about speed, electric outboards can push a full-size fishing kayak up to 10 miles per hour without breaking a sweat. Electric outboards are one of the more expensive options, but the power and convenience are worth it.
Best Electric Kayak Fishing Motor for Speed: Torqeedo Ultralight 403 AC
The Torqeedo 403C generates one horsepower via a lithium battery. Torqeedo
Torqeedo was one of the first companies to design an electric outboard for a sit-on-top kayak, and their 1-horsepower brushless, electric kayak fishing motor runs ahead of the pack. The German company has taken years of experience fitting electric motors on kayaks to perfect the steering and battery control. Powered with Torqeedo’s reliable lithium ion battery, the 403 AC will run all day without needing a recharge. The motor and battery are easy to install and remove, making it more convenient to transport the kayak, and together weigh about 24 pounds. The crown jewel is Torqeedo’s throttle control. The GPS connected digital display shows speed along with remaining charge and run time. To make installing the motor curse-word free, the 403AC comes with everything needed to attach the motor and run the controls. And Torqeedo offers a long list of accessories to customize the motor.
Do you want a kayak trolling motor?
Inventive anglers have been sticking electric trolling motors on kayaks since the dawn of modern kayak fishing. Not only is a trolling motor powerful, but the lower unit spins 360 degrees to move the boat in any direction. The easy option is choosing a motor with a transom clamp and attaching it to a bracket hanging off the side of the boat. This keeps the tiller control close enough to reach, but this option isn’t the fastest or most maneuverable. Recently, trolling motor companies have started offering remote-controlled trolling motors that can be mounted on the bow or stern and controlled from the seat. The best thing about kayak trolling motors is the wide variety of models with sizes and features to fit any kayaker’s needs.
Best Kayak Trolling Motor: MotorGuide R3 Saltwater Transom Mount Trolling Motor
The MotorGuide R3 has a 36-inch shaft so you can enter shallows, and is built to handle tough treatment. MotorGuide
The beauty of fishing from a kayak is the plastic boat can take a beating. The best kayak trolling motor should not be an exception. MotorGuide’s R3 Saltwater Transom Mount Trolling Motor is built to take the abuse. Corrosion resistant components, stainless steel propeller shaft and a powder-coated aluminum housing keep the motor working. The 55-thrust-pound motor has seven speeds. A digital control monitors amp draw, heat and power to run cooler and more efficiently. Not only is this trolling motor for kayaks tough, but it sips battery juice. A solid transom mount bracket with stainless steel pins will fit a variety of aftermarket mounting plates. The 36-inch shaft reaches the water without reducing draft—a key consideration when looking into motorized kayaks. The extendable tiller makes it possible to control the motor from the kayak seat. The MotorGuide R3 Saltwater Transom Mount is ready to go fishing out of the box—just clamp it on the kayak and go.
Do you want the fastest kayak motor?
For the ultimate in speed, power and range, nothing beats a small, air-cooled, 4-stroke kayak gas outboard. With compact gas motors weighing less than 50 pounds, a simple bracket attaches the motor to the boat. These motors have an integrated fuel tank and don’t require a battery—simply clamp the motor to the transom, pull the cord and go. When the fuel runs out, just refill the internal tank and zoom away without much down time. A top speed over 7 miles per hour makes the outboard one of the fastest choices, and the gas motor has plenty of torque to push the biggest, heaviest kayaks. Weight is the only downside—be sure to balance the kayak when sticking an outboard on the transom. At around $1000, these gas kayak outboards are in the price range of electric options without extra rigging, and gas motors never need to be recharged.
Best Kayak Gas Motor: Honda 2.3 hp Short Shaft
It’s quiet, powerful, and reliable, and you can go all day. Honda
Honda’s outboards are valued for their quality and reliability and the company didn’t cut corners on their smallest model. The Honda 2.3 hp Short Shaft is designed for small skiffs and RIBS, but it works perfectly on a large kayak. The 4-stroke motor doesn’t require mixing oil and fuel and it’s air cooled for quiet and efficient operation. The motor weighs less than 30 pounds, making it possible to carry with one hand. The fuel tank holds enough gas to run on full throttle for an hour. Honda designed the 2.3 hp Short Shaft to have the most power and torque in its class. The speed is controlled with a tiller. To control the motor from the kayak seat, Honda offers a tiller extension.
A Motorized Kayak: What You Get for Less Than $100
With so many options for motorizing a kayak, the biggest obstacle can be the price. Electric and gas outboards cost over $1000 and lithium-ion batteries go for hundreds of bucks. The latest generation of GPS-enabled, remote-controlled kayak trolling motors push the four-figure price tag. Fortunately, the wide range of kayak electric motors includes cheap kayak motors.
The best way to motorize a kayak inexpensively is with a transom-mount trolling motor. These motors have C-clamps to attach to the boat. A tiller controls speed and direction. Many anglers build or purchase a trolling motor mount that holds the motor off the side of the kayak and within reach of the seat, though a trolling motor with a long tiller negates that need.
For anglers hell-bent on motor power, a transom-mount trolling motor is a great way to get going cheaply.
Best Cheap Trolling Motor: Minn Kota Endura C2 Transom Mount
Advanced features and tough design at a great value. Minn Kota
The best value for a kayak motor is Minn Kota’s Endura C2 transom mount trolling motor. For less than $100, anglers get a reliable and powerful kayak motor. Minn Kota is one of the most respected names in trolling motors and they poured their experience into the Endura C2. The transom clamp features a 10-stage bracket with quick release to easily lift the motor out of the water. The composite shaft is light and tough—Minn Kota guarantees it for life. The lower unit runs cool and quiet to extend battery life. Especially important for kayak anglers, the tiller extends six inches, making it easier to reach. For anglers looking for a quick and easy way to motor their kayaks, the Minn Kota Endura C2 is light, tough and affordable.
Q: What size kayak motor do I need for a kayak?
One of the most important considerations for choosing a kayak motor is picking the correct shaft length. Kayaks sit low in the water, and anglers want to chase fish in shallow water, the rule of thumb is to choose the shortest shaft available. A shorter shaft also takes up less deck space when the motor is retracted.
Q: How much thrust do you need to move a kayak?
An electric motor’s power is measured in pounds of thrust. Motors range from 30 to over 70 pounds of thrust to push everything from a kayak to an offshore center console. Most anglers choose a 30-pound motor that will push the kayak at a respectable speed without quickly draining the battery. Larger kayaks, loaded with gear and electronics, require a more powerful 50-pound motor. The challenge is balancing motor power with battery power and weight. To fish all day, higher thrust requires a larger battery. For a gas powered outboard, the smallest model available will be more than powerful enough to push any kayak. Electric outboard batteries are measured in watt hours; a 915 Wh motor is recommended for big boats and big fishing plans.
Q: How fast is a kayak with a motor?
On a good day, a paddle angler will average three miles per hour and a pedal kayak can be propelled to five miles per hour. Electric and gas motors will push a kayak at over seven miles per hour, with some models capable of reaching double digit speeds. But the faster the motor goes, the faster it drains battery power or gas. The trick is to find the sweet spot where the kayak travels at the most efficient speed. Tests have shown that cutting speed 20 percent can increase range 80 percent. It is tempting to drop the hammer and zoom at full blast, but you might end up paddling home on a dead battery or empty tank.
A Final Word on Choosing the Best Kayak Motor
Look for a motor that has a pedigree of performance and reliability. Then, decide what size motor will best suit your needs. Calculate how far do you plan to go and how long the motor will run. Then, match the size of the motor to the size of the kayak. Once this equation is solved, the best kayak motor will rise to the top.>