How to add a Bow Mounted Trolling Motor to your Kayak

Video adding motor to kayak

How to add a Bow Mounted Trolling Motor to your Kayak

Submitted by Michael Blatt

Adding a bow mounted trolling motor to your Jackson Kayak can enhance the kayak fishing experience immensely. Whether you just want to have a basic remote controlled option after pedaling or paddling all day, add or bow mounted option to your already stern mounted motor, or fully automate your track and speed while integrated with your fish finder.

bow mount

When I first started looking at accessories for my Jackson Kayak, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the option of mounting accessories for a trolling motor made for the bow of a kayak. I recalled the ease of fishing on a guided trip the year prior, on a gorgeous bass boat equipped with a foot pedal controlled trolling motor, two screens, and the constant back and forth movement of that electrified monstrous piece of hardware. I can put that on a kayak?

At the time I was building my fleet of kayaks for my new guide service, and I was not about to start drilling holes and wiring up my brand new 2021 Jackson Big Tuna. I managed to find OG Cammo Big Tuna for sale, already wired with an anchor trolly and fish finder, screaming deal.

How do you attach a trolling motor to a kayak?

*This will be the first lesson learned: Unless you have the engineering prowess to design and build your own bow mounting plate, look for a model of kayak that already has third party bow mounts available.

I ended up comparing similar bows of other kayaks, just by looking at photos of them online, that had mounting plates available. I ended up having to put a couple wedges on the deck, but that plate was not made for that kayak, “it’ll ride!”

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How to add a Bow Mounted Trolling Motor to your Kayak

Which Bow Mounted Trolling Motor should I get for my kayak?

I first went with MotorGuide Xi3 kayak, which is the 36 inch shaft. Also got the quick release bracket, you do not want to travel with the motor attached to your kayak!

*Lesson number two: The base model of trolling motors do not come with gps. If you choose this option, you should have a rudder of some sort, or plan on micro adjusting with your remote the entire time you have the motor deployed, or use your paddle for course corrections. I ended up adding the gps unit, very easy to install, and brought out the true benefits of having this on my kayak.

How to add a Bow Mounted Trolling Motor to your Kayak

Most bow mounted trolling motors are made to go on the deck of a boat where you can stand, apply your foot the stow and deploy pedal, and manually lift and lower the motor when you are ready to use it. This sometimes requires some ingenuity, DIY to it’s max, and/or watching a lot of Youtube videos. (And even more holes in your boat). Luckily for me, I had an anchor trolly line already installed on my boat, I never used the thing, so I just modified it to connect to the release lever of the trolling motor, easy! Then there’s the other rope or chord to stow and deploy the motor itself. This takes some trial and error, brute strength, and a little bit of practice. (Be prepared for issues when it comes to stowing and deploying your motor, don’t worry about the scratches on the top of the head unit from using your paddle.)

The Upgrade-

One of the truest benefits of a bow mounted trolling motor, is the ability to stand up in your kayak, cast further, and really target those hard to reach places that you sometimes can’t get your bait to while sitting. I ended up adding two Jackson Big Rigs to my fleet, I wanted to feel comfortable catching big bass and pike on the fly while standing.

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How to add a Bow Mounted Trolling Motor to your Kayak

As I was thinking about transferring my trolling motor from boat to boat, I did a quick search one morning, “auto stow and deploy trolling motors…” I ended up with a Minn Kota Ulterra Riptide, which is the salt water model, no built in transducer, and no foot pedal, just the remote control. It’s a bit shafty at 54 inches long, but does not affect my paddling or peddling of the kayak. (You may cut the shaft of this motor, but it voids the warranty.) I was very thankful for the weight capacity of both the Big Rig and the Knarr, as this motor comes in at about sixty pounds. And without the ability to move the seats back on both of these Jackson Kayaks, balancing out the weight would not be possible.

(With some models of the Ulterra, you have the option to link it to your fish finder, only works with certain models of Humminbird, such as the Helix 9.)

How do you Power and Wire a bow mounted trolling motor on a kayak?

With the MotorGuide Xi3, I was running one Renogy 12v 50ah LiFePO4 battery. I tend to not be out on the water over eight hours, so this was conducive to my needs. Depending on your usage and boat load, you may go 100 amp hours or higher. (Just think one hour for ever amp hour.) I tend to paddle or pedal to the spot I’m going to fish, so I stow the motor instead of using it as propulsion. I ran six gauge marine wire, with a 60 amp fuse, from the bow to the stern, with a two prong trolling motor plug for easy connect/disconnect.

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How to add a Bow Mounted Trolling Motor to your Kayak

The Ulterra was a completely different story! This was a 24v system. Since I already had the one battery, I just got a second one, and ran both 12v in a series. This also increased the weight significantly, but both batteries fit perfectly in the rear hatch of either boat. (I have not measured or installed a single 24v 50ah battery, and there is some debate on using a single battery on these trolling motors). This requires six gauge wire, and a three prong plug, but we can stick with the 60 amp fuse.

How to add a Bow Mounted Trolling Motor to your Kayak

Because I don’t like drilling holes in my kayak, except for the bow mount on my Knarr, I decided to make the wiring as minimally invasive as possible. I simply have the plug, fuse, and wires in a dry bag in the front hatch, the wires do not get pinched. And the batteries go into a heavy duty dry bag in the rear hatch, the new Jackson rudder controls are not affected this way.

For a brief walk through on the full Knarr set up –

How much does a bow mounted trolling motor cost?

None of these additions are cheap, be prepared for a little sticker shock. I took full advantage of any financing options while piecing this together. It is also a lot easier to sell a kayak with no holes in it, when you are ready to move your trolling motor to a new boat. There are a number of ambassador programs with smaller brand names, you can always apply and get some of these items at a discount.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>