The battery has a limited lifespan, too. Lithium-iron batteries last far longer than lead-acid batteries but they are twice as expensive to replace. You can check the charge on a battery with a voltage meter, but it’s hard to tell the number of hours the battery has operated. Ask the owner questions about how often and how long he or she used the battery.
When it comes down to it, purchasing a used motor kayak is like purchasing a used car. Ask a lot of questions, take a test drive and inspect the kayak and motor for wear and tear. In most cases, there are no refunds so buyer beware.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used fishing kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Fishing Kayak.
Motorized fishing kayak buying guide
Motorized fishing kayaks come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, but they fall into two main categories: integrated motors and add-on motors. Integrated motors are kayaks with a motor designed into the hull from the factory. Adding an electric trolling motor or brushless outboard motor to a paddle or pedal kayak offers more options for motor size and configuration but no guarantees on performance. Most recently, manufacturers are designing longer, wider and deeper kayaks specifically for matching with an aftermarket motor.
First, consider what type of kayak motor will suit your needs. A kayak with an integrated motor is easier to own and operate because the motor, battery and kayak are matched for the best performance and the rudder and controls are pre-rigged from the factory. If you’re looking for a motor kayak that is quick and easy to use with reliable performance and matching parts, a factory motorized kayak is a guaranteed good time.
If you’re looking for a kayak to motor, pedal or paddle, you should consider adding a motor to a sit-on-top kayak. Realize, once you start adding a motor, battery and rigging to a kayak that was made for paddle or pedals, you are monkeying with the boat’s performance. Read reviews and watch videos of other angler’s projects to get an idea how your combination will perform. There are a million ways to motorize a kayak, below are some ideas to get you started.
The easiest way to motorize a kayak is to install a remote-controlled, 50-pound-thrust, clamp-mount trolling motor to the stern or bow of the kayak. Anglers looking to use the motor mainly for transportation to the fishing grounds install the motor to the stern. To rely on the motor to maneuver the boat in and out of fishing holes, attach the motor to the bow. Some anglers even go for a motor in the bow and the stern for distance and tight quarters.
The most recent generation of trolling motors are controlled by a hand-held remote controls. This precludes the need to install rudder and foot pedals to control direction. Just attach the motor to the kayak and push a button on the control to turn right and left while adjusting speed in reverse and forward.
Shadetree engineers prefer to build their own bracket out of parts found at a hardware store. Unless you have a degree in busted knuckles and greasy fingernails, we suggest leaving the work of attaching a powerful electric motor to a plastic boat to the pros.
Another option is adding a brushless electric outboard. Brushless motors are designed for maximum efficiency while using the least power by placing the engine coils on the inside and the magnets on the outside, in the opposite configuration of a typical electric motor.
Brushless motors are faster, more powerful and more expensive. An electric outboard is best for traveling to and from the fishing grounds because it provides greater straight line speed but a wider turning radius than a trolling motor. In many cases, the electric outboard is paired with a matching battery and controls for easy installation and maximum performance.
To attach the motor, use a special bracket designed to mate the motor to your kayak. Several companies make brackets that save installation time and improve performance and reliability. Many kayaks are designed with inserts and a small hatch in the stern to accept a motor mount. If your kayak isn’t motor-ready, most motor mounts come with a kit to connect the motor to the boat.
Choosing the right battery is as important as finding the best kayak motor. Most electric motors run off a 12-volt battery. The cheapest option is a 12-volt, deep-cycle, marine battery. But these batteries are heavy and bulky with poor performance. A better option is a lithium-ion battery, which is lighter, stronger and easier to recharge. On the other hand, lithium-ion batteries cost up to three times more than a similar lead-acid battery.
With the battery and motor installed, you’ll need wiring and controls to connect everything. Choose cables and control boxes rated to match your motor and battery. Again, installation kits are available for battery and trolling motor combinations but it takes some creativity to fit the works in a kayak.
Try to position the heavy batteries under or near the seat to maintain the kayak’s balance. Use through-hull grommets to run the battery cables into the kayak hull. If you’re using a remote controlled trolling motor, once the battery is installed you’re good to go.
If you’re going with a tiller mount motor, you’ll need to mount the motor close enough to the seat to reach the tiller. Some electric trolling motors offer a tiller extender. Or, choose a motor mount that holds the motor off the side of the kayak closer to the seat. While the second option gets the job done, running the motor off the side of the kayak is awkward and interferes with fishing.