Bow-mounted trolling motors have become pretty much essential equipment on many boats. They can move a large boat almost silently, and GPS anchor (spot lock) so that you can concentrate on fishing.
There are literally tens of different models available, from established manufacturers such as Minn Kota and MotorGuide, but also from relative newcomers: Lowrance, Garmin and Haswing.
In this article, we go through all bow-mount motors currently available, as well as tips on how to buy and install one on your boat.
Let’s get started!
Minn Kota Bow Mount Motors Compared
Bow Mount Minn Kota: Freshwater
|Minn Kota||Highlights||Thrust (lb)||Shafts||Spot Lock|
|Terrova||i-Pilot, US 2||55 80 112||45" 54" 60" 72"||✔|
|Ulterra||Auto stow/deploy||80 112||45" 60" 72"||✔|
|Ultrex||Cable & electric||80 112||45", 52" 60"||✔|
|PowerDrive||i-Pilot, US 2||45 55 70||48" 54" 60"||✔|
|Fortrex||Cable steer||80 112||45" 52"||✖|
|Maxxum||Cable steer||55 70 80||42" 52"||✖|
|Edge||Cable steer||45 55, 70||36" 45" 52"||✖|
Minn Kota has been making trolling motors since 1934, bringing lots of innovations along the way.
Bow-mounted models with Spot-Lock, like the Ultrex and the Ulterra are some of the most advanced trolling motors available today.
Bow Mount Minn Kota: Saltwater
|Minn Kota||Highlights||Thrust (lb)||Shafts||Spot Lock|
|Riptide Terrova||i-Pilot||80 112||45" 54" 60" 72"||✔|
|Riptide Ulterra||Auto stow/deploy||80 112||54" 60" 72"||✔|
|Riptide PowerDrive||i-Pilot||80 112||48" 54" 60"||✔|
Minn Kota Riptide models above were designed for saltwater and brackish environment. They use marine-grade materials that protect the motor and its electronics from damaged.
Minn Kota’s saltwater bow mount motors are built with premium-grade alloys, coated with zinc, and painted with corrosion-resistant polyester paint.
Each model comes with a sacrificial anode fixed to the prop to help prevent rusting.
MotorGuide Bow Mount Motors Compared
|MotorGuide||Highlights||Thrust (lb)||Shafts||Spot Lock|
|Tour Pro||Cable steer HD+||82 109||45"||✔|
|Tour||Cable steer HD+||82 109||45"||✔|
|Xi5||Electric, GPS, Sonar||55 80 109||48"||✔|
|Xi3||Electric, GPS, Sonar||55 70||48"||✔|
|X3||Cable steer||45 55 70||45"||✖|
|Xi5 Saltwater||Electric, GPS||55 80 105||48" 54" 60" 72"||✔|
|Xi3 Saltwater||Electric, GPS||55 70||54" 60"||✔|
MotorGuide is another US-based company with a long history of designing and manufacturing trolling motors – over 50 years!
Compared to Minn Kota, similar MotorGuide bow mount models tend to be less expensive.
They also integrate very well with Lowrance fish finders, as both companies have been working together.
Lowrance Ghost – Check Price
Lowrance is a major manufacturer of marine electronics, relatively new to trolling motors. Their first bow-mount trolling motor, the Ghost was released in 2020.
Lowrance Ghost uses a brushless DC motor and advanced GPS features. It has quickly become very popular, especially among the fans of Lowrance fish finders.
At 24 volts, Lowrance Ghost delivers 97 pounds of thrust, which is almost as much as 36-volt trolling motors of most competitors.
If you want even more power, all you need to do is to add an extra 12-volt battery to get the full 120 lb of thrust the Ghost can deliver.
Garmin Force – Check Price
Garmin Force is a relatively new trolling motor, released in August 2019. Its arrival was very well received by the market, with thousands of anglers using it already.
Garmin specializes in GPS technology and makes high-quality marine electronics.
Just like Lowrance Ghost, Garmin Force has a brushless DC motor and can run on either 24 or 36 volts. This delivers 87 and 120 pounds of thrust respectively.
Why Choose a Bow Mount Trolling Motor?
Sometimes there is no other practical choice, you have no additional available space on your boat, and the bow is where you mount it. For example, if your boat is narrow and there is not enough room next to your outboard for safe and convenient use.
Bow mount trolling motors are especially useful if you fish on the fore deck of your boat.
Bow-mounted motors make precise steering easier than transom motors. That is especially true in windy conditions when the bow of your boat tends to get blown away.
They also often come with more sophisticated features and controls, such as GPS or wireless steering.
The drawback is that they are a bit more difficult to install than transom motors, as they require a horizontal surface at the front of your boat to be fixed.
They also tend to be relatively expensive.
Plenty of Thrust Even For Heavy Boats
Bow mount motors offer many thrust options that cover most types of boats used for trolling fishing.
The lowest thrust is offered by 55-lb motors powered by a single 12V battery. More popular are 80-lb models running on 24 volts, but if you have a heavy boat or fish in adverse current and weather conditions, there are plenty 100+ lb trolling motors powered by 36 volts.
Most bow-mount motors come with a variable-speed motor controller, which delivers power smoothly forward and in reverse. No energy is wasted, and you get more run time off your battery.
Steering Options for All Fishing Styles
Electric trolling motors have come a long way since they were invented over 80 years ago. The innovation is still taking place and it’s especially visible in bow-mount models, which today can be controlled in several different ways:
Electric–steer models offer more control options, such as using wireless remote and GPS positioning that help you get where you want to be and focus on fishing.
Cable-steer trolling motors a multi-function foot pedal and the motor are directly linked via a cable. It’s a less sophisticated system than the above but more responsive and very popular with bass fishermen.
Hand-steer motors use a tiller handle for direct control, very much like traditional outboards. Hand-controlled motors are simple to use and are much more affordable.
GPS Navigation and Anchoring
GPS trolling motors let you steer, control speed, lock onto fishing spots, and more just by pressing a button on the remote.
Autopilot allows your trolling motor to steer on its own in the set direction. It uses a compass to keep a steady heading and can be used in many ways, for example, trolling along a shoreline, a ledge, or a shelf.
GPS anchoring is probably the most popular feature on premium trolling motors, and it’s fantastic in areas with substantial currents, waves, and winds.
It holds the boat at a set position by automatically thrusting whenever the boat starts to drift.
Lift-Assist and Auto Stow/Deploy Make Life Easier
Trolling motor manufacturers try hard to make stowing and deploying their motors as easy as possible.
Some of them use traditional stainless steel springs, others employ nitrogen gas springs to make the lifting process almost effortless.
However, it’s still a manual process, and you can’t do it from anywhere in your boat.
That is why Minn Kota came up with an idea to make stowing and deploying fully automatic on their Ulterra and Ulterra Riptide models.
On the Ulterra, there is no need to get up to deploy your trolling motor. You will appreciate this, especially if you fish on larger lakes in windy and rough conditions or if you like to fish on your own.
Fish Finder Compatibility
If you have a fish finder of a specific brand and you want it to be able to “talk to” your trolling motor, you will need to make sure they are both compatible.
For example, a Humminbird fish finder will work with Minn Kota’s models, whereas a Lowrance fishfinder works well with MotorGuide trolling motors.
Premium bow mount trolling motors have built-in transducers that send images to your fish finder. They are fully integrated with the lower motor section, which means there are no additional cables or connectors involved.
If you want a built-in transducer, make sure it is of the type you want, for example, Universal Sonar or MEGA Down or Side Imaging.
Things You Should Know Before Buying a Trolling Motor
There are literally hundreds of different trolling motors models, and thousands if you count various thrust, shaft and features configurations.
They can be quite expensive too, so before you buy one, make sure you educate yourself to avoid a potentially costly mistake.
Below, we’ll discuss the most important questions you should ask yourself and important things to know before deciding which motor to buy.
1. How to Install a Bow Mount Trolling motor?
Bow mount trolling motors are relatively easy to install on boats with flat bows. All you need to do is to bolt the motor’s mounting pad to the bow.
If your boat has an angled bow or other features that prevent straightforward horizontal mounting, you will need to fabricate a plate to which the trolling motor can be attached.
You can find our step-by-step mounting instructions here.
2. How Much Thrust Is Enough for My Boat?
Thrust is the force that moves the boat through the water. It is measured in pounds (lbs) and gives you a rough idea of the motor’s performance.
A generally agreed rule is that for every 100 lbs you will need at least 2 lbs of thrust. For example, if your boat weighs 4000 lbs, fully loaded, then you want 4000/100 * 2 lbs = 80 lbs of thrust for your trolling motor.
My advice is to get the most powerful motor you can. If you fish offshore on a large boat, you will be much better off with a 100+ lb trolling motor that runs at 36V.
You will also want more thrust if you fish in areas with fast currents and significant waves. The last thing you want is for your boat to be underpowered.
Learn more in our thrust guide.
3. Calculate Your Battery Runtime
This is one of the most frequently asked questions, and depends directly on two things: the capacity of your battery and the current draw of your trolling motor.
Battery capacity is measured in Ampere hours or Ah and current draw in amperes (amps). If your battery has 100Ah capacity and your motor draws 20 amps of current, then you can calculate its run time by dividing 100/20 = 5 hours.
However, this is only a theoretical number because depending on the type of battery you use, you will never want to deplete it to 0% of capacity. For example, if you have a standard lead-acid battery, you should really only use 50-70% of its Ah capacity if you want to keep it in good shape.
The current draw of your motor depends on the speed you set it to and how heavy your boat is. If you use your trolling motor at lower speeds, you will have a significantly lower current draw and much longer run time.
Weather and water conditions will also affect how long your motor will run. It is harder to push a boat against the current, choppy waters, or into the wind, which means higher current draw and shorter run time.
4. Measure Your Boat for Shaft Length
The right shaft of your trolling motor is absolutely vital to make sure your propeller stays submerged regardless of water and weather conditions.
You don’t want the propeller to get out of water in choppy waters or/and sucking in air from above the waterline when it is not deep enough. It will cause noise, loss of power and can shorten the life of your motor.
You will need to take measurements and calculate the right shaft length for your boat. The rule of thumb is to measure the distance from your chosen mounting location down to the water. You then should add another 20 inches (50cm).
This is especially important if you pick the bow-mount model, as there are many different bow shapes and heights. It’s best to measure the boat fully loaded with people and gear or at least account for it.
Extra weight at the stern can lift the bow and the motor with it.
If you’re stuck deciding between a shorter and longer shaft version, it’s usually safer to go a little longer.