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After you buy a trolling motor, you will need to decide how to get it installed on your boat.

Many anglers prefer to have their trolling motors professionally installed, especially if it’s a bow-mount installation that involves drilling holes in your boat. Others choose to do it on their own, as it’s usually a straightforward process.

This article should not be taken as instructions on how to install YOUR trolling motor. For that, you will need to refer to your motor’s user manual and follow the instructions provided.

Instead, I want to give you an idea of what the installation usually involves, so that you can judge for yourself how easy (or hard) it actually is.

Let’s get started!

Tools You Will Need

  • Electric drill and drill bits
  • Wrench kit
  • Flat blade screwdriver
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Cable ties

How to Install a Trolling Motor in 4 Easy Steps

Bow Mount Motors

Bow-mounted motors are especially useful if you fish on the foredeck of your boat. One of the advantages is that they are straightforward to operate, as you can steer the bow of your boat very precisely. They also often come with more sophisticated features and controls, such as GPS or wireless steering.

Step 1: Separate the Mount Base and Choose the Location on the Deck

The base should be fixed in a place that will allow the trolling motor to be deployed and to pull the boat through the water and stowed when not in use.

Pick the spot where the mounting bolts can go through the deck, with enough distance from the hull to fit the nuts.

Step 2: Mark and Drill the Holes Through the Deck

For marking the holes, you can use the mount base as a template.

To drill, use sharp drill bits and countersink the holes if necessary.

Step 3: Fit the Mounting Bolts

Place a rubber washer over each drilled hole and carefully put the mount base on top of the washers. Slip the bolts through the base and the holes. Thread washers, nuts and tighten them.

Step 4: Fix the Motor to the Mounting Base

The top of the motor section should be around 12″ inches below the waterline or even deeper if you fish in rough water conditions.

Transom Mount

Transom mount trolling motors are very easy to install, usually less expensive, and that’s what makes them very popular among smaller boat, dinghy, and canoe owners.

Step 1: Open the Clamps by Turning Them Counterclockwise

Transom-mount trolling motors have usually 2 clamps that are used to hold the motor in place.

Step 2: Place the Motor Carefully over the Transom 

The motor should go all the way down until the top of the mounting bracket is flush with the transom.

Step 3: Tighten the Clamps

Turn them clockwise to the maximum.

Step 4: Adjust the Depth of the Motor

Most transom mount motors have a clip, ring or a different way to set the depth. You need to make sure that it is at least 10 inches deep, to prevent propeller cavitation and noise.

Engine Mount Installation

Engine mount trolling motors are fixed to the cavitation plate of outboard motors. You don’t have to stow or deploy them. They are remotely controlled and steer together with the outboard. The main advantage of this position is that it requires less space. Smaller boats may not have enough room to fix a trolling motor on the bow or transom.

Step 1: Place the Mount on the Outboard’s Anti-Ventilation Plate

Before you buy the trolling motor, you should check if the plate is deep enough under the waterline. There should be minimum 13 inches of submersion for the trolling motor to function correctly.

Step 2: Mark and Drill Holes Through the Anti-Ventilation Plate.

You can use the mounting bracket as a template.

Step 3: Place the Mount on Top of the Plate

Step 4: Fit the Mounting Bolts

Slip the bolts, fit the nuts and tighten them.

Conclusion: Is It Hard to Install a Trolling Motor?

In most cases, installing a trolling motor is quite simple. If you drilled a hole in your boat or made any modifications to it before, you will already have the required skills and confidence to do the job.

As with any boat project, preparation is key. Make sure you have all the motor parts and tools required. Read and re-read your manual’s instructions before you drill or cut anything.

If you’re not sure you can or want to do it on your own, get in touch with a professional service center. Especially if you have a complex installation that requires modifications to your boat, trained technicians can save you time and stress.

Trolling Motor Installation FAQ

What side of a boat do you mount a trolling motor?

The trolling motor doesn’t have to be installed on a particular side of your boat. However, if there is a plug and receptacle installed on your boat, it makes more sense to have the motor installed on the same side so that the wire looks tidier.

If you like to fish on a specific side of your boat, the bow-mounted trolling motor should be installed on the opposite side so that your view is not limited by it.

How much does it cost to have a trolling motor professionally installed?

Unfortunately, the quoted prices vary significantly, from a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand. It mostly depends on your boat type and if it needs any modifications before your motor’s mounting plate can be bolted to it.

Sources

Minn Kota Rigging Guide

MotorGuide Owners’ Resources