Can A Trolling Motor Power A Jon Boat? (3 Things You Need To Know)

UPDATED 31 JULY 2022

by Eric Bartlett

Jon boats are very popular among anglers, due to their lightweight construction, affordable cost, and ease of deployment and operation.

But if you’re new to jon boats, you’re probably wondering what kind of motor you should get for it, and if a trolling motor is enough to power it.

In this article we’ll walk you through running your jon boat with a trolling motor, and what you need to consider before you choose this option.

Can you run a jon boat with a trolling motor?

Yes, you can absolutely run a jon boat with a trolling motor, either as your main propulsion, or as a secondary propulsion with a gasoline outboard as your main engine.

However, there are several things you need to consider before you decide which of these two options is right for you. Let’s dive into those questions below.

Can a trolling motor move a jon boat?

Yes, a trolling motor can move a jon boat, but it’s important to choose a trolling motor with sufficient thrust for the size and weight of your jon boat.

If you choose an underpowered trolling motor, you may find yourself in situations where the trolling motor isn’t strong enough to move the jon boat when facing a stiff wind or strong current. 

How fast can a jon boat go with a trolling motor?

A jon boat powered by a trolling motor can go up to 4 to 5 miles per hour, but it’s rare to reach these top speeds. In most cases you can expect a speed between 2 and 3 mph at maximum throttle.

The exact speed that you’ll get with a trolling motor on a jon boat depends on the power of the trolling motor, the weight of the jon boat, as well as the resistance that you may encounter, mostly in the form of water current or wind.

It’s usually best to have a slightly over-powered trolling motor with over 80 or 100 pounds of thrust, as that will guarantee maximum speed under most conditions.

It’s important to keep in mind that the overall maximum speed you can achieve with a trolling motor is 5 mph, even if you get the most powerful trolling motor, and pair it with a lightweight jon boat or other vessel. 

Trolling motors aren’t built to deliver high speeds, which is why most jon boat owners use two motors: a gasoline outboard for traveling fast (outboard motors can generate top speeds well over 30 mph with jon boats), and a trolling motor for maneuvering in close quarters, or when fishing.

Will a trolling motor push a jon boat upriver?

Yes, a trolling motor can push a jon boat upriver if it is strong enough for the current and the weight of the boat. However, if the current is strong (and especially if there is a headwind as well as current), the trolling motor will tend to struggle with this task.

Because of this, it’s best to use a trolling motor with at least 80 or more pounds thrust if you need it to push your jon boat upriver.

In fact, if you plan to use the motor a lot for this purpose, it’s better to get a trolling motor with 112 or even 120 pounds of thrust (the latter is currently the maximum power of electric trolling motors available on the market).

Is a trolling motor enough for a jon boat?

Yes, a trolling motor is usually enough for powering a jon boat, but keep in mind that this requires using an adequately powered trolling motor for the size of your jon boat. If you choose an underpowered trolling motor (or run into strong headwinds), you may have problems moving the boat forward against the wind. 

Especially on big lakes and reservoirs, this can be an issue you need to watch out for. The lake may be calm and peaceful when you set out, but if a strong wind starts up later on, your trolling motor may not be able to deal with it, leaving you unable to get back to your starting point.

Where should you mount a trolling motor on a jon boat?

If you use a trolling motor as the main propulsion for your jon boat, it’s best to mount it at the transom.

This allows it to push your boat forward while you steer it your hand or remote control. 

On the other hand, if you use a trolling motor in addition to an outboard, it’s best to mount the outboard engine at the transom, and the trolling motor at the bow.

This is the most common setup used by most anglers, as a bow mount trolling motor is better for using spot lock or for fine tuned maneuvering.

In either case, it’s relatively quick and easy to mount a trolling motor on either the transom or bow of a jon boat, as you can use a regular transom mounting bracket to straddle the gunnel in both of those locations.

What size trolling motor should you use for a jon boat?

For an average size jon boat around 14 feet, you need a trolling motor with at least 50 pounds thrust, but would do better with an 80 pound thrust trolling motor, since that will enable you to deal with wind and current more effectively.

The ideal size trolling motor for a jon boat depends on the size and weight of the boat, as well as the conditions that you plan to use it in.

In terms of boat weight, keep in mind that you need to calculate the fully loaded weight, which includes all gear plus potential passengers.

Another factor to consider is whether you will be using the jon boat in conditions with plenty of water current, such as big river systems, or if there is often strong wind in that area.

Strong wind is especially insidious on large lakes, since there is less cover to shelter you from the wind.

If you’re not sure whether to go for a 12V or 24V trolling motor for your jon boat, check out our article: 24V vs 12V trolling motors compared.

What trolling motor shaft length is best for a jon boat?

The best trolling motor shaft length for jon boats is usually between 42” and 45”.

This short shaft length is dictated by the fact that jon boats have a relatively low transom and bow height.

In case the transom of your jon boat is especially low (between 15” and 20”), you may even want to consider using a kayak trolling motor with 36” shaft length. 

Do you need to register a jon boat with a trolling motor?

Yes, you need to register a jon boat with a trolling motor in most US states.

The main exceptions to this are Florida and Georgia, which don’t require registration if you only use your jon boat on a privately owned pond or lake, as well as Washington, which doesn’t require a license if your jon boat is less than 16 feet long, and you only use it on non-federal waters.

For more details on this topic, check out our article on what boat types with trolling motors need to be registered?