Where Should You Mount Your Trolling Motor? (Read This First)

UPDATED 31 JULY 2022

by Eric Bartlett

Trolling motors are not just used for trolling, but for a range of other purposes, including boat positioning and GPS anchoring.

And due to this versatility, it’s possible to mount trolling motors at several different locations on your boat, which each come with their own pros and cons.

But if you want to get the most out of your trolling motor, it’s essential to mount it in the best place for your boat type, and for the purpose that you have in mind.

In this article we’ll walk you through the different mounting options available to you, and will cover what each of them is ideally suited for, so you can choose the best place to mount your trolling motor. 

Where is the best place to mount a trolling motor?

There are four main places you can mount a trolling motor on a boat:

  • Bow mount
  • Transom mount
  • Engine mount
  • Side mount

Out of these four, by far the two most commonly used types are bow mount and transom mount, which together account for more than 90% of all trolling motor mounts.

We’ll start by comparing bow vs transom mount in full detail first, and will then briefly touch on the other two options as well.

Transom mount vs bow mount compared

Since transom and bow mount are the two most common types of trolling motor mounts, we’ll cover them here in full detail, so you can decide which one is best for you. 

What is a transom mount?

A transom mount trolling motor is installed on the transom, located at the stern of a boat. This type of mount is designed to straddle the gunnel of the transom, and comes with a clamp that is easily tightened with a screw.

What is a bow mount trolling motor?

A bow mount trolling motor is installed at the bow of a boat, and installing it is usually more complex than a transom mount, as it requires fastening a correctly sized mounting plate to the deck, followed by fixing the motor plus its cradle onto the plate. 

What is the difference between a transom and a bow mount?

Since most boats have a bow that is significantly higher than their transom, a bow mount trolling motor usually requires a longer shaft than a transom mount.

The main exceptions to this are jon boats and pontoon boats, which have roughly similar deck height all around.

In addition to this, a bow mount trolling motor requires a bow with a flat deck, on which it can rest on its cradle when retracted.

You’ll need to install a metal plate on the deck before you can fasten a bow mount trolling motor to it, while a transom mount trolling motor can often be directly screwed onto the transom with a clamp.

Finally, also keep in mind that a bow mount trolling motor pulls the boat, while a transom mount pushes it, which makes each of them better suited for slightly different purposes.

If you’re currently not sure how much thrust you need on your trolling motor, check out our article: should you use a 12v or 24v trolling motor?

Can you mount a transom mount trolling motor on the bow?

Yes, a transom mount trolling motor can be mounted on the bow of some boat types, such as jon boats, which have a transom and bow of similar height.

This means you can use a trolling motor with the same shaft length for either the bow or the transom.

In addition to this, you also need to have a gunwale on both the bow and the stern, since this is required in order to clamp down the motor.

Since jon boats fulfill both of these requirements, it’s quite easy to switch a transom mount trolling motor to the bow on jon boats.

But if you go ahead and do this on your jon boat, remember that you’ll need to turn the trolling motor around by 180 degrees, so the prop faces in the opposite direction.

This is necessary because a bow mount trolling motor needs to pull the boat, while a transom mount trolling motor pushes it. 

Can you convert a bow mount trolling motor to a transom mount?

Yes, you can convert a bow mount trolling motor to a transom mount by removing the bow mount from the motor shaft, and replacing it with a transom mount instead.

Keep in mind that the shaft length of the trolling motor may be incorrect when moved from the bow to the transom, which depends on the difference in height between these two locations on your boat. 

You’ll also need to rotate the motor around by 180 degrees, so that it’s facing in the right direction for its new location.

What are the pros and cons of transom vs bow mount?

A transom mount is usually better for a small boat, as it takes up less space on the boat due to the shorter shaft length of the motor.

A bow mount, on the other hand, is better if you want to use spot lock  functionality (GPS anchor), or if you want to fish from the front of the boat. 

Almost all bass pro anglers use a bow mount trolling motor, since that allows them to control the trolling motor while casting from the front of the boat.

This can be achieved either with a GPS controlled trolling motor, or with a foot pedal that enables boat control by foot while the hands are free for fishing.

On the other hand, if you want to use your motor for actual trolling, it’s better to use a transom mount, as that allows the trolling motor to push your boat through the water, where it can be controlled while you sit at the back of the boat. 

Finally, another consideration to keep in mind is that a bow mount trolling motor is harder to install, as you have to drill holes for a metal plate on your deck, and it also takes up more space on the deck, due to its longer shaft length.

Bottom line: a bow mount is better for using a foot controlled or spot lock trolling motor, or for fishing from the front of the boat, while a transom mount is better for small boats, for trolling, and for fishing from the back of the boat.

Engine mount

As suggested by the name, engine mount trolling motors are mounted to the cavitation plate of an outboard engine, and are used when the outboard is turned off, but is still in the water. In order to steer these trolling motors, you need to use the controls of the outboard engine. 

The main reason for using this type of trolling motor is if your boat is small, and you want to save space. On the downside, they provide fewer options for control, and so are not very popular among anglers. Their main use is for maneuvering a boat in and out of a marina or harbor without firing up the main engine.

Side mount

Side mount trolling motors are most commonly used for kayaks and canoes, since these vessels don’t have a transom. In some cases, trolling motors are installed on the side of small jon boats (but most often this is done with a modified transom mount). 

The mounting bracket for a side mount trolling motor usually consists of a transverse metal pipe or rail that’s fixed to the top of the kayak or canoe, and that protrudes on one side of the gunnel.

The trolling motor is then installed on this protruding part of the bracket, which can be done with a standard transom mount.

An advantage of side mounted trolling motors is that they are easier to reach when seated in the center of the vessel, so you don’t have to sit all the way at the back in order to reach the tiller. 

Can you mount a trolling motor off-center?

Yes – absolutely. In fact, it’s very common for transom mount trolling motors to be mounted off-center, and positioned next to the gasoline outboard.

However, when it comes to bow mount trolling motors, it’s better not to mount them too far off center, as centering them improves their ability to point the bow of the boat straight into the current or wind.

Also, keep in mind that side mounting becomes problematic when you try to moor the boat, as it can easily end up hitting the side of the dock.

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

The best side to mount a trolling motor depends on whether you are left handed or right handed.

Since mounting a trolling motor enables you to control the tiller with one hand while sitting on the other side of the boat, it’s important to choose the side where you can control it with your dominant hand.

Where to mount a trolling motor on different boat types

Now let’s take a look at some of the most common types of recreational boats and vessels, and where you should mount a trolling motor on each of them.

Pontoon boat

Since pontoon boats are essentially flat, you can mount a trolling motor either on the bow or on the stern, at the transom.

Transom mounting is best if you want to use it for trolling, while bow mounting is better for maneuvering around fishing hot spots, or when using spot lock. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the bow railing makes it complicated to retract and stow a trolling motor, unless you position it right in front of the gate.

However, there is an ingenious bracket designed for this purpose called a Toon Troll, which stows the motor horizontally, but without retracting onto the deck.

Jon boat

One advantage of jon boats is that their gunwale runs at a similar height around the whole boat, which means you can mount a trolling motor on a jon boat pretty much anywhere you want.

With that being said, the best location is usually a transom mount if you want to use it for trolling (or use the trolling motor as the main mode of propulsion). 

However, if you want to use your trolling motor to hold the jon boat at a fixed position in the current, it’s better to use a bow mount, since that will point the bow directly into the current.

A bow mount also allows for more fine tuned boat control, especially when used with a spot lock trolling motor. 

Bass boat

Trolling motors on bass boats are almost always mounted at the bow, since this provides more fine grained boat control by pulling the bow in different directions, or for holding the boat in a specific position.

Many bass anglers use bow mounted trolling motors with pedal control, which allows them to stand on the front of the boat while casting to fishing hotspots, while controlling the trolling motor with their foot. 

Finally, the bow is also the ideal place for a spot lock trolling motor, which provides even better fine grained boat control, and has revolutionized the world of professional bass fishing. 

If you’re thinking about adding a transducer to your trolling motor, check out our article: is it a good idea to mount a transducer on your trolling motor?

Kayak or Canoe

It’s best to use a side mount for trolling motors on kayaks and canoes, since they are long and slender, and don’t come with a wide transom where you can mount a trolling motor.

The side mount location is chosen by placing a transverse bracket straddling the kayak or canoe just behind the spot where you usually sit, so that you can reach back and steer the trolling motor with its tiller.