Yes, really. If you have only ever been on the salt, or only ever on the fresh, it may come as a surprise that there is a difference between saltwater and freshwater trolling motors. In general, there usually is a difference in the materials of construction and protection of the electrical workings when comparing these two types of trolling motors. Without getting too technical, saltwater is much more corrosive than freshwater. Just think about it, if you live in areas where salt is cast on icy roads to make them safe for driving, then you know what salt can do to your car over time - salt is very corrosive to most grades of steel, not to mention it can play havoc on electric components. For those folks only needing a trolling motor for freshwater use (like me growing up), you do not need to spend more of your hard-earned cash on a trolling motor tailormade for saltwater. HOWEVER, if you have a little extra cash to spend, and you might, just might have the chance to be able to use your trolling motor for some high-action saltwater or brackish water fishing, then definitely go for the upgrade and get a saltwater trolling motor. Now, if you can find the best rated trolling motor that fits your specific needs, AND is good for salt or freshwater, now you have your icing on the cake - read on, let's see what we find.
For this article, we will be focused on small trolling motors, designed for mounting on the transom. (The transom is the rear of the boat, whereas the bow is the front.) These motors are what you would typically use on an aluminum or fiberglass jon boat, harbor dinghy, kayak, canoe, and other small watercraft. These can also be mounted on the transom of larger boats as fall back motors. I've even seen these mounted on the bow of some small fishing boats, utilizing specialized and homemade mounts - which we cover in detail in another article. These mount by setting the motor bracket on top and over the transom and then tightening the wingnut/bolts against the transom wall hand tight - check your instructions once you have your new motor in-hand. After mounting, the motors have adjustable positions, rotating up/down positions - down fully engaged in the water, and up all the way out of the water - and several positions between.
Well, enough rambling already, let's take a look at some examples of salt and freshwater trolling motors. And we need pictures, I get it, I get it.
First, we will compare a couple of transom mount saltwater trolling motors and then compare two freshwater trolling motors. These are in the 50-55 pounds (lbs) thrust range and 30 inch (30") minimum shaft length.
The picture below is a transom mount saltwater trolling motor branded and sold by Bass Pro Shops (basspro.com). It is 12-volt and has a 36" shaft, 55 lbs of thrust, battery meter, 5 forward and 3 reverse speeds, and an extendable tiller arm. It has a decent 3-star rating, but the 1-star ratings worry me a bit - check this out, at the time of this writing, this item had 6 reviews, and two are 1-star - a common review remark is that the item "falls apart." Hmm, yeah, I'm not paying $250 for that.
Here we have another saltwater trolling motor, it is listed on Amazon and is branded by Newport Vessel. It also is 12-volt and has a somewhat shorter shaft of 30", battery meter, and has the same 55 lbs of thrust, 5 forward - 3 reverse speeds, and an extendable tiller arm. This item is equipped with saltwater compatible materials like stainless steel, zinc, and magnesium. There are five different sizes to choose from: 36 lbs, 46 lbs, 55 lbs, 62 lbs and a whopping 86 lbs of thrust. The 55 lbs. thrust model that we are comparting here is listed well under $200, has a 4.5 star rating, and get this - almost 1700 reviews! Check it out Here.
Newport is the no-brainer winner between these two transom mount saltwater trolling motors. In defense of Bass Pro Shops, Newport is a big name in the saltwater arena. If you are shopping Bass Pro, check out the bigger name brands, at least for trolling motors (we have noted one in the next section). Check it out on Amazon Here.
The Saltwater Winner is - Newport. Newport is the no-brainer winner and best trolling motor between these two transom mount saltwater trolling motors. Check it out on Amazon here. In defense of Bass Pro Shops, Newport is a big name in the saltwater arena. If you are shopping Bass Pro, check out the bigger name brands, at least for trolling motors (we have noted one in the next section).
And now lets take a quick look at a couple of freshwater trolling motors. This is another transom mounted trolling motor and it is listed on Amazon and branded by Watersnake as the Watersnake Tracer. It is 12-volt, has a 46" shaft, battery meter, 54 lbs of thrust, 5 forward - 2 reverse speeds, and an extendable tiller arm. The 54 lbs thrust model is listed well under $400, has a 4.5 star rating, and 70 reviews. Watersnake is a very respected brand and you won't be disappointed with this motor Here.
And before the final showdown, let's look at one more freshwater, this time from Bass Pro. This is a Minn Kota Endura C2 trolling motor - 12-volt, 50 lbs of thrust, 36" shaft, 5 forward / 3 reverse speeds with an extendable tiller arm. There are several different sizes to choose from to fit your needs on power and shaft length: 30 lbs thrust / 30" shaft length, 45 lbs/36", 50 lbs/36", 40 lbs/42", 55 lbs/36", and 55 lbs/42". For our comparison, the 50 lbs thrust with a 36" shaft is listed under $250, has a 4.5 star rating with 90 reviews. Not bad, quite good actually. For my money, this Minn Kota Endura C2 is the top freshwater electric trolling motor, at least between these two freshwater units. Check out all of the Bass Pro Endura C2 Here - Bass Pro has a lot of sales. In fact, at the time of this writing, the 30 lbs / 30" model is on sale for $99!! Check it out Here.
Now, let's compare our two winners from above.
The saltwater winner from above was Newport. Price: on sale roughly $200 at the time of this writing-check out the current pricing at Amazon Here.
Voltage - 12
55 lbs of thrust
5 forward - 3 reverse
The freshwater winner was Minn Kota. Price: just under $250 at the time of this writing - check out the current pricing at Bass Pro Here.
Voltage - 12
50 lbs of thrust
5 forward - 3 reverse
Remember when we said that you don't have to pay more money for a saltwater trolling motor? Remember that? You're right, we never said that. What gives? Well, usually, saltwater compatible "whatever-you-can-think-of" items are more expensive than freshwater. But in this case, Newport really outperforms and has the pricing, delivery, a very solid rating, and is safe to use in either salt- or freshwater, so we have to declare Newport the overall winner - a Titan of Trolling Motors rating (ToTM) in the transom mount division, lol. So, for your next transom mount motor, take a look at Amazon's Newport trolling motor, even if you are a freshwater-only adventurer.
We have more comparisons in other articles. Just take a look around. We also discuss in detail the differences in trolling motor applications, including thrust and shaft lengths, and we dive into several accessories while we are at it. We love accessories.
Onwards and upwards ... and get out there and fish.
See ya on the water.