Can You Put a Trolling Motor on a Pontoon Boat?

If you're planning on using a trolling motor for your pontoon boat, you're going to stumble into a few problems - one being the boarding gate. Here's how you bypass the problems!

Pontoon boats are the party barges of the sea, capable of carrying a lot of people. It’s not the fastest of rides across the water, but the whole idea behind a pontoon has little to do with any actual speed. This is where trolling motors come in.

Trolling motors are indeed used on pontoon boats and more frequently than you think. The problem with a trolling motor and a pontoon boat is that it’s often quite difficult to mount a trolling motor onto the boat. 

Apparently, the surge in interest in trolling motors for pontoons is growing fast. Along with that growth rate is an influx of difficulties trying to mount things properly. It stands to reason that you have to center the trolling motor at the bow as much as possible. 

The problem is that there are often structural problems with this, such as the boarding gate being in the way. Not all pontoons come with half-gates and for those who don’t have a half gate, it’s difficult to find a spot to properly mount it. 

What are the best trolling motors for pontoon boats?

black trolling motor on an inflatable boat
Image credits: Wikimedia

Before we get to the mounting options, what are the best trolling motors for pontoon boats? Are trolling motors even enough to move these things around effectively, especially when it’s fully loaded with people?

Trolling motors are strong enough to take a fully loaded pontoon boat for a leisurely stroll out on the water but you don’t want something that is going to burn out on you before you get anywhere. 

Select a model and brand

As we’ve alluded to above, trolling motors can be incredibly difficult to mount on a pontoon boat. Picking your brand amounts to what you are planning on doing in your pontoon boat. If it’s primarily for fishing, then you might want to consider grabbing a trolling motor that is synced with a fish finder. 

If it’s primarily a party barge, then you just want to stick with a straight trolling motor and little else. However, even as a party barge, a linked-up fish finder will often allow you to control the trolling motor from anywhere on the boat, rather than physically moving it. 

For example, MotorGuide Trolling Motors wirelessly syncs with Lowrance Fish Finders, especially the more advanced ones. The way these things work nowadays, you may be able to work out smartphone control but for now, a Lowrance Fish Finder may be a good matter of convenience rather than an actual fish finder. 

Thrust required for pontoon boats

pontoon boat on beach
Image credits: Robert Linder

There’s a lot to be said in favor of pontoon boats, especially when it comes to all the room that is available onboard. However, they are cumbersome, very heavy, and not at all streamlined or hydrodynamically capable of moving through the water with grace and ease. 

That means that you need power and, when it comes to trolling motors, raw power is in short supply. They just aren’t that large so you will need to find a significant amount of thrust power in a tiny package.

Fortunately, there is a mathematical calculation that you can use (isn’t there always?) to help you find the right trolling motor for your pontoon. What you will have to do is take the entire weight of your boat in pounds, and divide it by 100. 

Take the answer and multiply it by 2. It’s not a difficult formula by any means. The problem is, you have to count the number of people that are going to be on the boat. The best way to do this is to overestimate, that way your trolling motor will never fail you. 

If you imagine the maximum number of people that you think you could potentially have on the boat and add their weight, you will come up with a thrust that should always be sufficient, even if you never have that many people on your pontoon boat. 

  • Let’s say that your pontoon boat weighs 2,500lbs
  • Now let’s say that you can place a maximum of 8 people onboard
  • Calculate the additional people as if everyone weighs 170lbs.
  • 170 x 8 = 1,360lbs.
  • 1,360lbs plus 2,500lbs = 3,860lbs
  • 3,860lbs ÷ 100 = 38.6
  • 38.6 x 2 = 77.2

These calculations indicate that you should get a trolling motor with an 80-pound thrust. That will be more than enough when you have a few people on the boat with you and will still be enough if you put the maximum number of people on the boat with you. 

In this case, something along the same lines as the Minn Kota Fortrex 80, which has an 80-pound thrust, will be sufficient for your pontoon, regardless of the size of the party. 

Battery power for your trolling motor

Trolling motors don’t power themselves, after all. Ultimately, you will end up with a two, possibly three battery system since you will have one starter battery and one trolling motor battery at the minimum. 

Typically trolling motor batteries are going to be deep cycle batteries. Spill-proof, deep-cycle batteries are the best way to go because they slowly release their power, over time, which is more than enough to run your trolling motor. 

The Mighty Max 12V, 55Ah Pontoon Battery is a good example of what you might want to install in your pontoon boat to power the 80-pound thrust you will need to push your part barge around the water. It doesn’t have to be this exact battery, though it is highly rated, you get the point. 

You never want to run your trolling motor off of a starting battery alone and a two-battery system is sufficient, with a three-battery system even better. 

Shaft length and features

Remember, before you pick out your trolling motor, your pontoon’s deck is a lot higher up from the water than it would be on a traditional fishing boat. Something along the lines of 60” is what you will be looking for but you should, at the very least, get a bird’s eye calculation on how far up the place you want to mount it is going to be.

A remote control is great as far as features go, as we mentioned above with the trolling motor and fishfinder combination, so you’ll want to find something that will either combine with the right fish finder or has its own, built-in remote control feature. 

Mounting a trolling motor on your pontoon

This is the trickiest part of the entire operation, however, if you did your homework and followed the above advice, you should be fine. There are generally three ways to mount your trolling motor. You can use a transom mount, which is at the stern, a bow mount, or mount it directly to the outboard engine.

Transom Mount

It is commonplace to mount trolling motors on the stern but it’s often difficult depending on the pontoon and the design because there is often little room for a transom mount. It’s popular because it is probably the easiest way to mount it. 

If you do have room, this method won’t take up much space so there’s little space needed to do the job in the first place. You don’t have to use a drill plate but with transom mounts, the maneuverability will be lessened to a degree.

Engine mount

This method is used mostly for those who don’t want to use up any additional space on the pontoon. Even if it’s only the smallest amount of space for a transom mount or, perhaps there is no room for a transom mount, which is common enough. 

The trolling motor mounts directly onto the cavitation plate on the outboard motor. It’s probably the most complicated mount of the three but it doesn’t mean that you will have a little more room on the pontoon. It’s also nice that the maneuverability remains the same if slowed quite a bit by switching from the outboard motor to the trolling motor. 

Bow Mount

Last but not least, we have the bow mount. This mount places the trolling motor at the front of the boat and takes up the most space out of the three methods. You also need a higher degree of precision, because you want the trolling motor to be as close to the centerline as you can get it. 

It’s often a difficult mount for those who lack a half gate because this is the entryway to come onboard the pontoon in most cases. Its biggest benefit is that it gives you much better control and maneuverability on the water. Pulling the boat rather than pushing it makes a world of a difference. 

Final thoughts

Trolling motors are perfectly fine for pontoon boats and they’ve always been that way. It’s only in recent years that there has been an explosion in popularity and demand for trolling motors for the express purpose of mounting them on pontoon boats. 

If you’re ready to join the rest of the crowd, it’s not as easy a task as it might be for a small, aluminum, or flat-bottom fishing boat, so be sure to do your homework and purchase the best trolling motor for your particular pontoon.

Default image
Thomas Godwin

Thomas Godwin is a writer and Marine Corps veteran with a degree in Creative Writing from the Full Sail University. He has been writing content for HeadlessNomad since 2021. Being a veteran, Thomas knows pretty much everything there is to know about the use of paracord, how boots should fit, and nature in general.