Best 12-Volt Bow Mount Trolling Motors (2020 Reviews)

closeup photo of a red boat in water with 12-volt trolling motors

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Boaters who fish in an open bow-rider or on the fore-deck of a bass boat tend to prefer bow mount trolling motors. This is due to the precise steering and convenience of this type of motor. Owners of boats under 17.5 feet in length and weigh sub 2,750 lbs do their best to minimize onboard weight. To make the boat as maneuverable as possible it’s best to use 12-volt bow mount trolling motors. Not only are they lighter than their higher voltage counterparts, but they are less expensive. An added bonus is that you can use a single battery charger. Keep in mind, running a 12-volt motor at full speed will drain the battery and sacrifice fishing time.

New boaters can feel overwhelmed with the amount of choices on the market. To aid in your research this article reviews of six of the best 12-volt bow mount trolling motors for 2020. Including both fresh and saltwater models from Minn Kota, MotorGuide and Haswing.

To start, there’s a tabbed section to display comparison tables of the trolling motors. Next are the single reviews of each model. For ease of use there is also a clickable table of contents to navigate to a specific product or section. Okay, let’s begin.

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Table of Contents

Comparison Chart

Preview
Editor's Choice
Minn Kota Riptide Terrova a 55 54" Shaft Length 55 lbs Thrust 12V Trolling Motor with i-Pilot & Bluetooth
MinnKota Riptide PowerDrive with i-Pilot Saltwater Bow-Mount Trolling Motor, 55/IP_BT/54-Inch Shaft
Top Marks
MotoGuide Xi5 54" Bow Mount 55 Lb Saltwater 12V Trolling Motor with GPS, White
Product Name
Minn Kota Riptide Terrova
Minn Kota Riptide PowerDrive
MotorGuide Xi5 Saltwater
Verdict
Best-Rated 12V Saltwater Trolling Motor
Spot Lock Equipped Motor For Boats Under 17 Feet
Top 12V Trolling Motor For Flats Boats Under 17.5 Feet
Peak Thrust (Pounds)
55
55
55
Shaft Length (Inches)
54
54
54
Motor Voltage
12 Volts
12V
12V
Maximum Amperage Draw
50 Amps
50A
52A
Shaft Material
Composite
Composite
Composite
Propeller Type
Weedless Wedge™ 2 Blade Prop
Weedless Wedge™ 2 Blade Prop
3 Blade Machete III Glass-Filled
Type Of Steering
Electric Steer
Electric Steer
Electric Steer
Steering Control Type(s)
i-Pilot® Handheld Remote
i-Pilot® Handheld Remote
PinPoint GPS Handheld Remote
Weight (Pounds)
55
39
49.9
Dimensions L x W x H (Inches)
54 x 15 x 10, (13.94 L x 8.52 W Mount Size)
69 x 18 x 11 (18 5/16 L x 7 W Mount Size)
70 x 18 x 11
Battery Cable Lengths (Inches)
60
60
60
Stow/Deploy System
Lift Assist Manual Stow/Deploy
Deploy-Assist Lever Stow/Deploy
Manual Stow/Deploy
GPS Included
Sonar Transducer Included
Warranty
2 Years
2 Years
2 Years
Editor's Choice
Preview
Minn Kota Riptide Terrova a 55 54" Shaft Length 55 lbs Thrust 12V Trolling Motor with i-Pilot & Bluetooth
Product Name
Minn Kota Riptide Terrova
Verdict
Best-Rated 12V Saltwater Trolling Motor
Peak Thrust (Pounds)
55
Shaft Length (Inches)
54
Motor Voltage
12 Volts
Maximum Amperage Draw
50 Amps
Shaft Material
Composite
Propeller Type
Weedless Wedge™ 2 Blade Prop
Type Of Steering
Electric Steer
Steering Control Type(s)
i-Pilot® Handheld Remote
Weight (Pounds)
55
Dimensions L x W x H (Inches)
54 x 15 x 10, (13.94 L x 8.52 W Mount Size)
Battery Cable Lengths (Inches)
60
Stow/Deploy System
Lift Assist Manual Stow/Deploy
GPS Included
Sonar Transducer Included
Warranty
2 Years
Preview
MinnKota Riptide PowerDrive with i-Pilot Saltwater Bow-Mount Trolling Motor, 55/IP_BT/54-Inch Shaft
Product Name
Minn Kota Riptide PowerDrive
Verdict
Spot Lock Equipped Motor For Boats Under 17 Feet
Peak Thrust (Pounds)
55
Shaft Length (Inches)
54
Motor Voltage
12V
Maximum Amperage Draw
50A
Shaft Material
Composite
Propeller Type
Weedless Wedge™ 2 Blade Prop
Type Of Steering
Electric Steer
Steering Control Type(s)
i-Pilot® Handheld Remote
Weight (Pounds)
39
Dimensions L x W x H (Inches)
69 x 18 x 11 (18 5/16 L x 7 W Mount Size)
Battery Cable Lengths (Inches)
60
Stow/Deploy System
Deploy-Assist Lever Stow/Deploy
GPS Included
Sonar Transducer Included
Warranty
2 Years
Top Marks
Preview
MotoGuide Xi5 54" Bow Mount 55 Lb Saltwater 12V Trolling Motor with GPS, White
Product Name
MotorGuide Xi5 Saltwater
Verdict
Top 12V Trolling Motor For Flats Boats Under 17.5 Feet
Peak Thrust (Pounds)
55
Shaft Length (Inches)
54
Motor Voltage
12V
Maximum Amperage Draw
52A
Shaft Material
Composite
Propeller Type
3 Blade Machete III Glass-Filled
Type Of Steering
Electric Steer
Steering Control Type(s)
PinPoint GPS Handheld Remote
Weight (Pounds)
49.9
Dimensions L x W x H (Inches)
70 x 18 x 11
Battery Cable Lengths (Inches)
60
Stow/Deploy System
Manual Stow/Deploy
GPS Included
Sonar Transducer Included
Warranty
2 Years

Preview
MotorGuide Xi3-55FW54 12V Attwood Xi3 Bow Mount Wireless Control, 54-in. Shaft, Black
Budget Friendly
Black Haswing 12V 55LBS 54"Shaft Bow Mount Electric Trolling Motor Portable,Variable Speed,with Foot Control/Quick Release Bracket for Bass Fishing Boat Freshwater and Saltwater Use,Energy Saving
MinnKota Powerdrive Trolling Motor with Bluetooth (55/US2_BT Thrust, 54" Shaft)
Product Name
MotorGuide Xi3 Freshwater
Haswing Cayman (48)
MinnKota Powerdrive
Verdict
Basic But Quiet Wireless Motor For Pontoon/Jon Boats
Super Cheap Wireless Motor For Jon Boats Under 16 Feet
Reliable Electric Steer Motor For V-Hulls Under 17.5 Feet
Peak Thrust (Pounds)
55
55
55
Shaft Length (Inches)
54
48
54
Motor Voltage
12 V
12 V
12 V
Maximum Amperage Draw
52 Amps
45 Amps
50 Amps
Shaft Material
Composite
Aluminum
Composite
Propeller Type
3-Blade Machete Propeller
3 Blade Prop / 9 Inch Diameter
Weedless Wedge™ 2 Blade Prop
Type Of Steering
Electric Wireless
360 Electric
Electric Wired
Steering Control Type(s)
Wireless Handheld Remote
Wireless Remote & 14.7 Ft Wired Foot Pedal
Wired Foot Pedal
Weight (Pounds)
41
34 lbs
46
Dimensions L x W x H (Inches)
10.5 x 20 x 64.25
58 x 19.7 x 7.5
17 x 10.1 x 61.4
Battery Cable Lengths (Inches)
60
59
60
Stow/Deploy System
SecureStep Manual Stow/Deploy
Manual Stow/Deploy
Lift-Assist Manual Stow/Deploy
GPS Included
Sonar Transducer Included
Warranty
2 Years
2 Years (Motor) 3 Months (Remote)
2 Years
Preview
MotorGuide Xi3-55FW54 12V Attwood Xi3 Bow Mount Wireless Control, 54-in. Shaft, Black
Product Name
MotorGuide Xi3 Freshwater
Verdict
Basic But Quiet Wireless Motor For Pontoon/Jon Boats
Peak Thrust (Pounds)
55
Shaft Length (Inches)
54
Motor Voltage
12 V
Maximum Amperage Draw
52 Amps
Shaft Material
Composite
Propeller Type
3-Blade Machete Propeller
Type Of Steering
Electric Wireless
Steering Control Type(s)
Wireless Handheld Remote
Weight (Pounds)
41
Dimensions L x W x H (Inches)
10.5 x 20 x 64.25
Battery Cable Lengths (Inches)
60
Stow/Deploy System
SecureStep Manual Stow/Deploy
GPS Included
Sonar Transducer Included
Warranty
2 Years
Budget Friendly
Preview
Black Haswing 12V 55LBS 54"Shaft Bow Mount Electric Trolling Motor Portable,Variable Speed,with Foot Control/Quick Release Bracket for Bass Fishing Boat Freshwater and Saltwater Use,Energy Saving
Product Name
Haswing Cayman (48)
Verdict
Super Cheap Wireless Motor For Jon Boats Under 16 Feet
Peak Thrust (Pounds)
55
Shaft Length (Inches)
48
Motor Voltage
12 V
Maximum Amperage Draw
45 Amps
Shaft Material
Aluminum
Propeller Type
3 Blade Prop / 9 Inch Diameter
Type Of Steering
360 Electric
Steering Control Type(s)
Wireless Remote & 14.7 Ft Wired Foot Pedal
Weight (Pounds)
34 lbs
Dimensions L x W x H (Inches)
58 x 19.7 x 7.5
Battery Cable Lengths (Inches)
59
Stow/Deploy System
Manual Stow/Deploy
GPS Included
Sonar Transducer Included
Warranty
2 Years (Motor) 3 Months (Remote)
Preview
MinnKota Powerdrive Trolling Motor with Bluetooth (55/US2_BT Thrust, 54" Shaft)
Product Name
MinnKota Powerdrive
Verdict
Reliable Electric Steer Motor For V-Hulls Under 17.5 Feet
Peak Thrust (Pounds)
55
Shaft Length (Inches)
54
Motor Voltage
12 V
Maximum Amperage Draw
50 Amps
Shaft Material
Composite
Propeller Type
Weedless Wedge™ 2 Blade Prop
Type Of Steering
Electric Wired
Steering Control Type(s)
Wired Foot Pedal
Weight (Pounds)
46
Dimensions L x W x H (Inches)
17 x 10.1 x 61.4
Battery Cable Lengths (Inches)
60
Stow/Deploy System
Lift-Assist Manual Stow/Deploy
GPS Included
Sonar Transducer Included
Warranty
2 Years

How To Choose 12-Volt Bow Mount Trolling Motors

To choose any trolling motor that will best suit your needs, complete these 5 steps. Since you know you want a 12-volt bow mount type, follow the list below for the remaining factors to consider.

  • Thrust – Sized based on vessel size and weight. Vessels which weight less than 2750 pounds can use 12-volt trolling motors. To confirm what thrust level you need based on boat length, see the chart below.

Diagram chart of trolling motor force comparing boat length to thrust

  • Shaft Length – Measure from bow deck surface to waterline. Add 18 inches for rough waters.
  • Intended Purpose – Freshwater models are for freshwater period. Saltwater models can operate in both types of water.
  • Steering Control – All motors in this article are electric steering. You will need to choose either remote control, foot control or both.
  • Added Features – Do you want GPS, sonar or chart-plotter integration etc.

New boaters can feel overwhelmed with the amount of choices on the market. To aid in your research this article reviews of six of the best 12-volt bow mount trolling motors for 2020. Including both fresh and saltwater models from Minn Kota, MotorGuide and Haswing.

To start, there’s a tabbed section to display comparison tables of the trolling motors. Next are the single reviews of each model. For ease of use there is also a clickable table of contents to navigate to a specific product or section. Okay, let’s begin.

Best All-Around 12-Volt Bow Mount Trolling Motor

Purple label with gold anchor stating Editor's choice
Minn Kota Riptide Terrova
  • Peak Thrust (Pounds): 55
  • Shaft Length (Inches): 54
  • Motor Voltage: 12 V
  • Maximum Amperage Draw: 54 A
  • Propeller Type: Weedless Wedge™ 2 Blade Prop
  • Type Of Steering: Electric Wireless
  • Steering Control Type(s): i-Pilot® Handheld Remote
  • GPS: i-Pilot® GPS
  • Sonar: Not Included But Upgrade Available
  • Battery Cable Length: 5 Feet
  • Weight: 55 Pounds
  • Special Features: Variable Speed Motor, i-Pilot Remote Control, Lift-Assist, Bluetooth Smartphone App, Digital Maximizer, Built-In Battery Gauge, Weedless Wedge™ 2 Blade Prop, Composite Shaft
  • Package Includes: Trolling Motor, i-Pilot® Wireless Remote, Power leads, Mounting Hardware, Owners Manual
  • Warranty: 2 Years
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Minn Kota Riptide Terrova 12-Volt Review

Minn Kota loyalists love the Riptide Terrova and so will you. In 2020, this is my choice of the best overall model for 12-volt bow mount trolling motors. This particular model of Terrova has 55 pounds of thrust with a 54-inch shaft. It’s the most powerful amount of thrust in a 12-volt trolling motor. Which means the trolling motor can overcome strong current and winds.

The Riptide Terrova is one of the most popular series of trolling motors in boating accessory market. Owners of bass boats less than 16 feet in length and under 2750 pounds trust this motor. The reason the Terrova is so popular is due three main advantages.

  1.  Lightweight spring-loaded mechanism delivering manual lift-assist stow and deploy.
  2. A powerful, quiet motor attached to a composite shaft.
  3. The flawless spot-lock anchor mode via the i-Pilot GPS wireless remote. This handheld remote allows you to steer from any place in the boat, which is a huge bonus for anglers.

The Minn Kota Digital Maximizer

To provide the longest run times possible Minn Kota uses digital maximizer technology. This is a variable speed motor instead of the traditional fixed speed motor. Fixed speed motors provide 5 forward and 3 reverse speeds to choose from but are prone to over powering. Whereas, a variable speed type has infinite speed settings to allow you dial in a precise speed. This level of control allows the motor to draw constant power (Amps) and is easier on the battery.

Bear in mind, a digital maximizer is most effective for trolling at slow speeds. Running at high speeds will burn every model of trolling motor, no matter if its fixed or variable speed.

Premium Saltwater Construction

Unlike the freshwater Terrova, the Riptide can withstand the harshest environments. With encapsulated electronics, a marine-grade alloy head unit and grit-blasted aluminum lower motor unit. To prevent corrosion all metal components go through a rigorous multi-step protection process. That involves a dichromate armor plating, finished with 5-mil TGIC polyester, powder coat paint.

Anglers who fish inshore get Minn Kotas’ revered “Weedless Wedge” 2-blade propeller. I love how it makes mince meat of underwater vegetation, no more issues with a plugged propeller. For the shaft its composite and Minn Kota gives you a lifetime guarantee on it.

Moving on to installation, the mount takes up 13.94 inches length by 8.52 inches in width. But I recommend adding a quick-release bracket to make long term storage easier.

i-Pilot® GPS Steering System

Standard with the Riptide Terrova 12-Volt is the i-Pilot® GPS remote. Using an easy-to-read large LCD screen you can control speed, steering and GPS features. For anglers looking to integrate with Humminbird unit, upgrade to i-Pilot® Link™. The Link system is what enables you to match your chartplotter to the trolling motor.

For boaters that aren’t familiar with i-Pilot® GPS, below is a list of its awesome features.

  • Spot-Lock which is anchor mode. If the boat shifts more than 5 feet the motor turns on and brings the boat back into the original position.
  • iTrack Record/Playback Route. Allows you to trace a route, save it, then follow it again. Stores up to 16 iTracks, up to 2 miles long each.
  • Go-To. Choose any Spot-Lock or iTrack to go to. It will activate your motor to take you straight to it.
  • Autopilot With CoPilot. Pick a heading and this mode will stay on it without lifting a finger. Holding the boat in a straight line without veering off course. CoPliot adds speed, steering control, turns prop on/off and a high-speed bypass.
  • Cruise Control. Limits boat speed on the remote screen to help entice fish as you troll at 0.1 mile-per-hour increments.

Plus A Heading Sensor

In this specific package you  get an additional Blue-tooth heading sensor. Inside is a compass that detects your boat’s heading and communicates it to the motor. This enables the Spot-Lock Jog feature. Which moves a Spot-Lock location in 5 foot increments in any direction.

Any Disadvantages To The Riptide Terrova 55?

One disadvantage seems to be that the i-Pilot remote can show a blank screen from time to time. Inside the remote the wires can make intermittent contact with the terminals. Most owners solutions are to smack the remote to fix the problem. Or it might need a battery replacement.

The second minor problem is the installation manual, it’s a bit complicated. If you are new to programming remotes, be ready for an hour to install the software features.

Verdict:

Boaters who fish will love this easy to use trolling motor. Nothing is better than having control from every area of your boat. It’s simple to stow/deploy, powerful and has a great anchor mode. What more could you ask for?

Spot Lock Equipped Motor For Boats Under 17 Feet

Minn Kota Riptide PowerDrive
  • Peak Thrust (Pounds): 55
  • Shaft Length (Inches): 54
  • Motor Voltage: 12 V
  • Maximum Amperage Draw: 50 A
  • Propeller Type: Weedless Wedge™ 2 Blade Prop
  • Type Of Steering: Electric Wireless
  • Steering Control Type(s): i-Pilot® Handheld Remote
  • GPS: i-Pilot® GPS
  • Sonar: Not Included But Upgrade Available
  • Battery Cable Length: 5 Feet
  • Weight: 39 Pounds
  • Special Features: Easy Deploy-Assist Lever, Advance Corrosion Protection, Digital Maximizer, Variable Speed Motor, Spotlock & Autopilot Via i-Pilot GPS, Weedless Wedge Prop, Composite Shaft
  • Package Includes: Trolling motor, CoPilot or i-Pilot Remote, Lanyard, MKP-32 Prop, Mounting Hardware & Owners Manual
  • Warranty: 2 Years
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Minn Kota Riptide PowerDrive 12-Volt Review

Looking at 12-volt bow mount trolling motors from Minn Kota but only want the basics? If so the PowerDrive model is a good choice. While it lacks a heading sensor and the improved “Lift-Assist” of the Riptide Terrova, you do get I-Pilot GPS. Some anglers prefer less technology as it translates to less possible issues. For these kinds of boaters, running a 17-foot skiff, the PowerDrive ticks a lot of boxes.

This model of the PowerDrive has 55 pounds of thrust with a 54 inch shaft. It’s powerful and can fight typical currents and winds during inshore fishing. It doesn’t have lift-assist, but does have Minn Kotas older generation deploy pedal. Using it is heavy and cumbersome, for these reasons it makes sense that Minn Kota changed this system.

Minn Kota Riptide PowerDrive Advantages

Like the Terrova, the PowerDrive has the digital maximizer technology. Which I explained in the Terrova review, it’s a variable speed motor instead of a classic fixed speed. This means you get five times longer of run time on a single battery charge. I took it out for four hours and the instant “stage of charge” didn’t change, that’s a plus.

Remember that while a digital maximizer is effective for trolling at slow speeds. Using a motor at constant high speed negates the digital maximizer technology.

Next, you get the same saltwater protection including encapsulated electronics. Plus the use of marine-grade alloys for the head unit. Under the water there’s a grit-blasted aluminum lower motor unit. Covering all the metal components is an armor plating. Over top it’s finished with a powder coat paint. It should withstand any brackish water but to be honest, I rinse off my trolling motor after use.

Unlike the freshwater version, the riptide comes with a sacrificial anode. Using zinc, this anode absorbs galvanic corrosion so the rest of the lower motor doesn’t have to.

I like how stress free fishing next to the shore is with the PowerDrive due to the weedless wedge propeller. Likewise with all Minn Kotas, it has composite shaft with a lifetime guarantee. I can hit structures or docks and not wince at the thought of damaged components. 

i-Pilot® GPS Steering Control

On the main piece of technology that comes with the PowerDrive 12-volt, the i-Pilot® GPS remote. This allows angler to move around the boat and still be able to control steering. For these models of 12-volt bow mount trolling motors, control is via only this remote.

If you are a new customer and not familiar with i-Pilot® GPS, below is a list of its great features.

  • Spot-Lock. This is Minn Kotas anchor mode. If the boat shifts over 5 feet, the motor turns on and moves the boat back into your anchor position.
  • Go-To. Select any Spot-Lock or iTrack to go to. It activates your motor to take you right back to a preselected position.
  • iTrack Record/Playback Route. Lets you trace a route, save it, and follow it again. Stores up to 16 iTracks, up to 2 miles long each.
  • Autopilot With CoPilot. Select a heading and stay on it without lifting a finger. Holds the boat in a straight line without moving off course. CoPliot adds speed, steering control, turns prop on/off, plus a high-speed bypass.
    Cruise Control. Keeps boat speed steady on the remote screen to help entice fish as you troll at 0.1 mile-per-hour increments.

I appreciate that Minn Kota provides an easy-to-read large LCD screen. It’s so simple to control speed, steering and GPS features. Keep in mind, if you want to integrate with Humminbird unit, upgrade to i-Pilot® Link™. The Link upgrade is what enables you to match your chartplotter to the trolling motor.

Any Disadvantages?

The main issue I have with this trolling motor is the noise and vibration that emits from the upper head unit. It’s way more than the Terrova or the offerings from MotorGuide or Haswing.

Next, as I mentioned earlier, if you don’t rise the motor down expect issues corrosion issues. While saltwater protection is a bonus it isn’t fault free, in fact some boaters have had powder coat peel off. This is prevalent with this specific model.

The third issue is common to i-pilot remotes, which is the intermittent blank screens. I didn’t experience it while out on the water but others have so it’s worth mentioning.

Verdict:

If you own a skiff less than 17 feet in length and prefer simple 12-volt bow mount trolling motors, pick this model. While it’s loud above water, I was successful fishing using it. Bear in mind though, while it has less technology to go wrong, the other parts tend to break if not maintained.

Top 12V Trolling Motor For Flats Boats Under 17.5 Feet

top marks label in blue with yellow check mark
MotorGuide Xi5 Saltwater
  • Peak Thrust (Pounds): 55
  • Shaft Length (Inches): 54
  • Motor Voltage: 12 V
  • Maximum Amperage Draw: 52 A
  • Propeller Type: 3 Blade Machete III Glass-Filled
  • Type Of Steering: Electric Wireless
  • Steering Control Type(s): Handheld Remote
  • GPS: PinPoint GPS
  • Sonar: Not Include But Upgrade To Universal Sonar 2 Available
  • Battery Cable Length: 5 Feet
  • Weight: 49.9 Pounds
  • Special Features: Variable Speed Motor, PinPoint GPS Remote, Fully Protected Electronics, LED Indicator Lights, Three-Blade Prop, Composite Shaft, Low Profile Mount
  • Package Includes: Trolling Motor, Wireless Remote (PinPoint GPS Dependent On Model), Power leads, Mounting Hardware & Owners Manual
  • Warranty: 2 Years
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

MotorGuide Xi5 Saltwater Review

My runner-up pick for best 12-volt bow mount trolling motors is the MotorGuide Xi5 SW. This is the 54 shaft model with 55 pounds of thrust. Which is a perfect size for most “flats” boats under 17.5 feet in length. This translates into being capable of steering boats which weigh up to 2750 pounds.

Like the Minn Kota Terrova, it has a durable composite shaft that will withstand a beating. Moreover, it’s backed by a lifetime guarantee. Unlike the Terrova, MotorGuide uses a glass-filled 3 blade machete propeller. It preforms okay, but I prefer the weedless wedge from Minn Kota.

For installation, the Xi5 has 8 different mounting positions. However, it’s in your best interest to add a quick release bracket or ram mount. The quick-release mount allow you to remove the motor for long term storage or transport. If you don’t want to remove the motor for travel get the ram mount, this will hold the shaft tight on the trailer.

To set depth control it has a simple collar on the shaft you can preset. Putting the motor into the water is a breeze, just depress the foot pedal and hand pivot it into the water. Next you wait for the LED display lights on the to illuminate showing the motor is ready for use.

“Digital Management System”

As a direct competitor to Minn Kota you will see similar features with different names. One is the digital management system. This is MotorGuides answer to Minn Kota’s “digital maximizer.” It’s basically a variable speed motor to increase precision speed control. That also aids in easing strain on the battery. Does it work? Yep, I used it to troll at 1.5 mph for 3 hours and saw little change to the battery level light.

On the boat the motor is almost silent above water, you can hear a pin drop when it’s running. Steering right and left the head rotates smooth and quick. The motor achieves this because of friction reducing ball bearings inside. In fact, it’s a near perfect motor for finesse fishing techniques in shallow waters.

MotorGuide Xi5 Steering Control System

Steering control for the Xi5 comes from the Pinpoint GPS handheld remote. But if you like foot controls you can buy an optional wireless foot pedal. Integration with a chartplotter is best with Lowrance and Simrad electronics. The Xi5 SW uses Universal Sonar 2 (US2), this is a dual beam sonar technology (83 and 200 kHz).

During my first use the hand-held remote I was awestruck at the speed of its operation. The remote buttons emit chimes, but each one is a bit different, which helps me remember each mode. I’m impressed at how fast the trolling motor responds to input from the control.

If you are coming from a different brand of trolling motor like Minn Kota, the PinPoint is just like i-pilot. The only difference is that MotorGuides remote doesn’t have the LED display screen. At first, I thought this would be a big problem. But after a day of use it’s not that much of a nuisance to not have a display. Anyways if you aren’t familiar with PinPoint below is a short explanation of each.

Standard Pinpoint GPS Features

  • Anchor Mode. Using two digital compasses, and a special algorithm, this delivers pinpoint anchoring. Fights against winds, currents and tides. Its accurate to 5 feet of a fixed coordinate.
  • Jog Mode. A mode to use in conjunction with anchor mode. Press any direction on the controller tells the motor to move boat in 5 feet increments in any direction.
  • Cruise Control. Keeps a preset speed in either the “heading lock” or “route record” modes. Compensate for any winds, tides or currents that can alter your speed.
  • Heading Lock. Select a desired compass heading. The GPS will set course and move the boat in a straight line to the way point. Also compensates for wind, tide or currents.
  • Route Record. Record and playback up to 8 routes ranging up to 4 miles each. Allows for stop-and-go use like engaging anchor mode during recording.

Downsides To The 12-Volt Xi5 Saltwater?

Unfortunately, like the 24-volt version, it has a problem of loosing GPS signal under trees. This isn’t an actual downside but I keep hearing from boaters about it, so I thought I would mention it. You need a high amp hour, deep cycle marine type battery to power this motor. If you use an undersized or improper battery type expect the trolling motor to drain quickly.

Another downside that I’ve already talked about is the lack of display screen on the remote. Some anglers hate it but for me I don’t mind it. Next the battery status light that changes color as it depletes (green – yellow- red). It’s very hard to read in direct sunlight. Instead of the light changing color I’d prefer them you use separate lights for each.

Verdict:

Searching for 12-volt bow mount trolling motors for your flat boat? If power and silence are your priority then buy the MotorGuide Xi5 Saltwater. Choosing it will get you accurate wireless control, with ultra-fast steering. Keep in mind, it has some caveats. Such as if you fish in heavy foliage or hate not having a display on your remote. Then you might prefer my best all-round choice instead.

Basic But Quiet Wireless Motor For Pontoon Boats

Sale
MotorGuide Xi3 Freshwater
  • Peak Thrust (Pounds): 55
  • Shaft Length (Inches): 54
  • Motor Voltage: 12 V
  • Maximum Amperage Draw: 52 A
  • Propeller Type: 3-Blade Machete Propeller
  • Type Of Steering: Electric Wireless
  • Steering Control Type(s): Wireless Handheld Remote
  • GPS: Not Included But Upgrade Available
  • Sonar: Not Included But Upgrade Available
  • Battery Cable Length: 5 Feet
  • Weight: 41 Pounds
  • Special Features: SecureStep Style Stow/Deploy, Easy-To-Read LED Dashboard, Digital Power Management = 5x Longer Battery Life
  • Package Includes: Trolling Motor, Wireless Remote, Power leads, Mounting Hardware, Owners Manual
  • Warranty: 2 Years
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

MotorGuide Xi3 Freshwater Review:

It can be hard to find good and basic 12-volt bow mount trolling motors for use in freshwater. Especially if you need to be budget conscious but want wireless control. In 2020 the MotorGuide Xi3 is my pick for pontoon boaters wanting smooth, quiet trolling at a great price.

This model has a thrust level of 55 pounds and comes with a 54 inch composite shaft. Which is powerful enough to control pontoon boats up to 16.5 feet in length, weighing under 2700 pounds.

You can buy the Xi3 55 model in three options, standard wireless remote, adding GPS, or add GPS with sonar. For this review I used a model with the add GPS called “PinPoint.”

Entry-Level 12-Volt Bow Mount Trolling Motors

The Xi3 55 freshwater is the main competitor to the Minn Kota PowerDrive series. While they match in thrust levels and shaft length, the Xi3 offers a key advantage. It has wireless or GPS remote steering right out of the box, whereas the PowerDrive uses a wired foot pedal. Other features the Xi3 boasts over wireless offerings in this price range include:

  1. A secure step lever for easy pivot action stow and deployment. 50% easier to use than the Minn Kota PowerDrive.
  2. Best-in-class electric steer motor for quiet operation. In fact, its 40% quieter than the leading competitor.
  3. LED dashboard on mount to check the status of four key functions in any light condition.
  4. Anodized Aluminum Mount & Encapsulated Electronics
  5. Uses the “digital power management” variable speed motor. Delivering exact speed control while extending battery life.
  6. Capable of connecting to Lowrance electronics, such as a chartplotter.

MotorGuide Xi3 Freshwater Steering Control

Steering for this model of the Xi3 trolling motor, is via the Pinpoint GPS handheld remote. Although if you are an angler used to cable control you may want to buy the optional foot control. If you want integration with a chartplotters it’s best with Lowrance and Simrad. Although not standard or even on this model, you can upgrade to Universal Sonar 2 (US2). Which is an 83/200 kHz sonar transducer inside the nose cone of the lower motor unit.

The remote has all the buttons you need to control the boat but lacks a display screen. Which poses problems for some anglers because they can’t see how fast the motor is running. Despite it not having a screen the remote does chime as you raise and lower speed. Which I find easy to remember over the course of the day.

Using the remote on the boat, it responds fast and the motor runs silent above the water. As I turn I stood at the bow and observed the shaft rotation being silky smooth. For the price of the Xi3 I’m impressed.

PinPoint GPS Features:

  • Anchor Mode. With two digital compasses, and a special algorithm, this mode delivers pinpoint anchoring. It will fight against winds, currents and tides. On the water this mode is accurate to 5 feet of a fixed coordinate.
  • Jog Mode. This is a directional mode to use in conjunction with anchor mode. Tells the motor to move/jog boat in 5 feet increments in any direction.
  • Cruise Control. For use with either the “heading lock” or “route record” modes. It maintains a preset speed and compensates for any winds, tides or currents.
  • Heading Lock. Select a desired compass heading and it will direct the boat in a straight line to it.
  • Route Record. Record, save and playback up to 8 routes, up to 4 miles each. Lets you do stop-and-go use maneuvers during, such as an anchor mode during recording.

Disadvantages Of The 12-Volt Xi3 Freshwater?

As I mentioned in a previous review of MotorGuide motors, these can drain cheap batteries. It’s best you use a quality deep cycle high amp hour marine battery. Plus with this model you need to disconnect the battery after use as it’s known to continue to drain it after use. I like upgrading to a battery tender plug for this reason, that or trip the circuit breaker.

Next, the “Xi” series remote controls can lose GPS signal under heavy foliage. Some boaters slap the back of the remote and it does the trick, but others have reported this doesn’t work. I’ve already mentioned the lack of display screen but this is a personal choice.

Last is a minor personal gripe for the entire Xi series of trolling motors. The battery status light will change color as it depletes (green – yellow- red). I find it to be way to difficult to read it in direct sunlight. It would be nicer if MotorGuide would use separate lights for each.

Verdict:

Pontoon boaters looking for basic, quiet 12-volt trolling motors will like the Xi3. It’s a great entry-level electric steer that also gives you wireless GPS control. It steers fast and gives you control from anywhere in the boat, all at a decent price.

Super Cheap Wireless Motor For Jon Boats Under 16 Feet

green budget friendly label
Haswing Black Cayman Freshwater
  • Peak Thrust (Pounds): 55
  • Shaft Length (Inches): 54
  • Motor Voltage: 12 V
  • Maximum Amperage Draw: 45 A
  • Propeller Type: 3-Blade Prop, 9 Inch Diameter
  • Type Of Steering: 360 Electric
  • Steering Control Type(s): Wireless Remote & 14.7 Ft Wired Foot Pedal
  • GPS: Not Included
  • Sonar: Not Included
  • Battery Cable Length: 4.9 Feet
  • Weight: 34 Pounds
  • Special Features: Variable Speed Motor, Lift Handle For Easy Stow/Deploy, Quick Release Mounting Bracket, Handheld Remote With Cruise Control
  • Package Includes: Trolling Motor, Wireless Remote, Wired Foot Control Pedal, Quick Release Bracket, Mounting Hardware
  • Warranty: 2 Years (Motor) 3 Months (Remote)
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Haswing Black Cayman Review:

Customers with small Jon boats have unique considerations for trolling motors. Weight, mount size, steering control and price are the main factors. In 2020 the Black Cayman freshwater trolling motor hits the mark on three of these factors. As a result it’s my budget pick for 12-volt bow mount trolling motors. It’s a bit of a leap of faith for big brand enthusiasts because its from a relatively unknown brand from China. But for a rock bottom price you get a wired foot pedal and wireless remote electric steer trolling motor.

This specific model has 55 pounds of thrust with a 48-inch aluminum shaft. The shorter shaft limits it to sub 17-foot boats, less than 2700 pounds in full load weight.

Value For Price Trolling Motor Package

What makes the Haswing Black Cayman trolling motor a good deal is what comes in the package. Not only do you get the motor but also a wireless remote and wired foot pedal. Plus a quick release mounting bracket and all the mounting hardware.

However, for the low cost of the Black Cayman, don’t expect the features you get with a Minn Kota or MotorGuide. It doesn’t have GPS, anchor or jog mode but does feature cruise control. Cruise control is great for fishermen who do drift and drag bait techniques in calm waters. After trying out this motor I’ve come to the conclusion this motor isn’t ideal for rough open waters.

For such a low price, the materials aren’t terrible but I do wonder about long term durability. The weight of this trolling motor beats out all the others at a 34 pounds. Which is perfect for smaller vessels. Anyways, below is a list of the material features of the Haswing Black Cayman.

Haswing Black Cayman Component Features

  • 48 inch cast aluminum alloy shaft with a hand operated depth collar. Not as rugged as high-end trolling motors but expected at this price point.
  • Fiberglass or plastic upper head unit and lower motor unit. Coated with a rust-resistant paint to encapsulate the motor housing.
  • Plastic stow/deploy foot pedal to pivot the motor in and out of the water. Easy to stow but unless you deploy as slow as possible it makes a pretty big splash.
  • Black ergonomic lifting handle to lift motor off of quick-release mounting bracket.
  • A sacrificial zinc anode in the lower motor to protect metal components inside.
  • Shock-resistant plastic 3 blade propeller. As basic as it gets in shape, I’d worry about it getting stuck in heavy weeds.
  • Nylon quick-release mounting bracket with stainless steel fasteners. Some buyers complain of stripped bolts, I would upgrade these. Also, the mount sticks out off the bow by 5 inches!
  • Plastic Remote control and foot control pedal with 14.7 feet of power cable. Buttons on the remote allow you to control direction and the speed of a variable brushed motor.
  • Simple LED indicator lights on mount to display battery charge.

On The Water With The Cayman Trolling Motor

As I mentioned, deployment via the foot pedal must be slow to avoid big splashes in the water. Unlike the top-end brands the spring in the pivot arm is loose. So you have to man-handle the motor in and out of the water. For younger anglers this isn’t a problem but for people with back or knee issues it’s a pain.

Initial power up of the motor is somewhat quiet but not to the level of a Minn Kota or MotorGuide. Haswing claims it’s less than 50 decibels, it might be, but I could still slightly hear the motor as it rotated. The rotation is swift with little water wake which surprised me for the cost of this trolling motor.

Using the hand-held remote, the buttons beep and each of the ten speeds are responsive. But, the steering button increments are bigger than others which takes some getting use to. On to using the foot control, it’s dimensions are huge and it feels cheap on my foot. It’s slow to respond and frankly annoying for me to use.

Disadvantages Of The Haswing Black Cayman

The first issue I have is the steering for the Black Cayman, it over corrects by about 10 degrees sometimes. This just isn’t precise enough for fishing around docks or shallow shoreline fishing.

Second some customers complain of the remote disconnecting out on the water. While the foot pedal provides connected control, its cumbersome and slow to respond. In an emergency this may add to your stress levels.

My third issue is the lower end material use. Customers complain of body discoloration and in extreme cases bent shafts. While I used the Black Cayman I didn’t experience any on these issues. But it does reiterate my concerns with the long term life expectancy of this trolling motor. Haswing claims you can use it in either freshwater or saltwater, I don’t trust I can.

The last issue is the uncertainty of customer service from unknown brands. What do you do if you need repairs? Does the risk out weigh the reward? Some boaters have been ecstatic while other have felt left out in the cold. While I’m wary, my experience with it was okay.

Verdict:

Buy the Haswing Black Cayman if you are searching on a budget. Haswing 12-volt trolling motors are great for small fishing boats under 17 feet long. For simple trolling in calm waters you get an inexpensive, semi-quiet trolling motor. Keep in mind though, buying from unknown brands is a risk.

Reliable Electric Steer Motor For V-Hulls Under 17.5 Feet

MinnKota Powerdrive Freshwater
  • Peak Thrust (Pounds): 55
  • Shaft Length (Inches): 54
  • Motor Voltage: 12 V
  • Maximum Amperage Draw: 50 A
  • Propeller Type: Weedless Wedge™ 2 Blade Prop
  • Type Of Steering: Electric Wired
  • Steering Control Type(s): Wired Foot Pedal
  • GPS: Not Included
  • Sonar: Universal Sonar 2
  • Battery Cable Length: 5 Feet
  • Weight: 46 Pounds
  • Special Features: Lift-Assist Manual Stow/Deploy, Universal Sonar 2 Transducer, 18 Foot Cord Foot Pedal, Composite Shaft
  • Package Includes: Trolling Motor, Wired Foot Control Pedal, Weedless Wedge Prop, Mounting Hardware
  • Warranty: 2 Years
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Minn Kota PowerDrive Freshwater Review:

Want the most basic electric steer bow mount trolling motor from Minn Kota? Look no further than the PowerDrive freshwater model with an 18-foot-long wired foot pedal. You don’t get i-Pilot GPS steering standard but you do get a built-in Universal 2 sonar transducer. If it matters you can upgrade to the wireless remote or the GPS power i-Pilot.

This particular model delivers 55 pounds of thrust with a 54 inch composite shaft. This is enough power to control any v-hull fishing boat under 17.5 feet long, weighing under 2750 pounds.

Lacking today’s lift-assist system it uses the older generation deploy pedal. Using stow/deploy is clunky but it slips into the water smoother than the Haswing Black Cayman.

Otherwise, it’s what you’d expect from a lower-end Minn Kota trolling motor. A black and sleek looking motor that feels tough and is easy to install.

Minn Kota PowerDrive Freshwater Advantages

The PowerDrive freshwater has the same digital maximizer technology as the top-of-class Terrova. As explained in the Terrova review, it’s a variable speed motor that extends run time. The other bonuses are precise speed control and the reduction of strain on your battery. As a result you can fish for most of the day without worrying about a dead battery.

This may seem redundant as I’ve talked about it in other reviews but I will mention it again. Digital maximizers (MotorGuide calls it digital management) only works at slow speeds. If you run the motor at the highest speed for long periods expect it to kill the battery.

The 54 inch shaft is composite material with a lifetime guarantee. Plus it has the awesome weedless wedge propeller that obliterates underwater vegetation. Never do I worry about fishing close to shoreline using this propeller.

If you like having two hand on your fishing rod, you will like having a foot pedal that can reach anywhere in your boat. With an 18-foot cord length you can even control the trolling motor sitting at the helm. I know that some prefer a wireless foot pedal but I find that wireless pedal have more cons than pros. A wired pedal won’t loose connectivity as you are fighting a “PB” fish.

Any Downsides To These 12-Volt Bow Mount Trolling Motors?

Okay, for the price one issue with the PowerDrive series is the amount of sound the upper head unit creates in use. It’s louder than both its main competitor the MotorGuide xi3 and the Haswing Black Cayman.

The other issue is the super responsiveness of the foot pedal. Be careful using it the first couple times as it nearly threw me overboard when I tried it. The foot pedal quality is what I expect from Minn Kota though. The other downside for some is that it’s a wired pedal that creates a tripping hazard on the deck. Some customers hate this, but many wireless pedals don’t perform as well.

Verdict:

Small v-hull boaters that want a basic Minn Kota trolling motor will like the PowerDrive Freshwater. As long as they don’t mind noise above the water and paying attention to the wire of the foot pedal. Although, as a plus you get less technology to malfunction, and a lower price.

Finishing Up:

Now you know which saltwater or freshwater trolling motor is best for you. Decide the thrust level, shaft length, and the features to want to ensure you have a great day fishing. Remember to power your new trolling motor with deep cycle marine grade batteries. As well, it’s a good idea to operate the motor at lower speeds, otherwise expect a dead battery.

Whichever model you buy, thanks for letting Outdoors Informed aid with your research. We to do it, so you can spend more time out in your fishing boat.

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Last update on 2020-10-21

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