Garmin Force Review:
The Garmin Force won “best boating accessory” at when it debuted at ICast 2019. So why didn’t it top the Lowrance Ghost in my reviews? The honest answer is, personal preference, both motors are terrific. I based my choice on the fact that this trolling motor has a bit less peak thrust power than the Ghost.
As a brand, Garmin is the type of company to go-big-or go-home. You will definitely see this with the Force, as they went big from the innovation perspective. I love that they developed a trolling motor that delivers an “old-school” cable steer feel. While also giving anglers all the latest sonar, GPS and networking capabilities.
The variable voltage brushless motor, is 40% more efficient than other 36-volt models. Yet it doesn’t match the Ghost in peak thrust with lower peak thrust in both models. With 80 pounds of thrust at 24-volts and 100 pounds of thrust at 36-volts for the 57-inch model.
Built Like A Tank
During Minn Kota’s supremacy the Fortrex and Ultrex were the tanks. Next, the Terrova was the technology packed trolling motor. Today it’s Garmin turn as the “built-like-a-tank” trolling motor packed with tech. In fact, expect the Garmin Force to take up quite a bit of the bow space on your boat.
For all the space it takes though, you do get an ultra tough scissor-lift mount. Manual stow and deploy is easy due to the dual gas spring lift assist system. No more stomping on the unit to finish deployment or harsh pulling up for stowing. On top of the mount unit is a digital display for speed, battery life, power control, anchor lock and GPS rating. The responsive steering control comes from either a remote or wireless foot pedal. More about the steering control later.
An added bonus for 2023, is that the Garmin Force is approved for brackish and saltwater use. Making it a true all-round workhorse of a trolling motor. Next, at the bottom it has proprietary 2-blade propeller connected to the of the lower motor unit. You also get a replaceable skeg which I appreciate as I can make fixes instead of sending it to a shop. Inside the removable nose-cone unit is the built-in sonar. Including CHIRP traditional and Ultra High-Definition ClearVü and SideVü scanning sonars. Compatible with the following Garmin devices:
- The GPSMAP 8400 & 8600 Series
- GPSMAP 7400 & 7600 Series*
- The GPSMAP 10×2 and 12×2 Series*
- GPSMAP 7×2, 9×2 and 12×2 Touch Series*
- ECHOMAP Ultra Series
- ECHOMAP Plus Series*
*Partial sonar support includes high wide CHIRP, ClearVü (800 kHz) and SideVü (455 kHz)
Moving up to the shaft, it is fiberglass but has a lifetime guarantee. This specific model has a 57-inch shaft, the other model Garmin provides is a 50-inch shaft.
Garmin Point-And-Go Gesture Steering
Unique to the Force is the sunlight-readable remote control. It’s different from any of the other remotes, due to it using hand gestures for steering. Just wave your hand in a direction and the motor rotates toward the direction. Plus it has programmable buttons to control of a chart plotter.
Now, let’s talk foot pedal. While it does come paired with a foot pedal from factory, you need to calibrate it with the motor. Vessel owner that try to calibrate will realize using this method is problematic. I tried this method, and it took many times to calibrate, once it did the performance wasn’t great. I have since learned you need calm windless conditions for proper calibration.
The foot pedal is wireless standard but you can also hard-wire it in if you prefer. Be sure to use the sensitivity set screw on the underside to help mimic cable steering. Once its dialed in, operation is butter smooth with a tension that is precise.
On The Water Go-To Performance
If you already use Garmin chart plotter, you will love the simple integration. It makes using the built-in autopilot near perfect. I was able to create routes to a waypoint, and follow tracks as I moved. It’s amazing having all the trolling motor commands in a dashboard on top of the screen. Anchor lock, cruise control and heading hold all work very well. On screen there is absolutely no sonar noise which is refreshing.
The big advantage of this bow mount trolling motor is its silence, both above and below the waterline. Does the head sound? Yes it does whine a little but nothing compared to an old Minn Kota Ultrex.
Another great feature is how strong and powerful it is, it pulls speeds of 4 mph (6.44 km/h)! I don’t personally need it to go this fast, but it’s nice to know it can.
Insane Battery Life!
To put it simply, I am blown away by the battery life for the Garmin Force. Especially when powering via lithium batteries, but for those of you who use deep-cycle agm or lead acid, the battery life is still top-of-class. To put it into perspective, guides and tournament fishing boats boast 50+ hours of continuous use before recharge.
Downsides Of The Garmin Force Trolling Motor?
With every single newer innovation of product there are going to be some hiccups. The Force is no different as it had its share of issues the first two years of its existence.
One such problem was, the problematic point was the waypoint feature. As a vessel would near a set way point the motor would turn the propeller off and the boat drifted across the spot. The anchor lock never activated? To sort of remedy it, I used to activate anchor lock when the prop shuts of and use jog to shift to the waypoint. Since then software updates have fixed this issue for the most part, but I wanted to mention it anyways.
A second issue with early models was the latch mechanism for the stow and deploy system. In rough waters it had the tendency to unlatch allowing the motor to deploy at the wrong time. Once again though, Garmin’s spectacular customer service came to the rescue and got the development team to create a remedy. Now early owners of the Force can buy an upgraded latch mechanism that keeps the motor in place, no matter how rough the waters are in your area.
Last but certainly not least, is the price of this trolling motor. The Force is the most expensive reviewed and could be out of budget for many anglers. But if you can afford it it, this is a beast of a motor.
The Garmin Force trolling motor holds true to its name. It’s as powerful, efficient and as quiet as you’d want. The chartplotter integration is perfect, and if you enjoy “Livescope” you’ll love the Force. There are some downsides but I’m impressed at how attentive Garmin is to fix issues as they arise.