It’s not just the newbies who sometimes don’t know the main differences between saltwater and freshwater trolling motors and have questions. A lot of salty old sea dogs will probably already have the knowledge, but for those keen anglers who may still have a thing or two to learn, sometimes it’s nice to have questions we’d like answered in a quick 5-minute read.
So, in this article we will discuss and describe the main differences between your fresh and saltwater trolling motors, what they mean in layman’s terms, and answer all of those questions most of us don’t think of or are a little shy to ask.
Obviously, the main difference that impacts your motor is the environment you usually fish in. Freshwater or Salt. Saltwater salinity is harsher on your motor and if it’s not properly looked after and maintained after each trip, will degrade and corrode your motor at a faster rate reducing its life span. That’s why it’s best not to take your freshwater motor into saltwater, but it is okay to use your saltwater in fresh.
Here are some of the main differences and frequently asked questions to help you out on your way to understanding the main differences between freshwater and saltwater trolling motors.
Difference 1 – the sacrificial anode on saltwater models
Q – What is a sacrificial anode?
A – The sacrificial anode is a highly active metal used to prevent a less active metal/material surface from corroding. They’re usually created from a metal with higher negative electrochemical potential than the underlying metal it’s protecting. This means that the sacrificial anode will be consumed in its place, which is why it’s called a sacrificial anode.
Q – Why is this important?
A – Because the salinity of brackish estuary waters and oceanic saltwater is highly corrosive to metals. The anode protects vital componentry from rusting and corroding quicker in the harsher saltwater environment and extends your motor’s life so you get optimal performance and durability out of your motor for years to come.
Difference 2 – price
Saltwater models, having to deal with the harsher saline environment have special enhancements and are constructed of rust and corrosion resistant materials that the freshwater models just don’t need. This makes them a little pricier. Like the sacrificial anode explained above there are layers of protection to ensure you get the longest lifespan possible from your motor. It’s cheaper in the long run to buy the correct motor rather than have to replace it sooner.
Difference 3 – specialized components
Generally, saltwater models have specialized components and enhancements like anodized protective coatings, improved corrosion protection, stainless steel componentry, sealing off encased electrical connections etc. For these reasons you’ll find that the saltwater models have a lot of high-quality materials to resist the salinity for a lot longer and ensure a longer life span for your motor.
Q: Can my freshwater motor be used in saltwater?
A: A freshwater motor doesn’t have the protections that a saltwater motor has. The short answer is yes, you can, but it may void the warranty and reduce the lifespan of the motor significantly.
If estuaries and saltwater courses are your main fishing grounds, it’s better to pay out the money for a saltwater model specially designed for that environment that will last under those conditions. It will end up being cheaper in the long run when you don’t have to replace your motor as often.
Q: How can I extend the life span of my motor?
A: Good news is, it’s as easy as a thorough washdown in fresh water after each use and some regular maintenance like charging your battery after each time out so it runs longer and doesn’t tax the motor. Also, storing it safe n sound, dry somewhere inside. Your garden shed or any other dry place is fine.
Q: Can I leave my motor attached to my boat in the marina?
A: No. That’s it — end of story. Your motor will deteriorate at an exponential rate so if money is not an issue, then sure go ahead, but if you’re like the rest of us who would prefer not to have to replace your trolling motor often, then it’s a big no-no.
Q: What if I accidentally find myself in brackish water?
A: Okay this is not the end of the world for a freshwater motor. Brackish water doesn’t have as high salinity as the open ocean, but it will be harmful to your motor if done regularly. Basically, saltwater bad, freshwater good. Once in a blue moon is okay but if it’s going to be a regular occurrence, then you’re better off purchasing a saltwater motor with componentry designed to handle it.
Q: Are saltwater models more powerful?
A: No. Both fresh and saltwater models come in a range of thrust powers designed for every sized boat from the smaller vessels only needing a 12v, 30lb through to the powerful kick-ass 36v, 112lb models developed for the bigger heavier boats. The amount of thrust you need depends on the size of the boat you have, not the aquatic environment you like to fish in.
If you install a larger motor then you need, it doesn’t make your boat go faster. It propels your boat at the maximum top speed of that motor no matter which boat it’s attached to. Of course, if you put a larger motor on a kayak, then you might feel like you’re flying but the motor will be doing the same top speed it’s designed to.
Q: Do I need more power in saltwater to handle currents and tides?
A: The simple answer is – it’s up to you. Most of the top brands are powerful enough to handle these conditions easily; it’s what they’re are designed for. But, there are those that say ‘more power is better’ so the choice is a personal one. Do we need it? Chances are, that’s a no. Do we want it? Always!
Q: Can I get a bow-mount on both freshwater and saltwater models?
A: Yes. You will find a range of great models that are responsive, maneuverable and easy to use in both freshwater and saltwater bow mounted trolling motors available from a variety of manufacturers.
There are expensive top-of-the-line models all the way down to the cheapest base models available in both freshwater and saltwater trolling motors that are perfect for your boat and favorite fishing spots.