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How Does Trolling Motor Speed Control Work?

How Does Trolling Motor Speed Control Work?

Trolling motors are great, aren’t they?

Having a trolling motor mounted on your boat gives you the ability to sail smoothly through the water, at different speeds, without the use of paddles or polls. They make trolling lures a breeze, and they keep you from breaking a sweat when you need to get somewhere quickly.

So, how does the speed control work on a trolling motor? 

What are the different types of trolling motor speed control?

And, most importantly, how do you use the speed control function to be able to adjust to different water conditions, desired speeds, and other uses?

Keep reading!

In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more.

How Do You Control a Trolling Motor’s Speed?

Speed Control Function of Trolling Motor

Almost all trolling motors are made to operate at a variety of speeds so you can choose to go faster or slower in the water.

In many cases, the speed is controlled manually. You push a button or turn a knob which sends a signal through the unit’s internal wiring. The signal causes the motor head to increase or decrease the battery draw, in turn causing the propeller to spin either faster or slower.

Some trolling motors are controlled wirelessly. In these units, the speed can be adjusted by simply dialing in your preferred speed on a wireless remote. The signal passes from the remote to the trolling motor’s internal controls, adjusting propeller speed accordingly.

In general, trolling motors will have either a 5-speed control system or an infinite variable speed control system. What are the differences between these two systems?

Let’s take a look below.

Standard 5-Speed vs. Infinite Variable Speed

5-speed trolling motors are often referred to as 8-speed motors; this is usually because they have 5 forward speeds and 3 reverse speeds. Not all 5-speed trolling motors have reverse settings though.

5-speed trolling motor

5-speed trolling motors, as you might expect, can be set to one of five-speed levels. This gives you a bit of flexibility to reduce your trolling motor’s speed to avoid draining the battery, and the ability to switch between traveling quickly to your fishing spot and trolling at lower speeds.

Trolling motors with infinite variable speed control can be set to a much wider range of speeds. In fact, some are completely customizable up to a maximum speed, meaning you dial in the exact speed you want as long as it’s within the motor’s speed range. Variable speed control gives you the ultimate amount of flexibility and convenience.

Variable speed control trolling motor

The main drawback is that most trolling motors with variable speed control don’t have a reverse setting, though some are able to rotate the motor head 180 degrees and travel in reverse for short distances.

How Do You Use Trolling Motor Speed Control?

The best way to learn how your speed control functions is to read the owner’s manual included with your trolling motor. Not all trolling motors are made exactly the same, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with your own trolling motor and its rules of operation.

That said, speed control on most trolling motors is fairly straightforward. Some trolling motors have a hand tiller with an adjustable knob for changing the speed, while others have speed control built into the foot pedal.

Trolling Motor with Speed Control on Foot Pedal

Foot pedal –

Still other trolling motors have the speed adjusted at the touch of a button, most often on a wireless remote but sometimes built in with the other controls on the trolling motor itself.

Trolling motor with speed control on wireless remote

Wireless remote –

As you may imagine, certain speeds are more appropriate for certain conditions, activities, and boat sizes.

Let’s look at some tips for deciding on the proper speed in a number of different scenarios.

  • Getting from point A to point B. If you’re trying to get from the dock to your favorite fishing spot without wasting precious daylight or fishing time, you’ll probably want to go with one of the higher speeds.
  • Trolling lures. This will depend on the type of fish you’re trying to catch and the size of the area you’re fishing. But in general, one of the lower speeds is best for trolling lures.
  • Choppy waters. If you’re dealing with rough waters, you may want to put the motor on a medium to high speed. Don’t set it any higher than you have to though, as the combination of choppy waters and high speed may cause the battery to die sooner.
  • Moving upstream. Most trolling motors aren’t meant to fight against strong rapids. If you’re moving up a gently flowing stream, you’ll probably need to have your trolling motor on a higher speed setting.
  • Calm waters. With most calmer waters, it’s okay to keep your trolling motor on a lower speed setting. Remember, your trolling motor battery will probably last longer at lower speeds.
Kayak with 5-speed control Trolling Motor

5-speed control trolling motor (lower speed setting) –

  • Smaller boat. Unless you have a small trolling motor made specifically for your type of boat (i.e. a kayak trolling motor), then you’ll probably want to keep your trolling motor on a low or moderate speed setting.
  • Larger boat. The opposite is true for larger boats. You’ll want to make sure you have a large enough trolling motor for your large boat, otherwise you’ll find yourself putting a constant strain on the battery and the motor by always keeping it on the top speed.

Remember, follow the instructions in your manual for specific step-by-step guidance tailored to operating your specific trolling motor’s speed control.


There are two main types of speed control: 5-speed and variable speed. Depending on your trolling motor, you may be able to control the speed via hand tiller, foot pedal, or wireless remote.

Trolling motor speed control is often straightforward and easy to figure out. The difficult part may be figuring out which speed to use as weather conditions change or you fish in a variety of waters.

Hopefully, if you follow the tips in this article, you’ll have a better understanding of how speed control works as well as the appropriate speeds for a range of conditions.