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Comparing Cable Steer Vs Electric Steer Trolling Motors

So, it’s time to buy a new trolling motor.

There are two basic types of trolling motors: cable steer and electric steer.

Comparing Cable Steer Vs Electric Steer Trolling Motors

Maybe this is your first time purchasing a trolling motor and you’re wondering which type is the best. Or maybe you’ve been using one type for years and are curious about switching to the other type.

Either way, you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at each type of trolling motor, the pros and cons of each, and discuss which one is better for certain conditions and scenarios.

Are you ready to get started?

Air up an inflatable boat using a foot pump and an electric pump

What are Cable Steer Trolling Motors?

As the name implies, cable steer trolling motors use a cable to connect the foot pedals or hand controls directly to the motorhead.

MINN KOTA Cable-Steer Trolling Motor
Click the image for more info

The motorhead is highly responsive to everything that happens with the controls; whether you have the foot pedal to the floor or just barely tap it, the motor will adjust accordingly.

A lot of boaters and anglers appreciate this “touch and feel” sensitivity. It allows them to control exactly how fast the boat is going, exactly where they want to turn or back up.

MINN KOTA Cable-Steer Foot Pedal
Click the image for more info

Of course, the main drawback is that the person operating the trolling motor has to have their foot or hand on the controls at all times, which really restricts how much they can move around the boat.

This isn’t a problem if you get your boat into the desired position, decide to turn your motor off and put down the anchor. Once the motor is off, you can move around all you want. But you won’t be able to move until you’ve reached the spot where you want to anchor.

Cable steer trolling motors are the original type of trolling motor. They’ve been around for a long time and are still quite popular with a lot of anglers. They produce very little noise, so you don’t have to worry about scaring off all the fish.

Cable steer trolling motors are great for smaller bodies of water, such as ponds and small lakes, because they allow you to move quickly to your favorite fishing spot and won’t spook the fish that hang out near the surface.

What are the Pros and Cons of Cable Steer Trolling Motors?

The pros:

  • The touch and feel controls give you complete and instant control over your speed, direction, etc.
  • The responsiveness between the controls and the motor helps you make quicker turns and maneuver the boat easier.
  • The motor is nearly silent, allowing for optimum stealth.

The cons:

  • You can’t move around while operating the trolling motor, as your foot or hand must always be in contact with the controls.
  • Prone to torque steer, especially if you have to take your foot off the pedal or you’re dealing with rough waters.

What are Electric Steer Trolling Motors?

Electric steer trolling motors are the “new generation” of trolling motors. They began appearing around the early 2000s and have become increasingly popular over time and as they experienced improvements and upgrades.

Minn Kota 1PowerDrive Electric-Steer Trolling Motor
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The first electric steer trolling motors were quite noisy. Newer electrics have become quieter and quieter, though they still can’t compete with the stealth of cable steer trolling motors.

So what is it about electric steer trolling motors that has made them so popular?

Instead of using a cable to communicate with the motorhead, these types of trolling motors send out electric signals. They can be controlled using a foot pedal, or you can control them remotely using a wireless device or even a smartphone.

Minn Kota Electric-Steer Trolling Motor Foot Pedal
Click the image for more info

As you might imagine, this gives the operator a lot more freedom to move around the boat or to control the trolling motor from anywhere on the boat.

A lot of electric steer trolling motors also have advanced technology such as autopilot and GPS. Many of them can anchor in place, record and retrace previous routes, and help you get back to your favorite fishing spots quickly and easily.

For many anglers and boaters, these high-tech features far outweigh the noise factor. That said, electric steer trolling motors are not ideal for every situation.

These types of trolling motors are most useful on open water, such as large lakes, seas, and the ocean. They can help you find your way around quickly and efficiently, and the noise is less likely to affect the fish when you’re on the move or the fish are hanging out in deeper waters.

What are the Pros and Cons of Electric Steer Trolling Motors?

The pros:

  • Remote control allows you to operate the trolling motor from anywhere in the boat or while moving from place to place.
  • You can use the foot pedals if you want, or you can use a handheld remote or even a smartphone to operate the motor.
  • High-tech features such as autopilot and GPS make it easy to find your way around and retrace previous routes.

The cons:

  • Electric steer trolling motors are noisier than cable steer trolling motors.
  • Response times between the remote controls and the motor are not as instantaneous, so the trolling motor doesn’t maneuver quite as well.
Minn Kota 1358737 PowerDrive Freshwater Electric-Steer Bow-Mount Trolling Motor with Digital...
  • 54" Shaft, 12v, 55 lbs Thrust
  • Deploy-Assist Lever: Get in and out of the water easily. Just depress the lever to deploy your trolling motor and when it's time to move, it stows easily and securely

Which Type of Trolling Motor is Better?

As touched on briefly above, each type of trolling motor is better for specific scenarios: cable steer trolling motors are generally good for lakes and ponds, while electric steer trolling motors are better on open waters.

So, if you’re just a casual angler who enjoys the occasional day on your favorite pond, a cable steer motor will probably serve your purposes the best.

On the other hand, if you frequently fish large bodies of water and would greatly benefit from the use of GPS, autopilot, and remote control, then you’ll probably want to go with an electric steer trolling motor.

Conclusion

And there you have it!

Using a trolling motor is a great way to get around in the water, but you may want to choose your type of trolling motor depending on the conditions and the body of water you frequently fish in.

Happy fishing!


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