Which trolling motor is right for you?

Black Label SSS 6011ULXS 5I’d be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on this but after several months with a Minn Kota Riptide and having a Minn Kota Maxxum for years prior to that, I thought I’d share my findings between the two.  To put it simply, the difference is essentially cable steer or electronic servo.

The two different systems offer various advantages.  To start with the Maxxum/Fortrex is a great, robust unit that takes a bit of getting used to, offers instant, infinite turning adjustments, infinite speed adjustments and is great for cast and retrieve style anglers.  This system will allow you to spin the motor head 360 degrees as quickly as you can pivot your foot but lacks the “bells and whistles” of the Riptide.

The Riptide has features like “Spot Lock”, Auto Pilot and can record your track so that you can go back and follow the same path the next time you want to fish a piece of structure.  This unit would be great for trolling, with a remote control meaning you can operate the motor while sitting at your console.

Considering the type of fishing that I do, the Maxxum suits my needs much better and I would suggest it takes a bit of time to get used to, where angler input and adjustments need to be made quickly, accurately and without looking down at the motor (after some practice and experience).  I like the Maxxum because I can turn the motor 180 degrees in an instant, while trying to muscle a fish out of structure.  This is much harder with the Riptide.  I’d descrive it like this, the Maxxum is like driving a manual car, initially it seems harder but after a while it becomes second nature and in my case, I don’t even notice I’m doing anything out of the ordinary anymore.

Black Label SSS 6011ULXS 6

The Riptide is well suited to the flats fisherman, where input is not necessarily needed instantly but consistent thrust is necessary.  When fishing flats, this unit really was a breeze to use.  I switched on auto pilot, put in a speed setting and started fishing but I don’t fish flats that often.  It has the feature of spot lock, which I found to be more of a burden than anything else in some situations.  It’d be adaptable for fishing edges and has obvious advantages when trolling.

Spot lock is a great feature when there is litte or no wind or current but seems to really struggle when it is windy.  I found myself being pushed around while the servo tried to keep up and as the system adjusted the speeds from what seemed like an option of 0 (lowest setting) or 10 (highest setting) and nothing in between.  I actually ended up around 25m off the marked spot on one occasion, which resulted in me being blown into a bridge while I was re-rigging.  I’ve since been told that they perform the best when there is a more consistent wind or current, allowing the system to do its thing without “thinking” or adjusting too much.

Which would I pick?  I see a space for both of these and will actually change between them, depending on the style of fishing I choose for a particular day.  The quick release brackets are great for switching between the two but will take a bit of imagination to work for one of each units.

But if I could only have one, I’d stick with a cable steer based purely on the style of fishing I choose.

15 responses to “Which trolling motor is right for you?

  1. Cable steer fortrex or maxxum for me. I agree with Chris I like the instant response and nimble feel. I have fished a servo steer and it works well, but not for my style of fishing.

    • Hi Brian,
      I reckon you should write something for us about the style of fishing you do. We’d all be able to learn a thing or two from you that we could apply to our fishing. Let me know what you think.


      • Sure Chris drop me an email and let me know how many words and if Word format is ok…….Not sure how much anybody will learn but I will give it a go..lol

  2. My first ever electric motor was a motorguide cable steer on a 370 edgetracker.. At first i thought it was too hard and at that point all my close friends had riptides.

    After 2 weeks .. Ive never looked back. Without looking at my motorhead, by the feel of my foot i can tell exactly which way my electric was pointing. It was a basic idea with no complications.. Countless times riptides failed my friends but not the trusty old cable steer.

    Now i have a Zx190 .. and there was no other option for me .. while the brands have changed , the principle hasn’t!!

    It had to be a fortrex !!!

    • Hi Toby,
      I wasn’t as fortunate as you to have a cable steer to begin with. I started on an old riptide with auto pilot and once I changed over, it took roughly the same amount of time to get used to the cable steer.

      I reckon the foot position is a huge advantage of the cable steer, I think I just need to get a recessed foot pedal well at the front of my boat, so I can stop standing like a seagull on one leg.


      • My first leccy setup was very basic mate , no recessed tray ! but now that the skeeter has the recessed tray its even better..

        There are a million recessed tray available for sale on ebay and us bass sites and just about as many DIY video’s too..

        I can honestly say i struggle when i drive other peoples boats because as soon as i want to pull a fish away from structure .. Ive got to look down and work out which way i need to go ..

        fortrex allows me to simply fight the fish and my brian / foot knows what to do next ..

  3. I have got to disgree for me and where I fish the riptide and the spot lock is second to none. Just my opinion of course, the waterway that i fish always has a current flowing and I fish oyster racks so what i do is pick a spot just off the rack and about half way along , hit the spot lock and it keeps me pefectly positioned. with the 6 memory spots i can also mark spots all the way along the racks if they are the larger ones and just rotate between them.
    Riptide with Spot lock for me.

    • Hey Courtney,
      The memory spots are something I haven’t really used yet. I guess it’ll help you to rest the racks between fish.

      I can learn a lot from all of the riptide loyal anglers! How do you go fishing the same type of structure with the cable steer? I guess I’m interested in what you don’t like about the cable steer type of trolling motor.


      • Sorry Chris did not see this reply,
        Mate I can only speak on behalf of the non cable steer as that is all I have used, although I have been with a guy who had a cable steer and it just looked like you really need alot of practice and know what your doing or you could end up over the side. The spot lock has helped me like nothing else has, I would not have caught anywhere near the fish I have in the last 12 months without it.

  4. Interesting insight. Never having owned a cable steer electric before I never really understood it’s appeal until your article. I currently run a Riptide ST with iPilot and love it and I mainly fish flats at the moment. Have found that Spot lock can fail every now and then – it’s not a real anchor and you have to be vigilant whenever you engage Spot Lock next to structure. I think being under bridges interfere with the GPS signals – have had the same thing happen to me!

    • Hi Peter,
      I didn’t even think about the GPS signal but I’ve experienced the same as you, where the spot lock has “let go” on me more than once. On the other hand, it’s great for those times where you want to re-tie a knot or as I often do now, go get the car when the wind isn’t blowing.

      I’d be interested to hear how you go if you ever fish structure like docks, jetties or boats (the stuff I usually do) with your setup. It could quite possibly be my lack of skills rather than an ill-suited trolling motor!


  5. Easy choice for me. Cable steer is bomb proof and the responsiveness is second to none
    In rough weather it can be a pain. But spending most of my fishing life in canals the cable steer makes it a breeze to quickly avoid hitting a multi million dollar boat 😉

  6. Having owned both styles I think the benefits of the Riptide outweigh those of the Maxum/Fortrex
    Cable steer is certainly quicker to turn and far more reliable but for me that’s where the benefits end….the servo steer allows me to focus more on the fish rather than the boat position. If fishing a bank/rack slowly for Bream/Bass, holding over a school of Bass or slowly working a flat it’s just a matter of pointing it where you want to go & concentrate on the fish/sounder etc etc How often do you get blown miles off your spot when retieing a leader or lure with a cable steer or try and hold position in a big rolling swell. With the servo steer I know I can put my head down to retie or sit down to grab a drink or whatever & know when I get back to the bow of the boat I’ll still be where I need to be. Reliability of the Riptide/I-Pilot is still a bit of a concern but, with good support from BLA the decision for me is easy

  7. Interesting topic Ive had nothing but a cable steer but have found it hard at times fishing the Georges in strong current when working with the current you are going too fast and against the current which is preferable you are concentrating more on working the electric than casting So I think the ability to set a track along a bank could be more advantages and then use spotlock to hold on a snag or pontoon to work it Anyway I will have to make a decision soon before I order my new boat

  8. I’ve owned both cable & servo steer model electrics & found both models are great in one way but lack in another. I currently own minn kota ipilot & this is best electric I have owned & I know I will never fish with cablesteer electric again after owning a ipilot. I mainly use the spot lock feature for holding on schools of bass or when I need to rerig & don’t want blow past good looking fishing areas but there was two reasons why I brought a ipilot. One was the spot lock but the main reason was that cablesteer electrics hurt my back from having to lean on the foot petal all day(even worse is heavy winds or currents). This was putting me off fishing in my old boat knowing I would pay for a week with a bad back using the cable steer electric. Now I don’t get any pain in my back from using the electric which makes me want to go fishing even more so it’s win win in my eyes these days with ipilot on my boat.

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