How to Mount a Trolling Motor on a Drift Boat

Drift boat with trolling motor mounted

Once drift boat owners discover that it is indeed possible to put a motor on their boat they are presented with another problem. Where do you mount a motor on a drift boat and how do you do it?

How do you mount a motor on a drift boat? Some drift boat owners mount the motor directly to the boat. However, due to the acute rocker of a drift boat this approach can force the prop to go below the boat and also cause damage to it when dropping the anchor. Using a specific type of mount bracket you can eliminate these problems because it raises the motor to an acceptable height, pushes it farther away from the boat and also reduces its angle.

Where to mount a motor on a drift boat

A drift boat is slightly different from other boats in its hull design. Where other boats have a bow that is pointed and a stern that is flat a drift has the opposite.

The bow and stern on a drift boat are opposite to most other boats. The bow of a drift boat is flat while the stern is pointed. The bow therefore offers the space to add an outboard motor whereas the stern does not.

The bow of a drift boat is flat while the stern is pointed.

Why is the bow and stern on a drift opposite to most other boats and how does this affect motor placement?

Well, the bow on a drift boat looks like the stern and its stern looks like the bow because a drift boat is a rowboat.

When you use oars to propel a boat you essentially row “backwards” (I know many boat enthusiasts will argue with this description but it acts well as a simple illustration of how rowing the boat works). Your back is facing the back of the boat which also happens to be the direction you are moving in.

Hence, as the back of the boat, (which is the stern), is moving through the water first it needs to be the pointed end to better deal with chop. As the bow is at the end which is not moving through the water first it does not need to be pointed.

See the video below which shows a guy rowing a drift boat. You can see the stern at his back is pointed because the rower has his back to the direction the boat is moving in.


So, because the stern is pointed it makes a bad area to try to mount an outboard motor.

So, where should you mount the motor on a drift boat? You should mount an outboard motor to the bow of a drift and not the transom. Because the bow of a drift boat is flat and wider than the stern this makes it the more ideal place to mount a motor.

If you only intend to use an outboard motor on your drift and no form of manual propulsion you should not have a problem. However, if you intend to use both a motor and oars then you must bear in mind that when operating the motor you need to be seating at the end of the boat and be facing the direction the boat is moving in, whereas when rowing you will have your back to the direction the boat is moving in and be positioned more centrally in the boat.

How to mount a motor on a drift boat

Now you know where to mount the motor on a drift boat, on the bow, you may be wondering how to mount it.

There are two ways to mount a trolling motor on a drift boat:

  1. The first way is to mount the motor directly on the bow. This is not an ideal way to do it for the reasons we highlight below.
  2. The second way is to first mount a jack bracket and then mount the trolling motor on that. This eliminates several problems that would exist by directly mounting the motor.

Although many drift boat owners will go with the first method and merely mount an outboard directly to the bow (which many mistakenly believe to be the transom) this is not an ideal solution.

Problems with mounting a motor directly on a drift boat

Although most drift boat owners will mount their outboard motor directly to the bow of the boat this approach does create some problems.

The bow of a drift bow tends to have an acute angle due to the boat’s natural rocker (see why are drift boats curved). The curved nature of the bow causes a motor attached directly to it to run underneath the boat.

This problem is made worse when you drop the anchor.

A trolling motor attached directly to the bow sits much too close to the boat,  because the acute angle of the bow forces it to sit “under” the bow. As the anchor is situated in the same place as the outboard motor you run the risk of the anchor hitting the prop when you drop it in the water and when you raise it.

Some drift boat owners will try to correct this problem by running the motor on the shallow water bracket but this is only a partial solution. If you tend to launch your drift boat from land then the angle is still not enough to keep the motor from hitting the dirt.

What you need is something that will add a bit more height to the motor and also cut the angle down. Luckily there is something that can do just that.

How to overcome height and angle problems

The following fix is based on an old solution offered by someone at Quest Outdoors where a steel jack-plate was used to help reduce the problems mentioned above. The original fix relied on an outdated steel jack plate but the solution is ingenious and works exceptionally well with an updated marine tech motor bracket.

Using a stainless steel outboard motor bracket, like this one sold by Cabela, you can greatly reduce the problems mentioned above.

This movable motor bracket can stop the motor moving under the bow, caused by the acute bow angle, while simultaneously adding a little extra height to it, so it avoids hitting dirt on dry launches. It will also add reach to outboard motor forcing it away from the boat thus helping to avoid the anchor hitting the prop.

This type of mount makes it easy to lift and lower two-stroke motors up to 20 HP (remember you shouldn’t be going about 10 HP anyway) thanks to its secured stainless steel torsion springs that counterbalance the motor’s weight. It can also hold up to 130 lbs.

Why this particular mount?

Well it doesn’t have to be that particular mount but it should be one that is very similar for several reasons.

This product corrects a few problem areas.

The mount:

  • Features built-in transom angle with positive and negative trim adjustment.
  • Provides a bit more height as it lowers and raises by about a foot.
  • Pushes the motor back by about a foot thus giving clearance space for lowering and raising the anchor.

Of course it isn’t all sunshine and roses. There is one drawback to using this type of mount.

If you go with this solution, which is by far the best one available today, then you will need to run a tiller extension unless of course you are okay with sitting behind your rear seat so you can reach the tiller.

This is not an ideal fix by any means but it is a very effective one. You must realise that drift boats were never designed to be fitted with an outboard motor. They are rowboats after all.

outboard motor mounted via bracket to drift boat
Outboard trolling motor mounted via bracket to drift boat

Installation of the bracket

Installation is pretty easy. Follow the instructions below:

  • Drill 4 holes through the bow (the flat bit on a drift boat that looks like the transom). Use the template that comes with the bracket.
  • Bolt it down. You may need to use different sized bolts as most bracket mounts are designed for bigger boats which have thick transoms.
  • Consider mounting a backer before bolting down the bracket as it will help even the load on the bow. Most guys use wood but this will deteriorate over time as it gets water logged. You can use a simple kitchen cutting board made from plastic and just cut it down to size.

There you go, a simple solution for successfully mounting an outboard motor to a drift boat. However, you aren’t done yet!

Now that you know where to the mount a motor to your drift boat, and understand how to attach the mount to hold the motor, you need to consider what type and size of motor you intend to mount.

Not all types of motors can be mounted on a drift boat.

What size of motor can you mount on a drift boat?

We already covered previously that it is possible to effectively mount a motor on a drift but in that article we also pointed out that there are some restrictions when it comes to powering a drift boat with an outboard motor.

What size motor for a drift boat? 3 HP motors will power a drift boat downstream but will struggle to move the boat upstream. 6 HP motors work well on drift boats less than 16 foot. For larger drift boats you can fit a 10 HP motor but never go above this. 

What type of motor can you mount on a drift boat

A drift boat was never designed for motorized power. A gasoline or diesel engine is heavy and much too powerful for a drift boat. We covered the reasons for avoiding gas motors in the article can you put a motor on a drift boat.

What type of motor can you mount on a drift boat? Mount an electric motor on a drift boat as it is lighter and does not require the storing of heavy fuel onboard. Be aware that any motor over 10 HP will make your boat almost impossible to control.

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