Buying a Trolling Motor: Cable Steer vs. Electric Steer

Before buying a trolling motor, you should know how much thrust it provides, what the shaft length should be and if you want a cable steer or electric steer.

Cable steer vs electric steer trolling motors

As far as whether you want a cable steer trolling motor or an electric steer trolling motor, here’s our guide on the pros and cons of both types to help you decide. 

Cable Steer Trolling Motors

Cable steer trolling motors have been the go-to motors for anglers and fishermen for decades. As the name suggests, a cable steer trolling motor operates via a cable, which provides a direct and physical link between the motor and a foot pedal mounted on the deck.

Cable steer trolling motor

Cable Steer Trolling Motor Pros & Cons


  • Physical connection between the pedal and motor provides exceptional “touch and feel” for the operator.
  • Immediate response between pedal and motor allows for quicker turns and better maneuvering around shallow areas.
  • No electric servo motors, which means quieter running, stealthier performance and less chance of spooking fish.


  • Operator always has to have a foot on the pedal, which severely limits his or her movement around the boat.
  • Susceptible to torque steer in rougher water, particularly if the operator has to take their foot off the pedal.

Electric Steer Trolling Motors

Electric steer trolling motors began to gain traction around the turn of the millennium, and have since become the more popular choice because of their versatility. An electric steer trolling motor relies on an electrical signal between the controller and the motor, eliminating the need for a foot pedal.

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Electric Steer Trolling Motor Pros & Cons


  • Can be controlled by a foot pedal, a handheld remote or even a smartphone.
  • Non-foot pedal controls enable the operator to move anywhere on the boat while still having control over the motor.
  • Motor can be ‘spot locked’ to anchor over a specific position using GPS technology, and programmed to follow a set course, freeing the operator up to focus on other tasks.


  • Controller-to-motor response times aren’t quite as fast as with cable steer motors.
  • With no direct link between the controller and the motor, there is less "feel" than with a cable steer unit.

Cable Steer vs. Electric Steer Verdict

The superior feel and response of cable steer trolling motors has kept them as the "must have" motor for inland anglers, particularly bass fishermen. These fishermen maintain that the lightness of touch and their quietness makes them superior to electric steer models.

Trolling motors: electric vs cable steer

That being said, it’s almost universally agreed that when fishing in more open waters, electric steer trolling motors are the way to go. The various control options, plus not being tied to a foot pedal and the innovative technologies allowing the motor to run on autopilot or maintain position make electric steers much more flexible. Technological improvements have also allowed the response time between electric steer controllers and motors to almost match cable steer units, as well as provide comparable quietness to their cable steer counterparts.

Trolling motors guide electric vs cable steering

If you’re a die-hard bass fisherman and all you ever use your trolling motor is catching bass, then a cable steer trolling motor is for you. However, virtually every other angler will likely be happier with an electric steer trolling motor’s versatility.