Key features of the best small outboards

One of the best ways to learn the basics of boating is to start with a small boat. A flat bottom Jon boat or an aluminum boat about 12 feet long is perfect for fishing, exploring shallow waters, and learning how to operate and maintain a boat. The best small outboards don’t necessarily belong to a brand, they belong to components. Here are a few things to consider when choosing small outboards.

1. Size matters

In August 1973, the US Coast Guard required a marine engine capacity shield. The purpose of the plate was to match safe weight and performance with your boat. If your boat is old, the platter may not be there. The best small fishing boat motors don’t have to be heavy or powerful. Balance is more important than speed, and lighter engines don’t propel the bow and let water come over the transom. Small outboard motors can be about half as heavy and powerful as the manufacturer claims.

2. Choose your features

The best small outboards are easy to install and use, but there are two functions that help them. Since small boats are light, a strong wind or current can push them around. Electric starts are useful in such situations. Recoil starts are better for stronger boaters who can pull the line without tipping over the boat. Power tilts are also a great option as they allow a new boater to downsize the outboard without focusing on navigation.

3. Two strikes against four strikes

Fuel consumption and environmental friendliness are the hallmarks of four-stroke engines. This is why people consider them to be the best outboard motors. Two strokes are enough to propel small boats and they are easy to work with. Learning to work with small boat engines pays off. You will learn how the job works and will be able to fix minor repairs that occur on the water.

Start this season with a small boat and outboard motor. Before long, you will have the confidence and skills you need to do great every day on the water. Check out our boat explorer tool to learn more about each of the types of small fishing boat motors and get ready to be on the water!

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a contributing writer for Covey Rise magazine, a contributing editor for Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program. Keer is a regular contributor to over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics including fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor activities. When not fishing, Keer and his family hunt highland birds over their three English setters. His first book, A New England Coast Fly Fishing Guide, was published in January 2011. Visit him at or


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