Have you ever heard about pedal kayaks? We know these drive pedal systems are great innovations with their own pros and cons. But at a premium, is a fishing kayak with pedals worth the price?
Let’s look into what these propulsion drives are and how they work.
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Remember when you went to a lake or amusement park years ago? Did you ever ride in a pedal boat? I remember the ones with a seat for two side-by-side?
A pedal drive system on a kayak works in a similar fashion. It turns a kayak into essentially a pedal boat for one. Or two if it is a tandem kayak.
They usually come with two bicycle-style pedals and a shaft that submerges into the water below with a prop that spins as you pedal.
Other times they come with a pair of elliptical style pedals you push with your feet with fins underneath the water that stroke back and forth.
But, now that we know what they are, how can they make kayak fishing better? We find that out next.
Everyone has preferences and priorities. Some people like to kayak for the enjoyment of slipping across the water as quietly and gently as possible. Some like recreation, exercise, and sport.
Modern kayaking offers all these options with tried-and-true innovations and durability that serve these purposes and more.The basics of a cruiser bike.
Paddling your kayak is great exercise and provides close interaction with the feel of the water, the currents, and direction. Pluses include a kayak at a cheaper cost, good upper body aerobic exercise, and better maneuverability in low water areas and heavy weeds. The cons are overtaxing of your neck, shoulders and back, and awkwardness during fishing and casting.
On the other hand, pedaling your kayak provides smoother, faster movement through the water. Moving forward or backward with just the power of your legs appeals to others who plan on keeping their hands busy. With leg action, most people don’t tire as quickly and can travel longer.
For recreation, it’s a toss-up which option is best. Both provide good cardiovascular exercise and have navigational advantages.
Want to know more about fishing kayaks? Read this post on What is a fishing kayak and its best features
But for fishing, pedal kayaks have tremendous advantages. They allow for fishing on the move and casting and reeling without the awkwardness of having a paddle across your lap. The downside for pedalers is dealing with a pedal drive at your feet and having to disengage the drive when entering the shallow water.
Many anglers have mastered managing their paddles while performing the usual fishing activities, but it’s not for everyone.
Dealing with a pedal drive taking foot space on the deck is also a challenge while standing and fishing.
The only way you will be sure which you like better is to test it out. Rent a few kayaks or borrow one from your buddy.
Fishing from a kayak keeps you busy. Most have designed workspace in the cockpit deck designed for changing tackle, unhooking and measuring fish, and bagging your catch. The platform is great for standing while casting or fighting that Bull Red.
We’ll discuss fishing from a kayak next.
Experienced kayakers have little problems casting from the seated position while pedaling. This is the best feature of pedal kayaks.
Sometimes called fishing on the move, pedaling with your line in the water lets you troll and cast as you travel along. Additionally, you can stop and reel or reverse your course to keep the line taut. Or, you can maneuver quickly with the turn of your rudder.
A paddle kayak tends to be more station-to-station fishing. There’s nothing wrong with this approach. Also, most inexperienced kayakers tend to be “paddle-tied” trying to paddle with their line in the water. I’m sure there some very experienced kayakers who have this technique down, but it may not be for the newbies.
Some anglers prefer to stand while they are casting or reeling in a fish. This gives you more leverage when fighting the bigger fish.
Additionally, while standing, you can still navigate using a paddle in any kayak. This is similar to the way you would propel on a paddleboard.
Standard, sit on top kayaks, have an open platform that anglers will enjoy as they cast and reel. This space allows some stepping around that is great when you need to stretch too.
A pedal kayak will have the drive system at your feet that will crowd the cockpit some and cramp the space a bit. Get to know the standing platform and evaluate if it allows enough room for you. This will vary quite a bit by make and model.
Here is where you will notice some real differences in the convenience of the standard kayak.
Prop-based pedal drives must be disengaged and in the up position when launching, beaching and navigating in shallow water. Some of these drives disengage and pop up when they meet underwater obstacles but may still cause some damage to the drive.
Kayakers using Mirage style drives have the advantage of drawing in their fins when entering these conditions. Simply pushing one pedal forward and the other back will keep the fins flat along the bottom of the kayak where you can use your paddle to traverse. But, you will still need to use your paddle to go forward or backward.
Standard kayaks navigate effortlessly and are natural in these conditions.
Eventually, you will have to deal with big waves coming from ship wakes and beach waves. There are effective techniques for handling wakes and swells regardless of the propulsion of the kayak and avoiding tipping over.
But, which of these propulsion methods make managing these situations easier?
Paddling through the surf to head to deeper, open water, will be harder to deal with unless you are very experienced. Your momentum will tend to stop when paddling as you hit large waves. Most standard kayaks don’t have a rudder unless you install one yourself. This may cause you to drift in the stern. At times, it is hard to make any headway without the best techniques. You will still have difficulty generating enough power to get through the heaviest of waves.
Riding up and down large swells and choppy waves are made easier using pedaling. This is because of the hands-free capability and using the power of your legs. With your hands being free, you can brace yourself and keep gear steady without stopping your movement at all. You can have a steady hand on your rudder as you fight the currents below. And, as you pedal through the breaking waves, you are better able to use the power of your legs and keep your momentum going forward.
Pedal kayaks won’t prevent you from tipping or save you from bad technique, but it will provide more power to get past the breakers and into open water.
You will want to carry your paddle onboard your pedal kayak. There are many situations where you will need to paddle.
We have discussed navigating through shallow water and weeds, launching and beaching your yak, and paddling while standing. But, there are other times you will need your paddle.
Consider that you out and your drive system fails or becomes inoperable. Maybe be you get stuck in some debris and need to leverage away. Or, you come across an alligator or shark. You will be glad you did not solely depend on your pedals to get you back safely.
Ever had to choose between two things that do the same thing but are still slightly different? Kind of like MS Windows vs Apple IOS. Like Ford vs Chevy.
The same goes for the pedal drive systems of the kayaking world. There are prop drives and the mirage style drive systems.
Prop drives are more prevalent with the majority of manufacturers and a lower price in general. The driveshaft is usually proportional to the overall length of the kayak. And the props vary in size as well.
The advantage of a prop drive is that it easily moves from forward to reverse just by pedaling that way. They are very reliable and can be more comfortable for those with a cycling background.
The prop drives have their shortcomings as well. These drives are most affected by shallow water while launching, beaching, and pedaling through low water areas. When navigating through weeds, the drive will need to be disengaged and pulled out of the water or this can be done when clearing the weeds from the prop and housing.
Mirage drives were first developed by Hobie for their extensive line of kayaks. These drives are powered by pushing forward a set of pedals resembling an elliptical bike at your favorite gym.
Hobie design engineers anticipated the issue of moving through low waters and weed-infested areas. They are equipped with a set of fins that move water from side-to-side. So, they raise flush with the hull of the yak when either pedal is pushed all the way forward. This eliminates the need to clean the weeds as often and avoid colliding with sandbars and debris.
These drives require engaging the drive in reverse to pedal backward. And then reengaging to change direction to forward again.
Once the Hobie Mirage patent ran out, other manufacturers were free to develop their own versions. Pelican International developed the Hydryve to compete in this space.
Check out “MUST WATCH Before Buying!! Mirage Drive Vs Pedal Drives” from Beyond The Bounds for more comparison details.