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Paddle Vs. Pedaling Kayaks For Fishing

Updated on August 22, 2020
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I've been a kayak fisherman for 15 years now. It's a great way to stay fit, catch more fish, and access areas where most boats can't go.

The Native Watercraft pedaling kayak features an innovative propeller drive system.
The Native Watercraft pedaling kayak features an innovative propeller drive system.

How well do pedal kayaks work for fishing?

Thanks to the large watercraft maker Hobie, kayaks that you can pedal have come a long way in recent years. No longer seen as an oddity, pedaling kayaks are becoming more and more popular with anglers and others each year. The reasons for this are simple, less effort is required to get you where you are going, and you will have your hands free to fish instead of paddle.

I personally own a pedal kayak made by Native Watercraft, the Ultimate 12. I've taken it on several overnight trips and love the fact that it has plenty room for gear. For the record, there really aren't any purely "pedaling kayaks". All of the ones on the market will allow you to fold up or remove the drive system and paddle them like a regular one. The Ultimate 12 even has a sail kit that you can put up in a few minutes and sail back downwind to camp or home.

How Easy Are Pedal Kayaks To Use?

The first thing that came to mind when I saw a pedaling kayak was "I bet that thing breaks down a lot". Now, having owned one for about a year, I know nothing could be farther from the truth. Hobie's pedaling kayak uses a flipper type drive system that is extremely rugged. If you feel the bottom getting shallow, don't paddle anymore and you won't hurt anything. In the case of the Native Watercraft models, the drive uses a propeller system. It features sealed bearings that you don't have to lubricate. If you damage the propeller, new ones cost only a few dollars each. What typically happens with the Ultimate 12 pedaling kayak I own is that the shear pin breaks if you back into an object. When this happens the propeller sinks, and you must lift the drive up and install a new one. It pays to keep a spare propeller and an Allen wrench aboard, though this has only happened once to me when I hit a rock while reversing.

Water Depth and Weeds An Issue With Pedaling Kayaks

You may not be able to use your pedaling kayak in some rivers because of the fact that you need more than a foot of water for the pedal drive system to work. Also, duckweed, hydrilla, and other aquatic weeds may play havoc with the pedaling kayak's propeller or flippers. Since most of the pedal kayaks on the market allow you to simply pull up, fold up, or stow away the drive system, you can still use a paddle and enjoy fishing your favorite stream.

How To Fish Out Of A Pedaling Kayak

I use the reverse feature on my pedaling kayak quite a lot, since it allows me to work the shoreline and docks for fish even when the wind is against me. Since you can often take your hand off of the rudder control handle for a while, depending on the wind and current, you can have both hands free for your fishing rod. Your legs do all the work, and at about the same force required to pedal a bicycle, you can travel forward around three miles per hour. I've actually had my pedal kayak up to over six miles an hour on a calm day, but sustaining this kind of speed can be quite an effort. When pedaling kayaks really shine is when you are going into the wind. You will notice that effort is reduced by about one half in a pedal kayak vs. a paddle kayak when going to windward.

Another good way to fish with a pedal kayak is to use the drive system to hold you in place in a running stream while you fish. You may occasionally have to reach over and adjust the rudder lever, but once you get used to it this becomes very natural to do while fishing.

Pedal kayaks really do work very well for fishing where there is enough water for the drive system to work. I expect to see this kind of watercraft begin to replace paddle - only kayaks. The small amount of extra effort required to bother with the drive system, (in the case of the Ultimate 12) is well worth it for the energy you will save with a pedal kayak vs. paddle models.

My backup kayak for shallow waters is a Jackson Kraken 13.5. This photo was taken at Lake Amistad, in Texas, where duckweed can grow quite thick and foul even the best pedal drive system.
My backup kayak for shallow waters is a Jackson Kraken 13.5. This photo was taken at Lake Amistad, in Texas, where duckweed can grow quite thick and foul even the best pedal drive system.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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