To Paddle, Pedal, or Power?
Although there are pros and cons to all propulsion methods , anglers often choose pedal kayaks for several reasons: versatility, affordability, speed and control. Instead of wasting valuable energy wearing out your arms and shoulders, pedal-powered kayaks can get you there faster, especially over longer distances and allow for greater maneuverability with a catch on the line.
We addressed some paddle kayaking choices last week, and next week we will address power (electric motor) solutions and Choices
Why Pedal Kayaks are Gaining in Popularity
If you’re in the market for a new pedal kayak, chances are you don’t have to be convinced why they’re a good investment. There are several pros to owning a pedal-style kayak, including:
Stability: Besides acting as a power source for your kayak, the propeller unit also serves to stabilize and balance the boat a quite a bit Especially on kayaks with wider beams, anglers can usually stand to sight-cast with no problems, and bigger guys can paddle without fear of capsizing.
- Saving energy: Since your legs are stronger than your arms, you’re less likely to tire as quickly with a pedal kayak, allowing you to paddle longer distances. When paddling with your arms, your kayak’s side-to-side motion naturally loses a bit of speed. With a foot-powered propeller, the boat tracks better and doesn’t lose energy.
- Speed: Again, stronger muscles equal a faster ride — with the boat doing a bulk of the work for you.
- Better tracking: Powered by a propeller centered beneath the boat and guided by a hand-operated rudder, a foot-powered kayak won’t stray from course as easily as a traditional paddle kayak.
- Quieter: Hunting and fishing kayaks with pedals don’t create as many splashes and waves, lessening your chances of scaring away the fish or waterfowl.
How to Choose a Pedal Kayak
Besides the traditional factors to choosing a great kayak, there are several additional factors to consider in a kayak with foot paddles.
Most, if not all, bicycle pedal drives can operate in forward and reverse.
While most pedal kayaks nowadays are built with rotational, bicycle-style pedals, not all are. Some kayaks, like the Hobie PA series, (we know of three prototypes that will also utilize the fin propulsion) systems instead utilize a push-pedal, fin-powered system. Both have their advantages, but in general, bicycle-style pedals are easier to use, while push-style pedals have stronger propulsion.
Propeller Removal and Storage
- While propeller systems are great for deep water, it can be pain to manage if the boat runs aground in shallow depths or weeds. Every good pedal kayak should have a way to access and remove the propeller system in these cases.
- Some propeller-docking systems are more intuitive than others. The best pedal kayaks are able to instantly remove the propeller even without leaving the kayak.
- Some even allow you to swap the unit for a trolling motor or remove it.
Rudder Control (Steering) for kayak pedal drive
One question new pedal kayak buyers might have is, “If I don’t have a paddle, how do I steer?”
- The answer, most often, is a hand-controlled rudder. An adjustable fin that’s usually positioned at the stern (back of the boat), a rudder sets the kayak’s direction while your foot pedals propel you forward. A kayak with rudders and pedals gives you better control over your boat.
- Usually, rudders are controlled by a lever. Consider choosing a boat with an intuitive (left is left, right is right). Also choose a lever control to your non-dominate hand, to keep your strong hand free for casting.
With a hefty propeller system in tow, pedal kayaks are traditionally on the heavier side, when rigged. Most pedal kayaks range from 85 to 130 pounds, while most all kayaks allow, for you to remove the drive system for transport.
In general, stability is a function of a kayak’s beam (width) and profile (height and hull shape), but a propeller system can make a bit of a difference. Most pedal kayaks for fishing are designed to be stable, but if this is a top concern for you, choose a boat with a wider beam and lower, flatter profile.
Usually, a 33″ wide beam is plenty wide enough for initial stability, but 36″ or more can provide a little extra comfort. For larger beam kayaks, this is where the drive system really becomes more than an option.
All of the pedal kayaks are great options for fishing, recreational kayaking or just enjoying an afternoon on the water, each has its own advantages. Whether its fishing, affordability, portability .
We hope this is informative on the growing popularity of pedal drive options