Some of the most beneficial aspects of kayak fishing have historically been affordability, ease of entry and general simplicity. With the growth of the sport, some could challenge the notion that getting into kayak fishing is easy. Nevertheless, those benefits still hold true when comparing sea kayak fishing to any other boat fishing, but it’s easy to see why getting into the sport may seem more complicated than it used to be due to innovation in design and massive selection of products.

One particular area of innovation is the introduction of foot propulsion in kayaks. Hobie Kayaks first introduced the Mirage Drive, a pedal-powered device, in 1997. While pedals were already being used in various small watercraft, Hobie made it popular among kayak anglers and recreational paddlers. In 2008, Native Watercraft introduced their own version of a pedal device: the Propel.

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The main differences between the Propel and Mirage is that the Propel uses rotational pedals with a propeller, while the Mirage Drive uses push pedals with fins that move back and forth and sideways. Old Town recently released its own version of a pedal drive, the Predator PDL, with other brands such as Feelfree Kayaks, Wilderness Systems and Perception coming soon.

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So the question is, pedal or paddle when kayak fishing?

To Pedal…

Pros

Speed & Efficiency – For many anglers, speed is not of major concern when fishing. But getting to one’s honey hole is another story! With a pedal device, you’ll be able to cut across larger bodies of quicker than traditional paddling.

Hands Free Control – If you’ve spent any time kayak fishing, you will quickly find that one of the most difficult tasks is managing the position of your kayak. With a pedal system, you’ll be able to maintain control with your legs and the occasional rudder adjustment.

Cons

With all good things, there are always some drawbacks. Most notable is the fact that in order to use a pedal drive, you’ll need additional underwater clearance. Yes, you can easily flip your fins up against your kayak or pull your drive up but it is something you’ll need to cope with. If you are on a budget, you may end up spending more than you want and you’ll sacrifice cargo space on the center deck of your kayak. There’s also some additional maintenance you need to consider.

To Paddle…

Pros

Simplicity – Getting into the water requires less steps, there is minimal maintenance and for some, there is just something about sticking to the roots of paddling.

Affordability – Put simply, traditional kayaks are less expensive. This is usually the deal breaker for many. Pedal kayaks start at about $2,000, while a traditional kayak with a paddle can cost you less than $500!

Less Disruptive – Some may argue this, but you will find that your paddle (with care) is quieter and will cause less commotion under water than a propeller or fin. This is because you have full visibility and control of how deep and hard to paddle vs a prop or fin where you won’t always know if you are disturbing branches, mud or sand and other underwater debris.

Cons

One of the major pitfalls of using a paddle instead a pedal drive is the fact that you’ll need to juggle your paddle with your fishing gear in windy conditions or a current. Your arms are being used to hold your rod and reel, leaving you with minimal control of your paddle and thus a lack of full kayak control. In addition, you’ll get more endurance out of your legs than you will your arms tiring sooner in a traditional kayak if you were to go the same exact distance.

You can’t go wrong either way. Whether paddling or pedaling, kayak fishing is a much more affordable and healthier alternative to using boats powered with motors. Both provide you with the ability to get into areas of water that traditional boats are unable to and give you that up close and personal experience with nature we all long for.

Click here to view our complete line of pedal kayaks or stick to the basics by shopping our traditional paddle kayaks here.

Happy paddling… or pedaling!

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28 comments

  1. i own Hobie Outback peddle kayaks and they are a pure joy to fish with. The new 2019 models even give me more space for Folger (my fishing buddy..red lab). To me to have my hands free while fishing is so easy and i know i can get to a honey hole fast and off a lake fast if the weather set in. We really so much on our legs so why not keep them strong?! These boats are rugged and super stable. An unstable boat is just another distraction when trying to get out to where the bass are on a big lake. The downside is that they are quite heavy, and require a good plan for loading, unloading, traveling, and storage. This all can be done without reinventing the wheel.

  2. Pedal kayaks, least my native SP 13s glide through the water is crappy, only like 1/4 of my other paddle kayaks. I think its all the crap in the water, like a big shaft and propeller making all kinds of drag. I love my slayer propel, it covers more ground not because its faster, its because you can always be on the move and fish.

    And Its not hands free, more like hand free. With the pedal kayaks a hand must stay on the rudder at all times or the boat wonders everywhere.

    Race back to the truck, 3 miles away. My friend smokes me every time in a native ultimate 14.5. Peddles are not faster, its hull shape and size that makes for a fast boat.
    Native slayer propel 13 all day cruse 3 mph, sprints to 5.4 mph
    Native ultimate 14.5 all day cruse 4.5 mph, sprints to 6.5 mph
    But I catch more fish in my slayer!!!

    1. Way less than 18″, you put both pedals forward(?) and it moves both into a “raised” position and you can then make short strokes to move the fins a little that moves you just fine. Someone posted 8″ and that sounds about right.
      As you come into the shallows you move the pedals into that raised position and then peddle up to shore. As it’s / (less) instead of l the fins fold right up as you hit the shore.

    2. Hey Dustin! Thanks for reaching out. Most drives can still be pedaled in as shallow as 18″ of water. When the drive begins to drag, you can simply lift it out of the water and begin paddling.

    1. Brandon- Owen brings up some great points – at the end of the day there are many variables that affect the performance of these kayaks. Whether it’s the paddler, the hull shape, the quality of the paddle, weather conditions etc. We aren’t trying to sway you one way or another, just trying to provide you with some information that might help you make a decision. We also appreciate constructive feedback from our customers and readers as that makes this blog a better place for everyone.

  3. Not a fisherman, a hobbiest photographer. Also, a cycling tourist. Summer and fall in northern MI, and winter and spring in the Everglades and 10,000 Islands area of the Gulf. I started with a Revolution in 08, and now have an Outback I mostly keep in MI, and my 2nd Revolution I keep in FL for winters. Cutting across open bays, or just generally? I pay little attention to head winds or tidal currents, while I regularly pass paddlers sitting in protected areas waiting for the tide to change, or wind to die down. There may be paddlers out there who can keep up with me, let alone pass me, but I haven’t run into them. If you flutter your fins you can move through waters shallower than 8 inches. Shallower than that? Do what everyone else is already doing, paddle until you are out of it. Just how much time does one spend in waters shallower than 8 inches? No matter how you primarily move through the water you have to have a paddle with you anyway. In the Everglades and Big Cypress I run through rivers that are low hanging mangrove canopied and very, very narrow. Paddlers often have to break their paddles in half, and hand pull their way thru. The Hobie, just quietly cruises through. Disruptive? If you know your boat, including your mirage drive, and are aware of your surroundings, there is no reason that the mirage drive approaches the disruptiveness of a paddle. I can hear paddlers coming well before I see them on very quiet wilderness rivers, and it’s not their voices. Carrying gear? My grandson and I did the Everglades Wilderness Waterway last year over 8 days. You need to carry a minimum of a gallon of water for each day, per person, along with all of your gear. I used the Outback, he used the Revo. We were loaded down. The boats performed outstanding in both the open water areas, at times we were in 4 foot seas, and in narrow, shallow rivers/streams. The only downsides of peddle kayaking to me is, first, the complexity of it. I’ve had the rudder line break while out there on a multi-day trip. If something happens to the mirage drive you need to be prepared to deal with it. The only other major downside I can think of is aquatic plantlife. The Hobie does not do well in areas of dense aquatic plant life that is on or near the surface. Paddling has it all over peddling through plant life. For personal reasons, the pedal kayak option is the only one that can get me on the water. Having said that, most of the negatives I’ve read about are overcome by experience and preperation.

  4. I am interested in a Mirage Eclipse and wonder about the range of motion for pedaling. In the videos it looks like the pedal action is limited compared to the pedal kayaks. Does it leave you wanting for more range of motion? And does it differ from the pedal kayaks as far as body movement?

    1. Even in the boats the “peddle” (elliptical really, straight) motion is limited in range. It’s a choppy ‘push push’ stroke that is somewhat abbreviated in it’s stroke.
      In general it’s a wonderful tool and hard to go back to paddling once you get used to the speed of peddling.
      But i wish it was a “full stroke” like an Elliptigo is able to provide. is more satisfying as a leg workout and lets you be stronger in your push. But different design and propulsion, so apples and oranges.
      Very interested, love my fianee’s mirage but the limited pedal stroke is more tiring to me than a longer, full stroke, so on the fence. I’d like to test one.

    2. Hey Eileen!

      Pedaling the Mirage Eclipse kind of feels like you’re on an elliptical (but not as difficult). You’re getting that stair stepping motion, in contrast to the reclining pedal motion of a pedal kayak. So yes, although the same shared group of muscles are used, you’ll be using different ones at the same time and it’ll be a different feel. We haven’t heard anyone complain about the range of motion on a Eclipse, though! We HAVE seen people take a dip in the water for taking turns too fast on it.

      Hopefully that answers your question! Let me know if you’re still wondering about something.

  5. actually a question, what if I want to paddle till I get tired, then peddle till I get tired, and then go back to paddle, It would seem that a Hobie would do that best, because I can set the fins so the are in line with the boat.

  6. Its a pity that you have fallen for the marketing hype and have based your article on opinion instead of fact. “With a pedal device, you’ll be able to cut across larger bodies of quicker than traditional paddling.” This isn’t true – a good paddler in a decent kayak will cruise faster than a pedal powered kayak especially in choppy conditions, in my experience Hobie’s have a hull speed that once reached offer very little gain for extra pedal cadence. Paddle powered fishing skis cruise at 8-10kph, PA’s and outbacks and even Revolutions do not. You statement would only prove true for a paddler with bad technique or in a short kayak with poor tracking.
    “In addition, you’ll get more endurance out of your legs than you will your arms tiring sooner in a traditional kayak if you were to go the same exact distance.” Again you’ve gone for marketing hype over actual research. Proper paddling technique gets its power from torso rotation, not from the use of the arms which only act to steer the paddle.

    1. Maybe you’re a pro or close to it, but I can tell you as healthy, athletic amatuers its WAY true. Peddling is hugely faster, not even close. Not even in chop.
      And hugely stronger. I’m sure my paddle stroke has mega room for improvement but the leg muscles are vastly stronger than even torso muscles so I doubt many people will be as good over a distance. (Ok, next to none)

      But otherwise your mostly not too wrong.

  7. I own 2 Hobies,Outback and Pro Angler 14.Also own a Native Watercraft Propel and a Malibu Stealth 14.Not bragging,I just got addicted to the sport after my first boat which was the Native.I love all of them.I originally purchased the Native Propel to use for a 4 day river camping trip. Having never been in a kayak,I was mainly looking for storage capacity and comfort.My first trip was on the Peace River in Central Florida.With the water levels in some spots so low we were literally dragging the yaks instead of paddling or pedaling,I could have left the propel drive at home and saved myself 30 pounds.But on another trip on the Suwannee with plenty of water under my butt,traveling 18 miles in one day loaded to the gills with coolers and gear was a breeze.Once bitten I was always looking and spotted the Malibu.Was extremely comfortable,had tons of storage and compartments,plus a livewell right in front of the seat.But paddling into even the slightest of headwinds can prove to be a bear.Eventually I was looking at the Hobies.Several of my camp trip buddies used them and seemed to do well.I loved the mirage drive.Went with the turbo fins and the sail rudder.Now I could run circles around everybody.Drawback again though was shallow water.Or even a submerged log you occasionally run into to.Real easy to bend a mast on the drive unit.not a big deal to keep spares on hand,but something to consider.The first Hobie was actually for my wife,the Pro Angler 14.Massive boat,but she felt totally comfortable and steady pedaling down the Weekie Wachee with it’s swift currents and tight corners.Just no reverse like the Native.All in all,I wouldn’t sell any of them.They all have their pros and cons.Bottom line,they all get you off the couch and on the water.And isn’t that what it’s all about?

    1. Robert,

      “They all have their pros and cons. Bottom line, they all get you off the couch and on the water. And isn’t that what it’s all about?”

      Yes, yes, yes, and YES! That’s the truth.

  8. I am the proud owner of a hobie PA14. I used a paddle kayak for 2 years and enjoyed it but it was really to small for my large and heavy frame. I enjoyed my paddle kayak but missed fishing from larger power boat. The upgrade from paddle to peddle changed my attitude to kayak fishing. I previously owned a 20 foot fishing boat but with my life circumstances that was not possible anymore so I settled for the hobie hoping it would be better than my paddle kayak. I quickly changed my opinion on settling after the first couple of weeks. After 4 years with my hobie I find that I enjoy fishing now more than ever in my life. The hobie gives me the ability to cover more water than my paddle kayak did and because I can’t speed around the lake as fast as my old fishing boat I cover the water I fish more thoroughly with greater success. I outfished my brother in his 18 foot tracker on small lakes because of better boat control and stealth. The peddle kayak in many ways gives you the advantages of both the paddle kayak and power boat especially on small to medium sized lakes with other attributes you don’t get with either. Peddle or paddling, kayak fishing is just a great experience that can be enjoyed a lower cost and less maintenance hours. I believe its really a better way to fish and on almost anybody of water can be accessed with good judgment and preparation.

  9. I bought my first kayak two years ago for a bit over $200. I’d never paddled before and I wish I’d done this 20 years ago! I bought it with exercise and fishing in mind and I’ve been adding accessories from ACK to make it more fishable. If they don’t have it, you probably don’t need it. I have found that real estate in my 10′ kayak is limited. I think that my next boat will be a 15′ pirogue that I’ll probably deck and fit out for more long distance fishing. Google “swamp rat boat” for pics and plans. My whole purpose for building is the simplicity of the design with its flat bottom, rocker and narrow beam. It all adds up to an easier paddle and better stability and maneuverability. By the way, I personally prefer a sit in kayak over a sit on top.

  10. Because I am so passionate about this sport I am compelled comment on this post.

    The first thing I want to say is, fishing out of a peddle kayak is a totally different experience than a paddle yak..

    I live in the midwest and I will tell you there are not a lot of drive kayaks on the water in this neck of the woods … yet.
    I bought a heavily used/abused Hobie Outback. The down side was it had two holes in the hull that were used to supply water to an “in hull” bait tank that I didn’t know leaked. The upside was that it had the upgraded turbo fins and the upgraded rudder, for me, a great find!
    Long story short I removed the tank ( which was actually pretty cool) patched the holes and proceeded to enter the peddle kayak fishing arena.

    When doing the research I initially thought I wanted the prop drive system due to the reverse, but after finding the good deal on my fin drive Kayak I hesitantly bought it..
    I must say I’m a 54 yr old non athletic person and I can peddle that yak from 6:30 am until well after noon with no trouble. My concern of no reverse disappeared as I found myself in shallow water more often that I would have thought. I actually took note of how often I was in a situations where I really could use reverse vs. needing the shallow water clearance, what I have found was I need the clearance much more than the reverse.

    Speaking of clearance, 8″ below the boat is no trouble at all. I must say I’m obviously not trolling or spending all of time fishing in 8″ of water I’m finding myself in shallow and leaving soon after.

    Paddle vs peddle… for me its al about the ability to cover ground and reasonable concern about weather. I have tripled my coverage area with a peddle yak and have had it in high wind situations that I would have difficulty paddling, with the peddle yak it’s no trouble…

    As far as the experience… I find myself laughing out loud as I make my way across a lake with white caps and the bow dips under the water splashing on my face and I keep going.. Thats fun!

    When I get the yak in the water early in the morning, the lake is like glass, with few people on it, totally silent, fog lifting off the lake it’s almost surreal. I throw on trolling lures, drop a rod in each of the two ram mount holders, grab my coffee cup and head across the lake with a big grin on my face.

    I sure wish I would have discovered this years ago, it is one of the most relaxing and exhilarating things I have ever done.

    The last thing I want to comment on is price…

    Expensive, yes but these things last.. and if your looking at used ones you know how well they hold their value. My used yak is very old and still works great… I car top my yak with a vehicle that gets great mileage so the other day I went fishing found a lure stuck in a tree. I figure, if the lure was 5 dollars, me finding it payed for about half my fishing trip.
    My advise…spend the 2500.00 get the new yak then customize to fit your use. If you use it for 10 years and sell it for 1500.00 that $100 per year is money well spent!

  11. A good start to a great discussion. I think the most significant point for kayak fishing is “holding position” on the water. The Hobie PAs do a good job employing one technique with their flippers; but, with the Native Propels and now the others with pedal locomotion, kayak fishermen can literally establish a position on the water and maintain it, this, without having to drop an anchor in most circumstances. I do buy into the fact one pays a significant “price” for this attribute, in dollars and maintenance and more . . . so I think a great paddling kayak will always command a significant audience, especially with the no fuss crowd. Brad

  12. I am a Paddler, the main reason for me is Cost of the Pedal and the other is I like to fish those hard to reach spots on the lakes that seem to be a little shallower were the Pedal Boats would not be able to go, I have added Paddle holders on the sides of my Ascend Kayak to help when I am fishing to be able to put my paddle out of my way when I need to land a fish. And I enjoy the paddling while moving around lakes and streams here in Michigan, hey if any of the readers live in Michigan and like to Kayak Fish I am always looking for a fishing partner and new areas to fish. Thank you