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.
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.
So the question is, pedal or paddle when kayak fishing?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy paddling… or pedaling!