There are two different ways to propel your kayak around bayous, backwaters and bays with your power.
You can use a paddle to push your craft along or you can opt for a pedal-driven kayak. Each style has its pros and cons so consider these factors carefully before making your decision.
Pedal vs Paddle Full Comparison
Quick Note on Pedals
There are two basic types of pedal-powered kayaks. Some units transfer the movement of your legs into a pair of fish-like fins which swing back and forth through the water, propelling you forward. Other kayaks feature a tiny propeller which turns as you crank the pedals.
The mechanisms necessary for the former are typically smaller than those required by the latter.
Prop-driven pedal kayaks require you to move your legs in a large circle rather than back-and-forth in a straight line. Most kayakers appreciate fin-based models for the straight-line leg motion and others find the bicycle motion more natural.
Too many variables affect a kayak’s speed to be able to make broad generalizations about which propulsion system provides faster speeds. Speed is influenced by:
- shape of the kayak’s hull
- amount of gear on board
- material used
- human factors
Paddlers with good technique may be able to outpace pedal pushers with weak legs, while spin-class superstars may leave unskilled paddlers in the dust.
Although it is always wise for pedaling kayakers to have a paddle on board in case something goes wrong, pedal-operated kayaks can be managed in nearly hands-free fashion.
You’ll need to make the occasional adjustment to the rudder but your hands will be free to rig lures, cast or battle fish while your legs power your movements.
The hands-free capabilities of pedal-style kayaks offer one other benefit for anglers: they are easier to keep in place while fishing in the face of currents or winds.
Whereas paddling kayakers must try to remain stationary by using one hand, those piloting pedal-driven kayaks can just use their legs as necessary to keep their kayak positioned well.
Pedal-driven units take up a significant amount of space at the foot of your kayak so you should keep this in mind if storage space and a roomy ride are important to you.
Also consider that you still want to have a paddle on board which places further demands on the space available.
Pedal-powered kayaks are generally about twice the cost of entry-level paddle-operated kayaks. This is the single greatest factor that keeps beginning and intermediate kayakers from using pedal-operated kayaks.
If you only use your kayak for recreational fishing, a pedal drive is certainly not necessary so don’t worry about selling your car to upgrade it. Just concentrate on selecting a high-quality kayak and spend your time learning to paddle effectively.
However, if you will rely on your kayak for food or income, a strong argument can be made for purchasing a pedal-powered model.
Not only can you fish without using your hands to control your kayak, but you can also enjoy using your legs – which are among the biggest muscles in your body – to propel your craft, rather than your arms, shoulders and back which have much smaller muscles.
Whether you are using a propeller-driven or a system that uses fins to push your yak across the water, you have to be mindful that these mechanisms extend down below the kayak. If you aren’t careful, these structures could crash into a sand bar, submerged trees or rocks.
It is also essential to do some cleaning especially after a rough day.
Accordingly, pedal driven kayaks are best suited for deep, open waters, while paddle-operated kayaks are preferable for those fishing in shallow waters or those with a litany of submerged objects.
Beginners are usually best served by selecting a paddle-propelled kayak for their first purchase.
Most novices will want to dip their toe in the water, so to speak, with a more or less $600 kayak rather than jumping right in and purchasing a roughly $2,000 worth that has all the bells and whistles including a pedal drive system.
You won’t know the kind of granular preferences you’ll have yet, so it is best to avoid spending a lot on a kayak before you know what you like.
Plus, all kayakers must master sound paddle technique. This is not only a safety issue – you don’t want to have your pedal system fail while you’re two miles out to sea – it is an angling issue.
You need to be able to place your kayak exactly where you want it to maximize your fishing success. You may like pedaling from one part of a lake to another quickly and easily but you probably need to use your paddles to fine tune your positioning.