More than two decades ago Hobie’s MirageDrive delivered a new way to kayak-fish by incorporating pedaling with the feet as a source of movement. The pedal-driven propulsion system was innovative, allowing anglers to put down the paddle in the kayak. Fishermen could now maneuver in the current, troll one or two rods, and move from spot to spot with both hands free.
The popularity of pedal fishing kayaks among anglers soared over the years. Today, most major kayak manufacturers — including Blue Sky Boatworks, Brooklyn Kayak, FeelFree, Hobie, Jackson Kayak, Old Town, Native Watercraft, NuCanoe, Old Town, Pelican, Perception, Riot and Wilderness Systems — offer pedal drive kayaks for fishing.
“Having two hands free to fish is the reason why kayak anglers have sought additional methods to paddling,” says David Hadden, brand director for Old Town kayaks. “When fishing in windy conditions, current, structure or around tightly grouped fish, the ability to stay in the same spot without using a paddle guarantees greater success.”
Using your legs to travel in your kayak, instead of your arms, is also less tiring.
“I have no doubt that pedaling is more comfortable than paddling,” says Morgan Promnitz, Hobie’s fishing product manager. “It’s easier on the back, a drier ride, quieter, plus your leg muscles are stronger than your arms, so you can fish for longer and cover more water. I can’t go back to fishing from a paddle kayak, unless I’m in a super-shallow river or flats waters that span for miles — but then I’m moving and hopping out of the kayak to cast.”
Today’s pedal drive kayaks also come with forward and reverse capabilities, something that was not always available with earlier drive models. Consider the Propel Drive System from Native Watercraft.
“It’s a lot like pedaling a bike but much easier to ride in reverse,” says Tyler Brown, director of marketing for Native Watercraft. “Since you can go from forward to reverse just by pedaling backward, and not have to use your hands, it is a significant benefit when fighting a fish.”
Hobie’s drive is based off the way a penguin’s wing flexes under the water. “The penguin wing has a bone running through the front of it, and we have a metal shaft running through our fin,” says Promnitz. “The back of the wing is flexible, just like our pedal blades.”
Add a side-to-side sweeping motion, and the wing or blade begins to flex and create pitch to push water. Weighing in at under 8 pounds, the MirageDrive 180 produces full power in both directions.
With the incorporation of a pedal drive into a kayak, expect to pay about $1,000 more at purchase time when compared with traditional sit-on-top fishing kayaks. Every kayak fisherman I’ve spoken to — and this isn’t hyperbole — says the extra expense is worth the cost.
“Adding features in the hull to accommodate a pedal drive does add more cost, plus the pedal drive itself,” says Christina Erb LoVullo, who handles marketing for Confluence Watersports. Other costs include the hardware for mounting the pedal drive and rudder controls, the advanced seating system, as well as additional structure molded into the hull to handle the pedal drive.
Below are some of the newest and best pedal fishing kayaks, although this list is not completely exhaustive. New models with pedal propulsion are not introduced every year. Watch out — once anglers switch to pedal fishing kayaks, they often don’t go back to a paddle craft. In fact, I’m guessing many readers have already made the jump and are looking for their next pedal drive kayak.
Blue Sky Boatworks 360 Angler
Specifications Length: 13 feet, 4 inches Hull Weight: 140 pounds Propulsion: Paddle (flex drive) or outboard engine Capacity: 500 pounds Colors: Three Width: 48 inches
Brooklyn Kayak UH-PK13
Specifications Length: 13 feet Hull Weight: 80 pounds Propulsion: Pedal driven propeller Capacity: 550 pounds Colors: Six Dimensions: 160 X 35 X 17
FeelFree Dorado 11
Specifications Length: 12 feet, 5 inches Hull Weight: 100 pounds Propulsion: Pedal or motor (A unique Overdrive system offers pedals and motor in one unit.)
Hobie Mirage Passport 10.5
Specifications Colors: Two Length: 10 feet, 6 inches Width: 34 inches Capacity: 325 pounds Hull Weight: 65 pounds Fully Rigged Weight: 75 pounds
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 with 360 Drive
Specifications Colors: 2 options Length: 12 feet Width: 36 inches Height: 20 inches Capacity: 500 pounds Vantage Seat Capacity: 350 pounds Fitted Hull Weight: 109.5 pounds Fully Rigged Weight: 132.5 pounds
Specifications Length: 11 feet, 3 inches Width: 33 inches Height: 12 inches Draft: 3 to 6 inches Hull Weight: 63 pounds Max Weight: 375 pounds Max Power: 2.5 horsepower
Old Town Topwater 106 PDL
Specifications Colors: Four Propulsion: Pedal Weight Capacity: 450 pounds Length: 10 feet, 6 inches Width: 36 inches
Pelican Catch 130
Specifications Length: 12 feet, 6 inches Hull Weight: 85 pounds Propulsion: Paddle or pedal Capacity: 425 pounds
Riot Mako 12
Specifications Length: 12 feet, 4 inches Hull Weight: 56 pounds (hull only) Width: 34 inches Propulsion: Paddle or pedal Capacity: 470 pounds Colors: 11