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Choosing a Pedal vs Paddle Kayak

Written by Gary Lacey on May 11, 2020

When choosing your next fishing kayak – or your first – one of the coolest features you should consider is whether a pedal drive foot propulsion system is right for you and your budget; so that you can get to your honey hole faster and off a lake or ocean fast/efficiently if bad weather sets in.  A fishing kayak with a pedal drive option will be more expensive than one that just offers a paddle, but there are definitely some affordable options for premium pro level fishing kayaks. Prices for premium pedal driven fishing kayaks range from the very budget-friendly Vibe Shearwater 125 at well under $2000 and then jumps to $3000 and $5000 for other top-brand manufacturers.

Pedal drives typically drop quite easily into your fishing kayak and lock into place,  the differences between the various pedal drives on the market are the way in which their propulsion works on the water: either using “fins” which slice through underwater weeds, are strong but lightweight, and can get into very shallow waters – like that used with the Vibe X-Drive on the Shearwater 125, and on ‘fin pedal drives’ on select other kayak brands – or the propellers found on most other brands’ pedal drive fishing kayaks which are by nature heavier and more easily get caught up and stop in underwater flora.

Beyond the question of what kind of foot pedal drive to choose from, it’s then a matter of whether you should upgrade your fishing kayak experience to a pedal drive or whether simply using a paddle is all that you’ll need to have fun, hook up, and cover the corners of your favorite bit of water. 

So, pedal or paddle when kayak fishing? What will work best for you?

PEDAL

Pros

(1) Speed and Efficiency – For most kayak fishing anglers, getting to as many fishing spots as possible in the limited time that you have on the water is pretty darn important. And by “limited”, I mean there’s never enough time in the day when it comes to fishing!

With a pedal drive propulsion system in your fishing kayak, like the option for the Vibe Shearwater 125, you’ll be able to get to where the bass or redfish are hiding faster and more efficiently than using a traditional paddle, as well as cover larger bodies of water like big lakes or ocean bays far more easily.  

(2) Hands Free Control – Proper positioning on the water with your fishing kayak using just a paddle can often be a challenge while fishing even with no winds or currents. Using a pedal drive system makes it much, much easier to control your kayak's position by using just your legs and occasional rudder adjustment using the rudder steering handle on the side of the kayak.

Cons

(1) Like with anything, there are sometimes things that you must deal with. For pedal drives, because the propulsion system sticks below the kayak, you'll need to make sure that you have certain amount of underwater clearance so that you don't "ground out".  Fin propulsion drives are more forgiving of clearance than most propeller drives, so you can get into fairly shallow waters, but they also require room below the kayak in order to operate. You can always pull up the drive, or with fins you can flip them "flat", but if you are just using a paddle, you'll be able to get into the very shallowest of waters with less hassle.

PADDLE

Pros

(1) Price - Using a paddle is simply cheaper than purchasing a pedal drive propulsion system for your fishing kayak. However, if you want to start with a paddle and then upgrade to a pedal drive at some point, one kayak, the Vibe Shearwater 125, lets you add on an optional X-Drive pedal drive system for several hundred dollars without having to initially purchase the pedal drive with the original kayak like other brand manufacturers. This allows you to customize your pro fishing options whenever you want, or your budget allows.

(2) It's simpler – Getting out on the water and around it with just a paddle may be slower, but for some anglers, paddling is just more traditional. 

Cons

(1) Less control – You simply cannot control your fishing kayak as easily with just a paddle when wind or currents are a consideration. It's more difficult to hold a rod and also paddle if you need to adjust your position.

(2) Slower speed on water – If bad weather comes up suddenly, or if you need or want to get somewhere faster, paddling will also be slower than a pedal drive or motor.

Whether you go for a pedal drive propulsion system for your fishing kayak, or stick with a paddle, either way you'll have an awesome time fishing and being out on the water. There are no wrong choices, but if you do choose to enhance your fishing experience with a fishing kayak like the Vibe Shearwater 125 with a pedal drive, then hopefully we've given you some helpful things to consider.

Pedal or paddle on! Good vibes!


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