Kayaks have been used for fishing for many thousands of years, but it is within the last 50 years that they have seen the most radical of design changes leading us to the modern fishing kayaks we love and use today. Paddles have always been the method of choice for propulsion but there is a new kid on the block... Pedal Drive Fishing Kayaks! A revolution in design and function, these incredible fishing kayaks offer many advantages over the humble paddle....
A Short History of Kayaks
Kayaks have been around for many thousands of years and were first developed by Inuits and Aleuts as a way to hunt and fish on the water. Early designs were constructed from skin stretched over wooden or bone frames. Nothing much changed until the middle of the 20th century when fibreglass started to be used. The rotationally moulded polyethylene kayaks that are widely popular today only really started appearing in the 1970’s. With this new way of production, kayak design became almost limitless in possibilities with a vast array of hull shapes now available covering various kayaking disciplines.
A New Way to Kayak.... the Mirage Drive
Fierce Competition - Propellor Drives
These drives are powered by cycling pedals in the foot-well, which drives a propeller beneath the kayak. Native Kayaks brought out their Propel Drive in 2008 and others didn’t really join in the action until 2016. There has since been an explosion in kayak manufacturers releasing pedal drive fishing kayaks!
Perception Kayaks have the Pilot Drive in the Pescador Pilot 12.0. Feelfree Kayaks have the Over Drive the Lure 11.5 OD, Lure 13.5 OD and Dorado. Wilderness Systems have the Helix Drive in the Radar 135 and others. Riot Kayaks have the Impulse Drive in their Mako 10 and Mako 12. Jackson Kayaks have the Flex Drive the Coosa FD and other models. Old Town have the PDL Drive in the Predator PDL and other models. The list goes on and I’m sure many more brands will follow suit to ride the wave of pedal kayak fever.
The Hobie Mirage Drive 180
New for 2020 - A Mirage Drive 360 and the introduction of Kick-Up Fins
Hobie have also developed Kick-Up fins for this drive and are also including them on all 2020 MD180 drives as standard. These fins will 'kick-up' if they strike an underwater object or the bottom and will automatically re-deploy once you start pedalling again in deep enough water.... game changer! Less worry about damaging the fins in shallow water!
Paddle Kayak Advantages
Paddle kayaks can take more abuse. Having fins or a prop beneath the kayak means that you must be aware of underwater obstacles or shallow waters where you may bottom out and damage the drive. Most pedal kayaks have some form of prop or fin retraction system for shallow water launches and landings but it can be easy to forget until it’s too late. Hobie have somewhat resolved this with the introduction of the 'Kick-Up' fins for 2020. There is no such worry with a paddled kayak though.
The Price of Pedals (2019 UK Pricing)
Hobie Kayaks are by far the most popular with a number of models available. These are top quality kayaks with industry-leading design and features. Their entry-level model is the Passport 10.5 and is equipped with Mirage Drive Classic (a basic version of the GT drive), and the 2019 model retails at just £1500. A Passport 12.0 has been released for 2020 and retails at around £1750. They also offer the Hobie Compass as an intermediary model equipped with Mirage Drive GT and the 2019 model retails at £2200.
The rest of the Mirage Drive Kayak range offers a premium outfitting and includes the Mirage Drive 180. The popular Revolution 13 retails at £3050, the Revolution 16 at £3150 and the Outback at £3250. All these models are great for saltwater kayak fishing. The Revolution series offers a sporty performance hull, great for open coasts and slightly rougher waters and for covering longer distances. The Compass and the Outback are the more stable platforms, offering comfort with plenty of deck space, proving great for calm-to-moderate inshore conditions.
The Old Town Predator PDL retails at £3500 and the Wilderness Systems Radar 135 Helix is £3050. There are also several other pedal kayaks now available for sub-£2000. The Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0 retails at £1900. The Feelfree Lure 11.5 and 13.5 Overdrive at £2000 and £2350 respectively, although the Lure series has a hull shape that is best suited to calm sheltered waters rather than open coastal conditions. Perhaps the best propeller drive hull for coastal waters is surprisingly also the cheapest, the Riot Mako 12 with Impulse Drive. This kayak has a good amount of rocker along the hull, with a nicely flared bow, which will see it perform well in choppy waters. This kayak retails at an outstanding £1200! The smaller Mako 10 is a little less at £1100, although better suited for calm sheltered spots. At this price, the Riot Mako comes in at less than some of the premium paddle fishing kayaks and this really does represent an affordable pedal drive fishing kayak option for many.