Hobie Kayaks introduced the first kayak with a pedal drive system in 1998 and pedal-powered fishing kayaks have revolutionized the sport. Some of the best kayak pedals today provide stability, maneuverability, acceleration responsiveness.
Besides giving you higher speed and hands-free kayak fishing, these most pedal drive kayaks provide a sit-on-top fishing platform, perfect for sight casting, and a rudder system or skeg. Anglers will love features such as horizontal rod storage, built-in rod holders, captain-style seats, and plenty of room for storage hatches for gear.
But, is a fishing kayak with pedals worth the price? Pedaling kayaks allow fishing on the move and reeling without paddling. Standard kayaks range from $800 to $1300, while pedal kayaks can be $1500 to $2950, which gives a price vs. feature advantage to pedal drive fishing kayaks.
Read on to find out why I think the pedal kayak is definitely worth the price difference.
What is a pedal drive?
Let’s look into what these pedal propulsion drives are and how they work.
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A pedal drive system on a kayak usually comes with two rotational pedals and a shaft that submerges into the water below with a prop that spins as you pedal.
Other times they come with a pair of elliptical style pedals you push with your feet with fins underneath the water that stroke back and forth like the Hobie kayak pedal drive (the Miragedrive 180 or the new MirageDrive 360) and the Pelican Catch 130 Hydryve fishing kayak.
But, now that we know what they are, how can they make kayak fishing better? We find that out next.
Pedal kayaks vs paddle
Everyone has preferences and priorities. Some people like to kayak for the enjoyment of slipping across the water as quietly and gently as possible. Some like recreation, exercise, and sport.
Modern kayaking offers all these options with tried-and-true innovations and durability that serve these purposes and more. The basics of a cruiser bike.
Paddling your kayak is a great exercise and provides close interaction with the feel of the water, the currents, and the direction. Learn about paddling strokes here.
Pluses include a kayak at a cheaper cost, good upper body aerobic exercise, and better maneuverability in low water areas and heavy weeds. The cons are overtaxing of your neck, shoulders and back, and awkwardness during fishing and casting.
On the other hand, pedaling your kayak with fully rotational pedals provides smoother, faster movement through the water. Moving forward or backward with just the power of your legs appeals to others who plan on hands-free fishing. With leg action, most people don’t tire as quickly and can travel longer. This is perfect for the kayak angler.
For recreation, it’s a toss-up on which option is best. Both provide good cardiovascular exercise and have navigational advantages.
Want to know more about fishing kayaks? Read this post on What is a fishing kayak and its best features?
What about pedal drive fishing?
But for fishing, pedal kayaks have tremendous advantages. They allow for fishing on the move and casting and reeling without the awkwardness of having a paddle across your lap. Most come with built-in rod holders as well.
The downside for pedalers is dealing with a pedal drive at your feet and having to disengage the drive when entering the shallow water.
Many anglers have mastered managing their paddles while performing the usual fishing activities, but it’s not for everyone.
While standing and fishing, dealing with a pedal drive taking foot space on the deck is also a challenge.
The only way you will be sure which you like better is to test it out. Rent a few kayaks or borrow one from your buddy.
Fishing from a kayak keeps you busy. Most have designed workspace in the cockpit deck designed for changing tackle, unhooking and measuring fish, and bagging your catch. The platform is great for standing while casting or fighting that Bull Red.
We’ll discuss fishing from a kayak next.
Casting while sitting
Experienced kayakers have little problems casting from the seated position while pedaling. This is the best feature of pedal kayaks.
Sometimes called fishing on the move, pedaling with your line in the water lets you troll and cast as you travel along. Additionally, you can stop and reel or reverse your course to keep the line taut. Or, you can maneuver quickly with the turn of your rudder.
A paddle kayak tends to be more station-to-station fishing. There’s nothing wrong with this approach. Also, most inexperienced kayakers tend to be “paddle-tied,” trying to paddle with their line in the water. I’m sure some very experienced kayakers have this technique down, but it may not be for the newbies.
Casting while standing
Some anglers prefer to stand while they are casting or reeling in a fish. This gives you more leverage when fighting the bigger fish and improves the overall fishing experience.
Additionally, while standing, you can still navigate using a paddle in any kayak. This is similar to the way you would propel on a paddleboard.
Standard, sit on top kayaks, have an open platform that anglers will enjoy as they cast and reel. This space allows some stepping around, which is great when you need to stretch too.
A pedal kayak will have the drive system at your feet that will crowd the cockpit some and cramp the space a bit. Get to know the standing platform and evaluate if it allows enough room for you. This will vary quite a bit by make and model.
Fishing shallow waters
Here is where you will notice some real differences in the convenience of the standard kayak.
Prop-based pedal drives must be disengaged and up when launching, beaching, and navigating in shallow water. Some of these drives disengage and pop up when they meet underwater obstacles but may still cause some damage to the drive.
Kayakers using Mirage-style drives have the advantage of drawing in their fins when entering these conditions. Simply pushing one pedal forward and the other back will keep the fins flat along the bottom of the kayak, where you can use your paddle to traverse. But, you will still need to use your paddle to go forward or backward.
Standard kayaks navigate effortlessly and are natural in these conditions.
For fishing in shallow waters, it is highly recommended to use a kayak anchor pole to prevent drifting.
Fishing in rough waters
Eventually, you will have to deal with big waves coming from ship wakes and beach waves. There are effective techniques for handling wakes and swells regardless of the propulsion of the kayak and avoiding tipping over.
But, which of these propulsion methods makes managing these situations easier?
Paddling through the surf to head to deeper, open water will be harder to deal with unless you are very experienced. Your momentum will tend to stop when paddling as you hit large waves.
Most pedal drive kayaks come with rudder systems
Most standard kayaks don’t have a rudder unless you install one yourself. This may cause you to drift in the stern. At times, it is hard to make any headway without the best techniques. You will still have difficulty generating enough power to get through the heaviest of waves.
Riding up and down large swells and choppy waves are made easier using pedaling. This is because of the hands-free capability and using the power of your legs.
You can have a steady hand on your rudder as you fight the currents below. With your hands being free, you can brace yourself and keep gear steady without stopping your movement at all. And, as you pedal through the breaking waves, you can better use the power of your legs and keep your momentum going forward.
Pedal kayaks won’t prevent you from tipping or save you from bad technique, but they will provide more power to get past the breakers and into open water.
Why you should have a paddle with a foot pedal kayak?
You will want to carry your paddle onboard your pedal kayak. There are many situations where you will need to paddle.
We have discussed navigating through shallow water and weeds, launching and beaching your yak, and paddling while standing. But, there are other times you will need your paddle.
Consider that you are out, and your drive system fails or becomes inoperable. Maybe be you get stuck in some debris and need to leverage away. Or, you come across an alligator or shark. You will be glad you did not solely depend on your pedals to get you back safely.
Prop drive vs Miragedrive
Ever had to choose between two things that do the same thing but are still slightly different? Kind of like MS Windows vs. Apple IOS. Like Ford vs. Chevy.
The same goes for the pedal drive systems of the kayaking world. There are prop drives and mirage-style drive systems.
What are prop drive systems?
Prop drives are more prevalent with the majority of manufacturers and a lower price in general. The driveshaft is usually proportional to the overall length of the kayak. And the props vary in size as well.
The advantage of a prop drive is that it easily moves from forward to reverse just by pedaling that way. They are very reliable and can be more comfortable for those with a cycling background.
The prop drives have their shortcomings as well. These drives are most affected by shallow water while launching, beaching, and pedaling through low water areas. When navigating through weeds, the drive will need to be disengaged and pulled out of the water, or this can be done when clearing the weeds from the prop and housing.
What is a Mirage-style drive system?
Hobie first developed Miragedrives for their extensive line of kayaks. These drives are powered by pushing forward a set of pedals resembling an elliptical bike at your favorite gym.
Hobie design engineers anticipated the issue of moving through low waters and weed-infested areas. They are equipped with a set of fins that move water from side to side. So, they raise flush with the hull of the yak when either pedal is pushed all the way forward. This eliminates the need to clean the weeds as often and avoid colliding with sandbars and debris.
These drives require engaging the drive in reverse to pedal backward. And then reengaging to change direction to forward again.
Mirage-style drive system competitors
Once the Hobie Mirage patent ran out, other manufacturers were free to develop their own versions. Pelican International developed the Hydryve to compete in this space.
So, Hobie worked to stay one of the best pedal drives on the market. They soon added the mirage 180 with kick-up fins and the mirage drive 360. I go into great detail about the differences between the Hobie Mirage drive 180 and the Miragedrive 360 here.
Hobie does a great job explaining the Miragedrive 360 technology here:
Here is the counterpoint. Check out “MUST WATCH Before Buying!! Miragedrive Vs. Pedal Drives” from Beyond The Bounds for more comparison details.
Why have a pedal drive on your kayak?
We have covered the various advantages of having a standard and a foot pedal kayak for fishing. It comes down to what you are comfortable with and how much you are willing to pay. Value versus cost.
Consider these questions:
- Are you physically healthy and have a strong back?
- Do you get leg cramps often?
- Do you see any advantage of trolling and fishing on the move?
- Would you mind having to disengage and pick up the drive system when needed?
- Would the smaller foot area bother you while standing?
- Are you strong enough to paddle through heavy waters?
- Are you on a tight budget and need a lower cost?
These are strong considerations that will help guide you to a decision when choosing which type of kayak is right for you.
Which pedal drive system is right for you?
Here is where the pedal meets the metal. Or pedal meets the kayak. Pedal drive systems sound intriguing, but which one would be for you if you were to choose one?
There are many criteria we could use to evaluate drive systems. Here are some of the Mirage style drive advantages:
Noise. Pedal drives tend to be a little noisier. Some with a slight whine as you pedal. The Mirage drive is quieter by most accounts. But, this is not a loud noise, so it may not be a deciding factor.
Power. Some anglers who have driven both say the Miragedrive has more power. This may be important when riding choppy waves and heavy water. It can also be slightly faster.
Storability during transport. The Miragedrives lay flat when disengaged and removed. The pedal drives are like laying a small bicycle on its side in your back seat. So, it takes up more room.
Fins tuck in against the hull in shallow water and weeds.
Some of the pedal drive advantages:
Ease while changing direction. Most pedal drives can change direction simply by pedaling forward or backward. For Miragedrives, the user can pull one of two shift cables to pivot the fins 180 degrees, almost instantly from forward to reverse and back again.
You will need to prioritize your needs based on the advantages of pedal drives versus standard kayaks.
Major pedal drive makes and models
- Hobie – MirageDrive 180
- Hobie – MirageDrive 360
- Pelican – HYDRYVE
- Native Watercraft – Propel Pedal Drive
- Wilderness Systems – Helix Pedal Drive
- Perception – Pilot Drive Pedal System
- Jackson Kayak – Coosa Drive
- Old Town – PDL Drive
- NuCanoe – H2PRO Drive
- FeelFree – Overdrive System
- Ocean Kayak – malibu-pedal
What does a fishing kayak with pedals cost?
Kayaks are priced based on the length and whether it has a drive or not. Here are some comparable pricing options.
The Hobie Mirage Outback (12’ 9”) currently costs $2950. The Pelican Catch 130 HD (12’ 6”) is the premium Pelican pedal kayak and currently costs $1500. This shows the wide price difference between these two Mirage-style drives.
A comparable pedal drive would be The Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal (12’ 0”), costing $2200. Or the Old Town Topwater 120 PDL (12’ 0”) for $2150. This indicates real savings over the Hobie but not the Pelican Catch 130 HD.
Comparable standard kayaks without a drive would include the Pelican Catch 120 (11’ 8”) priced at $800, the Old Town “Topwater 120 Angler” (12’ 0”) at $1000, the Ocean Kayak “Trident 13 Angler” (13’ 6”) at $1300 and the Native Watercraft “Slayer Propel Max” at $2500.
These foot pedal kayaks are cheaper than motorized kayaks and jet-powered kayaks.
This article reviews and compares standard and fishing kayaks with pedals has:
- described the different pedal drive systems
- reviewed the advantages of each drive
- compared the pedal drive systems versus a paddle only kayak
- evaluated if a pedal drive system is for you
- provided external links for pedal drive makes and models
- provided cost comparisons to help evaluate the value of a pedal system versus a standard kayak
I prefer the pedal propulsion kayaks for the above reasons, but especially enhancing the fishing experience. Now you have the information at hand to decide for yourself.