The Best Pedal Drive Kayaks – Top Rated Pedal Kayaks

pedal drive kayaks

Avid fishermen and pleasure boaters alike appreciate the innovation of pedal kayaks. Pedal drive kayaks allow you to move through the water at faster speeds and offer more comfortable positioning. They also allow for hands-free, leg-powered kayaking which is a very relaxing and efficient experience. This makes it much easier and safer for you to cast a rod or reference a map or GPS system while you’re on the water. Pedal kayaks also provide a better steering response which makes maneuvering a breeze. Overall, pedal drive fishing kayaks are known for being beautifully and functionally designed and high-performing.

While the benefits and advantages of pedal drive fishing kayaks are obvious, you may be wondering which model and brand the best option is to suit your needs. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite pedal drive kayaks to give you a place to start. Keep reading to learn more about pedal drive kayaks and the many innovative models that are currently on the market.

Pedal Drive Kayaks vs. Paddle Kayaks

Even if you’re already a pro at paddle kayaking, it is important to understand how pedal drive kayaks are different before making the switch. Although operating and maneuvering a pedal drive kayak is easier, there are a few key differences that you should remain aware of. Pedal drive kayaks include pedal systems that enable you to pedal using the power of your legs, much like riding a bicycle, rather than using your arms to paddle. Pedal drive kayaks reduce fatigue while increasing speed and maneuverability.

You might notice that the seat of a pedal drive kayak tends to be situated differently than in a traditional paddle-operated kayak. Many of the top pedal drive kayaks available are outfitted with advanced seating designs that allow you to sit in a higher position. Pedal kayaks also tend to have more defined backrests and adjustment capabilities. These features make it easier to see the water which improves your ability to navigate, spot fish, and more.

Pedal kayaks are also usually much wider than paddle kayaks, so you’ll have more stability in the water. This not only gives you more storage and deck space, but it also makes standing easier. The stability of a pedal kayak can make the fear of capsizing much less worrisome. This gives you more flexibility for fishing and other on board activities.

kayaking BannerYou may realize that you need a rudder to help you move in a straight line while in the water if your pedal kayak does not already have one installed. Even though pedal kayaking is mostly hands-free, at times you may need to use your hands to adjust your rudder and the direction of your kayak.

If you are primarily a whitewater kayaker, then a pedal kayak is not ideal for you. Unlike traditional paddle kayaks, pedal kayaks are not equipped with a lot of free-board so they get filled with water much easier. They are also more difficult to navigate in moving water due to the fact that your feet are not located at the foot of the hull like in a pedal kayak.

Since pedal kayaks tend to be equipped with more added features and space, they tend to be a bit more expensive than traditional paddle kayaks. They also require more maintenance in order to keep the mechanical features in the best shape. The amount of maintenance required can be affected by where and how you plan on using your kayak. Conditions like saltwater, underwater debris, and weather can affect your kayak’s maintenance routine.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to operating a pedal kayak is that the same safety rules still apply. It is never a good idea to go out on the water while tired, inebriated, or otherwise unalert. Whether you’re pedaling or paddling, it is important to remember to remain safe as you enjoy any outdoor adventure.

The Benefits of Hands-Free Kayakingpedal drive kayaks

All in all, pedal drive kayaks provide plenty of great benefits. The top benefits of a pedal kayak include:

  • Easier maneuverability
  • More deck and storage space
  • The ability to travel on water at higher speeds
  • Quieter operation
  • Less fatigue and more energy while kayaking
  • You can stay dry while kayaking

Pedal drive kayaks feature a propeller that usually resembles a fin. On most models, they are installed beneath the kayak’s hull and connected to foot pedals that are installed on deck. Having the ability to utilize your leg muscles for maneuvering and gliding across the water, frees up your hands for a variety of on board activities. Whether you enjoy wildlife photography, fishing, or bird watching while you’re on the water, you can do it more safely and easily in a pedal kayak.

Fishermen are often the biggest fans of pedal drive kayaking. In a pedal drive fishing kayak, you’ll have the ability to cast lines and reel in catches without having to worry about paddling at the same time. Many of the top pedal kayaks on the market are outfitted with specialized features for fishermen. These features allow you to easily store tackle and give you plenty of work space to prepare bait and review your catches. There is typically much more space available on a pedal kayak.

Fishermen also tend to enjoy being able to creep up on fish without scaring them away due to the fact that pedal kayaks are quieter during operation. Since the propellers work underwater and you won’t be splashing in the water with a paddle, stalking and catching fish can be easier in a pedal drive kayak.

Plus, kayaking without paddles also makes it easier to stay dry. The splashing that comes along with paddling makes it much easier to get your clothes and gear wet while you’re on board. The propeller remains underwater while you operate your pedal kayak so there is minimal splashing involved.

Pedal kayaking can provide a great workout session for your lower body. Pedal kayaks also make it possible for those who are injured or have issues with their upper body to enjoy the exciting and adventurous activity of kayaking since your legs are doing all the work. Humans tend to have much more strength in their legs than in their arms, so using your lower body can also allow you to travel at a faster speed than paddling alone.

Not only do pedal kayaks make this activity more accessible to people with injuries or other physical limitations, but it also makes it easier for those who are inexperienced at kayaking. Since most people know how to ride a bike, pedaling tends to come more naturally to beginners than paddling. Most people can take a pedal kayak out on the water with little to no technique.

Types of Pedal Drive Kayaks

It is obvious that pedal kayaks are different from paddle kayaks, but there are also two main types of pedal kayaks: the push pedal kayak and the rotational pedal kayak. The key difference between these types is the amount of lower body muscles that are needed for operation.

Push Pedal Kayaks

Operating a push pedal kayak requires you to use your feet to push down on the pedals in order to glide through the water. With this type of kayak, your feet and ankles are more in use than the rest of your legs. Push pedal kayaks allow you to use each foot to power through the water, and if you stop pushing with your feet, the kayak will rapidly slow down. The motion required for this type of pedal is similar to using the pedals in your car.

Rotational Pedal Kayaks

A rotational pedal kayak requires you to use your whole legs. The motion of powering a rotational pedal kayak is more similar to pedaling a bicycle. Rotational pedal kayaks tend to have more spacious cockpits and the ability to travel at higher speeds. They also tend to be much easier to move and maneuver, since you’re using more leg power while operating.

Rotational pedal kayaks allow for more longevity, so they are a great choice if you enjoy spending hours out on the water. When you stop pedaling in a rotational pedal kayak, you’ll find that the craft maintains its momentum rather than slowing down immediately like a push pedal kayak. This reduces fatigue since you won’t have to constantly pedal to move across the water.

Choosing the Best Pedal Drive Fishing Kayak

Now that you understand the benefits of a pedal drive kayak as well as the difference between pedaling and paddling, you may be wondering how to choose the best pedal drive kayak model to best meet your needs. Pedal kayaks are a pretty new technology so you may be wondering what to look for before purchasing one. Keep reading to learn more about the top factors to consider before purchasing a pedal drive kayak.

Pedal Type: Push Pedal vs. Rotational Pedal

As we mentioned earlier, there are two main types of pedal kayaks: push pedal and rotational pedal. There are advantages to both types especially when compared to traditional paddle kayaks, but which one is the best option to suit your needs?

Push pedal kayaks are easy to use and require simple motion that mainly involves the feet and ankles. If you’d prefer to use less leg motion while operating your pedal drive kayak, then a push pedal model may be a great pick for you. The main disadvantages of a push pedal kayak are reduced longevity and speed. In a push pedal kayak, you must keep pedaling constantly to keep moving. Pushing the pedals for an extended period of time can become tiresome and lead to issues with your back.

In a rotational pedal kayak, you’ll find that the added usage of your entire legs gives you much more energy to power the boat. You are also able to take breaks while pedaling since rotational pedal kayaks maintain momentum after you stop pedaling. You’ll get less tired while operating a rotational pedal kayak and can stay out on the water for longer periods of time.

Overall, we are more inclined to choose a rotational pedal kayak over a push pedal kayak. When you compare the amount of energy that is required and lost, operating a push pedal kayak can be just as tiring as operating a traditional kayak. If conserving your energy and increasing your momentum on the water is a top concern for you, then we’d recommend a rotational pedal kayak.

Hull Size and Shape

The hull’s size and shape are important to consider when you’re purchasing a pedal kayak. The right fit for you will depend on the activities you’d like to enjoy while kayaking. Do you want to bring a lot of gear or family and friends on board? If so, then you’ll need more space and flexibility than a solo kayaker. You will also need to consider the type of water that you will be taking your boat out on. If you’ll be sticking to small rivers, then a flat, round hull is the best option for maneuverability. A V-shaped hull is best for tracking. A kayak with a longer, slimmer hull will tend to have more speed.

Stability

Much like when you’re purchasing a traditional kayak, it is important to consider the boat’s overall stability when you’re purchasing a pedal kayak. Capsizing is a major concern when it comes to enjoying this adventurous outdoor activity. Stability can differ depending on your boat’s hull shape with round, flat hulls providing better primary stability and V-shaped hulls providing better secondary stability. The position of your kayak’s pedals may also affect the overall stability. Your overall stability will be affected based on the distribution of your weight throughout the boat.

Speed

This is another factor that will mostly depend on your personal preference and intended use. Pedal kayaks tend to have the ability to travel faster than traditional paddle kayaks. The speed at which you can go will also depend on your own body strength since kayaks are usually powered without a motor. Most likely, if you’re interested in a pedal kayak for fishing or other activities besides racing, you’ll want a kayak that reaches a moderate speed rather than an extremely fast one. When considering speed, slimmer kayaks tend to be faster than wider ones.

Turning, Tracking, and Maneuverability

Pedal kayaks tend to be a bit wider and bulkier due to the rudders, extra deck space, and additional storage areas. The larger size can make your kayak feel slightly unstable, especially if you’re used to a traditional paddle kayak. Since steering is more limited in a leg-powered pedal kayak, many of the best models have added technologies to improve the watercraft’s overall turning, tracking, and maneuverability.

If you plan to use your pedal kayak in shallow waters or areas with a great deal of vegetation, then you’ll want to choose one that does not cause your propellers to drag across the ground or become blocked by underwater obstructions. Depending on the model that you choose, you may want to carry an extra paddle on-board to help out in shallow water.

Transport and Launching

Finding a model that is easy to transport is very important, especially since pedal kayaks tend to be a bit heavier than traditional kayaks. Depending on who will be helping you get your kayak into the water and the size of your vehicle, you’ll want to consider purchasing a pedal kayak that will be light enough to easily transport with your vehicle and transfer from your vehicle to the water. Each of the pedal drive fishing kayaks on our list is lightweight and easy to place into the water. You may also want to carry an additional paddle to assist with launching your kayak.

The Best Pedal Drive Fishing Kayak: Our Favorite Brands and Models

Now that you’ve learned a bit more about the benefits of pedal drive kayaks and the most important factors to consider when purchasing your own, we’d like to share with you a few of our favorite models. Each of the models on our list is equipped with plenty of special features and intricate designs for a relaxing and enjoyable kayaking experience. You’re sure to find a pedal drive fishing kayak that meets your needs on our list.

1.    BKC UH-PK11 Pedal Drive Solo Rover by the Brooklyn Kayak Company

pedal drive kayaks
Credit to Brooklyn Kayak Company

This agile pedal drive fishing kayak comes equipped with everything you need for an enjoyable fishing experience. The BKC UH-PK11 is a 10-foot, 6-inch solo kayak that comes complete with a rudder system, a paddle, and a grey camo seat. This is a user-friendly pedal kayak option for those who want to enjoy the benefits of hands-free paddling without the complexity and high price tag that can come with more advanced options.

This watercraft weighs just 60 pounds, so it is lightweight and easy to transport to any waterway. Although this boat does not come with rails or tracks to make mounting easier, it comes with two plates at the front of the deck where you can mount any electronics. We also appreciate that this pedal drive fishing kayak has plenty of dry storage space behind the seat. There is also a bungee stern where you can add additional gear. You can also fit additional supplies beneath the bow.

Another great feature of this kayak is the fact that it’s easy to maneuver. Angling is easy with the boat’s two rod holders. It is also important to note that this kayak’s prop lifts out of the water although its rudder system is installed beneath the hull. When transporting this boat, it’s important to avoid grinding the stern on the ground.

Overall, when it comes to portability, affordability, and user-friendliness, this is one of the best pedal drive kayaks on the market. However, there are a couple of cons to look out for. The first downside to this craft is the fact that it is not the most hydrodynamic watercraft on the market. If you’re looking for a kayak with a lot of speed and power then this may not be the best choice for you, but if you plan to use it primarily for more stationary activities like fishing, then this factor will not matter as much. Also, as we mentioned earlier, the design and placement of this kayak’s hull mean that you’ll need to be a bit more cautious when maneuvering this boat through shallow waters.

2.    Slayer 10 Propel Pedal Fishing Kayak by Native Watercraft

pedal drive kayaks
Credit to Native Craft

Native Watercraft’s Slayer 10 Propel Kayak is another great pedal drive fishing kayak. What makes this kayak one of the best models on the market is its versatility. One of the top features that we enjoy about this kayak is the fact that it is versatile and multi-directional. This watercraft’s propel pedal drive system allows you to travel both forward and in reverse. With its hand-sewn, first-class seating, you can easily adjust the inseam to best suit your needs. Weighing just around 60 pounds, this pedal kayak is very lightweight and portable.

Navigating this kayak is easy with its left-hand rudder control system which comes with a 17-inch bow hatch cover. This feature also contributes to the kayak’s overall durability. The Slayer 10’s propeller drive system and rotational pedals make it easy for you to move across the water quickly.

If you want a pedal drive fishing kayak that is highly portable, then this is a great pitch. Not only is it lightweight, but it also has a compact design that allows you to easily fit it in the back of your truck or on top of your vehicle. You’ll be happy to know that this kayak can be transported solo. Featuring ample storage space, this boat also makes your gear and supplies more portable. There is a secure, sealed compartment available at the front of the kayak, and a spacious cargo area behind the kayak’s seat. The Slayer 10 also includes a track system that runs along the sides of the kayak. In addition, there are track systems that are placed on both sides of the stern and in front of the boat’s deck.

Standing fishermen also appreciate this kayak’s stability. You’ll have no trouble standing in this 34-inch wide boat. You’ll enjoy great line casting in the Slayer 10. This kayak also has a high weight capacity of up to 500 pounds. This kayak has plenty of deck space even though it is quite compact.

Operating this kayak is an effortless experience. The boat is equipped with dual rod holders, and a convenient right-handed cup holder. Plus, it is easy to use the left-handed operating handle. We enjoyed being able to maintain a relaxed position while pedaling this watercraft. The seat is designed in the form of a cozy armchair that is easy to adjust for comfortable access to the pedals.

Another great feature of this kayak is the fact that the pedal drive is able to lift completely out of the water. With this feature, you can worry less about having your prop run along the ground. This boat is often viewed as a more affordable alternative to the Predator and Malibu pedal drive kayaks which both feature a quick and easy driving system.

When it comes to propelling speeds, it’s easy to go about 3.5 miles per hour in the Slayer 10 on a nice day with limited currents and wind. Depending on weather and other environmental conditions, this kayak can go up to a speed of 5.2 miles per hour. It remains pretty stable even in windy and stormy conditions.

Overall, this kayak is a top choice for anyone who has weight and space at the top of their list. This versatile pedal-driven boat is most loved among leisure kayakers and fishermen.

3.    The Mirage Compass Pedal Kayak by Hobie

pedal drive kayaks
Credit to Hobie

If you’re looking for a reverse drive pedal kayak with an alternative approach to pedaling, then the Mirage Compass may be the best option for you. Hobie is known for building top of the line pedal kayaks that use a different type of propulsion system. This kayak includes a specially designed radical pedal system that functions more like a set of flapping fins instead of as a propeller. This makes it easy to go back and forth between the forward and reverse direction. Although this innovative approach to pedaling makes maneuvering the kayak easier, it is important to note that the fins do not rise completely out of the water. However, the Mirage Drive is easy to fold upwards towards the hull to make it easier to travel through shallow waters.

Instead of rotating the kayak’s drive like bicycle pedals, you push on this boat’s pedals like two bicycle pumps in order to move across the water. The Mirage Compass pedal drive kayak’s pedal system is designed with Hobie’s efficient Glide Technology which allows you to move through the water easily and effortlessly. Even beginners find it easy to maneuver the Mirage Compass. It has the ability to make sharp turns around rocks and other debris with ease. It is also able to move across the water with considerable speed.

Not only is this kayak’s design highly functional, but it is very comfortable as well. The Mirage Compass features ventilated mesh seating and an over-sized cockpit. You’ll also enjoy the comforting stability of the boat’s flat deck which makes standing while onboard a breeze.

This kayak is highly versatile and easy to adjust to best suit people of all sizes. You can easily modify your Mirage Compass and tailor it for your personal needs. This pedal drive kayak comes equipped with a transducer mount as well as through-hull cable plugs, so you can add a GPS system or a fish finder to make your waterfront adventure even more convenient and relaxing. There are also two extra track systems which leave plenty of space for added accessories. You can keep your extra clothing, snacks, and other essentials dry by placing them in the dry storage space. Fishermen also appreciate having two fishing rod holders on-board.

When the Mirage Compass does not have its drive attached it only weighs 68 pounds, so it is lightweight and easy to maneuver and transport. The drive itself only adds an additional 19 pounds to the boat. Despite its compact size, this boat is able to hold up to 400 pounds of weight. It also measures in length at about 12 feet.

pedal drive kayaks
Credit to Wilderness Systems

4.    The Radar 115 by Wilderness Systems

Wilderness Systems is a well-known name when it comes to kayaks. Their boats are known for having plenty of cool features and great dimensions, and the Radar 115 does not disappoint. This 11 foot 8-inch pedal drive watercraft is larger than the other boats on our list, but it is still easy to operate and maneuver. With an overall weight of 85 pounds, this roomy, stand-up kayak has plenty of deck and storage space. It is a great option for anyone who likes to go out on the water with friends and family onboard. This pedal drive kayak has a weight capacity of up to 450 pounds.

As a high-performance, advanced angling kayak, the Radar 115 gives you everything you need in a pedal drive kayak. This boat features S.M.A.R.T Hull Technology (Stability, Maneuverability, Acceleration, Responsiveness, and Tracking) that enables it to be easy to operate in a variety of aquatic environments. The kayak’s overall stability makes it easy to stand without the fear of capsizing. It also has added technology like the HELIX PD Pedal Drive to make maneuvering through the water a breeze.

One of our favorite features of the Radar 115 is its Air Pro MAX Seat. This advanced kayak seating offers maximum comfort and adjustability so you can explore open waters without strain or discomfort.  The Air Pro MAX seating allows you to optimize your position for a variety of water travel conditions.

When it comes to the pedals, you’ll find that this kayak has three different phases so you can easily adjust your riding position and speed. The Radar 115’s HELIX PD Pedal Drive is a unique steering control system that allows for hands-free fishing and user-friendly navigation. This highly efficient pedal system has a 6:1 gear ratio precision as well as a 14 x 17 two-bladed fixed pitch prop. These features make it easy to accelerate to top speeds without much effort. This kayak is also outfitted with a mast that rises automatically with zero draft and a spring-loaded kick pedal.

Overall, this kayak sports a minimalized deck that is free from clutter. There are plenty of built-in storage systems throughout the boat. The SlideTrax Rail System allows you to easily mount your gear. There is also a dry storage space for your extra clothes, snacks, and other kayaking essentials. The Radar 115 also has a center console where you can mount devices like a GPS system or a fish finder. There is even more bungee storage available on the kayak’s stern.

5.    Helix PD Pedal Drive System by Wilderness Systems

pedal drive kayaks
Credit to Wilderness Systems

If you already own one of the Radar kayaks by Wilderness Systems, but it isn’t outfitted with the Helix PD Pedal Drive System, you can purchase this add-on system to upgrade your boat. The Helix PD Pedal Drive System is one of the most advanced and innovative systems available. It fits both the Radar 115 and the Radar 135. Adding this technology to your kayak will enable you to increase your boat’s functionality and maneuvering capabilities. This system allows you to travel forwards and reverse in the water. It also comes with a free set of Vamo’s highly reviewed kayak tie down straps.

The Helix PD Pedal Drive System features a 6:1 gear ratio precision along with a 14 x 17 two-bladed fixed pitch prop. These features can greatly improve the efficiency of your Radar kayak. Not only does installing this add-on system enable you to reach maximum speeds, but you can do it with minimal effort. This system is a must-have for a fisherman who enjoys the relaxation of hands-free fishing.

The Helix PD Pedal Drive System also features a unique mast that is able to rise automatically and achieve zero draft. It also has a spring-loaded kick pedal. You can stow the unit forward and have it out of the way throughout all three phases of positions. This system utilizes Wilderness Systems’ S.M.A.R.T. Hull Technology and is fully compatible with the entire Radar kayak family.

Conclusion

Whether you’re an avid fisherman or pleasure boater, you’ll enjoy the relaxation of being able to pedal rather than paddle. Pedal kayaks make this exciting outdoor activity easier and more enjoyable for people of all experience levels. Now that you’ve learned a bit more about the advantages of pedal kayaks, you’re ready to make an informed decision for your purchase. Each of the kayaks mentioned in our list is a great option based on your own personal preferences and needs.

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