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Best Pedal Fishing Kayak for 2021: Speed and Efficiency in Spades

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Not long ago, a paddle was pretty much the only option for kayak anglers. And if you’ve ever fought a moving tide or had to paddle miles to your fishing hole, you know just how underwhelming that option can be.

But pedal-drive tech has improved rapidly over the last few years, bringing more options to market as well as more reasonable price tags. Now, buyers have plenty of options if they want a fast, efficient pedal-driven fishing machine.

If you haven't kept up with the latest developments, we’d like to get you up to speed and help you narrow down your choices.

Below, you’ll find a buying guide, as well as reviews of some of our favorite pedal-driven fishing kayaks.

Quick glance at the best pedal fishing kayaks:

Related: Best Fishing Kayak, Best Kayak Fishing Rod

Best Pedal Fishing Kayaks Reviewed

Old Town Predator PDL

Length: 13’ 2”

Beam: 36”

Weight: 117 lbs.

Maximum capacity: 500 lbs.

Old Town built its reputation one awesome canoe at a time, and nothing has changed about that now that they manufacture kayaks, too. The Predator PDL is a capable, confidence-inspiring, angling-centric kayak that really demonstrates Old Town’s enviable real-world experience on the water.

It’s also a fantastic platform for a powerful pedal drive, and the Predator PDL is easily one of my favorites on the water.

The Predator’s stability is exceptional, and while seated, it would take pretty rough surf or a massive wake to cause any trouble at all. The seating position is fairly high, affording better views of the water for sight angling and facilitating better casting, especially for fly anglers who’ve learned to cast side-arm.

For anglers who stand to sight fish in bays, estuaries, and mudflats, this kayak is an awesome choice. Taking your feet--and keeping them!--is no sweat, and there’s plenty of room to maneuver to get into the right position.

This is complemented by a non-slip surface that improves traction underfoot, even when wet, slimy, or bloody.

Storage is generous, but the below-deck options aren’t as user-friendly as I’d like them to be. Expect a small watertight compartment immediately in front of the chair, an integrated electronics pod, and a larger hatch at the bow. Each of these features is well-thought-out, but if hatch storage is your thing, Wilderness Systems gets the highest marks.

You’ll find a transducer scupper ready to accept Humminbird electronics, which is a really nice touch, and two built-in rod holders to the rear of the chair. The rear well is spacious, offering plenty of tackle options, and the raised seating lets you slide a tackle box or two out of the way there.

Old Town equips the Predator with a comfortable seat, and you can expect no trouble on this front.

The PDL drive that Old Town equips this ‘yak with is powerful and dependable, and it’ll get you where you need to be in a hurry. Providing more than enough oomph to fight the current and wind, the Predator cuts the water pretty well, tracks straight, and comes with an effective, easy-to-use rudder.

This is a wide ‘yak with a significant beam, and that’s going to steal speed from every turn of the pedal. That’s perfectly fine, really, as stability trumps speed all day, every day for anglers. And the PDL system on this boat generates more than enough power to keep you clear of an incoming storm or shorten the time and lessen the effort to your honey hole.

Overall, this is a winning combination of elegant design and careful engineering that won’t disappoint.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally stable
  • Non-slip deck
  • Lots of storage
  • Removable, modular electronics pod
  • Good hatch design and placement
  • Comfortable seat that increases storage
  • Excellent pedal drive

Cons:

  • Hatch design lags a touch behind the competition

Wilderness Systems Radar 135--Most Versatile Pedal-Driven Fishing Kayak

Length: 13’ 6”

Beam: 34”

Weight: 95 lbs. (without drives)

Maximum capacity: 475 lbs.

The engineers at Wilderness Systems have probably forgotten more about kayak design than most people will ever know, and their robust experience and eye for detail really show in the Radar 135.

Stability is excellent, as you’d expect, and I’d trust this ‘yak to stay upright in really terrible conditions. In normal swells, it’s confidence-inspiring and feels like you’re sitting over a deep, heavy keel. Surely stable enough for sight fishing from your feet, the ATAK 140 is a fantastic option for anglers who are looking to take to their feet to sight fish.

One place the Radar 135 really shines is hatch placement and design. Immediately in front of the seat, you’ll find a large, rectangular hatch that’s easy to access and plenty secure. Ideal for things like a cell phone or radio, you can count on the gasket and design to keep your stuff dry, even when you take water from a wave. 

Farther forward, there’s another hatch near the bow. 

Two pod systems offer lots of possibilities. Both can take electronics like fish finders, and for paddle-minded anglers, they make a lot of sense. But each can also be swapped out with a drive system; the smaller switches out for the Helix PD; the other swaps out for the Helix MD.

With either drive system installed, the other pod offers electronics mounting options, making this a very versatile system that’s clearly thought out.

The Helix PD is a propeller-driven pedal drive delivering plenty of power and ease-of-use. It’ll turn the Radar 135 into a rocket, and it’s almost an essential if you’re making long trips fighting the current and wind. Paired with an excellent rudder system, actuated via a hand lever on the left, the Radar 135 is very easy to keep tracking straight in all but the worst conditions.

I like the Helix PD a lot, especially since it’s built tough to let you navigate shallow water where stamps, logs, and rocks can be a real problem.

The seat on the Radar 135 is very comfortable, offering all-day pampering and no issues. Multiple seating positions and easy adjustability are hallmarks of this system.

The rear well is big, offering plenty of storage options, too.

Overall, I really like the Radar 135. It’s well-thought-out, carefully designed, and packed with features that matter in the real world. The pedal drive is first class, and there’s power to spare for speed and endurance.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally stable
  • Lots of storage
  • Removable, modular electronics pods
  • Good hatch design and placement
  • Comfortable seat that’s easy to adjust
  • Excellent pedal drive
  • Excellent motor drive

Cons:

  • The pedal drive option is expensive.

Jackson Kayak Big Rig FD--Most Stable Pedal-Driven Fishing Kayak

Length: 13’ 3”

Beam: 40”

Weight: 145 lbs.

Maximum capacity: 550 lbs.

Jackson Kayak is a premier manufacturer of high-end boats, and you can count on quality from stem to stern. Their Big Rig FD was designed specifically for anglers, and whether you tackle the salt or a massive lake, it’s outfitted to make the most of your fishing opportunities.

Stability is simply ridiculous in this ‘yak, and you’d need to try to flip it to even have a chance at that. Clearly, the engineers at Jackson Kayak spent some time on hull design, and given the massive beam, I’d trust this boat for sight fishing without a second question. It’s equally confidence-inspiring in bad swells, and I think you’d be fine rocking really hard to the side.

Details like two rod guards on each side really tell, and for launching in surf where a roll might mean broken tackle, this is a nod to real-world experience that you don’t often see. They make for a great “docking system” for holding and changing rods, too.

Two excellent hatches, one fore and one aft, offer plenty of access below deck, keeping your gear dry pretty much no matter what happens. The front hatch includes a removable bin that’s ideal for storing things like phones, radios, or lunch, where they’ll stay high and dry.

The Flex Drive system that powers this ‘yak is a pedal drive that’s very hard to beat. Like the rest of the Big Rig, it’s cleverly designed and reflects real-world experience. Powerful and effective, it swivels upward to allow for shallow draughts and bumps, keeping the prop out of harm’s way and letting you access tight spots.

Steering happens through a rudder control on the right, and this combo makes tracking in currents and winds essentially effortless.

It’s plenty powerful, but don’t expect to race powerboats with a 40-inch beam!

Finally, the seating system on the Big Rig is simply awesome, feeling very much like you’re in a comfy chair on dry land.

The Big Rig FD isn’t cheap, but you really do get what you pay for. And for anglers who bring three or four rods with them that they want to be protected and who are really worried about stability, this is the ‘yak to beat.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally stable
  • Lots of storage
  • Awesome rod protecting system
  • Great hatch design and placement
  • Comfortable seat that’s easy to adjust
  • Excellent pedal drive

Cons:

  • Slower than the competition

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14--Fasted Pedal-Driven Fishing Kayak

Length: 13’ 8”

Beam: 38”

Weight: 144.5 lbs.

Maximum capacity: 600 lbs.

Hobie’s Mirage Pro Angler offers an exciting combination of innovative design and real-world performance, helping to justify its high price tag. Expect to spend a few hundred more for this ‘yak than even the already pricey Big Rig from Jackson Kayak.

For sight fishing on your feet, I’d give the Mirage Pro Angler pretty high marks. A wide beam and stable hull contour yield remarkable stability, and casting and fighting while standing are no sweat. The deck immediately forward of the chair is coated in a non-slip matting that improves traction, and there’s plenty of space to reposition your feet.

Hobie’s MirageDrive 180 may be the best pedal drive money can buy--it’s that good. Providing better torque and speed--in my opinion--than the competitors, it also offers a folding design that handles shallows and obstacles with aplomb. Seriously--this is a powerful pedal drive, and if you’re making long trips to get to where you plan to fish, it might be worth investing in this ‘yak.

Even the 28-inch beam won’t slow this kayak to a crawl--the big fins on the working end of this drive just generate so much power!

Storage is exceptional, with hatches fore and aft that are easy to use and watertight. You’ll even find a built-in tackle organizer in the hatch immediately adjacent to your seat.

Accessory rails run down the cockpit to either side, offering plenty of places for electronics, rod holders, and other accessories, and there’s plenty of space at the stern for a cooler, tackle, or anything else you might have in mind.

The seat on this ‘yak is plenty comfortable, and all-day excursions aren’t going to leave you needing a chiropractor!

Overall, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 is a fantastic pedal-driven kayak for fighting the current, tide, and wind. It’s stable, well-appointed, and eminently capable in salt or freshwater.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally stable
  • Non-slip deck
  • Lots of storage
  • Excellent hatch design and placement
  • Comfortable seat 
  • Awesome pedal drive

Cons:

  • Expensive!

Hobie Mirage ITrek 11--Best Inflatable Pedal-Driven Fishing Kayak

Length: 10’ 8”

Weight: 44 lbs.

Beam: 40”

Capacity: 400 lbs.

Perhaps more paddle board than kayak, what’s certain is that Hobie’s Mirage ITrek 11 is a very hard contender to beat if you’re looking for a stand-up option. Fast, stable, sturdy, and comfortable, there’s a lot to recommend about the ITrek 11 for serious anglers.

Hobie uses 550 denier PVC on the hull. Don’t confuse this with pool toys: very, very little will threaten this Hobie with a puncture, and you can be confident taking this ‘yak into challenging situations.

By design, the ITrek 11 is ridiculously stable. Standing is almost as easy as it is on dry land, in part due to positive buoyancy at the edges. It’s competing with the Big Rig FD, and might even edge it out on primary and secondary stability.

This Hobie comes standard with MirageDrive GT, a pedal-powered fin system that generates ridiculous torque and speed. Easily much faster than a paddle, it’s great for getting where you need to be and surprisingly capable at fighting current and wind. Paired with the included rudder, this is really an effortless inflatable to “paddle,” coming close to the performance of the hardshell kayaks that make up the rest of our list.

Deck space is plentiful, but storage options really aren’t. Think of this as a suped-up paddle board: space, but without organization. There are no hatches or accessory rails, so you’ll need to get creative about how you organize your tackle under the included tie-downs. That’s not a deal-breaker in any sense, and a bit of forethought will have most anglers well supplied while fishing.

Hobie certainly spent plenty of time on the seat. Rigid, comfortable, and high, it’s ideal for all-day adventures and provides a commanding view of the water. For many, it’s already high enough to allow side arm fly casting, and despite the raised center of gravity, the ITrek 11 feels like it’s nailed down.

For anglers who don’t have the ability to store or transport a hardshell, this is an ideal platform for a pedal drive.

Pros:

  • Light!
  • Easy to store and transport
  • Exceptionally stable
  • Non-slip deck
  • Lots of deck space
  • Comfortable seat 
  • Awesome pedal drive

Cons:

  • Not many storage options

What We Consider When Buying a Pedal Driven Kayak

Pedal Drive 101

Pedal drives are pretty much what they sound like and very similar to what you find on a common bicycle. Mounting a pair of pedals where they’re comfortable to use from the seat, your leg power is transferred via their mechanism into thrust that drives your ‘yak.

Some pedal drives use a more or less standard propeller; others use a pair of flapping fins.

A fin drive may sound crazy, but Hobie demonstrates that in the real world, they simply can’t be beat!

Here’s what you need to know about pedal drives:

  • Expensive - Expect to pay a premium for a pedal-driven kayak. This is a top-shelf option that’s going to come with a top-shelf price tag. If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to start fishing your local lake, river, or estuary, you may balk at the prices of pedal-driven ‘yaks.
  • Powerful and effective - Using a basic rotary pedal system powered by your legs, a pedal drive transfers power either to a prop or a pair of fins that propels your kayak forward (and some offer reverse, too!). Because they take advantage of your powerful leg muscles, more than a few kayakers find that they can go farther, faster with a pedal drive than with a paddle.
  • Hands-free - Don’t underestimate this advantage. This is a real godsend in the wind, and it can mean the difference between casting and paddling.
  • Reduced draught - Not everything about pedal drives is good news, though. Because they extend below your hull, they reduce your draught and demand deeper water. If you regularly fish extreme shallows or rocky rivers, you might want to stick with a paddle. 
  • Minimal routine maintenance - You’ll need to take care of your drive, even if that only means giving it a quick rinse after every fishing trip. 

Always bring a paddle with you. Drive failure can happen!!!

Design

You have an incredible range of designs to choose from, but most fishing-specific kayaks are single-seated sit-on-tops. While your needs dictate your choice, for most people, most of the time, sit-on-tops are the way to go.

  • Sit-on-tops - dominate the angling market, and the reasons are pretty simple. 
  • Open deck space - They provide plenty of room for tying lures and working with line, reels, rods, and fish. 
  • Accessible storage - You need lots of storage that’s easily accessible from the cockpit, and SOTs have you covered.
  • Self-bailing - Scuppers allow fishermen worry-free paddling. These drains make SOTs unswampable.
  • Easy to right and re-enter - If the worst does happen and you flip your ‘yak, sit-on-tops are much easier to re-enter from the water.
  • Inflatables - Not everyone has a way to transport a kayak to the water, and if you want to chase the fish but don’t have a realistic way to haul a ‘yak, an inflatable may be the best choice for you. 
  • Portability - Because these kayaks can be deflated and packed away easily, they offer the ultimate in portability. 
  • Poor tracking and paddling - Inflatables tend not to have hulls shaped for efficiency, handling, or tracking, even when compared to regular fishing designs. As a result, they’re a bit more sluggish than even the paunchiest alternatives. That’s not a hard and fast rule, however, and the Hobie inflatable on our list handles almost as well as its competition.
  • Durability issues - To make these tough enough to withstand hooks, knives, and other sharp objects, they’re made from high-end materials that don’t come cheap. 

Portability, Weight, and Encumbrance

You’ll be lifting and loading your ‘yak every time you take to the water, and for most of us, that can be a pretty intense overhead lift! Make sure you can handle the weight.

  • Transporting - You won’t feel those pounds on the water, but when you’re lifting and handling a kayak during transport, you’ll feel every ounce. Keep in mind, too, that the longer your ‘yak is, the more unwieldy it’ll be at a given weight. 
  • Portaging - Sometimes, you’ll need to exit your ‘yak and carry it over solid ground or significant shallows. This process is called portaging, and with a heavily-loaded kayak, it can put your whole body to the test. Keep the extra pounds you’ll be adding to your boat from gear in mind if this is something you anticipate.
  • Try before you buy - If possible, we recommend that you try lifting and loading a few kayaks to get a feel for how you manage a given weight and length. Experimenting now can give you a good sense of what’s too much for you and your level of fitness.

Comfort

As your back will quickly let you know, a comfortable seat isn’t something to skip on a kayak.

And while there are aftermarket improvements available for the worst on the market, it’s generally a good idea to find a kayak designed with a comfortable, adjustable seating system. 

We like seats that are high, allowing storage beneath them and providing more room to cast flies.

Storage

Simply put, more is better.

Look for ‘yaks with ample, easy-to-reach access to hatches and plenty of accessory mounting options.

I also like to see molded rod-holders and options like electronics consoles. These make organizing a mountain of gear a lot easier, and they give you immediate access to the tools you need.

Final Thoughts

Whether you prefer the thrill of fighting striped bass in the salt or largemouth on your local lake, a pedal-driven kayak can get you where you need to be faster and with less effort than a paddle. And as the tech has become more affordable, the number of manufacturers including it as an option on their ‘yaks has increased, bringing it within reach of pretty much everyone.

We hope that this article has helped you narrow your choice of a pedal-driven kayak, and as always, we’d love to hear from you.

Please leave a comment below.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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