Why A Pedal Drive Kayak Was Best For Me | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A man holding a huge stripped bass while sitting in a kayak. Photo by Josh Rayner

Josh Rayner explains why a pedal-drive changed how he fishes.

Every kayak angler knows that efficiency on the water means catching more fish. With a pedal-drive kayak you have a virtually hands free fishing machine and an advantage that the boat or shore anglers can only dream of.

For close to ten years I fished out of a paddle-only kayak, in both fresh and saltwater. Though I had many great days on the water, I knew I was limited to how far I could go, and for how long. Paddling a 12-foot kayak, no matter how hydrodynamic the vessel, can quickly become exhausting. Compound that with tides, wind and current, and you end up being useless for a day or two after your trip. In my case, I have nerve damage in my neck and shoulders from chronic Lyme disease, which made paddling even more limiting and sometimes painful.

In early June of 2017, I had a great trip kayak fishing for striped bass on the Connecticut River. We caught multiple bass around the 40-inch mark on topwater plugs. But that trip would be the final outing for my old boat. After hours of paddling against current to hold my position, my neck and shoulders were so sore that i was unable to work the next day. At that point, I knew it was time to get serious and make the switch to a kayak with a pedal drive. 

After a few test drives and some research, I was ready to make an informed decision on my new boat. A couple days after that fabled last trip, I took a drive to Three Belles Outfitters in Niantic, Connecticut to purchase my new Hobie Outback.

The next evening I was out on the water for the maiden voyage. I immediately noticed how effortless propulsion was with the pedal drive in comparison to traditional paddling. With my hands basically free other than maintaining my course with the rudder, I was able to rig up a few rods as I was in route to my fishing spot. That alone was a huge time saver. 

As I exited the creek into the main stem of the river, I was met with a strong, sustained wind of about 17 mph. In my old paddle kayak, this set of conditions would have caused me to turn right back to the launch. The struggle just to maintain position would make fishing become secondary. I was actually glad to see these conditions in my new pedal-drive kayak because I wanted to get a feel for what it was really capable of. 

It didn't take long to realize a pedal drive was vastly superior for my needs than paddling in these conditions. I maintained boat control almost effortlessly and was able to fish rather efficiently. By keeping a steady cadence with my "kick" and making slight adjustments with my rudder, I was able to stay more or less where I wanted to, fighting the wind and chop that would have otherwise pushed me right on top of the fish I was chasing, and ultimately into the shore.

I caught a few mid-sized bluefish and a small keeper bass that evening. While it's always nice to catch on a maiden voyage, the fish were just a bonus. My excitement lied with my new kayak. I knew the best fishing trips I will ever have were ahead of me.

Josh Rayner is a pro for Three Belles Outfitters and lives in Ivoryton, CT


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