Best Pedal Kayak – 2020 Reviews & Guide
Fed up with paddling?
Want a hands-free kayak fishing experience?
Then it's time to throw away the paddle and embrace the pedal powered kayak...
Quick Pedal Kayak Picks:
(more on these below. Clicking the links takes you to Amazon or REI)
We have put together what we consider to be the ULTIMATE guide to pedal kayaks.
We're going to show you what we think is the best pedal kayak, and a few alternatives.
And of course, we have a buyer's guide which we hope will help you:
a) Decide whether or not a pedal yak is right for you. And if it is...
b) Help you choose the right one
Ok....3, 2, 1...Go!
Best Pedal Kayaks
1: Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 Kayak (best push pedal)
This 12 foot sit-on-top yak is built to fish. Featuring push pedals that power the two underwater fins, this 36 inches wide Pro Angler yak uses some of the original Mirage drive technology from the first pedal kayak ever to hit the market.
It is lightweight, weighing just 105 pounds and boasts being able to fit in the back of most pickup trucks. It features an adjustable seat with lumbar support that can be set at different heights and can also be flipped up from the bottom to allow you to stand on the deck of the yak for easier fishing.
There’s enough space for all your fishing gear, with it being able to hold up to 500 pounds in weight. There is a cargo area behind the seat, as well as a twist and seal hatch with a tackle management system. Plus, there are 6 designated rod holders, so you can pack for a full day.
It also benefits from having a handy tackle storage hatch at the front that doubles as a work area and can be used to store fish or ice; it also features a removable liner for more convenient cleaning. This reversible yak can be used in both fresh and saltwater and the dual steering handles mean you can steer from either the port or starboard side, for extra comfort.
2: Jackson Kayak Big Rig FD (best for fishing)
The Jackson Big Rig FD is a large pedal fishing kayak that can be great for using on a variety of water conditions, including open water. It features a Flex Drive 3D pedal drive system that powers a propeller under the hull that is designed to flip up when you hit the shallows or underwater objects.
The pedal drive is also interchangeable with the Flex Drive E motor system (sold separately), which can give you the opportunity to switch to motorized operation if necessary. The pedal drive can be powered forwards and backwards, and you can also turn using the built-in rudder.
This is a large, spacious kayak, with plenty of gear tracks for mounting additional accessories, as well as bow and stern storage hatches, rear tank well and built-in rod holders. It also has a huge 550 pound capacity, which can be ideal for loading up for a long trip or equally great if you’re a larger paddler.
The boat is wide and stable, with an adjustable Hi-Lo ergonomic seat for added comfort for both fishing and pedaling. If you have good balance, you may also be able to stand up in it for easier casting.
The Jackson Big Rig FD is not a lightweight kayak, so you may need some help to get it from A to B. However, it does have front and side carry handles, as well as a replaceable skid plate if you need to drag it along the beach.
3: Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 10 Kayak (best rotational)
This is one of the most compact fishing kayaks around, and could be a good choice if you’re looking for something that’s easy to transport. Weighing just 62 pounds without the drive installed and 81 pounds when it’s fully rigged, this 10 foot Slayer Propel yak is designed to be easy to fit in the back of a pickup truck or on the top of your car.
Featuring rotational pedals, you’ll be able to cross the water quickly and easily, with the propeller drive system powering you both forwards and backwards. At 34 inches wide it’s also super stable in the water, allowing you to stand up for better line casting.
There is ample storage on board, with a sealed compartment at the front and a cargo area behind the seat. Despite its smaller size it is still capable of carrying up to 500 pounds, so you can attach everything you’ll need for your fishing trip.
It also has dual rod holders, a right handed cup holder and a left handed rudder operating handle, so you’re free to sit back and relax as you pedal your way to the best fishing zone. The armchair style seat is designed with your comfort in mind and can be adjusted for easier reach of the pedals.
4: Perception Pescador 12.0 Pilot Kayak
This Pescador Pilot fishing yak measures 12 and a half feet long and is 33 and ¾ inches wide, so it may seem a little narrower than some other pedal yaks. Capable of hauling 475 pounds, you and your fishing gear will fit in comfortably.
This sit-on-top features rotational pedals that power the propeller drive system underneath the hull, so you will be able to move through the water at speed and with minimal effort or disturbance.
The yak benefits from an easy grip low profile rudder handle so it’s easier to steer and doesn’t take up too much valuable space on the deck.
Weighing 85 pounds and featuring comfort grip carrying handles, it is designed to be efficient to transport, although you may find it necessary to use a trolley to get it to the water.
The Captain’s Chair style seat is made to be comfortable for a full day on the water and it has ‘on-the-fly’ adjustable gear tracks and tension knobs.
There is plenty of space on the deck for all your gear, including 4 molded-in rod holders. There are also bungee cords, tackle storage pods and a mesh bow cover, as well as two areas designed for mounting electronic items, such as a fish finder, a transducer mount or GPS.
5: Old Town Predator PDL
The Old Town Predator PDL is a sit-on-top fishing yak with a rotational pedal system that allows you to power the propeller under the hull and move both forwards and backwards on the water. It also comes with a knob controlled rudder system for added convenience and maneuverability.
It has a high weight capacity of 500 pounds, which can let you take plenty of gear. And there’s lots of space to store it with the large Exo-Ridge tank well that can hold a cooler plus other gear. You might even find space for camping gear for an overnight fishing trip.
The large oval bow hatch can be ideal for holding additional items and there’s a center hatch and storage pockets.
This is a stable craft that’s designed with standing in mind, with non-slip standing pads and benefits from an elevated seat for added visibility when paddling or pedaling. It can be an ideal yak for lots of waters, including rivers and the ocean.
Additionally, this pedal kayak has two rod holders and features six mounting plates so you can attach other accessories without having to drill into the hull. These mounting plates can also be removed if necessary.
6: Wilderness Systems Radar Pedal Kayak
The Radar is a single person fishing yak that’s designed for versatility. It features a Helix PD pedal drive system that can be easily installed and removed, giving you the option of using pedal or paddle power whenever you choose.
This craft is designed for a range of water conditions and features S.M.A.R.T hull technology, which boasts stability, maneuverability, acceleration, responsiveness and tracking. So it should be able to handle a variety of waters and be easy to use. It also features a standing platform for easier fishing.
This versatile yak can also be used with the Helix MD motor drive, with an additional purchase. The pedal drive can be easily stowed if you’re in very shallow water or entering the surf.
With a high weight capacity, you should be able to take everything you need with you for a full day on the water. There is a spacious rear tank well with bungee ropes, plus a bow hatch and a watertight center hatch for smaller items that’s also flush with the deck to give you more space to move around or stand.
It also features an AirPro Max seat that can be adjusted for comfort for all day fishing. As well as this, there are also built-in gear tracks that can let you mount additional fishing accessories and customize your yak.
7: Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal (best budget pedal kayak)
The Malibu Pedal is a sit-on-top pedal recreational kayak. However, it could still be a good choice for a fishing trip, as it benefits from having a high weight capacity as well as two 8 inch gear tracks to let you mount rod holders, a camera or other accessories.
There is plenty of room for gear, with the spacious tank well at the stern that can be ideal for a crate or cooler. There are also bungee cords to keep your stuff from falling overboard. As well as this, there’s a smaller tank well at the bow, and a center storage hatch under the seat.
This yak is designed more with recreation in mind, with the rear tank well also being designed to carry a second passenger and there’s room for your dog at the bow.
On the other hand, the Element seat is built for comfort for hours of paddling or pedaling and provides an elevated seating position that can be ideal for fishing. The attached rudder and pedal drive system combined with the stable hull could also make it a good choice for fishing in open water and the ocean.
8: Bonafide SS127 Ultimate Fishing Kayak (pedal drive ready)
The Bonafide SS127 is a sit-on-top kayak that is built for stability so that you can sit or stand comfortably and fish easily. It is not a pedal kayak but it may be possible to add your own pedal drive propulsion system to it using the center console on the boat.
This is a spacious kayak, with plenty of room for you and your gear. It also has a generous weight capacity, so you can load it up with all the fishing equipment you might need for a day on the water.
The HiRise seating system can give you a better vantage point for sight fishing and can be comfortable for sitting on whether you’re paddling, pedaling or simply sitting waiting for a bite. There are also deck pads for traction when you’re standing up, including on the top of the gunwales.
The Bonafide SS127 benefits from a hybrid cat hull design, giving it the stability of a pontoon style boat. This can make it ideal for a range of waters and can also help with tracking and make it easier to maneuver.
Being crafted for fishing, this boat has a lot of extras that can make your trip easier. There are YakAttack GearTracs so that you can customize your vessel by mounting additional accessories more easily.
The yak has plenty of storage, including a hinged bow hatch, a large rear tank well with bungees, underseat storage and paddle holders.
9: Hobie Oasis 14 Tandem Kayak
If you’re looking to head out on the water with a companion then this Oasis Tandem could be a good choice. With dual pedaling power both of you will be able to share the strain to move you through the water.
This yak is 14 feet and 6 inches long and 33 inches wide, so it may appear slightly narrower than other pedaling yaks, but it’s still engineered to be stable in the water.
With dual push pedals powering two sets of fins underneath the hull, you and your partner will be able to use your feet to move the kayak across the water, letting you both free up your hands for fishing.
Even though this is a tandem pedal yak, you can still pedal it on your own, as it benefits from having rudder controls in both seats, so no matter where you’re sitting in the yak you’ll still be able to steer.
You can pedal this tandem sit-on-top in fresh water or in the sea and it has a Twist and Stow rudder that you can easily detach when it’s not required, so it’s versatile and you can choose to use it with a paddle if you prefer.
The two seats feature lumbar support to make long days on the water a little more comfortable. Plus, they can both be adjusted to suit each pedaler, with the back, bottom, lumbar support and height all adjustable.
There are lots of storage options on this tandem yak, with an 8 inch twist and seal hatch in front of each seat for easy access. There are also storage hatches at the bow and stern, as well as bungee cords for additional gear.
Another feature it has is that there are mesh pockets that are conveniently located beside each seat and molded-in storage for your rods or paddles. Fully rigged, this kayak weighs 127 pounds and has a weight capacity of 550 pounds.
What Is A Pedal Kayak, And Why Would I Buy One?
Pedal kayaks are vessels that have been engineered to be used with pedals instead of a paddle. So, effectively you’re using your feet and legs instead of your hands and arms.
The way in which they work is that they have fins or a propeller underneath the hull and foot pedals on the deck, so you can pedal along using your feet to power your movement across the water.
This allows you to free up your hands so you can do other activities, such as photography, bird watching, or most commonly fishing.
or playing the clarinet? 😛
Pedaling a kayak is also popular with people who want to get a good lower body workout.
Having pedals also means that even if you have problems or an injury on your upper body you will still be able to get out there and enjoy the outdoors in a kayak without needing to use any upper body strength, as it’s your legs that will doing all the work.
For fishing, having a vessel with pedals can make your time out on the water a lot easier. You will no longer have to worry about holding your paddle while you try to cast your line or, more importantly, reel in your catch.
A lot of the times you’ll find that pedal yaks have specific features for fishing, such as tackle storage and work areas, so you can assess your catch and prepare your bait more conveniently while you’re on the water.
Depending on the style of yak you choose, you may find that you have more space for your fishing gear on a craft with pedals, compared to one without. However, with some having the extra space taken up with the pedals themselves, this can sometimes mean there is less storage space on deck for any gear.
Kayaks with pedals are mostly designed for fishing, so they have extra features that you might not find on a traditional yak. Some of them will have designated rod holders and plenty of space for everything you’ll need for a day on the water.
You may also find that the seat is positioned differently than on a traditional sit-on-top, meaning you are often sitting in a slightly more elevated position and usually with a more defined backrest.
There is also the possibility of being able to adjust the seat position and height to suit your pedaling style or activity, which will allow you to better reach the pedals and kayak more effectively.
Pedal yaks tend to be wider to give them more stability in the water, as since you’re not using a paddle or your knees to stabilize yourself, this gives you the extra help to prevent the yak from capsizing.
With some of the pedal vessels, you will find that you can actually stand up in them, with some having a larger deck space or seats that can be moved out of the way. Being able to stand up in your boat will give you more versatility for fishing, meaning you can cast your line more effectively and have better visibility.
One thing that may differ from traditional paddling vessels is that with a pedal craft you will find that you may need a rudder. Most yaks with pedals will come with a rudder already installed, as this will help you to move through the water in a straight line.
This means that while, for the most part, you’re sailing hands-free, you will need to occasionally control the direction of your craft using your rudder, which is commonly controlled by a handle close to the seat.
Kayak Fisherman Skills - Courtesy: americancanoe.org
Types Of Pedal Kayaks
While they are all designed with the same basic principle, pedal yaks are not all the same in practice. There are two main types of pedal kayak; one being the push pedal yak and the other being the rotational pedal yak.
Push pedals work with your feet pushing down on each pedal in order to move you forward through the water. The power comes from your feet and ankles as opposed to your whole legs.
As you push down with each foot you’re powering the yak through the water but because each push of the foot makes you move, as soon as you stop pushing the pedals the yak will slow down very quickly.
Video: How Push Pedals Work
With rotational pedals you are using your whole legs to push them in a way similar to how you would normally pedal a bicycle. With these types of pedals you will often require more room in your cockpit, as you need to allow for the extra space needed for your legs to be able to move.
Vessels with rotational pedals are often easier to move, as it is ALL of your leg muscles that are doing most of the hard work. You should be able to move across the water faster than with a push pedal craft.
Because of the design, you will also find that you are able to pedal for longer with these ones than with the push pedals. Rotational pedals will also allow for a bit of the momentum to be maintained, even when you’ve stopped pedaling; just like when you’re riding a bike.
Video: How Rotational Pedals Work
Popular Pedal Kayak Brands
Hobie is thought to be one of the world leaders when it comes to pedal kayaks and believed to be the maker of the original pedal kayak. The MirageDrive is the Hobie pedal drive system, which comes in a variety of models, with some allowing for backwards pedaling.
Hobie makes a wide range of pedal yaks as well as non-pedal yaks and a variety of sailing catamarans. Hobie crafts tend to have a lot of features and be built for durability and stability. Some of their higher end yaks can be expensive.
Native Watercraft yaks are generally designed with anglers in mind. The pedal kayaks feature the Propel Drive system which can be used to move forwards and backwards with a propeller under the hull.
Perception is probably known more for its non-pedal kayaks than its pedal craft. The Pescador Pilot is generally the company’s best pedal kayak, combining affordability with stability and ease of use.
Perception’s pedal drive features a propeller and rotational pedals.
Old Town/Ocean Kayak
Old Town started out making canoes but now make a variety of both canoes and kayaks. They offer a range of pedal yaks that utilize the forward and reverse PDL drive system.
Ocean Kayak is generally known for recreational yaks, offering stability and durability and being ideal for beginners. Their pedal yak uses a similar PDL drive to Old Town.
Wilderness Systems are probably better known for recreational yaks but have a range of vessels that utilize the Helix pedal drive system. Some are interchangeable with a motor drive.
Jackson Kayak makes a range of vessels, including recreational and whitewater boats. Their pedal kayaks use the Flex Drive propeller system.
What Are The Pros and Cons Of Using Pedals?
Because as humans we’ve evolved to walk on our legs and not on our arms, we typically have a lot more strength in our legs. This means that getting across the water using your legs to propel you will be a lot faster than if you were using your arms.
Using pedals instead of a paddle may be quieter when you’re moving through the water, as the fins or propellers are already under the water and won’t be splashing like a paddle. This may make it easier for creeping up on fish, as you won’t be disturbing the surface of the water as much as if you were using a paddle.
By using foot pedals you won’t need to worry about trying to paddle while you’re trying to catch fish. The foot pedals will allow you to stabilize your yak while you’re fishing, so you can use both hands to cast your line or unhook your fish.
While you will probably still need to use a hand to operate your rudder for the most part you’ll be able to enjoy a relaxing experience out on the water, with your hands-free to fish, take a photo or eat a snack.
Using your feet and legs to power your kayak will be a lot less strenuous than paddling using your arms. This means you may be able to travel over longer distances and for a greater length of time than if you were just using a paddle.
Essentially, you will be using a lot less energy to power your yak compared to traditional paddling at the same speed or over the same distance. Especially with the rotational pedals, you will be able to keep moving even once you’ve stopped pedaling, giving you the opportunity to give your legs and feet a rest for a minute.
This means that when you start off pedaling again you won’t have to start from a stopped position, allowing you to use less energy to get back up to the same speed.
Because the device you’re using to power you through the water are located under the water, you may find you stay drier than you would with a traditional sit-on-top.
Sit-on-tops will usually mean you will get wet from paddling, as the motion of your paddle entering and exiting the water with each stroke will cause splashes to come aboard your yak. When you eliminate the paddle, the risk of getting wet also lessens, so you could potentially stay dry.
Less Skills Needed
Pedaling a yak requires less skill than paddling. While kayaking is a sport that is available to all abilities, it takes time to build up the skills required to get to the more advanced levels. With paddling you would need to learn simple techniques in order to get started.
With pedaling, on the other hand, you can take to the water almost without any technique. You simply employ your feet and legs in a motion like walking or riding a bike and you’re on your way swiftly across the water.
And because they are more stable vessels there is less chance of you flipping over.
Having a propeller or fins underneath your kayak can make it more difficult to maneuver. For one, you won’t be able to paddle in quite as shallow an area compared to if you were using a paddle, as you will need to consider the extra equipment under your hull.
This could mean you are more likely to get caught in underwater grasses or seaweed. Another thing is that you may find you can’t turn or stop quite as quickly with pedals, compared to a paddle, which can also give you more control over the direction of your yak than a rudder.
However, with many pedal yaks you will find there is a mechanism which will allow you to lift up the fins or propeller, raising them closer to the hull, to let you access more shallow areas.
A yak with pedals is often a lot heavier than a comparatively sized traditional yak, as it will often have additional features to allow for the extra mechanisms required.
You may also find that they have extra storage capacity, which may be heavier, as they are most frequently designed for fishing use.
Because a pedal kayak has extra equipment, you will probably find that they can be a lot more expensive than a basic traditional sit-on-top yak.
In addition to the initial purchasing cost, you may also find that because of the mechanical features they will require more maintenance, such as lubrication to keep the rudder and propellers in good working order, which could be an extra cost to consider.
As well as lubrication to ensure the mechanics of the drive system is kept working, you will also need to consider where you’re planning on using the yak.
For example, your drive system will require extra maintenance if you’re kayaking in saltwater. You will need to ensure the mechanical parts are corrosion resistant or at least have a protective coating to prevent them from rusting.
Rinsing the drive system in clean water is a good idea after each use in order to extend the life of the mechanisms.
Video: Propel Pedal Drive Maintenance
How To Use A Kayak With Pedals
If you’ve only ever used a traditional paddling kayak then using one with pedals can take a bit of getting used to. For one thing, getting it from your car to the water might be a little trickier.
Kayaks with pedals tend to be heavier than ones without, but not only that, because there are extra mechanisms, you can’t just load it off your car and into the water. The drive system usually needs to be installed once you get to the water, so that it’s not damaged during transportation.
The seat will also usually need to be installed at the water. Additionally, the seat and the drive system will add to the weight, so you’ll probably find that it’s more convenient to install it all at the water anyway.
That way you’ll be able to make sure your seat is in the correct position for you to be able to comfortably reach the pedals and at an angle that is going to be comfortable enough if you’re pedaling over a long distance. A lot of the seats will be able to be adjusted while you’re on the water, to make it easier for you to change positions.
Once you’re seated in your kayak and ready to set off, you will probably feel a little off balance to begin with. If you’re used to using a paddle, you might find you don’t know what to do with your hands as you start pedaling.
The way in which your feet are moving to power the fins or propeller can cause your body weight to shift from side to side but once you get used to pedaling you will usually find you’re fine once you get going.
Learning how to steer using the rudder can be another tricky skill to master and at first you may find yourself not traveling in quite as straight a manner as you might like. But with most pedal vessels the rudder is there to assist, since you don’t have the added help of your paddle to keep you on the straight and narrow.
Video: How To Use A Kayak Rudder
Unlike the attached rudders on traditional kayaks, the rudder on a pedal yak is usually operated by a handle close to where the seat is, so you can easily keep a straight path while you’re comfortably seated and pedaling.
This means that although you will be hands-free sailing for most of the time, you will require your hands to be able to steer the yak in the direction you want to travel.
How To Fish From A Pedal Kayak
Fishing from a pedal kayak can be a little easier than fishing from a traditional yak because you can keep moving using your feet while you have your rod in your hands.
Some pedal yaks will have a standing platform to make casting and retrieving easier. However, if you want to stand up you’ll probably need to make sure that you’re in a stable environment first, with minimal wind, current or wake that could knock you off balance. If you don’t have good balance, you might want to stay in your seat to fish.
Now that you know what a pedal kayak is and what they are most often used for you should also know whether or not you could benefit from pedaling instead of using a paddle kayak.
With the two pedal styles available, you could test out both types before you decide on which type you prefer. It really comes down to personal preference!
When you’re choosing the best pedal kayak, remember to keep in mind the way in which you plan to transport it to and from the water, making sure it’s not too large, as well as the additional maintenance that the mechanisms will require, as these extra costs are something to consider when you make the initial purchase.
Another important thing to consider is the type of water you’re planning on pedaling in and how much gear you’re planning on carrying with you at one time. Be sure to check the weight capacity of the yak and the storage areas to make sure they meet your needs.
Do you own a pedal kayak? Enjoying it, or would you go back to paddles again? Let us know below...