So, you have a paddle kayak but you want pedals or a motor? What can you do? Buy a new kayak? Engineer a bracket for a trolling motor? Rip apart your kid’s old bike? Bungee cords, duct tape and a leaf blower?
A new wave of aftermarket motors and pedal systems is making it easier to put down the paddle and hammer down the throttle.
The boom in add-on pedals and motors is a sign kayak fishing isn’t just a paddlesport anymore.
Adding a motor to a kayak
Steve Komarinetz, owner of Bassyaks, has been fitting electric motors to kayaks for 13 years. He started making mounts and outfitting boats and now he can’t build systems fast enough. “We ship all over the world and are usually backlogged,” he says.
While Komarinetz admits the growing number of pedal boats on the market has led to a change in business, he predicts production will pick up as more tournaments allow motor systems.
“Public opinion has gone from hatred to acceptance,” Komarinetz says. He’s excited about a new wave of Millennials who are getting into kayak fishing. Komarinetz predicts his motors will be popular with the generation of technology and convenience.
Improvements to batteries, controls and motor design make the latest generation of motors easy to own and operate. Komarinetz has designed a propeller better suited for driving a kayak. He hopes boat manufacturers will get on the wagon and develop a displacement hull specifically for an aftermarket motor.
Komarnetz says the biggest advancement is lithium-ion batteries and brushless motors weighing a fraction of the 12-volt systems. The new systems achieve higher speeds with longer run times. “Speed costs money,” he jokes, pointing to the high price of a lithium-ion power pack.
German company Torqeedo has been producing electric motors for marine applications since 2004. In 2009 they set their sights on the burgeoning sport of kayak fishing.
President of Torqeedo’s U.S. office, Steve Trkla, points to the rapid growth of the sport as a motivator. “There are already 2.5 million kayak anglers and the number could double in five years,” he says. Even though Torqeedo initially met resistance in the paddlesports market, Trkla says acceptance has been growing.
In 2015, Kayak Bass Fishing’s tournament series approved motorized kayaks in competition
“We’ve seen a huge paradigm shift,” Trkla says. It doesn’t hurt Torqeedo is a major tournament sponsor. As competitive anglers move toward motorizing their kayaks, other anglers will surely catch up with the trend.
This year, Torqeedo is introducing a redesigned mounting system to go with their Ultralight 403 battery, throttle and motor. “We’re also working with other manufacturers to design brackets and controls for our system,” Trkla says. Eventually, you’ll be able to use Torqeedo’s mount or choose a specialty mount from another company.
Adding a pedal drive to a kayak
With the explosion of pedal-powered kayaks, it wasn’t long before someone offered aftermarket pedal systems.
H2Pro-Ped has been developing and manufacturing a bolt-on pedal and propeller system for six years.
Owner Dave Gater says the challenge of designing a system capable of fitting every kayak is prohibitive, so they’ve focused on a few popular boats. “Customers are taking the system and designing their own mounts,” he adds. He plans on increased power and offering electric and solar powered propulsion.
This year, Canadian company Riot Kayaks is jumping in the race with their Mako kayak and Impulse Drive pedal system for around $1,000.
Sales manager Mark Hall says Riot’s new pedal drive can be configured to fit other pedal kayaks for owners who want to replace or upgrade their factory systems. As pedal systems wear out or break, Hall bets there is going to be a huge demand for a better set of pedals.
The Impulse Drive will have an open frame and corrosion resistant components allowing water to flow around the moving parts. The modular system makes it possible to adjust shaft length, pedals, propeller and gears to fit any pedal kayak. Hall expects they’ll soon offer a motorized option.
So, if you want a motorized or pedal kayak, you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Aftermarket power options make it possible to add a motor or pedals to any kayak.
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