Torqeedo sales representative Jeff Little was thinking about which design factors make the fastest fishing kayaks when he dropped us a line. “When I think too hard about something, I have to write it down,” Little explained. Attached to the email, Little included an exhaustive report comparing the speed and handling of twelve kayaks powered with the Torqeedo Ultralite 403 electric motor. “Maybe it’s something interesting?”

What Do the Fastest Fishing Kayaks Have in Common?

Little’s findings cover three factors affecting aftermarket motor performance: seat position, weight and length. Rigging the boats with the same motor allowed Little to record top speed and battery range on a dozen models. Then, he took measurements of length and weight along with the percent of the waterline ahead of the seat.

BassYaks owner Stephen Komarinetz has been installing electric motors for over 15 years. While he hasn’t compiled charts and graphs on the factors affecting performance, Komarinetz has made similar observations on design features for aftermarket motors.

“First, the boat has to have enough capacity to accept the weight of motor and battery,” he points out. His experience also shows seat placement as a major factor. “Look for an adjustable seat,” Komarinetz adds.

A man in his fishing kayak with aftermarket motor
Longer, leaner boats are best for motor power, but seat placement is the biggest contributor to performance. | Feature photo: Jeff Little

Searching for the Perfect Balance

Little and Komarinetz’ research points to one fact: the longest, best balanced boat will be the fastest. The top performer on Little’s chart, capable of hitting 5.7 miles per hour, is 14 feet long and weighs 95 pounds with 45 percent of the kayak behind the seat. The slowest kayak is 13.5 feet and 95 pounds with only 36 percent of the kayak behind the seat.

Length and weight have an effect on speed and performance, but Little’s research found seat position is the most important factor. Little figures it like this: a kayak riding high in the bow will push water instead of cutting through it. Not only does this attitude slow the boat, but it robs battery life and affects handling. Little explains, “The heavy stern carries speed and spins the kayak.” The boat will act like a weather vane as the wind swings the bow. Add tackle, rods, gear and lunch in the stern and the effect is even worse.

Design factors carry over to the topside of the kayak, too. Komarinetz suggests a boat with a wide, flat stern to accept the motor mount and plenty of open, easy-access space inside the hull. “Consider where you can store a battery,” Komarinetz adds.

Motor-Friendly Kayaks are Changing the Game

Recently, boats specifically designed for electric motors are hitting the water. Jonny Boats, by FeelFree, are designed primarily for motor use and secondly to paddle. Design director Peter Murphy explains, “Jonny has a planing hull like a motorboat, not a displacement hull.” This allows the bow to come out of the water at speed. “A displacement hull will bog down as it goes faster,” he says.

Going in another direction, NuCanoe’s kayak and canoe hybrids can be rigged with electric, pedal or gas motor. “More people want to fish with motor power than pedal or paddle,” NuCanoe owner Blake Young insists. Young expects more manufacturers will meet the demand with boats capable of being paddled or motored.

Komarinetz agrees. He warns designers, “Get out of the niche of making heavy, expensive kayaks.” He’d like to see more motor-friendly boats capable of car topping. Komarinetz is looking for a lightweight, well-designed, value-priced kayak just as capable under paddle power as electric power. So far, he says, there are only a few options on the market.

How to Pick the Fastest Fishing Kayak

For more information on the fastest fishing kayaks to rig with an aftermarket motor, see Jeff Little’s full report on How To Choose Your Next Fishing Kayak Based On Propulsion Efficiency.

This article was first published in the Summer 2019 issue of Kayak Angler Magazine. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

Longer, leaner boats are best for motor power, but seat placement is the biggest contributor to performance. | Feature photo: Jeff Little



  1. Really interesting article. As the Boating Law Administrator for Oregon, I’m always hopeful these trending activities are front-loaded for safe and legal operation. I think the article points to the fact that we’ll see a lot of technical innovation as fishing kayaks embrace motor propulsion to improve efficiency, safety and fun. One thing that also needs to be addressed, though it may seem minor, is providing space for registration numbers on these boats. States generally are required by the US Coast Guard to register these watercraft as full-fledged motorboats. I hope manufacturers take this into account and provide a physical location up front for the numbers – a molded-in location to which decals will affix. That will help the customers out by preventing citations, and frankly, it will help the anglers out by ensuring the funding used for parking, bathrooms, access and launch points.

  2. Purchased a 13.’5” eddyline C-135 Stratofisher at the end of fall 2019,I will install a electric or gas motor before fall 2020
    Any idea or suggestions will be graciously reviewed. Thanks M Forester

  3. Hybrids, indeed. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where all this is going. First the traditional kayak is modified to being a sit-on craft, then pedals are added to make it more of a water bike and even less of a “kayak”. Now motors are being incorporated into the design. Soon the gunwales will be deepened, the deck partially closed over and other design changes will bring it back to being just a higher tech row boat….which will then become slimmer, shallower, and start to look more like a kayak/canoe…..the circle keeps going round and round. At least it’s keeping us all out on the water!


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