What, exactly, is a kayak? With the growing popularity of pedal drives, motors and more, few questions are more contentious. Some anglers can’t wait to stow the paddle and kit their kayak out with the latest motor. As Aliex Folgueira argues, kayak motors may even make pedal drives obsolete. On the flipside, Joseph Harrick from 5050 Fishing claims “kayak fishing no longer exists now because of motors.” Will these two sides ever see eye-to-eye?

Did Motors Kill Pedal Kayaks?

Folgueira is a fan of kayak motors. He explains his position as follows:

“In this channel we cover all kinds of kayaks. We do crazy videos, we take them on the water, we flip them, we test motors, we test drive, we do everything here. And really I’ve been finding myself just wanting to go fishing with a motorized kayak. Not just a motorized kayak, but something with an iPilot unit on it. It just makes fishing…way better for me.”

Overall, Folgueira finds motorized kayaks more convenient than pedal drives. If it’s good enough for tournament anglers, he argues, why not the average fisherman? Pedal drives can be bulky and add cost to a boat, especially when you want to install a motor as well. Folgueira insists that he enjoys pedal boats like the Old Town Topwater 120 PDL and Bonafide P127, but he still equips them with a motor.

Folgueira admits that kayak motors do come with some downsides: You have to register a motorized boat, and you can’t use a motor in some protected waterways. Also, some tournaments don’t allow motors.

Do the masses agree? Folgueira posted an online poll with the question, “Are pedal kayaks done for?” and 74% of respondents said, “Are you crazy?” But that’s not the last word on the subject.

Did Motors Ruin Kayak Fishing?

Harrick’s definition of a kayak is a bit more narrow. Here is his main argument against motors:

“When you’re kayak fishing there’s something that is almost primal. You have a connection with nature, you’re at water level and you’re moving your kayak physically. It’s man-powered and it’s just a more primal connection with nature. When you put a motor on it, it creates a little disconnect and it’s not quite the same thing.”

This is the classic argument of a paddling purist, and it raises some good questions. “Is there going to be an 18-foot kayak that’s got a motor on it that’s running 50 mile per hour?” Harrick asks. “Where are you gonna draw the line?”

The Jury is Deadlocked on Kayak Motors

So, did motors kill pedal kayaks? Or did they ruin kayak fishing? Is a motorized kayak even a kayak at all? While some members of the community remain divided, you should choose whatever floats your boat.

Aliex Folgueira and Joseph Harrick have differing opinions about kayak motors. | Feature image: Aliex Folgueira/YouTube and 5050 Fishing/YouTube



  1. I was a paddle guy, then pedal drives came along and I saw all the definite advantages, especially in a tournament. To me however, a motor blows those out of the water, simply because if you do have a tournament that allows all 3, is there a disadvantage for those without a motor? I would have to say yes. So, where does that lead? Motor only tournaments? Manual power only? Personally, if I’m not fishing a tournament…I prefer manual, and so I extend that to tournaments. If there’s a guy with a motor in there, I won’t be fishing it.

  2. This is rather comical on many fronts. Calling these flat, sit-on-top floating platforms “kayaks” was a marketing diversion in the first place. These are not kayaks in the historical, traditional or operative form of the term to begin with. Putting motors on them is moot, since adding pedals was a betrayal of that original boat in function and design. This is just another way for pseudo “kayakers” to claim some notoriety claiming to be “kayakers” when the boats they claim to command are not even kayaks in the first place. The egos of most outdoors people will find a way to rationalize and justify whatever direction they go so who cares what motors do to the image of these wanna-be kayakers?

    • Man that is right on. I never understood folks who use motors or even pedals actually call themselves kayakers. Even the emojis for kayaking on thier social media pages have a paddle. Its all marketing.

  3. The answer is “NO” you can always remove the motor and drives if you want to paddle. As the Owner of Bassyaks, a company that has been deigning motor kits for Kayaks for 18 years , we have seen the evolution of the Fishing kayak, when we started everything was sit in. As the years progressed it went to sit-on and then to comfy seats and the ability to stand . As far as the benefits of the motors it only enhances the fishing experience, allowing more range per outing. There are many other options which will enhance your fishing , from Side Scan or live sonar to Micro Poles , can the same question be posed to them?? Do what floats your Kayak

  4. I’m 70 years old and would never consider a pedal-boat or a motor boat for my lake and river fishing.
    When my shoulders got creaky, I discovered the joy of a Greenland paddle. Now I can cover six or eight miles with no fatigue and zero noise.
    If you’re in a hurry when fishing, get a bass boat.

  5. I believe in order to really honestly answer the question you have to first answer the question – “Just what was one of the main draws for using a kayak for fishing at first?” I believe it was cost as well as ease of storage and portability of kayaks. Thus with this “definition” the advent of both pedal and motorized kayaks have “ruined” kayak fishing. It has gone from a “every person” sport to one requiring as a minimum moderate income to one limited with those with significant income. Not to mention the storage issue of a trailer. I remain a paddle kayak fan.

  6. Whether the cause of this semantic argument is paddle-only snobbery or Luddism, I picture an Indian smiling at the idea that paddlers of plastic boats transported by automobiles are somehow infinitely purer than pedalers of the same.

    In contrast, dividing kayak-fishing tournaments into paddle, pedal, and motorized and divisions is not semantic omphaloskepsis.

  7. Who cares what a pedal or motorized craft is called? As long as people are getting out on the water, doing what they love, what does it matter if it is called a “kayak” or something else?


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