Some people say the evolution of kayak fishing started in 2001 with the Hobie Mirage Outback. The first pedal-powered boat marked the sport’s transformation from kayakers going fishing to anglers in kayaks. Since the first pedal boat emerged, fishing kayaks have grown shorter and wider for increased stability, maneuverability, and fishability. Today, pedal-powered kayaks are so popular there are a wide variety of sizes, styles, and models to test drive. Before heading to the outfitter or clicking the “Buy Now” button, take a look at our picks for the top 9 best pedal kayaks for fishing.
Hobie started it all with the MirageDrive pedal system. Choosing to use oscillating fins instead of a traditional propeller allowed pedalers to go farther and faster. Fans of the MirageDrive say the forward back motion is less strenuous than turning a pedal crank. And the engineers at Hobie say the larger surface area of the flexible fins produces more power with less energy.
The only downfall, the fins will not go into reverse, limiting a Hobie’s maneuverability. Five years ago, the engineers solved that problem with the MirageDrive 180, still the standard on most models. The only downside is the operator has to reach down and shift the drive into reverse, pulling a cord that spins the flippers 180 degrees. Last year, Hobie engineers burned the midnight oil to come up with the Hobie MirageDrive 360, a finned pedal system that can spin 360 degrees allowing the boat to move in any direction. Currently, the MirageDrive 360 is only available in Hobie’s flagship ProAngler 12 and 14 models.
The Hobie Pro Angler is well respected on the open ocean, in the backwater, and on long-distance expeditions. It is the Cadillac of Hobie’s fleet, with the most popular features like dual rudder control, livewell-ready cargo area, below-deck tackle storage, and acres of padded deck space. The seat is exceptionally comfortable with padded mesh that dries quickly and adjustable lumbar support.
Our favorite feature is the H-Rail bars running down each gunnel. The hexagonal bars provide a solid base to mount various Hobie accessories like a rod holder, tackle tray, and ball-mount base. The H-Rail is also a convenient grab handle to carry the big boat.
The icing on the cake is Hobie’s prized MirageDrive 360. It works on a series of cables and gears hidden inside the hull. Turn a control dial near the seat, and the fins spin 360 degrees below the boat. This allows the kayak to go forward, reverse, sideways, and even turn in its own length. The boat still comes with a large, powerful rudder to maintain course when going from point A to B. But to maneuver around the docks, rocks, logs, and other obstructions, switch to the 360 control.
After cooking up the initial concept for the 360 Drive, Hobie invested hundreds of miles on the prototypes until they dialed in a system that is as reliable as it is maneuverable. To toughen up the drive, they added kick-up fins. If the driver accidentally pedals over an underwater obstruction, the fins fold flat to the hull and then bounce back once free of the tree limb or rock below.
After a few minutes of getting the hang of the controls, the driver can maneuver the boat backward, forward, side to side, and diagonally. Pull into a boat dock and turn around to leave. Weave through rocks and around deadfalls. The system comes in handy moving into tight fishing spots, but it is also invaluable when holding the kayak in current and wind.
The biggest limitation is storage and transportation. In addition to the kayak, you’ll need a heavy-duty cart and trailer or pickup truck to move the boat around.
After 20 years of making the world’s most popular pedal drive, Hobie poured their experience into the groundbreaking MirageDrive 360, and they put the unit into their top-of-the-line boat. The result is a full-size fishing kayak that can go anywhere.
Hobie Pro Angler 12 Specs
- Length 12 feet
- Width 36 inches
- Weight 128.5 pounds
- Capacity 500 pounds
Offshore kayak anglers are uncompromising. Miles from safety, surrounded by open water and chasing the meanest fish, there’s no room to take chances. Whether fishing the ocean, bay, gulf, or a big lake, offshore anglers demand the most out of their boat.
Old Town designed the Sportsman BigWater 132 PDL to meet the unique needs of offshore anglers. Based on the bluewater-tested Predator 132 PDL, the BigWater rides on a quick and responsive hull designed to roll over waves and cut through current. The Predator is such a well-respected offshore boat that not much was changed when Old Town moved it over as the BigWater model in their Sportsman line.
The most significant update to the BigWater model is adding a comfortable seat. The boat has be upgraded to a sturdier seat with a higher back and better lumbar support, perfect for anglers spending long days on the water.
Some of our favorite features on the Sportsman carried over from the Predator. Replaceable accessory plates allow owners to mount an accessory base without drilling into the hull. If you decide to move your fish finder or change electronics, just replace the plate and attach a new base. Gear tracks along the cockpit and the tankwell are conveniently placed to add rod holders, camera mounts, or electronics. Two rear-facing rod holders are angled out for trolling, and the forward-facing rod holder keeps a rod in easy reach for rigging or landing a fish.
Engineers designed the hull with decades of experience building all types of paddlecraft. The Tri-Hull design balances the stability of a wide hull with the speed and tracking of a narrow entry and long keel. A sharp, flared entry cuts the water and keeps the kayak on track. The BigWater sits low and slips under the wind, an essential feature for anglers with nowhere to hide.
That reliability extends to the time-tested PDL drive. Old Town has a sealed housing to protect the gears and shafts, plus a five-year warranty to back it. The PDL uses bicycle pedals to turn a large propeller. Turn the pedals backward, and the boat jumps into reverse. The pedal unit is big, but that allows it to fit snugly into the hull to improve efficiency and performance. To launch, land, and cross shallow water, turn a dial, and the lower unit pops up to reduce draft. All the parts are solid, and the unit works efficiently to cover miles of water in almost any condition.
Old Town Sportsman BigWater Specs
- Length 13 feet, 2 inches
- Width 36 inches
- Weight 117 pounds
- Capacity 500 pounds
Pedal kayaks are faster, more stable, and easier to use. Unfortunately, purchasing a pedal kayak can add up quickly. As a remedy to high-priced kayaks, Pelican’s The Catch 130 Hydryve II combines a lightweight hull with a proven pedal system for under $1500.
The key to the equation is Pelican’s thermoformed hull. Most kayaks are made by roto-molding plastic. Like the name says, roto-molding requires filling a mold with plastic pellets then heating and rotating the mold to spread the molten plastic. On the other hand, thermoformed kayaks start with two sheets of plastic. One sheet is heated and molded into the topside, and the other sheet is molded into the hull. Then, the two halves are glued together. The process creates a kayak that is lighter, tougher, and less expensive.
The Catch HD II comes with gear tracks, bungees, pad eyes, and four flush mount rod holders. Sturdy handles in the bow, stern, and midship make it easy to carry the boat to the water.
The crowning achievement is the boat’s throne, a lightweight frame seat covered with a quick-dry fabric. To provide more room for standup fishing, kick the seat back and stand at the boat’s most stable point. Anti-slip pads on the deck make standup fishing safer and more comfortable.
To power the Catch 130 HD II, Pelican went with a fin-drive similar to Hobie’s first-generation Mirage Drive. The updated Hydryve II uses stainless steel components, aluminum pedal arms, and a sturdier construction to outlast the old MirageDrive. The pedals are double-sided and padded with rubber straps to provide a solid connection. The Catch 130 HD II controls direction with a large rudder in the stern and steering knob near the seat.
To install the drive, Pelican went with a unique approach. The Hydryve II fits in a plastic housing inserted in the deck. Harnessing the torque of thousands of pedal strokes and absorbing the shock of accidentally striking the bottom, a pedal system can twist and crack the plastic. Pelican designed the Hydryve housing so it can be replaced if it is damaged.
The Hydryve has plenty of power and comfortably propels the kayak. The topside design is smart, with accessories that make fishing easier. A large well in the stern and an open well in the bow offers a convenient place to store gear and tackle. Besides an eight-inch round hatch in the stern, there is no way to access the interior of the kayak, but the bow and stern wells provide easy access to storage.
Pelican’s The Catch 130 HD is designed to get anyone into a pedal boat. Stable, quick, and light, the boat is economical and functional. The drive is reliable, with the power to push the boat all day. Add smart features to a reasonable price tag, and The Catch 130 HD II is an easy pedal boat to own.
Pelican The Catch Hydryve II Specs
- Length 12 feet, 6 inches
- Width 34 inches
- Weight 78 pounds
- Capacity 475 pounds
As the name says, Ocean Kayak Malibu grew up in the surf and sand of Southern California. Ocean Kayak traces its roots back to the original sit-on-top kayak and the beginning of the sport in, you guessed it, Malibu, California. So, when Ocean Kayak decided to add a pedal boat to their lineup, the design had to have sand in its soul.
The result is the Ocean Kayak Malibu PDL. While many pedal kayaks favor stability over performance, Malibu Pedal takes the opposite approach. The hull is only 34-inches wide with an upturned bow to help shoot through the surf and roll with the waves. This design makes the 12-foot long boat fast and maneuverable.
The topside of the Malibu PDL has just the right rigging. An open bow well is perfect for gear and tackle. Two gear tracks on the gunnels are convenient for mounting electronics. A large tankwell will accommodate a crate or cooler. Three flush mount rod holders, two behind the seat and one next to the seat serve as convenient places to stick a fishing rod. Large scuppers in the tankwell and cockpit quickly drain water—perfect for surf launches and rough seas.
The comfortable and light mesh webbing dries fast and provides adequate support. The designers at Ocean Kayak spent years perfecting the height and angle of the seat to give the best pedaling position. Anglers can fish all day without their legs or feet aching.
Ocean Kayak borrowed the reliable and powerful PDL from their sister company Old Town for the pedal system. The PDL system goes from shallow water to pedal power by twisting a knob and lifting the lower unit through the hull. The oversized rudder is controlled with a large knob on the left side of the seat, and a long lever on the other side lifts the rudder in a snap.
While it’s not a full-size, full-featured boat, the Malibu Pedal is perfect for quick trips. Lighter than most pedal kayaks, at 85 pounds, the boat is easy to transport and store. The fast and seaworthy hull crosses the surf and rocks and rolls through ocean waves.
Even when it’s not in the ocean, the Malibu Pedal is a simple, easy to operate kayak. The boat is perfect for a new angler or a second kayak for grab-and-go fishing. Lighter and more maneuverable, smaller anglers and kids feel at home in this boat.
Ocean Kayak Malibu PDL Specs
- Length 12 feet
- Width 34 inches
- Weight 100 pounds
- Capacity 425 pounds
On the kayak tournament trail, competition is intense. While anglers battle it out on the water, kayak designers race to build the fastest, toughest, and smartest boats. Designed with inspiration from pro kayak anglers fighting for a big payday, the Vibe Shearwater is a proven winner under paddle, pedal, or motor power.
The Vibe Shearwater is one of the few pedal kayaks that paddles well, too. It has a narrow 35-inch beam and a mid-size 12-foot, 6-inch waterline that moves with confidence. The bow is flared, and a long, flat keel keeps the boat cutting through the water.
The Shearwater comes standard with Vibe’s Gravity Rudder. Not only does the rudder keep the kayak going straight, but the large blade also makes turning a breeze. The rudder blade is perforated like Swiss cheese to allow easy install of Bixpy’s micro motor. Or, remove the rudder, and the flat reinforced stern allows for a remote-controlled trolling motor, electric outboard, or Power-Pole anchor system.
To turn the Vibe Shearwater into a pedal kayak, use a kit to transfer steering control to a low-profile knob beside the seat. Then, take out a removable deck plate and replace it with the pedal drive scupper. The removable plate allows the Shearwater to go from paddle kayak to pedal without sacrificing hull performance.
To power the Shearwater, Vibe went with a flipper system like Hobie’s original MirageDrive. Many anglers prefer the flipper system, which they say is more powerful than a propeller and easier on the legs than circular pedals. Anglers can choose Vibe’s X-Drive pedal system or go with any of Hobie’s MirageDrives. The only disadvantage is the X-Drive does not go into reverse, but the lightweight pedal and flippers push the Shearwater at a comfortable pace with less effort.
The topside of the Shearwater includes every feature expected on a serious pro kayak: gear tracks, flush mount and horizontal rod holders, molded tackle trays, bungees galore, and a large tankwell. For ultimate standup fishing, the large, flat, padded deck offers plenty of room, even with the pedal system installed.
The mesh-covered seat can be adjusted in four positions from elevated to reclined. Fold the seatback forward and add the optional standing platform to create an elevated perch for standup fishing.
To make installing electronics easier, the Shearwater has a pod forward of the pedal drive with a special pocket for the transducer, a protected area for the battery, and mounting space for the display.
Everything is in reach with this kayak, and the features work reliably. The boat can sneak into the flats or crash through the surf. The Shearwater takes advantage of the most popular features on some of the most famous kayaks that help push it ahead of the pack.
Vibe Shearwater 125 with X Drive Specs
- Length 12 feet, 6 inches
- Width 35 inches
- Weight 82 pounds
- Capacity 475 pounds
Pedal kayaks fall into two categories: decked-out super boats and pared-down bargain boats. The Sea Stream Angler 120 PD fits the second category with limited features and a simple drive for around $1500.
The topside hosts favorite features like gear tracks, bungees, two paddle holders, two flush mounts, and two horizontal rod holders. The Seastream120 has flush mount rod holders behind the seat, and the horizontal rod holders are a great addition for backwater fishing. A big rear tankwell and open forward well provide day storage for tackle and gear.
The boat is designed for standup fishing. Complementing the wide tunnel hull, the Seastream Angler 120 PD has a reinforced, padded deck for confident, comfortable standing performance.
To further improve comfort, the 120 PD has a wide mesh seat that can be adjusted to dial in a perfect fit for pedaling or paddling. The seat is comfortable but not plush. The savings in padding also save weight, which makes the seat easy to remove and store.
To power the big boat, Seastream PD uses the Rapid Pedal Drive. This system features an internal chain drive in a removable housing. The pedal system is light and powerful, and it can be repaired if damaged. The chain drive is a little noisy, but it works well to travel short distances with easy use. The system is controlled with a large beaver tail rudder with plenty of surface area to turn the boat in a tight circle.
The Seastream performs well for light, inshore fishing. The boat pedals confidently and the rudder can control the direction in forward and reverse. Standup fishing is easy with abundant primary stability. One of the biggest advantages to the Seastream is it’s designed to accept matching accessories like a cooler, gear bag, crate, and mounts. The only deficiency is the rudder control handle is plastic, and the seat is secured with a simple strap and cam buckle.
Seastream Angler 120 PD Specs
- Length 12 feet, 3 inches
- Width 35 inches
- Weight 97 pounds without drive
- Capacity 400 pounds
The Native Watercraft Propel drive is one of the most reliable systems on the water. The Propel is available on Native’s big-boat Titan and tournament sled Slayer Max, but we love the ride of the Slayer 10.
The Slayer 10 is a shorter kayak and saves a considerable amount of weight. It is also easier to store and transport. The biggest disadvantage is less space to install accessories like rod holders, crates, and electronics. If you don’t plan on loading a bunch of stuff onto the kayak, then a 10-foot boat will be a perfect fit.
The Slayer 10 only weighs 62-pounds without the drive, making it a pleasure to load on top of a car. To improve tracking, Native gave the Slayer 10 a modified tunnel hull. The theory is two hulls are better than one, basically creating two keels and doubling the boat’s waterline. The tunnel hull also improves stability, moving the volume to the outside edge of the boat, where it works to keep the angler upright.
On the topside, Native managed to cram a long list of accessories into the short boat. Gear tracks, a padded deck, and a huge bow hatch are features usually found on bigger kayaks. The Slayer 10 includes two flush mount rod holders behind the seat for trolling and transporting rods. We also like the convenient rod holder and cup holder combo to hold the rod while rigging or unhooking a fish. Native also used every inch behind the seat to mold in a huge tankwell capable of accommodating a full-size gear crate or 35-quart cooler.
Native’s hand-sewn seat is covered in breathable, fast-drying mesh. The adjustable seatback is high enough for support without limiting access to the tankwell. It is extremely comfortable throughout a day on the water.
Since Native released the Propel Drive, they have worked to make it tougher and lighter. The system is a perfect match for the Slayer 10, fitting in the cockpit floor with plenty of space for standup fishing.
Instead of hanging off the back of the kayak, the rudder is tucked under the stern. This allows the large surface area to turn the boat more efficiently, although the placement makes it difficult to drag the kayak by the bow without damaging the rudder. But Native placed a round hatch over the gearing to make repairs more accessible. The advantage of the integrated rudder is you can add a trolling motor to the stern and use the steering knob and rudder to control direction.
The Slayer 10 Propel is all the fun without all the work of a larger, heavier boat. Just launch the kayak, hop in, and go with confidence. The kayak is reliably stable with enough give to ride over waves. The rudder is responsive, turning the boat in a tight circle. As expected with a short kayak, the Slayer 10 does take water over the bow in a heavy head sea, but it handles short chop like a pro. The Slayer 10 Propel is ready to fish right off the shelf, perfect for quick trips and easy fishing.
Native Watercraft Slayer 10 Propel Specs
- Length 10 feet
- Width 32 inches
- Weight 81 pounds
- Capacity 400 pounds
Wilderness Systems has always designed kayaks for the future. One of Wilderness System’s most recent models, the Recon 120 HD gets back to basics with a trimmed down pedal kayak paired with the most essential features at a great value. Wilderness is at the head of the pack again offering a smart, capable fishing kayak at around $2000.
The Recon 120 is a pedal kayak for the everyday angler. The 12-foot waterline and 38-inch girth fit perfectly in the go-anywhere class of pedal boats. Weighing 115-pounds with the pedal drive and 95-pounds without, the Recon 120 is on the heavy side of lightweight pedal kayaks, but the extra pounds translate to additional features.
For anglers looking for a pedal and paddle kayak, the Recon 120 kills two boats with one stone. Developed using Wilderness’s S.M.A.R.T. design, the boat balances stability, maneuverability, acceleration, responsiveness, and tracking. For example, the pedal well is muffled to reduce noise when using the boat under paddle power.
Wilderness brought some of its most popular features from other models to the Recon 120. Our favorite is the bow hatch with a molded insert to keep gear in easy reach and protected from the elements. The bow hatch is a perfect place to store dry clothes and lunch or turn it into an easy-to-clean fish box.
The Recon 120 uses Wilderness Systems’ well-tested Helix PD pedal drive. To deploy the pedal system, push the lower unit through the mounting bracket. To lift the pedal system, kick a plate on the deck, and the propeller pops up through the hull.
Instead of installing their industry-leading AirPro Max seat, they designed a new throne that is just as comfortable and more adjustable. Pedaling and paddling require different seat configurations. A paddler wants to be lower to the water, while a pedaler needs to dial in the distance from the pedals for the most efficient and comfortable position.
Wilderness Systems Recon 120 HD Specs
- Length 12 feet, 2 inches
- Width 38 inches
- Weight 115 pounds
- Capacity 450 pounds
Do you want to paddle? Do you want to pedal? How about motorizing your kayak? With FeelFree’s Lure 11.5 Overdrive, you can do it all. The boat is FeelFree’s top-of-the-line with all the features afforded in a high-quality fishing kayak.
When it was time for FeelFree to introduce a pedal kayak, they worked for years to develop a unique propulsion system on the water. The Overdrive system can go from pedal to motor-power by changing the head of the unit without changing the lower unit. Insert an electric motor into the pedal system, attach a battery, and you’re off to the races.
The Overdrive can be fitted in several FeelFree models—we chose to test the Lure 11.5. The Lure 11.5 is a perfect compromise between a full-sized kayak and a pocket boat. One of the advantages of pedal and motor power is that the boat’s length and width don’t matter as much. Anglers can get away with a shorter boat that is easier to move and store without worrying about reduced performance.
Weighing in at 87-pounds without the seat or pedals, the Lure 11.5 is on the heavy side for a small kayak. The extra weight adds up to excellent features such as vertical and horizontal rod holders, a full-size bow hatch, gear tracks forward and aft, and a big tankwell.
The highlight of the Lure 11.5 is the Gravity Seat. Not only is the seat padded and molded like an office chair, but it can be lifted for a higher vantage point or lowered to make paddling easier by simply pulling a lever.
Another cool feature about FeelFree is their line of matching accessories. Of course, the Lure 11.5 can be rigged with any aftermarket accessories, but FeelFree offers its own line of rod holders and coolers to customize the kayak with matching color patterns. You can rig the boat with a crate bag and fish cooler along with a factory stand-assist bar and Uni-Bar accessory track.
The heavy plastic and solid construction make the boat bulletproof in any condition. This is a boat you can pedal all day from open water to the backwater. FeelFree’s years of experience pay off in a boat that fishes as well as it handles.
Huge molded-in handles at the bow, stern, and midship make dragging the heavy boat possible. FeelFree is most famous for its “Wheel in the Keel” feature. The kayak has a plastic wheel inserted in the stern end of the keel. To move it, simply lift the bow and roll the kayak on the stern wheel.
FeelFree Lure 11.5 Overdrive Specs
- Length 11 feet, 6 inches
- Width 34 inches
- Weight 87 pounds without pedal drive
- Capacity 425