Kayak fishing has become the next big thing for the angling industry. With tournament groups like Kayak Bass Fishing helping propel kayaking towards the future, advancements in kayaks seem to appear every day.
From accessories, seats, mounts, electronics, and PFD’s, the kayak angler has a plethora of options to choose from to enhance their experience on the water.
For many anglers, the hardest part is how to navigate the waterway. Whether it’s high winds, strong currents, or an injury that is holding them back, there are many anglers out there looking for an alternative to the typical paddle or pedal drive options. That’s where powered kayak propulsion comes into play.
With the ability to simply attach a motor and go, kayak anglers and those who simply enjoy kayaking are making the transition to powered propulsion… and quickly. With the rise of many new companies making their products more efficient and user friendly, now is the time to consider powered kayak propulsion!
Well if you want to know how the kayak motor came to be desired tool for kayak tournament anglers in the 21st century, you would have to look back about 4000 years to when Kayaks were originally developed by indigenous people living in the Arctic regions. They used their kayaks to hunt on inland lakes, rivers and the coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean, North Atlantic, Bering Sea and North Pacific oceans.
These first kayaks were constructed from stitched animal skins such as seal stretched over a wooden frame made from collected driftwood, as many of the areas of their construction were treeless. Archaeologists have found evidence indicating that kayaks are at least 4000 years old. Native people made many types of boat for different purposes. The Aleut baidarka was made in double or triple cockpit designs, for hunting and transporting passengers or goods.
Native builders designed and built their boats based on their own experience and that of the generations before them, passed on through oral tradition. The word “kayak” means “man’s boat” or “hunter’s boat”, and native kayaks were a personal craft, each built by the man who used it—with assistance from his wife, who sewed the skins and closely fitting his size for maximum maneuverability. The paddler wore a tuilik, a garment that was stretched over the rim of the kayak coaming, and sealed with drawstrings at the coaming, wrists, and hood edges. This enabled the “eskimo roll” and rescue to become the preferred method of recovery after capsizing, especially as few Inuit could swim; their waters are too cold for a swimmer to survive for long.
The stealth nature of kayaks was perfect for these hunters, because the boats were easy to maneuver to hunt prey. They were constructed out of covered wood or whalebones with stitched sealskin to protect the outside with whale fat for waterproofing.
Two words. Convenience and efficiency. Whether it’s saving you time on the water or allowing you to actually get on the water, the convenience of having a motor attached to your kayak is undisputed.
For those with disabilities or injuries, it’s not always easy or sometimes even impossible to paddle or pedal a kayak. With the ability to simply attach a motor to the kayak and go, it opens up the water for those who didn’t always have the opportunity in the past.
For kayak anglers who enjoy fishing recreationally or even in tournaments, powering your kayak may be the best investment you’ve made outside of choosing to buy a kayak!
“This is the first year that I’ve had a powered propulsion, as I was reluctant to use one. Not using one before now was a big mistake! Since putting one into action, I’ve cashed checks in every tournament that I’ve used it. That is seven straight tournaments!
Each tournament holds different obstacles. Sometimes this means launch locations are far and few between or it might be a three day event where saving your energy from paddling makes a difference. At one event this year I was never more than two miles from my launch location. Yet, I was traveling 12-13 miles a day using my powered propulsion to rotate fish that were on 6 different stretches. This is something that I would never have dreamed possible with just paddling alone.” – Cody Milton, 2018 Kayak Bass Fishing ANGLR of the Year
Chapter 3 - Benefits of Powered Kayak Propulsion for Kayak Anglers
Benefits of Powered Kayak Propulsion for Kayak Anglers
We sat down with Jeff Little, Sales Manager at Torqeedo Inc. to discuss the benefits of powered kayak propulsion.
Powered kayak propulsion helps anglers in so many different ways, but the main thing, it equates to more time with your fishing line in the water. It increases your productivity on the water. By powering your kayak, you can spend more time fishing by getting to spots faster than you can paddle or pedal, and it allows you to explore a greater range of areas.
Break Down the Water
For tournament anglers, it’s a great addition to help break down the water while pre-fishing or during your tournament. You can go as fast as 5.7MPH with a range of just over 12 miles. In a tournament situation, if you already know the spot that you’re going to run to, you want to get there faster than anyone else. With the added benefit of being able to stay longer if it’s productive all day as opposed to having to pedal or paddle the whole way back to check in by a certain time.
The second way this helps you is the ability to fish at your speed. If you’re into power fishing, like throwing a spinnerbait or chatterbait while you’re moving along a shoreline chasing bait or following a contour line, you can use the motor at a lower speed and make a constant barrage of casts. It changes the game and hookup percentage because you can have your line in the water constantly. It eliminates the paddle, paddle, paddle, cast cadence that most anglers have grown accustomed to. With some powered propulsion options, you can steer with feet and just make your way down the bank while focusing on what’s important… fishing!
The third way that powering your kayak can help you on the water is when you’re trolling. Now, unlike most bass boat tournaments, kayak bass fishing tournaments usually allow trolling as a method to catch and land fish, and it is highly effective. Trolling is something a lot of anglers do when they move from one spot to another. Not many utilize as a primary tactic, but it’s a great way to pick up a few fish while on the move! Another important thing to add, using a motor on your kayak does not take away from stealth aspect. Due to the electric motor, it’s still stealthy. You can run right over the schooling fish with an electric motor as opposed to a gas motor. The best part is that you can save time compared to stopping to make casts at specific target areas. With trolling, the bait is in the strike zone the whole time. Having a motor on your kayak helps you focus just on the rod tip as opposed to paddle or pedal scenario where you have to focus on other things.
We also sat down with Houman Nikmanesh, Managing Director at Bixpy LLC. to discuss the benefits of powered kayak propulsion.
In the last few years, the kayak fishing industry has exploded. Due to this, kayak companies have begun to build “fishing kayaks” that are longer, wider, and heavier. Due to the build of these “fishing kayaks”, it’s more difficult to propel the kayak forward because of just how large the kayak is.
Further, Faster, and Easier
In a 6-10 hour day trying to fish, it’ll wear you out. One benefit of the size of these kayaks is it’s easier to hold these motors making it much easier to power with an electric motor. The real sport of fishing is just that, spending time fishing. Anglers want to get out there further, faster, and more easily. Now there’s an urgency towards getting a motor on their kayak. Until about a year ago, there was a taboo about it, but it’s now understood amongst the community that it’s just another tool for kayakers to take advantage of.
We also sat down with Adam Knowles, Associate Brand Manager at Minn Kota to discuss the benefits of powered kayak propulsion.
One of the biggest drawbacks of fishing from a kayak is having to keep your hands on a paddle rather than a fishing rod. Pedal-driven kayaks have improved the experience dramatically, but for truly unparalleled boat control there isn’t a substitute for a kayak motor system.
Old Town™ now offers the Predator MK Angler, which boasts a modular Minn Kota trolling motor system designed to fit seamlessly into the kayak. This really is the perfect marriage of a fishing kayak and a Minn Kota brand trolling motor.
Many kayak anglers don’t realize how far motor and battery technology has come. Even on larger kayaks our motors are very capable of speeds over 5 MPH, and are made to withstand the use associated with a full day on the water.
Chapter 4 - Powered Kayak Propulsion: Trolling Motor Setup Options
Powered Kayak Propulsion: Trolling Motor Setup Options
Before discussing the three basic options, it’s important to note that higher thrust capacity does not necessarily equal more speed. The Torqeedo Ultra Light vs the Torqeedo Travel motor is a great example.
The Ultra Light is a 1hp motor while the Travel is a 3hp motor. You might naturally assume that if the Travel motor is 3 times as strong, you would go 3 times as fast, but that’s not the case. The Ultra Light will push a kayak, on average, 5.5 mph, while the Travel motor tops out around 6.1-6.4mph. Why?
All kayaks have a natural hull speed that they will not exceed without significantly ramping up the thrust capacity. We will talk about hull efficiency in depth here.
Minn Kota Setup Options
The Primal SlipStream motor mount is designed to handle a Minn Kota 30-pound thrust for two reasons: Max Hull speed and weight. Generally speaking, a 30-pound thrust motor will achieve a kayaks max hull speed, all things being equal. Exceeding the 30-pound threshold can result in faster consumption of the battery while achieving very little if any extra speed.
Additionally, the metal housing around the motor adds considerable weight, which can make raising and lowering the motor more difficult. A 30-pound thrust Minn Kota, once stripped down to the shaft and motor weighs 9-pounds, and this only increases with the larger motors. That being said, the Minn Kota 30-pound thrust is a reliable motor for kayakers on a budget. ($99)
Bixpy Jet Setup Options
This is the most versatile of all the motor options. Due to its lightweight compact design, the Bixpy jet can be attached with the Primal SlipStream mount, or to rudder of the kayak, to stand up paddle boards, or even used as a hand-held unit for scuba diving or snorkeling. Coming in at $1,000 +/-, the Bixpy Jet is a budget friendly motor that punches well above its weight. The trade off? Speed. The Bixpy Jet is roughly 1mph slower than the Torqeedo.
However, Bixpy has created a “plug and play” type of way for anglers to attach a motor to their kayak. They make it so that your average person should be able to install it. They’ve created a nice light-weight lithium battery and mount that’s easy to install. No more ‘guessing game’ DIY installation necessary.
There are two big features that make Bixpy different from the other options. They are not a propeller driven motor, instead they offer an impeller driven motor. The impeller driven motor reduces drag and reduces the risk of hitting underwater structures and fishing line. The size is much smaller, and light weight just under 2-pounds. Their models offer a kind of a hybrid between a true impeller or propeller. The advantage that creates is that it’s more efficient than a true impeller, and you can also go in reverse as opposed to most other impeller motor types.
Bixpy jet motors are also modular, so you’re able to put the Bixpy motor on anything and everything. You can even dive with it and put it on a submersible battery to use it as a scuba diving device. Many people have also been attaching them to a paddle board as well.
Torqeedo Ultra Light Setup Options
Speed, Technology, and a high level of German engineering make the Torqeedo Ultra Light the standard by which all other motors are measured. The throttle control displays a wide variety of information including remaining battery percentage and speed. Generally speaking, the Torqeedo Ultra Light tops out at 5.1 – 5.5 mph. What’s the trade off? Cost.
The Torqeedo Ultra Light is roughly $800 – $1,000 more than the Bixpy, depending on which battery option you chose. Is the higher price justified? If it’s in the budget…yes.
Torqeedo provides anglers with an objective measure of speed and efficiency. The GPS unit tells you speed and battery percentage left right on the handle. It also tells you approximately how much range you have remaining. The current throttle setting tells you range and watt draw so if you need more range, decrease the throttle. Knowing how much distance you have left is critical. We all drive cars with a gas gauge, and some cars calculate the number of miles you can drive until you need to refill the gas tank. The GPS unit in the Torqeedo Ultralight battery allows for the display of a very specific “remaining range at current throttle setting” data, displayed on the throttle.
To make sure that nobody gets injured by the propeller, the Torqeedo Ultralight is equipped with two safety features: a magnetic kill switch that sits on the throttle and clips to the angler, and a chip in the motor that senses when the motor has rolled past 45 degrees… for if you flip the kayak. Another great feature? The Ultralight 403A and 403AC are IP67 rated waterproof. That specification means that it can be submerged up to a meter deep for half an hour with no water intrusion.
This is a closer shot of the new “A” mount that Torqeedo released earlier this year as a standard mount for the Ultralight 403A and 403AC. The difference between the 403A and 403AC is the battery capacity. One comes with a 320 Watt hour battery, and the 403AC comes with a 915 Watt hour battery. Many kayaks have ranges at full speed of over 12 miles with the 915 Watt hour battery. Photo Credit: Jeff Little
Chapter 5 - Powered Kayak Propulsion: Motor Mounts
When considering which motor to purchase, mounting options will play a major factor. In general, there are 5 main options.
Option #1: Power-Pole Mount
The Power-Pole mount is quickly becoming the most popular way to attach a motor to a kayak. Many of the mid to upper level kayaks are coming from the manufacturer with the 4-hole bolt pattern originated by Power-Pole for the Micro Anchor, thus the name. Primal offers two versions of the Power-Pole mount. The SlipStream Mach 1 allows you to mount three different types of motors to your kayak, including the Minn Kota 30-pound thrust, the Bixpy Jet, and the Torqeedo Ultralight. The SlipStream Mach 2 offers you the ability to mount your Power-Pole Micro Anchor and Torqeedo Ultralight in-line with each other, and features the first and only Hands-free Reverse Lock.
Option #2: Transom Mount
A transom is the vertical, flat surface that forms the stern of a boat or kayak. These are most common on John boats and V-Bottom boats, however, the Nucanoe brand of kayaks features this type of stern. In its simplest form, a transom mount is a C-clamp with a motor attached. The clamp fits over the transom and is tightened down to secure it in place.
Option #3: Rudder Mount
When the Bixpy Jet hit the market in 2018 it brought with it a new mounting option. By utilizing their proprietary bracket, the Bixpy Jet can be mounted to the rudder of any kayak.
Option #4: Ball Mount
The original Torqeedo mount was effectively a ball and socket joint attached to two bars in the shape of a 7 with the motor at the bottom. This design is a great option for kayaks that have an oddly shaped stern that will not accommodate other types of mounts.
Option #5: Pod Mount
Many kayaks have a transducer through hole in the middle right in front of the seat as well. This mount allows for a DIY pod mount or even a manufactured pod mount to be added to the through hole as another place to mount your motor.
Battery options for motors are thankfully pretty limited. While wattage and amperage can complicate the decision, there are 3 basic categories of batteries you should consider.
Option #1: Manufacturer Specific Batteries
If you are considering a Torqeedo or Bixpy motor for your kayak, the battery decision has already been made for you. Both Torqeedo and Bixpy offer lightweight lithium batteries that perform above expectations. The one decision you will need to make if purchasing a Torqeedo UltraLight is whether to go with the 320wh or 915wh battery.
320wh or 915wh, what’s the real world difference?
With a 320wh, you’re conserving your battery and but you have to worry about getting a half a day of use verses with a 915wh you’re not worrying about it and getting a full day of use. While the 915 does add a bit to the price tag, it also triples your batteries capacity.
Option #2: Deep Cycle Marine Battery
If you are considering a more traditional motor, one power option is the DCMB. These batteries can be purchased for less than $100.00 vs $400+ for a lithium battery, however the tradeoffs are considerable. The weight of the battery is the first thing most people will notice. A quick internet search shows that Interstate Marine Deep Cycle Batteries range from 46.3-pounds up to a whopping 117-pounds (Group size 24dc to 4ddc). Add to that the very limited life cycle (compared to lithium), the wasted energy due to inefficient charging (up to 15%) and a variety of other issues, the cost savings starts to lose its appeal very quickly. However, if budget is a major factor, these tried and true batteries will definitely get the job done.
Old Town kayaks teamed up with Minn Kota are now made with batteries in mind, handy anglers can also install engine mount motors on nearly any Kayak in relatively limited time with simple tools. They suggest using a sealed 12 volt group 27 deep cycle battery with a minimum of 85 amp hour rating for any of their 12 volt systems.
Option #3: Lithium Batteries
In a kayak, weight is always a factor. Why? Because if your battery goes dead while on the water, you’re going to be paddling back. The added weight of the battery can make a major difference. Dakota Lithium is quickly becoming the go-to company for kayakers in need of light weight battery power. Their slogan of, “Half the weight, twice the power” sums up the lithium batteries appeal perfectly. Add to that the faster charging time (5x), superior usable capacity (30% lead acid vs 85%+ lithium), higher number of charging cycles (500 lead acid vs up to 5,000 lithium), and the more compact size…it’s easy to see why Lithium is the smart choice for kayakers.
Chapter 7 - What Makes an Efficient Hull for Powered Kayak Propulsion?
What Makes an Efficient Hull for Powered Kayak Propulsion?
Whatever helps in the efficiency of propulsion of electric motor, also helps with pedaling or paddling. It’s all about water displacement because no matter what you do, you’re not going to get a kayak on plane. It’s all about reducing drag. Displacement not planing. If you have a hull that goes faster with a motor, it will also have a nice glide when you paddle it or pedal it.
There are three main criteria for efficiency at any speed. How much power it takes to cruise along at 3, 4, and 5 mph. Basically you’re effective speed range paired with speed in and of itself.
Efficient Hull: Criteria #1
The most important attribute… where the seat is located on the kayak.
The more forward the seat is, the more the bow will drop and the kayak will ride flat under power. The farther back the seat is, the stern drops and creates drag with the nose out of the water. Putting your own weight towards the nose will drop the nose creating more speed. Oftentimes, anglers can see an increase in speed by simply scooting up towards the front of their seat when under power.
Efficient Hull: Criteria #2
The length of the kayak. This one is simple and straightforward. If you’re keeping all of the other variables the same, a 14-foot kayak will be faster than 12-foot kayak which will be faster than a 10-foot kayak and so on. It’s truly as simple as that.
Efficient Hull: Criteria #3
Weight. Weight is a key factor in efficiency.
If someone is shopping for light-weight kayak, you’re looking for straight lines on the surface of the kayak. Not a bunch of extraneous designs or changes where there may be a fold or creases along with added texture. To simplify this, remember the more complicated it looks, more plastic was required to mold it.
The lightest kayaks have sleek, flat, and featureless surfaces. Also, what people add to their kayak makes a world of difference in the weight. If you add a lot of extraneous stuff like rod holders, extra tackle areas, rails, and anchors, the weight of your kayak will obviously increase dramatically. An example of this would be an anchor wizard, if you don’t think you’ll use it much, then it’s extraneous weight.
Kayakers also need to figure out battery weight, motor weight, tackle weight, and accessory weight. All of that slows you down while under power. The biggest thing is, if you have a storage box for tackle, like the YakAttack BlackPak or Hobie H-Crate. You should have two of them. Always have one that’s empty. With each successive trip, don’t keep adding and adding gear. Then you’ll have 70% of your tackle that you’ll never use. Put useful stuff in one and when it’s full, dump out the other crate. Trim your tackle weight and try to move accessories and tackle weight forward in the kayak, it will increase speed and efficiency.
You can read more on kayak hull efficiency in this article from Jeff Little here!
Chapter 8 - Final Thoughts on Powered Kayak Propulsion
After reading through the ins and outs of powered kayak propulsion, you’re sure to have plenty of thoughts running through your mind. The biggest takeaway you should leave with is this… take your time before deciding to purchase the best way to power your kayak. If possible, get out on the water and test each motor you’re interested in, and even the mounting options. Consider each option you’re interested in before making your final decision and you’ll be much more pleased with your purchase knowing that you’ve selected the right motor setup for you!