Best Pedal Kayak – Top 11 Picks For Paddle-Free Kayaking

Why paddle when you can pedal? 

I’m more of a paddle guy myself, but I’m also the first one to admit that pedaling has its charms. 

Let’s face it: 

No matter how much you enjoy kayaking, sooner or later, you’ll get tired of swinging the paddle. Muscle fatigue, often targeting the arms, is the number one complaint among new paddlers, after all. 

What if I told you that you could ditch the paddle and put the largest muscle group – your legs – to work by opting for the best pedal kayak instead? 

Here’s everything you need to know! 

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At A Glance – Here Are Our Picks For Top Pedal Drive Kayaks

  • Overall Best:  Jackson Kayak Knarr FD Kayak – 2022
    “The Knarr FD is a beast in every sense of that word. Agile, fast, stable, and capable of handling anything, it’s the ultimate pedal-propelled fishing platform of 2022.”
  • Runner-Up:  Perception Showdown 11.5 Pedal Sit-On-Top Kayak
    “Designed similarly to the Outlaw 11.5 – and set to replace the soon-to-be-discontinued Pescador Pilot 12 – the Showdown 11.5 might just be Perception’s next big thing.”
  • Best Entry-Level:  Old Town Sportsman PDL 106 Pedal Fishing Kayak
    “Old Town’s Sportsman PDL 106 is a fantastic choice for anyone who wants the proven performance of the Predator PDL kayak – but at a more reasonable price point”
  • Best Value:  Perception Pescador Pilot 12 Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak with Pedal Drive
    “Perception is planning to retire the legendary Pescador Pilot 12, so this might be your last shot at scoring a great kayak at a shockingly low price. Don’t miss it!”
  • Best Tri-Powered:  Wilderness Systems Radar 115 Pedal Kayak
    “Wilderness Systems’ Radar 115 is a real beast of a tri-powered fishing kayak. Whether you prefer paddling, pedaling, or using a motor, the Radar 115 has you covered.”
  • Best Recreational:  Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal Recreational Kayak
    “If all you need is a reliable pedal-propelled kayak for casual weekend kayaking trips and quiet afternoons on the water, Ocean Kayak’s Malibu is the one to consider.”
  • Best For Fishing:  Wilderness Systems RECON 120 HD
    “The RECON 120 is one heck of a tri-powered fishing platform, designed to give you a glimpse of what the future of pedal drive fishing kayaks holds”
  • Best High-Capacity:  Native Watercraft Slayer 12.5 Propel MAX 2020
    “Honestly, you can’t really go wrong with Native Watercraft’s Slayer Propel MAX. This high-performance, high-capacity kayak is made with the experienced angler in mind”
  • Budget Pick:  BKC PK13 Angler 13′ Solo Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak
    “The BKC PK13 Angler is proof that a fishing kayak with a pedal drive system does not have to cost you an arm and a leg. A budget-friendly option, indeed.”
  • Best Tandem:  Hobie Mirage Oasis Tandem Kayak
    “Yes, it is insanely overpriced – but if you are in need of a pedal-propelled kayak built for two, Hobie’s Mirage Oasis is the ‘yak for you and your kayaking buddy.”
  • Best Inflatable:  BOTE Lono Apex Aero
    “Yup, the APEX AERO is an inflatable kayak fitted with a proper pedal drive system. And to make it even more impressive, it also converts into a SUP!”
Contents show

In A Rush? The Winner After 48 Hours Of Research:

Winner

Jackson Kayak Knarr FD Kayak – 2022

Why is it better?

  • Features the new Flex Drive Mark IV pedal drive, coupled with the one- or two-handed Knarr Steering System for navigational changes
  • The hull is designed to offer a blend of speed, stability, and tracking, making the Knarr capable of handling both large lakes and ocean waves
  • The EZ HiLo seating system boasts one-handed adjustability
  • The deck is wide, spacious, and open, complete with deck padding for additional comfort
  • The 475-pound weight capacity is paired with multiple onboard storage solutions, like the open storage area and two dry hatches
  • The TriTrak mounting system allows for virtually unlimited accessory customizations
  • The tall gunnels with a rod management system can secure and hold six fishing rods
  • Has a dedicated mounting area for a trolling or electric motor

Advantages Of Pedal-Powered’ Yaks: Do You Need A Pedal Kayak – And Why? 

Man in pedal drive fishing kayak on lake

If you’re on the hunt for a ‘yak, you’ll be faced with a choice – opting for a conventional paddle kayak or going down the pedal-propelled route. And, clearly, there are advantages and disadvantages to both, which might make you question whether a pedal kayak would be a good fit for you. 

Now, hear me out: 

Imagine everything that makes traditional kayaks so awesome, and then add hands-free operation to the mix; that’s essentially what pedal kayaks bring to the table. 

That’s not all, though. Here are a few more advantages of pedal kayaks worth noting: 

  • Hands-Free Operation – Since the pedal system employs your lower body, you don’t have to worry about the paddle. That frees up both hands of the paddler for doing other things, like casting, reeling in your catch, or taking photos, for example. 
  • Fun Factor & Versatility – Exceptional versatility and recreational fun factor that stem from hands-free, user-friendly propulsion are some of the critical advantages of pedal-driven boats. They’re suitable for various activities, from recreational boating to wildlife photography and – most frequently – kayak fishing. 
  • Speed – You could argue that speed depends on who’s pedaling and how much effort they’re putting into it. However, you’re using some of the biggest muscles in your body here. Pedals will typically generate more thrust than paddles, contributing to a faster ride than traditional kayaks. 
  • Energy-Saving – Again, your leg muscles pack a lot more power than your arms, meaning you’ll likely experience much less fatigue. And since you’re saving some energy, you should also be able to cover longer distances than if you were paddling. 

Quietness – Pedal propulsion doesn’t create as many waves and splashes as paddles do, making it possible to sneak up on fish and waterfowl.

A Few Disadvantages Of Pedal Kayaks To Keep In Mind 

As useful as kayaks with a pedal drive system are in terms of contributing to a more convenient and efficient kayaking experience, they also have a few disadvantages that should be taken into account: 

  • Maneuverability & Control – Pedal-propelled kayaks can be less maneuverable due to the increased weight and the fact that they sit lower in the water. Plus, “steering” the ‘yak involves a rudder, which isn’t necessarily as responsive and nimble as a paddle. 
  • Weight – The pedal drive system adds more weight to the kayak, making it heavier than a “traditional” kayak. That increase in weight means your ‘yak may be harder to transport to and from the water, and you’ll have a lot less “room” load-capacity-wise. 
  • Cost – The work that goes into designing and manufacturing the pedal drive system and all of its components will add to the kayak’s price; that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The real question is if it’s worth it. 
  • Maintenance – Let’s be real; a pedal drive system is one more thing on your kayak that could break or malfunction, which isn’t an issue with a simple, paddle-propelled ‘yak. So, complex maintenance and potential malfunctions are definite concerns here – especially on multi-day fishing trips. 

Push Pedals Vs. Rotational Pedals: How Does A Pedal Kayak Work? 

Fishing Kayak Pedal-Drive system

I have one word for you – bicycles. 

What could a kayak possibly have in common with a bicycle?

Trust me; I know it sounds like I’m comparing apples to oranges. But a pedal-powered kayak’s mechanism is, in a way, pretty similar to the one used in bicycles: 

When it comes to kayak pedal systems your leg muscles are in charge of moving the pedals – that part’s pretty evident – and your hands control the rudder. The force you generate is transferred to the propeller or a pair of fins located beneath the drive system, propelling the kayak forward. 

Keep in mind that there are two types of pedal drive systems – push pedals and rotational pedals. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of both! 

Push Pedals

Hobie Kayak Push Pedals

This pedal system requires you to push the foot pedals forward to generate thrust and transfer it to the pair of side-moving fins located under it. It’s a simple mechanism and doesn’t require much to get the kayak going. 

However, one notable downside of push foot pedals is that they lack momentum and are generally regarded as less efficient. Your kayak will come to a halt pretty much the second you stop pushing the pedals. 

Another issue is that you’re not fully extending the legs. That, combined with the motion’s repetitiveness, can lead to leg and foot cramps, muscle strain, and even back pain. 

Rotational Pedals

Rotational pedal powered fishing kayaks

Rotational pedals work similarly to bicycles’ pedal mechanism and are generally the more popular option for pedal kayaks. 

The main reason behind this prevalence is that they are far more efficient: 

The power generated by the “cycling” motion is transmitted to the rotating propellers with minimal energy losses. As a result, it takes less effort to maintain speed – and you can build enough momentum to keep the kayak going even after you stop pedaling. 

More importantly, rotational pedals put less strain on the lower body as they engage the entire leg to build momentum. 

It seriously is as easy as riding a bike. 

Fins Vs. Propeller Pedal Drives 

The biggest difference you’ll notice as you start looking at various pedal drive systems currently available on the market will be in the way their propulsion system works. Most manufacturers of pedal drive systems use propellers – but some opt for fins instead. 

The difference? 

MUST WATCH Before Buying!! Mirage Drive Vs Pedal Drives

Propeller pedal drives tend to have fewer moving parts, cables, and, essentially, things that may wear down or break and allow you to transition from going forward to going backward by simply changing the direction in which you move the pedals. 

Then again, propellers are often much heavier and more prone to getting caught in weeds, mud, and other underwater obstacles – which is why they can’t be used in shallow waters. 

Fin pedal drives, on the other hand, are typically lightweight – but every bit as durable – and able to venture into shallow waters. The fins are designed to kick up automatically when the obstacle is in the way and then return to their normal position when the obstruction is removed.  

How To Choose The Best Pedal Kayak: Everything You Need To Know

Women in Kayak with pedals

How To Choose The Best Pedal Kayak: Everything You Need To Know

Paddle-propelled kayaks have been around for thousands of years now – but pedal kayaks? 

They are a relatively new trend, leaving many in the kayaking community confused about picking the best one.

The good news is that most major kayak manufacturers — such as Brooklyn Kayak Company, Ocean Kayak, Jackson Kayak, Native Watercraft, and others — now offer pedal-driven kayaks. 

So finding one isn’t the issue!

The biggest dilemma can be summed up in a single, straight-to-the-point question: 

Should you evaluate them based on the same criteria as “regular” kayaks, or are there any specific features to keep in mind? 

And, well, it’s a little bit of both. 

Worry not; this pedal kayak buying guide has some answers! 

Weight & Portability 

Portability is generally a concern for kayakers – even more so for those who opt for a pedal kayak. I mean, fishing kayaks aren’t exactly the definition of light and compact, to begin with, let alone with a pedal drive system and a steering rudder installed. 

Add a wider-than-usual hull to the equation, and it’s easy to see why pedal kayaks tend to fall on the heavier side, ranging from 85 to 130 pounds on average. 

The heftiness doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal-breaker, but you’ll have to think twice about how you’ll transport the kayak and whether you’ll have a helping hand. 

Also, be sure to check if the propellers can be removed for transportation; it could make things a bit more manageable. 

Hull Size & Shape 

The kayak’s shape and size play into its on-the-water performance and can often be good indicators of other aspects, including: 

  • Stability, both primary and secondary 
  • Speed, agility, and maneuverability 
  • The kayak’s weight and load capacity 
  • General functionality and versatility 

As such, the hull design is among the most important factors one should consider when choosing a kayak – pedal-powered or otherwise. 

There’s no right or wrong answer, though: 

For the most part, your choice depends on how and where you’ll be using the kayak. That said, pedal-powered kayaks typically feature either a flat or a so-called “tunnel” hull, both of which are known for the exceptional stability they provide. 

Speaking of hull size, don’t be too surprised by the bulkiness. Pedal-powered kayaks are designed to be noticeably wider than your average ‘yak to improve overall stability. 

Materials & Quality 

Another “standard” factor – as in, one that applies to kayaks in general – you should consider here is, of course, construction quality. 

A well-made kayak is a long-lasting one; I’m sure that goes without saying. And given that pedal kayaks aren’t exactly budget-friendly, you want to double-check that your investment offers the right price to quality ratio. 

Polyethylene – a type of plastic – stands out as durable, impact-resistant, and relatively UV-stable, which is why it’s often used to construct quality kayaks. 

Fiberglass and other composite materials are also worth considering, especially if you’re hoping to keep the pedal kayak’s weight as low as possible. 

Reverse Feature: Do You Need A Reverse Gear? 

Reverse paddling is one of those must-know kayaking maneuvers. It’s something that could get you out of a lot of trouble on the water. 

But with a paddle out of the equation, how do you go backward in a kayak? 

That is where the reverse feature present in some pedal drive systems comes in. Depending on the type of pedal drive system, going in reverse can often be as simple as pedaling backward – as you would with rotational pedals. 

But with a push pedal mechanism, things may get a bit tricky. Some don’t even have the reverse feature – and those that do have it require you to switch the direction manually. 

In any case, it’s worth checking if there’s a reverse feature – and if so, how it operates – because it’s something that can greatly affect your ability to maneuver, position, and turn your kayak. 

Rudder: How Do You Steer A Pedal Kayak? 

I tend to talk about the importance of knowing how to steer a kayak relying solely on paddling techniques – such as edging, sweep, and rudder strokes – a lot. But given that ditching the paddle is the whole point of getting a pedal kayak, I’ll skip that talk for now. 

So, how are you supposed to steer your kayak without one, then? 

The answer is way more straightforward than you might expect – by using a hand-controlled rudder. 

Kayak Technique - The RIGHT Way to Use a Rudder

Yes, rudders typically work to keep you on course and counteract various weather and water conditions that may affect your kayak, weathercocking being a common one. But don’t forget that a rudder has a pretty strong corrective component

This thin, long, fin-like blade that extends off the kayak’s stern can deflect vast amounts of water by pivoting side to side. 

So, while your legs are working on propelling the kayak forward, your hand will be in charge of the lever controlling the rudder and, in turn, setting the kayak’s course. 

It may not always feel as nimble and as responsive as using a paddle, and you won’t be making any sharp turns. However, a rudder is still going to get you to your target location – and that’s what matters the most. 

Use In Shallow Waters & Areas With Vegetation 

One of the main reasons kayaks are so popular is that they take you anywhere you want – remote areas with limited water access, hidden bays, coastlines, islands, you name it. 

Giving you the freedom to explore and get up close and personal with nature – in a way that no other watercraft can – is what kayaks do best. 

But here’s the thing: 

You might have to give some of that freedom up when you opt for a pedal-propelled kayak. 

They can be a real pain to manage in shallow waters or areas with lots of vegetation. The propellers tend to get stuck in the mud and other underwater obstacles or caught in surrounding weeds, rendering pedal kayaks unusable in shallow waters.

If you’re not careful, running ashore could destroy the pedal drive system – which, by the way, is going to be one pretty expensive mistake. 

Now, here’s the good news: 

Well-designed pedal kayaks usually allow you to lift – or even remove – the propeller system in such scenarios. 

It’s nice to have the option to switch from pedaling to good, old paddle-power whenever you encounter shallow water levels.

Frequently Asked Questions on Pedal Kayaks

Is a pedal kayak worth it?

While a pedal drive system undoubtedly contributes to a more efficient kayaking experience and allows you to cover longer distances with ease and speed, it can be a substantial investment. In other words, you need to figure out whether a pedal drive system makes sense for you and your budget.


What are the two types of pedal kayaks?

Based on the mechanism they employ, all kayaks with a pedal drive system can be classified as either “push pedals” or “rotational pedals.” The first one employs a simple mechanism; you push the foot pedals forward, generating thrust, which then gets transferred to the fins. The second is a bit more efficient and resembles a bicycle’s pedal mechanism.


Is a pedal kayak faster than a paddle kayak?

Pedal kayaks are definitely the faster – and more efficient – way to get around on the water. That is because pedals generate substantially more force, and you use the muscles in the lower body – which are typically stronger – to do it. You can expect to reach a speed of roughly 10 knots – or 11.5 miles per hour – in a pedal kayak.


How shallow can a pedal kayak go?

Due to the rocks, mud, and other underwater obstacles, kayaks with pedal drive systems tend to have a hard time navigating in shallow water – unless they feature kick-up fins. Otherwise, you’d need to remove the whole pedal drive system and paddle manually.  But in general, two to three feet of water should suffice – although it’s better not to risk it.


Can you use a pedal kayak in the ocean?

Open waters and long-distance excursions are where pedal-propelled kayaks feel right at home, which makes perfect sense, considering that they’re capable of going farther and traveling faster than paddle-propelled kayaks. However, it’s imperative to choose the right type of kayak – with a longer, sleeker hull that can handle ocean waves, swells, and currents.


Best Pedal Kayaks Reviews – Top 11 Kayaks With Pedal Drive Systems

Best Entry-Level Pedal Kayak

Old Town Sportsman PDL 106 Pedal Fishing Kayak

If you’re impressed by the performance of Old Town Predator PDL pedal kayaks, this one will blow your mind: 

Although far from budget-friendly, the Sportsman PDL 106 is, in essence, a more reasonably priced Predator PDL – let’s just call it a good value pedal kayak for fishing.

It’s fitted with Old Town’s best-in-class PDL drive – a low-maintenance, easy-docking unit that can be removed for transportation. On a related note, the Sportsman 106 is also available in a tri-powered configuration, fitted with a Minn Kota saltwater-ready trolling motor. 

In comparison to the Old Town Predator PDL pedal kayak, this one has more storage – including a hatch, under-the-seat storage, and horizontal, easy-access fishing rod storage. 

The 10.5-foot polyethylene hull – relatively small for a pedal kayak – weighs only 76 pounds without it. Yet somehow, it carries up to 450 pounds and is much roomier than its size might indicate – enough space for an average-sized adult, plenty of fishing gear, and a cooler. 

The 36-inch-wide Double-U hull also makes for an ultra-stable fishing platform, even while standing up, thanks to the non-slip EVA foam deck padding. 

Technical Specs 

  • Type: Sit-on-top kayak with PDL drive system 
  • Material: Polyethylene construction 
  • Hull Dimensions: 10.5 x 3 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 94 pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 450 pounds 

Pros

  • Ultra-stable Double-U hull and stand-up fishing platform 
  • A removable, low-maintenance, easy-docking pedal system 
  • Rod holders, accessory tracks, and loads of storage 
  • Compact and lightweight for a pedal kayak

Cons

  • A somewhat expensive pedal kayak 
  • Awkward positioning of the rear carry handle 
  • The paddle is sold separately 
  • Not suitable for use in open water

The Sportsman is an excellent entry-level option for kayak anglers who want the performance of Old Town Predator PDL pedal kayaks but don’t have the money for it.

Best Value Pedal Kayak

Perception Pescador Pilot 12 Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak with Pedal Drive

Perception Pescador Pilot 12 – a 12.4-foot sit-on-top fitted with the Pilot Drive pedal system – proves that yes, pedal kayaks can be affordable without compromising functionality or performance. 

The kayak weighs 95 pounds, but the good news is that the pedal drive system is removable for transportation. It’s also surprisingly nimble and maneuverable, with a hand-controlled 360-degree rudder in charge of steering. 

It comes with a 475-pound weight capacity, large open storage, four molded-in rod holders, gear tracks, and a fish finder console; everything you need for a day of fishing. 

My only complaint is that it doesn’t have dry storage options. That’s where it differs from the ‘yak I previously reviewed, the Old Town Sportsman PDL, which boasts tons of storage, including dry storage for essential gear. 

Another thing I should warn you about is that Perception’s Pilot range will soon be “retired” – and replaced with the Showdown model. 

That doesn’t mean that the Pescador Pilot isn’t even worth considering, though. In fact, that may be your last chance at getting a great kayak at a great price. 

Technical Specs 

  • Type: Sit-on-top kayak with Pilot Drive system 
  • Material: High-density polyethylene construction 
  • Hull Dimensions: 12.4 x 2.8 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 95 pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 475 pounds 

Pros

  • Fishing-specific features and sizeable open storage 
  • A removable forward-reverse pedal system 
  • Fold-up propeller for shallow water 
  • A 360-degree single-hand-controlled rudder 
  • Spacious deck and removable captain’s chair 
  • Reasonably priced 

Cons

  • Doesn’t feature any built-in hatches for dry storage 
  • Didn’t arrive with instructions for installing the pedal drive 
  • A bit heavy when it’s fully rigged
  • Perception plan to to replace the Pilot range with the Showdown over the next couple of years

Who says you have to spend a fortune? Perception Pescador Pilot 12 is one heck of a pedal-powered fishing kayak at a jaw-dropping low price!

Best Pedal-Drive-Ready Kayak

Wilderness Systems Radar 115 Pedal Kayak

The 11.7-foot SMART hull – a blend of stability, maneuverability, acceleration, responsiveness, and tracking – makes the Radar 115 incredibly well-rounded. It’s also one of Wilderness Systems’ tri-powered kayaks. 

It weighs 85 pounds, not counting the 24.6-pound pedal drive, which isn’t ideal. The expansive, clutter-free deck, 450-pound weight capacity, and various storage options make up for it, though. 

While the Radar 115 starts reasonably priced, the costs of accessories – and the Helix PD drive, which is sold separately – add up fast. 

The pedal drive’s gear ratio feels slightly less efficient compared to some other options, such as the the Hobie Mirage or Jackson Knarr.  However, it has some convenient features, such as three-phase positioning and an auto-raising mast. 

I feel like the AirPro Max seat deserves a special mention here. 

With its fully adjustable, three-phase positioning and the ability to “slide” across nearly the entire length of the kayak, it ensures comfort and optimized placement for any mode of propulsion. 

Technical Specs 

  • Type: Sit-on-top kayak with Helix PD pedal drive 
  • Material: Polyethylene construction 
  • Hull Dimensions: 11.7 x 2.9 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 85 pounds (without the pedal drive)
  • Weight Capacity: 450 pounds  

Pros

  • Tri-powered kayak 
  • Removable FlexPod OS console system and Flex Pod PD
  • Equipped with essential fishing features 
  • Lifts in shallows with three-phase propeller positioning 

Cons

  • The Helix PD system is sold separately 
  • The dry storage hatch could be bigger 
  • The costs of accessories add up fast 
  • No fishing rod holders 

Why choose to paddle, pedal, or go motor-powered when you can have all three – if you can afford it – with the Wilderness Systems Radar’ tri-powered Kayak

Best Recreational Pedal Kayak

Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal Recreational Kayak

What if you’re not big on fishing, though? If that’s the case, Ocean Kayak’s sit-on-top Malibu Pedal Kayak might be right up your alley. 

It strikes the right balance of quality, comfort, efficiency, and price – and it’s the type of pedal kayak you want if you’re mostly into casual weekend kayaking trips. 

There’s nothing casual about its size, though: 

Malibu is a 12-foot, 113-pound monster of a recreational kayak. That’s bound to make transportation and storage quite a hassle. 

As far as fishing-specific features go, this kayak has three flush-mount rod holders, two of which are behind the seat, with one facing forward. So, while it can’t quite compare to a proper fishing kayak, like Wilderness Systems’ RECON 120 or Perception’s Pescador Pilot 12, it is impressive for a recreational kayak. 

It justifies its size by incorporating a rear kids-friendly jump seat, a pet-friendly tank well, and a 450-pound weight capacity, though. 

And Malibu’s pedal drive kayak has a top speed of 5.5 miles per hour!  

Technical Specs 

  • Type: Sit-on-top kayak with PDL drive system
  • Material: Polyethylene construction 
  • Hull Dimensions: 12 x 2.9 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 113 pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 450 pounds 

Pros

  • Low-maintenance PDL system
  • Reaches 5.5 mph 
  • Features 8-inch accessory tracks 
  • Pet-friendly bow tank well and a stern jump seat 
  • The console doubles as storage 
  • Tip-up propeller for shallow waters

Cons

  • You’ll have to get a paddle separately 
  • It’s rather hefty, which makes transportation and storage a hassle 
  • Quite expensive for a recreational kayak

If all you need is a flexible, comfortable, and versatile pedal kayak for casual afternoons on the water, Ocean Kayak Malibu is the kayak for you. 

Runner-Up Pedal Kayak

Perception Showdown 11.5 Pedal Sit-On-Top Kayak

You’ve heard the news of Perception’s Pilot range of kayaks being sent into a retirement of sorts over the next few years. But if you happen to miss your chance to grab the iconic Pescador Pilot 12, don’t worry about it. Perception already has something every bit as – if not more – impressive in the works. 

Yes, I’m talking about the Perception Showdown 11.5, a more-than-worthy successor to the Pilot line-up of kayaks. 

And, it’s easy to understand why many people regard the Showdown as one of the best pedal fishing kayaks on sale today, it’s all in its DNA – which it has by the boatload, pun intended.  With a design that’s obviously heavily inspired by and based on the Perception Outlaw 11.5, this kayak measures 11.5 feet in length and has a wide, open deck that allows the paddler to switch from sitting to standing up easily – as evident by the two foam traction pads. 

One thing that’s different compared to the Outlaw 11.5 – besides the presence of the pedal drive system – is the addition of the bow storage pod. You still get a roomy stern tank well, rod holders, and gear storage trays, though – complete with a slightly higher, 450-pound capacity.

And weight-wise, it’s in the same range as the Wilderness Systems’ Radar 115, coming in at 85 pounds. That’s not too bad for a kayak fitted with a pedal drive system. 

One thing I should mention is that it’s not a nimble kayak by any stretch of the imagination. Plus, the wide turning radius can be an issue in small, tight spaces.  

Technical Specs 

  • Type: Sit-on-top kayak with a Pedal System
  • Material: Rotomolded high-density polyethylene construction 
  • Hull Dimensions: 11.5 x 3 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 85 pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 450 pounds 

Pros

  • Elevated seating position and wide, open deck for standing up 
  • Has two silent traction pads 
  • Equipped with a bow storage pod and an open stern tank well 
  • Features double-barrel rod holders and rod notches and gear recesses 
  • A removable framed seat with mesh fabric for breathability 

Cons

  • Has a rather wide turning radius and doesn’t feel particularly nimble 

If there was one thing that could make the Outlaw 11.5 better, it was the addition of a pedal drive system. Perception took note of that – and introduced the Showdown 11.5 as the pedal-powered alternative.

Best Fishing Pedal Kayak

Wilderness Systems RECON 120 HD

Have you been waiting for the official Recon 120 HD release for over a year now? Well, then, you’ll be thrilled to know that Wilderness Systems made the announcement – the wait is over. 

It’s not budget-friendly and weighs 115 pounds with the pedal drive installed; you should know that straight away. 

But it’s a great fishing platform, nonetheless: 

The 12.2-foot SMART hull boasts an extra-wide, 3.2-foot deck, ensuring rock-solid stability all anglers can appreciate. Moreover, it combines a functional layout with a 450-pound weight capacity to give you easy-to-access storage and room for modifications. 

In comparison to the ATAK 120 or Radar 115, it’s wider and, thus, more stable – but also heavier than most kayaks in the Wilderness Systems’ line-up. That said, these characteristics make this a great beginner-friendly ‘yak for someone who would like to try their hand at kayak fishing.

One thing hasn’t changed – the tried-and-true Helix PD system. It turns this tank-like fishing platform into a fast and agile kayak. 

Technical Specs 

  • Type: Sit-on-top kayak with Helix PD pedal drive propulsion system
  • Material: Polyethylene construction 
  • Hull Dimensions: 12.2 x 3.2 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 115 pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 450 pounds  

Pros

  • Extra-wide deck with Silent Traction pads 
  • Tri-power optimized 
  • Comfortable, highly adjustable AirPro ACE seat
  • Functional, easy-access deck layout and storage options
  • Internal lines for snag-free rudder operation

Cons

  • Weighs 115 pounds with the pedal drive installed 
  • It’s not the most budget-friendly kayak 
  • The size could lead to storage and transportation problems

Wide-open deck, rock-solid stability, tri-power optimization, highly functional, and fully customizable deck layout; the Recon 120 HD is the future of pedal fishing kayaks

Best High-Capacity Pedal Kayak

Native Watercraft Slayer 12.5 Propel MAX

The big brother to the outstanding Slayer Propel 10 but updated to the ‘Max’. Native Watercraft Slayer Propel MAX, powered by a rotational pedal drive system, is a premium, high-performance option for the experienced fisherman. 

The 12.5-foot-long hull features a rocketed bow that cuts through choppy waters and an extended rudder for improved tracking and turning. 

It features an adjustable elevated seat, a transducer recess, rod storage, and an electronics-ready panel. Moreover, with a 500-pound weight capacity and ample storage, it’s one of the best choices for longer fishing trips. 

What’s also great is that it is equipped with mounts for a bow-mounted or stern-mounted motor – which means you can use it as a pedal kayak but also rely on the assistance of a reliable motor to propel you through the waters faster. 

So, when you get tired, just switch to the motor – and enjoy the ride.

Fair warning, though: 

It weighs a staggering 125 pounds fully rigged; you won’t be moving it alone – but its still 15 pounds lighter than the Jackson Kayak! 

Also, while the performance justifies the cost to a degree, the price could be a deal-breaker. 

Technical Specs 

  • Type: Sit-on-top kayak fitted with the 701 series Propel Pedal Drive System
  • Material: Polyethylene construction 
  • Hull Dimensions: 12.5 x 2.8 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 95 – 125 pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 500 pounds  

Pros

  • Electronics-ready panel and transducer recess 
  • Integrated propeller weed guard 
  • Rocketed bow for getting over chop 
  • High load capacity and ample

Cons

  • It’s one of the most expensive pedal kayaks
  • No way to access the storage hatch when sitting 
  • Becomes quite heavy when it’s fully rigged 

Whether you’ll be tackling offshore saltwater or freshwater environments, it’s hard to go wrong with Native Watercraft’s fully-rigged, accessory-rich tank of a pedal drive fishing kayak.

Best Budget Pedal Kayak

BKC PK13 Angler 13′ Solo Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak

The Brooklyn Kayak Company PK13 Angler might be one of the lightest pedal kayaks for fishing. That doesn’t sound impressive until you consider that it’s a fully-rigged 13-foot pedal kayak that weighs only 80 pounds. 

The best part is that it doesn’t compromise much to keep things light: 

You still get a sit-on-top fishing kayak that has a whooping 550-pound weight capacity, with spacious cargo areas and two waterproof hatches, a comfortable aluminum-frame seat, and built-in rod holders. 

But if you look at it next to the Native Watercraft’s Slayer Propel MAX, you’ll see that this one is much lighter – and, thus, more convenient when it comes to transporting the ‘yak and handling it on dry land. 

However, don’t take this one too lightly – pun intended. Handling an 80-pound kayak is still going to require some serious effort.

The pedal drive and hand-operated rudder make it easy to use and control, and the adjustable foot straps are a definite plus. Although you likely won’t use it much, it includes a paddle – and can be upgraded with a trolling motor.  

Technical Specs 

  • Type: Sit-on-top kayak with rotational pedals 
  • Material: High-density polyethylene construction 
  • Hull Dimensions: 13 x 2.8 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 80 pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 550 pounds  

Pros

  • Can be upgraded with a trolling motor 
  • Generous weight capacity and lots of onboard storage
  • Three flush-mount rod holders 
  • Comfortable seat 
  • Suitable for longer fishing trips

Cons

  • Requires a lot of storage space due to sheer size
  • You’ll have to re-tighten bolts and screws regularly
  • Hard to maneuver in tight waterways

Load it up, start pedaling, and set off for an all-day fishing adventure; the Brooklyn Kayak Company PK13 is ready for it – without costing you a fortune.

Overall Best Pedal Kayak

Jackson Kayak Knarr FD Kayak – 2022

Here’s what Jackson Kayak had to say about the newly released Knarr FD: 

Jackson Kayak conquers the water with a completely new fishing platform for 2022. The Knarr is the ultimate kayak for everything BIG.” 

And boy, oh, boy, did this kayak live up to that introduction. 

Featuring a Flex Drive Mark IV pedal drive system and the one- or two-handed steering system, this 13.75-foot kayak is capable of handling anything from lakes and ocean waves to tight spots. Oh, and it does so while keeping you comfortable, all thanks to the EZ HiLo seating system with one-handed adjustability. 

Another thing that’s pretty impressive is the Knarr FD’s storage capacity. With a 475-pound load limit, plenty of onboard storage options, including two dry hatches, and a TriTrak gearing solution, it has more than enough room for everything you could need on the water. 

Most STABLE KAYAK EVER? Jackson Knarr FD Stability Test Does IT FLIP

One of my biggest concerns – and, as I would imagine, a potential deal-breaker for many of you – would be the kayak’s massive weight. It clocks in at a total of 140 pounds – which makes it the heaviest pedal-drive kayak I’ve reviewed. 

Will that be an issue portability-wise? Yes. But is it something to be expected? Also yes. I mean, none of these pedal-propelled ‘yaks can boast about their lightweight design – except maybe the BKC PK13 Angler.

Technical Specs 

  • Type: Sit-on-top kayak with Flex Drive Mark IV 
  • Material: Polyethylene construction
  • Hull Dimensions: 13.75 x 3.1 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 140 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 475 pounds

Pros

  • Multiple onboard storage solutions, including two dry hatches 
  • The TriTrak mounting system allows for unlimited customizations 
  • A comfortable and adjustable EZ HiLo seating system 
  • Deck padding for additional comfort 
  • Tall gunnels with a rod management system for six fishing rods 

Cons

  • One of the heaviest kayaks I’ve ever tested 
  • The Knarr FD is overkill for anyone but the most dedicated kayak anglers

This thing’s a beast – agile, fast, stable, incredibly well-made, and ready to handle anything from large lakes to ocean waves. And while it costs quite a bit of money, I still believe it is the ultimate fishing platform of 2022. 

Best Tandem Pedal Kayak

Hobie Mirage Oasis Tandem Kayak

What if you’d much rather pedal in tandem? Again, Hobie has your back with the Mirage Oasis. 

It’s made for two – and it shows in every aspect of its design: 

Oasis features dual MirageDrive 180 drives with Kick-Up fins and dual rudder controls – and quickly picks up speed with both people pedaling. It also has a 550-pound weight capacity and generous storage options, including four hatches for dry storage and multiple pockets and tie-downs. 

In other words, Hobie’s Mirage Oasis has more than enough room for two paddlers and all the necessary equipment that follows – but is also able to be speedy when you need it to. You’ll be in for a dynamic ride with this one – which can’t be said for many similarly-sized kayaks. 

It’s a shame it only has two rod holders, though. 

Also, the 14.5-foot-long hull weighs 127 pounds when fully rigged; it’s a good thing you’ll have a kayaking partner to help move it. 

Technical Specs 

  • Type: Sit-on-top tandem with dual MirageDrive 180 drives
  • Material: Rotomolded polyethylene construction
  • Hull Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.8 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 127 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 550 pounds  

Pros

  • Dual MD 180 drives with Kick-Up fins and dual steering 
  • Relatively fast with two people pedaling 
  • Four hatches and other storage options 
  • Four-way adjustable CT seats

Cons

  • The most expensive pedal kayak on this list 
  • Weighs nearly 130 pounds when fully rigged 
  • Can’t be transported single-handedly 
  • Only has two rod holders

Spacious and “stretched out” for two and powered by dual MD 180 drives, Oasis is the definition of the best tandem pedal kayak – although an insanely expensive one. 

Best Inflatable Pedal Drive Kayak

BOTE Lono Apex Aero + Apex Pedal Drive – 2022

You are probably sitting there, wondering, “Wait, isn’t LONO AERO an inflatable kayak?” And to that, I say – you’re right, it is. “Wouldn’t that make the LONO APEX AERO an inflatable ‘yak with a pedal drive system?” 

You’re right – again. 

What you’re looking at is an inflatable kayak that comes fitted with the APEX Pedal Drive System. 

The kayak’s “main hull” is constructed out of three high-pressure chambers, with the addition of an inflatable deck, meaning this 12.5-footer can actually convert from a SUP to a kayak. To make things even more impressive, it also features an EVA traction pad, so you can use it while standing up, too.  

It gets the extra power from the APEX Pedal Drive’s 10:1 gear ratio for paddle-free propulsion – and a spring-loaded rudder for navigation. 

Of course, the addition of a pedal drive system also means that the APEX AERO will weigh a bit more than an average inflatable. But surprisingly enough, they’ve managed to keep its weight at a more-than-reasonable 51 pounds. 

That said, LONO APEX AERO doesn’t classify as a budget-friendly inflatable kayak – far from it. That’s something to keep in mind, given that there are hard-shells available at this price point. 

Technical Specs 

  • Type: SUP-to-kayak inflatable hybrid 
  • Material: AeroBOTE PVC and drop-stitch construction
  • Hull Dimensions: 12.5 x 2.9 feet 
  • Hull Weight: 51 pounds 
  • Weight Capacity: 400 pounds 

Pros

  • Convertible design that can be used as a kayak or as a SUP 
  • EVA traction pads for comfort and stability when used standing up 
  • Surprisingly lightweight, even with the addition of a pedal drive system 
  • Has front and rear bungee rigging and a dedicated cooler port 

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a manual or any additional information 
  • Not the most affordable inflatable kayak on the market

A spacious deck, exceptional stability, a reinforced standing platform, and well-organized, fishing-specific features make the Feelfree Lure 11.5 V2 an excellent pedal-drive-ready kayak for stand-up fishing. 

Top Pedal Kayak: A Quick Side-By-Side Comparison 

You’ve had the chance to learn more about the best-performing pedal kayaks currently available on the market and get a feel of what they offer in terms of build quality, performance, and weight capacity. Plus, you went over the most notable advantages – and disadvantages – of these ‘yaks, too. 

You’re closer to choosing the best pedal kayak than ever – but you’re not quite there yet. 

One thing I can do to help you reach the final decision – and an informed one, might I add – is to walk you through a quick recap and a side-by-side comparison. 

So, here is a chart that sums up the most notable features, advantages – and disadvantages – of each kayak: 

Overall Best
Old Town Sportsman PDL 106
Best Value
Perception Pescador Pilot 12
Best Tri-Powered
Wilderness Systems Radar 115
Best Recreational
Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal Kayak
Runner-Up
Perception Showdown 11.5
Best For Fishing
Wilderness Systems RECON 120 HD
Best High-Capacity
Native Watercraft Slayer 12.5 Propel MAX
Budget Pick
Brooklyn Kayak Company BKC UH-PK13
Overall Best
Jackson Kayak Knarr FD
Top Tandem
Hobie Mirage Oasis Kayak
Best Inflatable
BOTE Lono Apex Aero
Model
Model
Old Town Sportsman PDL 106
Perception Pescador Pilot 12
Wilderness Systems Radar 115
Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal Kayak
Perception Showdown 11.5
Wilderness Systems RECON 120 HD
Native Watercraft Slayer 12.5 Propel MAX
Brooklyn Kayak Company BKC UH-PK13
Jackson Kayak Knarr FD
Hobie Mirage Oasis Kayak
BOTE Lono Apex Aero
Our Rating
Our Rating
8.4/10
8.9/10
8.4/10
8.1/10
9/10
8.3/10
8.4/10
8.4/10
9.1/10
8.7/10
8.7/10
Build Quality
Build Quality
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Type
Type
Sit-on-top kayak with PDL drive system 
Sit-on-top kayak with Pilot Drive system 
Sit-on-top kayak with Helix PD pedal drive 
Sit-on-top kayak with PDL drive system
it-on-top kayak with a Pedal System
Sit-on-top kayak with Helix PD pedal drive propulsion system
Sit-on-top kayak fitted with the 701 series Propel Pedal Drive System
Sit-on-top kayak with rotational pedals 
Sit-on-top kayak with Flex Drive Mark IV
Sit-on-top tandem with dual MirageDrive 180 drives
SUP-to-kayak inflatable hybrid 
Material
Material
Polyethylene construction 
High-density polyethylene construction 
Polyethylene construction
Polyethylene construction 
Rotomolded high-density polyethylene construction 
Polyethylene construction 
Polyethylene construction 
High-density polyethylene construction 
Polyethylene construction
Rotomolded polyethylene construction
AeroBOTE PVC and drop-stitch construction
Hull Dimensions
Hull Dimensions
10.5 x 3 feet 
12.4 x 2.8 feet 
11.7 x 2.9 feet 
12 x 2.9 feet 
11.5 x 3 feet 
12.2 x 3.2 feet
12.5 x 2.8 feet
13 x 2.8 feet
13.75 x 3.1 feet 
14.5 x 2.8 feet 
12.5 x 2.9 feet 
Hull Weight
Hull Weight
94 pounds 
95 pounds 
85 pounds (without the pedal drive)
113 pounds 
85 pounds 
115 pounds 
125 pounds
80 pounds 
140 pounds
127 pounds
51 pounds 
Max Capacity
Max Capacity
450 pounds 
475 pounds 
450 pounds  
450 pounds 
450 pounds 
450 pounds  
500 pounds 
550 pounds
475 pounds
550 pounds
400 pounds 

Final Verdict  – Best Pedal Kayaks

Hobie’s MirageDrive, first introduced in 1997, was the pedal-drive system that started it all and made kayaking easier and more fun than ever. 

Now, over two decades later, pretty much every respectable kayak manufacturer has caught up, and anyone making fishing kayaks, and even those who don’t, has one or more pedal-powered kayak models in their product lineup.

That doesn’t make choosing the best pedal kayak any easier for you – but this might: 
Out of the pedal-powered kayaks I’ve tested, the Jackson Kayak Knarr FD Kayak – 2022 stood out as the market’s leading contender – with the Perception Showdown 11.5 Pedal Sit-On-Top Kayak coming in as a close second.

While it’s primarily designed for anglers, I believe it could make wildlife photographers – and anyone else interested in hands-free kayaking – rather pleased.

Photo of author

Sam OBrien

As the founder of one of the top-ranking websites in its niche, WaterSportsWhiz.com, Sam has dedicated himself to educating people on water-based activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, and diving. When he's not busy writing about water sports or testing out the latest gear, Sam can be found enjoying a good surf or kayak session with friends.