The Evolution of a Paddler

Paddle or Pedal?

That is the question launched by the most avid of anglers, or at least a few I know. They wonder if picking up a paddle again after acclimating to the ease of pedals is even worth a thought. I assure them it is. Some say they would never dream of going back to paddle-style kayaks because of their reliance on the efficiency their pedal kayaks provide while navigating their most preferred types of waterways.

Hobie Outback Kayak on the bank of a shallow creek with fall foilage floating in the water

On the flipside, I also have friends who consider themselves purist-paddlers. They don’t consider pedal kayaks to be real kayaks, believing the myth that this new breed of kayaks won’t work in the shallow creeks they spend a majority of their time fishing.

I consider myself a hybrid paddle/pedal style kayak angler. When navigating larger bodies of water, I prefer to travel the distance to my preferred location with my pedal drive in full-kick. Once I’ve arrived at my fishing spot, I usually switch back to paddling and sometimes even pull the drive and stow it behind me out of my way. This allows me to have more room for standing while flipping a jig or stripping my line onto the deck of the kayak while I cast big streamers and poppers at a number of unsuspecting species. Combining pedaling and paddling also allows me to correct my casting angle much more accurately than the pedal/rudder combination.

When I first began using a pedal-style, I quickly learned the importance of investing in a high-end, lightweight paddle. The excitement of experiencing a new pedal kayak can sometimes cloud your focus and blur your vision of the perfect fishing system, and a lot of pedal style kayaks can be heavy and a bit cumbersome to paddle. This is why you should invest in the highest performing and most efficient paddle that your budget Kayak completely rigged for fishing with fishfinder mounted will allow. For me, it’s the Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon Plus. This may seem like a bit of overkill when you consider that you’ll be pedaling most of your time on the water, but I can assure you that the first time you are making minor adjustments one-handed while fishing with the other, and you realize how light and efficient this paddle is, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear.

It should come as no surprise that I am an easily distracted angler when it comes to everything from techniques, to fishing various type waters. I am also one who is open to trying new things. I have several angling buddies who find what they are great at and stick with it and while I respect their passion and methods, I have found that I am never content chasing one particular species of fish from only one type water – it’s just not my style.

My being easily distracted also means I’ve never allowed myself to be content and focused enough to be the best at one singular style of fishing and for now, I’m okay with that. I would enjoy everything from the pure and original fly-fishing for tiny native-brook trout in small mountain streams, to having the chance to troll live bait for tuna on a high-dollar offshore rig. I have yet to experience either of these extremes, but I’ve done a good job of covering just about everything in-between.

I’ve been a kayak paddler for more than eight years now and if you’d told me that I would be in a Hobie Outback in 2019, I would have said that you were crazy because it’s not a real kayak. Well here I am in 2019, eating my words and telling you that I’ve learned I don’t have to conform to using what may be considered a real kayak – the important thing is that it is my kayak.

Simply put, I’m not going to be happy until I’ve experienced it all. I’m a traveling angler who needs my choice of kayak to reflect that about my personality. I need my kayak to be light and agile enough to drag up the hill from my favorite shallow water creeks, while also being stable enough to allow me to stand and fish after I’ve pedaled upwards of 7-14 miles around inshore backwaters and large lakes. I need my kayak to do everything and above all, help me stay organized and focused. I don’t need it to be a bass boat – I need it to be better than a bass boat.

Jeep Wrangler 4 door with a trailer backed up to the lake.  Kayak is on the trailer being ready to launch.