About Rudders and Fishing Kayaks

Rudders are almost a necessity in modern SOT and sit-in fishing kayaks, simply because most of these kayaks have become so wide that they lost the ability to track, which is essential for any water craft.

The increase in width is the kayak manufacturers’ response the the demand for more stability, and it comes at a price of lesser speed and poor control, I.E. lack of tracking capability that’s often coupled with lackluster performance when it comes to maneuverability.

Interestingly, no W-kayak paddler or fisherman has ever felt the need for a rudder. This fact is amazing, considering the W-kayak is shorter than most kayaks out there, and considering the fact that people are using it for multitude of applications in a wide range of aquatic environments, including long trips in the ocean, big lakes and wide rivers, where good tracking capabilities are an absolute necessity.

So what’s the problem with rudders?

First of all, they cost extra money, and good rudders cost a lot.

Second, and more importantly, they slow down your kayak, and are often cumbersome and difficult to handle. After all, there are other things you’d like to do when you’re in your kayak, such as paddling or fishing, rather than steering with a rudder.

Third, and that’s really too bad for paddlers and fishermen who go in shallow water – Rudders have a nasty tendency to get stuck in the bottom, or bump into rocks or branches down there, or get entangled in sea weed, so they limit your range of paddling and fishing.

And fourth, like any mechanical device, rudder systems can break, and their cables can get torn. This problem can turn out to be anywhere between unpleasant and dangerous, especially if you’re far from shore and the weather is getting nasty, the wind is picking up, it’s getting dark, the tide is getting strong etc.

In sum, rudders seem to be yet another necessary evil that’s imposed on the sit-in and SOT kayak fisherman, and W-kayakers and kayak fishermen should be thankful they don’t need to purchase and use such devices.

7 thoughts on “About Rudders and Fishing Kayaks”

  1. How true. Rudders are a nuisance and sometimes a real pain.

  2. Kayak rudders are just another proof that the mono hull kayak design is a dead end.

  3. Interestingly, kayak manufacturers such as [brands] claim that their pedal driven kayaks offer “hands free fishing” although it’s impossible to make them go anywhere without having to handle a rudder. This is ridiculous.

  4. I find that using a rudder in small human-powered water crafts such as kayaks is a serious turnoff. Never have such things been used in any native kayak or canoe anywhere in the world.
    I’m not a “purist” or anything like it, and the proof is that I enjoy paddling my W-kayak more than other kayaks, but there’s something about those rudder “systems” that’s seems truly excessive, as if the kayaks that demand such accessories are just too bad for paddling.

  5. A rudder is a turnoff, and those kayaks are really unworthy of paddling, plus they don’t make very good fishing kayaks either 😀

  6. From a practical fishing standpoint a rudder gets in the way. In the shallow areas I normally fish having something stuck deeper into the water is a problem. Not to mentioned a fish can cut your line on a rudder. Proponents say it helps on a drift, that may be so but then again a small drift sock can do the same thing and be deployed off your trolley. I can count on one had the number of times I’ve used one at all in my W. I get much more control just by shifting my weight backward or forwards on the saddle. Something not even possible in any other kayak. As already mentioned rudder systems have cable and connections that can be an issue in saltwater, one more thing to care for. Also the lines are run into the hull space creating even more hull penetrations. The W has a serious advantage anyway when it comes to tracking. The boat will stay on a straight line with minimal effort but if you need to change course it is effortless. When it comes to most kayaks I’m always interested in the fact that you can’t just buy one and be off. You have to purchase extra stuff just to enjoy the darn thing. The W can be used right out of the box. You don’t have to worry about forgeting your rudder or even seat. Price comparison is interesting too. Some boats appear initallly much cheaper than a W. But then you have to add a seat, that alone can cost a bundle with the good ones adding nearly $250 to the base cost of a boat. Try paddling any sit on top without a well padded seat, you can’t for very long. Anyway, I’m getting too wordy. Bottom line the W has what it takes, just add a paddle and off you go to the best paddling adventure you’ll ever have.

  7. personally i like the rudders that fold up onto my kayak. i only fold them down if i need extra handling, like if a fish is towing me. otherwise, it stays folded on top. i got mine really cheap off ebay, so it wasn’t such a huge problem cost-wise. just needed cables, as the last ones were broken. easy fix done with a hardware store trip.

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