Motorize your fishing kayak?

What do we mean by ‘motorized kayak’?

When we say ‘motorized fishing kayak’ we don’t mean just a sit-in or SOT kayak outfitted with an electric trolling motor… We also mean the real deal, which is a small watercraft comparable to a motorboat as most North American anglers understand it, and this means powered by an outboard gas engine.
And when we say ‘motorboat’ we don’t mean one that’s suitable just for fishing inland, on flat water and doesn’t necessarily work for offshore fishing – We mean real ocean fishing including surf launching and fishing trips in a range that’s several times longer than what electric motors offer before they run out of juice…
Needless to say that it means adequate stability for stand up fishing in full confidence and for everyone, dryness (if you feel like getting wet, go wading, or fish from another kayak!), enough storage space for you to take gear you need for long trips, and last but not least – a comfort level that anyone can enjoy, and not just young, small, lightweight and athletic anglers…

Hmm… but would I need a trailer?

Talking about trailers (a touchy subject for many…) – you need one for a motorboat that will take you and several passengers on board, but if you’re looking for a personal motorboat, or microskiff, then a trailer should become a thing of the past for you. A trailer costs money to buy, and it takes room in your yard or garage. Moreover, a trailer steels precious time from your fishing trips, and it puts a huge constraint on the number of places where you can put-in because you have to launch in boat ramps, and to add insult to injury – you’d often need to wait in line to launch and beach, instead spending this time casting and reeling… what a bummer!

Yeah, but what about fishing in no-motor zones?

Aha! Not a problem, because the motorized kayak we’re talking about happens to be the easiest to paddle, and the best tracker in strong wind. This means you can switch between propulsion modes from motorized to human powered: paddling (kayak or canoe style), stand up paddling, poling in shallow water, and even rowing with a pair of oars, if you feel like it.
A small outboard gas engine weighs around 30 lbs, which isn’t heavy enough to considerably impede you when you’re paddling. In comparison, the combined weight of an electric trolling motor and good-size battery can exceed 80 lbs, and that’s already enough for you to notice a difference when you paddle.

Do people actually fish out of these things?

You bet! This is no longer a mere ‘concept’ – Fishermen worldwide already enjoy the advantages of fishing out of W motor kayaks, and for many of them, that little motorboat they fish from is a personal microskiff offering noticeable advantages in comparison to various small motorboats such as skiffs, jon boats, dinghies, bass boats, canoes, etc. – and other kayaks, of course.

Some basic questions (and answers) –

-“Do I want to motorize my fishing kayak? With what kind of motor – a battery powered electric motor, or a small and portable outboard gas engine?”
Such questions and similar ones are typical to many kayak fishermen who are tired of spending a lot of time and energy paddling or pedaling instead of fishing… Others realize they’d better have a plan B in case the weather changes and human powered propulsion won’t get them back home… And naturally, some anglers wish to travel longer distances, as they would do in a motorboat. Choosing between an electric motor and an outboard gas engine depends on a number of factors that will be further discussed in this article, among other issues  –

What things should I consider?

First of all, your safety and comfort

Before everything, think about yourself: Can you stay fresh and feel comfortable after you paddle a long distance, or would such paddling lead to premature fatigue even before you cast your first bait, lure, fly etc.? This is not just a comfort issue, and it has to do with your safety as well: If you paddle long distances, especially when you’re tired, you could get injured and you could increase the likelihood of an accident, even if you’re young and in good shape (are you?)… Being middle aged or elderly, non-athletic, overweight or suffering from a condition or sensitivity in your back won’t make things easier for you as far as paddling goes.

Natural world conditions – water, weather etc.

No one fishes on the page of a glossy magazine, or on YouTube… Like everybody else, you fish in the natural world, and although you may like to paddle, bad weather and strong currents will always be stronger, and could shorten your trip, or make it too hard for you to go back home. In extreme cases, the elements may prevent you from getting to shore in time before a storm, or before it gets dark (or both…). In other words, under certain circumstances, insufficient propulsion power could turn hazardous.  An electric trolling motor would usually help in such adverse conditions, but not always, and it could prove inadequate in a serious storm, a sudden swell in a river, strong wind, a fast tidal current, etc.

-How much does the whole thing weigh?

A small outboard gas motor weighs about 30 lbs, and that’s twice as much as an electric trolling motor, but an electric battery can weigh twice as much as an outboard motor (that’s pretty heavy!)… Too much weight can lead to all sorts of inconveniences, such as a difficulty in carrying your kayak from your car to the launching spot (same is true in the other direction…), and if the battery goes flat (stuff happens!) you’d have to paddle a kayak that’s noticeably heavier than a non-motorized one. In sum, gas outboards are also more reliable, and you can easily paddle a kayak outfitted with such a motor, while paddling a kayak outfitted with a regular electric trolling motor is harder.

-What’s my cost, and what performance can I expect?

A powerful electric motor would drain your battery faster than a small electric trolling motor would, so it would work better for you. Such motor, a battery and a charger could cost you a few hundred dollars, and a new outboard motor would cost you between twice and thrice… However, if you get an electric motor powered by a good size lightweight Lithium-Ion battery, you’ll pay more than your cost for an outboard gas engine, without necessarily getting more bang for your buck.

What type of kayak to get?

This question is easy to answer, because you can’t outfit just any fishing kayak with an outboard motor. If you’re looking to drive a kayak safely and comfortably, you need it to be extremely stable and truly comfortable driving, and realistically speaking, this leaves you with the W500 as your only option. Rigging another fishing kayak with an outboard gas motor would impose too much discomfort on you, and could turn out to be unsafe as well.  If you’re considering an electric trolling motor, many common fishing kayaks can take them but the motor won’t make a kayak dry, comfortable, stable, etc…

Bottom line

So, you want to go fast and far? Can the water you like to fish in get choppy or fast moving? Can the wind drive you somewhere that’s not exactly where you intended to go?…  If so, you may want to start thinking about outfitting your fishing kayak with an outboard motor. Having said that, if you normally fish in ponds and small lakes, or in small, slow moving rivers,  you don’t necessarily have to motorize your kayak, and in case you feel you must motorize, then a small, inexpensive electric trolling motor would do pretty well.

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10 Comments

  1. Ted Guadele

    I’m considering motorizing my yak and I wonder if you could tell me a little bit more about the [made in EU electric outboard motor powered by a Lithium-Ion battery]?
    Thank you
    T.G.

  2. fish

    It looks like a quality product, but as far as motorizing kayaks, we prefer evaluating real-world data than ideal-world data.
    BTW, it’s not the only Lithium-Ion battery powered trolling motor out there.
    Also, Lithium-Ion marine batteries for electric trolling motors are available off-the-shelf, and although they’re more expensive than traditional marine batteries, they can offer solutions in combination with regular, inexpensive small electric trolling motors.

  3. lake

    These batteries can heat up – ask Boeing about it 😉

  4. fish

    True.
    Battery and motor manufacturers offer safety information that’s always worth reading.

  5. Michael Chesloff

    Making up you mind

    This article and the comments that follow illustrate what really happens to boat owners…. they change their minds! Some say “I want a kayak so I can paddle and go anywhere”. Others start with “I need something fast that will get me to my fishing spots in a hurry” or “I just want something I can quickly throw on top of the car and get on the water whenever I get the chance”. The amazing thing about the Wavewalk is that it transforms itself to satisfy your needs as they change!

    Just want the best kayak? Get a Wavewalk.
    Feel you need something much more stable than a kayak? Get a Wavewalk.
    Need a fast fishing skiff to cover a large lake? Get a Wavewalk.
    Can’t get on your lakes with a trailered boat? Get a Wavewalk.
    What if the lake is “electric motors only”. Get a Wavewalk.
    Don’t want to get wet every time you go on the water? Get a Wavewalk.

    So how you can be certain you are making the right decision? Get a Wavewalk and make changing your mind fun!

  6. fish

    Exactly! 😀

    Thanks Michael,

    Yoav

  7. lake

    Talking about a motorized w 500 as a “motorized fishing kayak” is missing the point because it sounds like a paddleboard outfitted with a motor, and this means unstable, uncomfortable, wet and a turnoff for anyone who’s looking to fish, even on flatwater.
    A motorized w kayak is something else altogether

  8. fish

    I agree, but when the first cars appeared on the market, they were called ‘Horseless Carriages’, and similarly, we have to use words and expressions that people can relate to.

    The W500 is a kayak from a technical standpoint, at least when the US Coast Guard is considered, and they’re the ones who regulate manufacturing and sales of boats in the US.
    ‘Kayak’ also evokes a lightweight, car-top paddle craft, so using this word in this context is not completely negative 🙂

    Yoav

  9. Michael Chesloff

    Hello Lake-

    A unique product is always difficult to “position” in the public’s mind. Your reaction to reading this article is important. Do you have a way of describing what W500 (with or without a motor) that might help grab the interest of a wider audience?

    -Michael

  10. fish

    When we came out with the first W, back in 2004, we called it W-boat, since we felt it was more versatile than a kayak. The problem was that too few clients found us on search results, since most of them were searching for a kayak, so we changed the name to W kayak.
    In that case, the usefulness in web search terms trumped the appeal of a new and different product.
    But the W is not just a product or even a design – it’s a new technology (patented invention) enabling the creation of various designs and products, offering different people to do different things. We can’t pinpoint a target market, or application, and we the challenge is to address each market differently, with a different name and message.
    ‘Personal Microskiff’ is fairly descriptive for a motorized W, but not too many people search the web for the term ‘microskiff’. The search term ‘kayak’ is far more popular, and so is ‘fishing kayak’.

    Yoav

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