Fishing from Personal Watercraft (PWC) compared to fishing from the Wavewalk S4 Cat Skiff, and what the similarities and differences mean for anglers in various scenarios.
Both PWC and S4 feature a longitudinal saddle seat that their users straddle with a leg on each side.
- Seat Length: The S4 seat is considerably longer than the longest PWC seat, and it allows for three adults to sit comfortably, and for two full-size anglers to fish comfortably. In contrast, the biggest PWC allows for two adults to seat next to each other, but not to fish at the same time.
- Seat Width: The S4 seat is 12 inches wide at its base, while fishing PWC feature seats that are twice as wide at their base. Practically, a person of any size, big or small, can stand up with a foot on each side of the S4 seat, and be totally stable under any circumstance, namely in choppy water and while casting and fighting big fish. This is not the case with an angler standing in a similar position on their PWC, because their feet would be too far apart for their legs to provide enough stability when the PWC rocks and bounces on the waves and their hands are not holding the steering bar, or when a big fish challenges the angler’s ability to balance themselves. Fishing standing in such posture in an S4 is easy and intuitive, while fishing in a similar posture from a PWC is a no go, practically.
PWC Foot Wells vs S4 Hulls
The S4 hulls are 13 inches wide at their bottom, while fishing PWC feature foot wells that are much narrower. This means that unless your feet are extremely big, or you’re wearing big boots, you can comfortably sit side-saddle in an S4, facing its broadside, with your feet resting on the bottom of the hull, one next to each other, in parallel. You can also stand with both your feet in one of the S4’s hulls, if you feel like it. You can even turn around yourself while standing in one of the s4 hulls, as demonstrated in a video. But none of these things is possible in a fishing PWC, simply because its narrow foot wells don’t offer enough room for a person’s feet to rest in parallel to each other. You can sit side-saddle in a PWC, facing its broadside, but your feet would have to rest on top of the foot well’s exterior wall, which is higher than its bottom. The only way to stand in relative comfort on one side of a PWC is with one foot resting on the bottom of the foot-well, and the other resting on top of its wall. Comfort is relative, and standing this way for a long time is not ergonomic.
The S4 offers three stable and comfortable positions for stand up fishing:
- Straddling the saddle with a leg on each side
- Standing with both feet in one hull
- Standing on the front deck a.k.a “Casting Platform” in skiff terms
In contrast, the fishing PWC limits anglers to fishing in one standing position that’s less than optimal in terms of stability and comfort, as described in the previous “PWC Foot Wells vs S4 Hulls” paragraph. The fact that an angler fishing from an S4 stands on the bottom of the hulls, while an angler fishing from a PWC stands several inches higher, on the top of the foot wells, is noteworthy, because standing lower is yet another factor that makes the S4 angler more stable for its users.
The S4 offers enough room for two large size anglers to fish from in full comfort and wit no restrictions at all, even in the ocean, and wit both anglers standing up. On flat water, the S4 can accommodate up to three adult anglers, if they get along with each other really well. In contrast, the fishing PWC is a solo fishing boat, no ifs and buts.
Portability – Carrying and Transportation
- Carrying: The S4 weighs 100 lbs, and with a 6 HP outboard attached to it, it weighs a total of 160 lbs. One person can drag an S4 to the beach and from it, and two guys can lift it and carry it over short distances, whether assembled or disassembled. The fishing PWC is a large size model that weighs 850 lbs, and there is no way to move it anywhere on land unless it is attached to a trailer that’s towed by a motor vehicle.
- Transportation – One person can cartop an S4 on a roof rack attached to any vehicle, big or small, transport it inside a large size minivan or SUV, or on the truck bed of a pickup truck. None of these options is even remotely possible with a fishing PWC, and the only way to transport it is on a trailer.
Both the S4 and the fishing PWC have the same maximal recommended load capacity of 600 lbs. This said, in the case of the S4, this number includes the outboard motor, and a 6 HP outboard motor weighs about 60 lbs.
- Shallow Water I – Draft: When it comes to boats, shallow draft is the holy grail of shallow water fishing, and water jet engines makes PWC draft less than boats of comparable size that are powered by outboard motors, since the latter’s real-wold draft is determined by how deeply submerged the outboard’s propeller is. But a fishing PWC weighs 850 lbs, and the S4 weighs just 160 lbs, so when push comes to shove, they draft about the same, especially since most small outboards offer a shallow water position that reduces their draft by a couple inches.
Another issue to consider is that water jet engines are prone to get jammed by vegetation, small rocks, pebbles, and other underwater objects tat get sucked into them, while the simpler design of outboard motors makes it easier for their users to cope with such situations, so that practically speaking, the S4 drafts less than a fishing PWC. For more information, see “Shallow Water II – Launching and Beaching” section below.
- Shallow Water II – Paddling and Poling: Imagine you’re fishing the flats at high tide, and as the tide goes out, the water around you gets too shallow for your boat to go back to open water. In other words, you’re stranded. But are you really? The S4 is designed to offer full paddling functionality, as well as poling, and all you have to do in order to turn it into a kayak or canoe is raise the outboard’s propeller above the water, grab you paddle, and start paddling. With the propeller out of the water, the Wavewalk S4 drafts so little that you’re pretty much guaranteed to be able to reach water that’s deep enough for you to lower the propeller and go back to driving. And worse comes to worst, and the water got so shallow that even paddling and poling don’t work, you can simply get out of your S4, and drag it behind you while you walk towards deeper water.
- Shallow Water III – Launching and Beaching: You can launch and beach an S4 anywhere, including rocky beaches dubbed “Rock Gardens”, as seen in the next video, and usually, you can start your outboard motor in water that’s as shallow as 1 ft. – Needless to say that such feats are impossible with PWC, which are restricted to launching and beaching at boat ramps, or in beaches that allow safe access to motor vehicles and boat trailers.
More importantly, PWC manufacturers warn their clients to make sure they have at least two feet of water underneath their craft before starting it, because it will save them costly and time-consuming repairs.
The S4 offers about ten times more on-board storage space than a fishing PWC does. This means that the S4 works better for trips involving more than one person, camping trips, diving, spear-fishing, and any activity that requires carrying a lot of bulky equipment on board.
- Cost of Purchase: The S4 goes for about $3,000, and a new 6 HP outboard motor goes for $1,500. You don’t necessarily need a trailer to transport your S4, so your total cost for it is less than $5,000. Compare this to the cost of a PWC fishing model that starts at $15,000 (three times more…) and add the cost of a trailer, and the advantage of owning an S4, or even a pair of them, becomes clear.
- Cost of Ownership: Servicing the 150 HP engine of a PWC is considerably more expensive than servicing a 6 HP outboard motor.
The Fishing PWC is more versatile than a regular PWC because you can use it for touring and water sports, as well as fishing. But the S4 is far more versatile, since on top of these applications, you can use it for kayaking and canoeing, sailing, hunting and camping, and as a tender (service boat) for big boats and yachts.
The S4 design is basic, in order to make it lightweight and inexpensive. In contrast, fishing PWC are high-end small craft and they come with a sophisticated trim, and all sorts of bells and whistles. A fishing PWC may look more classy, but you’ll get more looks, questions, comments and thumbs up from other boaters when you drive an S4.
Driving an S4 in 2-3 ft chop can be fun, especially standing, but this catamaran microskiff is not as seaworthy as a PWC.
Fishing PWC are equipped with a 150 HP engine, and they can reach a top speed of 45 mph. In contrast, the S4 is rated for 6 HP, and some owners run a 10 HP outboard on it, which is why so far no S4 is known to have traveled faster than 17 mph.