Tag Archive: mud motor

Developments in Motorized Kayaks

This article examines the latest developments in motor kayaks, and what these developments mean for anglers.

Origins of the motor kayak

As kayaks became increasingly popular among anglers, some of them started ‘rigging’ (outfitting) their kayaks with electric trolling motors. The need for doing so arose from the fact that paddling alone was insufficient in many ways – Monohull (common) sit-in and SOT kayaks are excessively wide, heavy and sluggish to their very inefficient design [¹], and paddling them to longer distances in not a possibility that’s offered to most people, especially in adverse conditions such as wind and current.

Typically, the motors used for this purpose were weak (30 lbs to 50 lbs thrust) trolling motors, powered by a 12 Volt lead-acid, deep-cycle marine battery. To this day, this is still a popular setup, and it stayed so thanks mainly to its low cost.

In this sense, kayak fishing, which started as a human powered sport, joined other forms of fishing from small craft, namely canoes, dinghies, etc.

More power and less weight: Lithium-Ion batteries

The advent of Lithium-Ion (Li-On) batteries [²] with their more effective power to weight ratio has added to the appeal of the electric motorized fishing kayak, and as these batteries became more affordable, they contributed to the spreading of motorized kayaks as yet another fishing platform in the market for portable vessels. However, besides their high price, these new batteries still present a problem to the user, and it is the fact that the amount of energy they store is still no match for the energy stored in gasoline, which powers internal combustion engines, namely outboard gas motors, or simply “outboards”.

As much as manufacturers of both kayaks and electric motors taut solutions based on the new Lithium-Ion batteries as the eco-friendly and quiet equivalent to motorboats, the fact of the matter is that they don’t compete well, at least when power and range of travel are concerned. Simply, the numbers are not there.

SOT Fishing kayaks with integrated electric motors – “Motor Kayaks”

In recent years, a growing number of kayak manufacturers has been offering fishing kayaks designed especially to work in a motorized mode, with an integrated electric power drive. Typically, the electric motor is inserted in a special compartment in the middle of the kayak, under the area where the user sits, and the propeller rotates under the hull. This design is not effective in more than one way, starting from the fact that it exposes the propeller to unwanted encounters with vegetation that can make it stall, and hard underwater objects and structures that can damage it. This makes such motor kayaks rather useless in shallow water and/or in water where vegetation abounds. To say that this defeats the purpose of kayak fishing may not be an overstatement. On top of this acute mobility problem, the location on the propeller under the kayak’s midsection makes it ineffective for steering, and forces the user to steer with a paddle and/or with a rudder system that adds unwanted complexity and clutter to a small vessel whose deck is already characterized by much clutter and too little workplace and comfort.
No wonder these big ticket and rather lame motor kayaks haven’t become popular.

A few words on the basic problems of matching motors and kayaks

Typically, common kayaks feature an elongated hull that’s pointy on both ends, and a cockpit that allows their user to sit in the middle of the deck. However, when small motors are concerned, having the user, namely the driver operate the motor from a close distance presents a major advantage in terms of safety, comfort, convenience and steering. For example, canoes, which feature hulls that are similar in shape to kayaks, are offered as paddling canoes with pointy front and rear ends, and square-end canoes where the transom is straight rather than pointy, and allows for mounting an outboard motor and for the driver to sit close to it.

Having the driver of a motorized kayak sit in the middle of the boat and operate a motor that’s several feet behind them doesn’t work well, and in case of an outboard (gas motor), it doesn’t work at all, despite attempts from a few kayak manufacturers to create demo videos that would give the impression that it does….

‘Hybrid’ fishing kayaks designed for motorizing

A couple of manufacturers of extra-wide hybrid fishing kayaks have tried to offer models designed especially for effective motorizing. The special thing about these models is that similarly to square end canoes, they feature a straight transom instead of a pointy rear end. The width of the transom varies, and in the models that feature a very wide transom, it makes the kayak fall outside the designation of kayak, per US Coast Guard regulations.
In any case, even hybrid kayaks (namely hybrid kayak / canoe) with an extremely wide transom don’t work as well as square end canoes, because unlike canoes, kayaks do not offer much in terms of free board, and as soon as the kayak’s rear is loaded with a motor and a driver, and it starts moving in the water with its front end pointing upward, its rear end sinks considerably and becomes too exposed to flooding for safe driving. And this happens even while driving on flat water, let alone in choppy water and waves.
Which is why these days the manufacturers of these kayaks are more low-key about them…

Pedaling anyone? (Just a side note)

In their eternal quest to differentiate themselves from the competition and stay relevant, kayak manufacturers end up offering new designs and solutions that are highly similar to each other. This happens not just in motorized kayaks, but in the market for pedal driven kayaks as well. And while pedal drives for kayaks are not within the scope of this article, it’s worthwhile to mention them since some vendors promote the fallacious notion that pedal kayaks could be an alternative to motorizing, although they certainly cannot, and they don’t even come close, at least when the real world and real people are concerned.
To simplify the ergonomics that apply to pedal drives and to human power in general, an average adult kayaker who is neither old nor impaired can produce around 75 Watts, namely 0.1 Horsepower (HP) at a sustained mode, and only for a few hours. In comparison, the smallest outboard gas engine available today, which is the Honda 2.3, can deliver over twenty times more power, and 6 HP outboard motors that some Wavewalk S4 owners use can deliver up to sixty times more power… and all outboards can run as long as there is fuel in their tank.
Are more words on this subject necessary?

Kayaks with jet drives

These specialty kayaks have been around for two decades, and they have not become popular although their performance in speed terms is impressive. The reason for this lack of market success is not just their price. It is the combination of the fact that they are still just SOT and sit-in kayaks, and this is not a good reference in terms of comfort and load capacity. Besides, jet drives don’t work that well in shallow water, where they can get clogged rather easily. In addition, unlike outboard motors that can be conveniently and inexpensively serviced by professionals at thousands of locations nationwide, proprietary jet drives are hard to fix, and fixing them requires support from the manufacturer, which is expensive and inconvenient.

“Kayak on steroids”

A heavy motorized board described by its manufacturer as a “kayak on steroids” and offered by them as a skiff for a solitary passenger is worth mentioning too, if only due to the fact that it relates to fishing kayaks, despite the fact that paddling it is harder than paddling most barge kayaks out there, namely the very big ones that are excessively wide and heavier than some dinghies. As this craft’s own owner’s manual states, it doesn’t work very well in choppy waters, and it shouldn’t be manned by more than one person. At 150 lbs without a motor, it is not a car-top boat, and it’s not a solution for anyone who doesn’t like to get wet while they engage in fishing or boating.
Enough said.

Fishing kayaks with outboard motors

What is the advantage of outboard gas motors?
As previously mentioned in this article, an outboard gas engine is the only type of propulsion that delivers sufficient power to allow for a kayak to go fast in all kinds of water, to run all day, and to travel for long distances. In other words, it’s powerful and reliable, and therefore safer and more fun.

YouTube features some videos of SOT kayaks outfitted with outboard gas motors. Some of these kayaks are outfitted with an outrigger, because unlike in YouTube, in the real world, SOT kayaks, including big ones, are not stable enough to be driven with outboard motors. Either way, the result is rather pathetic, and makes the viewer wonder about whether our species really deserves to be called Homo Sapiens, namely wise man… The drivers of such kayaks are noticeably uncomfortable, and in most cases wet as well. Not a pretty sight.

Practically speaking, Wavewalk kayaks are the only kayaks that offer full functionality and high performance when powered with outboard gas motors. This is why the company labeled its two bigger models skiff and portable boat. Indeed, they perform perfectly as such, and even better, be it in terms of stability, ease of use, comfort in driving, comfort to the passengers, dryness, load capacity, mobility, speed and seaworthiness.

 

 

The Wavewalk is a patented invention, and it can be described as a compacted catamaran that features the saddle-seat of a personal watercraft (PWC) also known as jet-ski. This unique combination creates the most stable hull while offering the driver and passengers to balance themselves intuitively and effortlessly, in the most effective way possible.
The result is a boat that punches way above its weight in terms of performance, to a point that it rivals much bigger boats.
And indeed, some anglers and other fishers use their S4 instead of much bigger boats that they used to have before.
For example, this crew of two shrimpers used an 18 ft skiff before they switched to the S4:

 

Motorizing options for Wavewalk kayaks are not limited to conventional outboard motors. In fact, it is possible to outfit the S4 with powerful surface-drive motors (a.k.a. mud motors), and by doing so, enhance their mobility and enable their users to go through very shallow water (“skinny water”), rocky streams, and water with abundant vegetation, such as lily pads, grass, and seaweeds.

And let us not forget paddling, because the ability to propel a motor kayak with paddles as an alternative or complementary mode of propulsion is very important, to a point where it may be critical in certain situations, such as launching and beaching in tough spots, going in very shallow water where a boat could get stranded, especially at low tide, going through weeds, and in case something else prevents the motor from working.


[¹] See articles about kayak design for speed: The Secrets of the SOT Kayak’s Underside , and Kayak Design for Speed

[²] See article Smarter electric motors and Lithium-Ion batteries – A winning combination for kayak fishing, by Gary Thorberg

Related articles

How much HP for my S4 skiff’s outboard motor?

Motorized Kayaks

Test run 2 of the Twister mud motor with anti-ventilation plate

By Chris Henderson

Fishing Kayaks of Gig Harbor

Put the anti-ventilation plate (AP) on the Twister kit and was able to get one of my sons to go out (also a friend saw us test running and had to stop). I was pleased with the results. It handled well and the plate made a huge difference. I still need to work on some things.

The motor really started clattering. I am not exactly sure why. I added some gas to it from a can I had around and it may have been really old. I will drain all of that out and get some high octane gas and put in it for next time and see if that makes a difference. I may be just too much pressure on the $50 dollar motor that has lived as a pressure washer up until now. I am also going to move the AP so as to make the prop a little less efficient. I think that may make it a little easier on the motor (sacrificing some thrust). I was messing with the trim but not yet satisfied with where I ended up. And as luck would have it it was high tide so no skinny water to be had.

I will do more testing to get it dialed in. I think I have accomplished my goal of proof of concept. Some lights, registration, and a blind to finish and the I will be ready for the season.

 

 

More kayak rigging, fishing and bow duck hunting with Chris »

 

How much HP for my S4 skiff’s outboard motor?

This article summarizes research performed by Captain Larry Jarboe, as well as inputs from Wavewalk dealers and S4 clients. Its purpose is to answer a frequently asked question (FAQ) from prospecting clients, which is “What outboard motor should I choose for my S4?”

The answer is that the outboard motor you should choose for your S4 depends on two factors, which are

  1. How much power you need
  2. How important is the motor’s weight for you

And there is a trade-off between power and weight, namely that the more powerful the motor, the heavier it is, and the harder it could be to carry it.
In any case, the motor should be a 20″ log shaft (L) model, and not a 15″ short shaft (S) model.

2 HP outboards

Outboard motors in this class weigh around 30 lbs, which makes them fully portable even for a user who’s not very strong. A 2 HP motor can propel an S4 skiff with one person on board at speeds up 8 mph, even in choppy water. This speed would decrease as the boat is required to carry more passengers on board. S4 owners who tested such motors with their S4 skiff reported that the boat felt under powered, which means that they felt like going faster, but the motor lacked the powered required for this. For this reason 2 HP motors are not popular with S4 users. Another reason for their lack of popularity is the fact that being air cooled makes them noisier than water cooled motors.

3.5 HP outboards

Outboard motors in this class weigh around 40 lbs, which makes them still portable, but less so than 2 HP motors. A 3.5 HP motor can propel an S4 skiff with one person on board at speeds up 14 mph, even in choppy water, and it can propel the boat at 12 mph with three passengers on board in  moving water. This size motor is the most popular among S4 and W700 users, as it offers a good trade-off between power and weight for people who must lift the motor or carry it by hand over long distances.These motors are also less expensive than bigger ones.

6 HP outboards

Outboard motors in this class weigh around 60 lbs, which makes them portable only for very short distances, and not for everyone. A 6 HP motor can propel an S4 skiff with one person on board at speeds up 18 mph, and it can propel the boat at 14 mph with three passengers on board. 6 HP motors are the second most popular motors among S4 users.

8 HP outboards

Outboard motors in this class weigh around 80 lbs. At such weight, these motors can no longer be considered as portable, and the only reason to use them is the fact that they are offered with electric ignition, which eliminates the need to start them by pulling a cord. The S4 outfitted with an 8 HP motor performs well in choppy water, but it could feel over powered for an inexperienced driver, which should avoid using such motors with their S4. Heavy users may benefit from driving with a U-jointed tiller extension, in order to move some weight forward from the stern to the middle of the boat.

6.5 HP mud motors

Mud motors are bulkier and heavier than regular outboard motors. A 6.5 HP mud motor weighs around 80 lbs, and it’s not portable. The reasons you’d want to use such a motor instead of a regular outboard of similar power are if you need to go in very shallow water (skinny water) and mud, and if you fish or hunt in water with plenty of vegetation and underwater obstacles. The S4 performs very well with a such a mud motor. We do not recommend using less powerful mud motors because typically, these motors require more power than regular outboard motors do.

Electric outboard motors

Some electric trolling motors are described by their manufacturer as “outboard motors”, namely comparable in power to small outboard gas engines. If you consider such electric motors, we recommend remembering the laws of physics, and applying the formulae for Kilowatts to Horsepower conversion, which are:

  • 1 KW = 1.34 HP
  • 1 HP = 0.745 KW

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wavewalk S4 with a 6.5 HP mud motor – first test

By Chris Henderson

Fishing Kayaks of Gig Harbor

Today I was able to do my first test drive of the Wavewalk S4 with a mud motor!

As a duck hunter the potential for the S4 is incredible. Couple that with a mud motor and you can access places that others cannot go. I hunt tidal mud flats where traditional boat motors are difficult to use due to the changing tides (water depth) as well as the sand bars that constantly shift. The mud motor allows operation in very shallow water and lets me get over those sand bars. Other duck hunters hunt in flooded timber where the logs eat propellers for lunch and occasionally eat whole lower units. The mud motor is the only way to travel safely in those kind of swamps. That is why putting a mud motor on the S4 is like combining peanut butter and chocolate.
This was my very first run, so I have a lot to learn about operating this kind of motor.

There are a lot of different styles of mud motors out there and the cost can be very prohibitive. But I found a kit which is created by Mud-skipper called the Twister. Rather than a straight shaft it has a curved shaft. At first I was concerned that due to this the turning radius of the boat would be dramatically effected. As it turns out that fear was unwarranted. The two hulls actually keep you from turning too sharp which could cause you to overturn considering the nature of how the motor turns. The 6.5 hp was plenty of horse power and I cavitated way before I ran out of power.

Lots of experimenting to do to get it all dialed in but it was a great first test run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

More kayak rigging, fishing and bow duck hunting with Chris »

Shallow Water Fishing

The complete and effective solution for shallow water anglers

 

Shallow water is challenging if you own a motorboat, since although the boat itself may draft just a few inches, the outboard’s propeller must operate several inches below the lowest point in the boat’s hull, and practically speaking, you need to drive in water that’s at least one foot deep. This leaves you with an alternative mode of propulsion, namely poling, and since poling is slow and hard to practice, at least for most people, it doesn’t really solve your problem.

Mud motors are an effective solution for this problem, and they are fun to operate.
The following movie shows the new Wavewalk S4 outfitted with a 6.5 HP motor and a Twister drive from Mud Skipper:

 

 

Another alternative to conventional motorizing is paddling, but motorboats, even small ones such as Jon boats, are too wide for their crew to paddle effectively, so paddling doesn’t really work over significant distances – unless you own a Wavewalk® 700 car-top skiff.  The special thing about this new boat is that thanks to Wavewalk’s patented invention, it is extremely stable (watch video » …) and being just 31″ wide, it offers comfortable, easy and effective paddling, whether with single blade (canoe) paddles or dual-blade (kayak) paddles. This boat is ultralight (80 lbs without the motor), and thanks to its patented twin hull (a.k.a. catamaran) it tracks better than any kayak out there, and it’s easy to paddle solo and in tandem. In fact, the 7’8″ long W700 cockpit can accommodate a crew of up to three small to average size adults, or two big guys. The W700 is so stable that anyone, including big and heavy guys can drive it standing, paddle it standing, and fish standing in it in full comfort and confidence.
Even one person can car-top their W700 without help from a fishing buddy, so you don’t need to launch it in boat ramps, and you’re free to launch it anywhere – beaches, docks, etc.
When you launch at a shallow water beach, you keep the outboard’s propeller raised (no problem even if it’s a rocky beach), paddle and/or pole until you reach deeper water, lower the propeller into the water, and start the motor comfortably while facing it. Once the motor is on, you just turn around and face forward, so you can drive in the position that’s the most comfortable for you to drive in. It’s easy to do, and it takes barely a couple of seconds, as seen in the beginning of this video:

 

Aquatic vegetation – not a problem

The same is true for going in water with abundant seaweed and grass, where propellers tend to get entangled: You turn off the motor, easily and swiftly raise the propeller (as seen in the last few seconds of the above video), and you just keep paddling anywhere you want to go. Thanks to its unrivaled stability, the W700 offers you to go across obstacles that are absolute barriers for other kayaks and canoes, as demonstrated with the W500 in the must-watch video below –

Unrivaled Stability and Mobility for Shallow Water Kayak Anglers

Although shallow water is a popular fishing ground for many kayak anglers, fishing, paddling and motorizing in it aren’t necessarily easy, and they can be quite a challenge.
Whether you want to fish in flats or marshes, flooded grass, shallow streams, rivers obstructed by rocks and logs, or near oyster bars and rocky beaches – our W500 fishing kayaks offer you unrivaled mobility and stability, and the overall performance allowing you to go and fish optimally in all types of shallow water – W kayak anglers have dubbed it the All-Terrain Kayak for good reasons.
These are facts and not just words, and watching this short video is a good way to start thinking about going fishing in places that you may have previously thought were inaccessible or ‘unfishable’:

 

Going Over Obstacles

When you feel or see a submerged object (e.g. a rock, or a tree trunk) that’s preventing you from going forward you can try and go over it:   Raise the bow as much as possible by positioning yourself in the rear part of the cockpit and leaning backward, and paddle and/or pole as hard as you can.  When you feel your boat can’t go further ‘up’ move as forward as possible on the saddle and try to tip your boat to the over side of the underwater obstacle by pushing with your paddle.

Poling in Shallow Water

You’ll find that poling your W fishing Kayak is easy. We recommend that use use a Wavewalk paddle that’s longer and sturdier than kayak paddles. The advantage of using our extra-long and sturdy paddles is that you don’t need to carry a poling pole on board.
Some shallow water W kayak anglers use a poling platform. Although such platform is easy both to make and install, we don’t recommend using one, since it is stabler, safer and more convenient to pole while standing on the bottom of the kayak’s hulls.

Going Back In Case You Can’t Turn Back

If you get stuck in a narrow passage or in very shallow water and you can neither keep going forward nor turn your W kayak around, you can simply turn inside the cockpit and face ‘backward’, and ten simply paddle back in the direction you came from.  The W Kayak is totally symmetrical front-back, so you won’t feel the difference. This simple maneuver can be executed even if the kayak is outfitted with an outboard – just remember to lift the propeller out of the water!…
The ‘Stability video in the Sight Fishing section below shows how its done –

 

Sight Fishing

It’s important to understand that being able to get up and stand on a kayak doesn’t necessarily mean you can actually fish standing on it with confidence, or even in minimal comfort or acceptable safety.
Furthermore, being able to stand on a kayak doesn’t mean you can paddle it at a reasonable pace (and distance) if it’s either very wide and therefore slow, and/or features outriggers and a rudder that further slow it down.
This is especially true if the water and weather conditions are less than perfect, which is pretty normal, unfortunately.
This is to say that sight fishing requires that you can stand up easily and confidently in your kayak, including switching instantly and effortlessly from a seated position of a standing one, as well as cast and land fish comfortably and safely, and paddle easily and swiftly over long distances.
The W kayak is only kayak that offers you to do all of the above.
Unlike all other fishing kayaks, the W500 series offers you the ability to easily and comfortably paddle while standing, in full confidence, knowing that in case you lose balance (stuff happens!) you’re likely to fall into the Riding position on the 14 inch high saddle between your legs, and instantly regain your balance, and the control of your kayak.
More about stand up kayak fishing »

This movie demonstrates the stability level that the W kayak offers. Note the ease and speed of switching positions, and how natural and intuitive everything is, even for the big, middle aged guy featuring in it:

 

Paddling Through Grass

This is particularly easy, even in tall and thick grass, as this video shows:

 

Stopping Your W Fishing Kayak In Place

Sometimes you want to stop in a certain place, cast a few lines and go cast somewhere else without having to drop the anchor and pull it back each time you go to a new location. If you’re sufficiently heavy and if the water is shallow enough you can lower the stern of your W Fishing Kayak and make the hulls’ tips touch the bottom by sitting in the back of the cockpit.  This would make your kayak stay in its place unless current and/or wind are too strong.
Thanks to Jeff McGovern for the tip – we call this trick ‘Stop’n Go’

Casting

The W Kayak offers you the ability to throw to longer distances, which presents two advantages:
1.   Being able to cover more water from a stationary position before you need to move your kayak
2.   Some fish species can sense the presence of your kayak nearby and therefore are better caught from a distance.

The W Kayak offers three basic casting positions:
1.   Sitting with your legs forward:  This position is similar to the sitting position offered by canoes. Since you’re seated higher than in a kayak you enjoy more leverage on the rod, which enables you to throw to longer distances.
2.   Standing: This is the classical angling position, which gives you even more leverage than the seated positions.  The difference between throwing standing in a W Kayak and sitting in an ordinary kayak is considerable, and may require some time for practicing.
3.   Riding:  This is the most powerful position a paddle craft can offer. It combines height with extra stability and control, and the ability to extract more power from the muscles in your legs.  This results in a spectacular increase in the range of your throws.

 

 

Sitting Position

 

 

 

 

 

Standing Position

 

 

 

 

 

Riding Position

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more (and watch video) about tandem fishing in the mangroves »

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fly fishing kayak in the flood grass_FloridaRead more about poling in flood grass while fly fishing for redfish »

 

 

 

 

 

 

John paddling his kayak through obstacles on the shallow riverRead more about kayaking in obstructed rivers »

 

 

 

 

 

 

This video from 2006 featuring the smaller, now discontinued W300 kayak shows some more going over obstacles, even standing up: