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.
This article is an attempt to answer some questions that Wavewalk skiff owners ask in the process of choosing an outboard motor for it –
Short shaft or long shaft?
We definitely recommend using outboards that feature a long (20″) propeller shaft, and for multiple reasons, which are discussed in this article entitled Outboard motor propeller shaft length for Wavewalk fishing kayaks and boats » We recommend not to be tempted by the availability and lower price of 15″ short shaft outboard motors, because such motors don’t fit the W700, and using one would never produce optimal results, even for a highly skilled individual with a lot of experience in boat outfitting.
Here is a list of long (L) 20″ shaft outboard motors currently available in the 2 to 6 horsepower range, and their HP rating:
Water cooled motors are quieter but heavier than comparable air cooled motors. The only motor featuring on the above list that’s not water cooled is the Honda 2.3 HP. It is very lightweight, and works very well, but being air cooled makes it considerably noisier.
Note: Outboard motor manufacturers recommend flushing the motor’s cooling system with fresh water after every trip in saltwater. It’s possible to flush an outboard with a garden hose outfitted with a special adapter.
4-Cycle or 2-Cycle engine?
Nearly all new small motors on the market are 4-Cycle (4-stroke) and not 2-Cycle (2-stroke). The advantage of the 4-Cycle system is twofold –
The motor runs on regular fuel, and there is no need to mix it with oil.
A 4-Cycle motor is cleaner, namely it emits far less stinky fumes than 2-cycle motors do.
Some experts argue that for the same displacement of its combustion chamber (cc, volume, size), a 2-Cycle engine in more powerful than 4-Cycle one, but we think that convenience and fresh air are more important.
electric or gas?
Many Wavewalk owners outfit their W500 and W700 with electric motors in the 30 to 50 lbs thrust range, and some go as far as 70 lbs thrust. They use their electric kayaks and skiffs for assisted paddling, recreation, touring, trolling, fishing, snorkeling, etc., but we prefer not to include electric motors in our list of “real” outboard motors for two reasons, which are:
Power – Although some small electric motors are offered as “outboard motors”, just looking at their basic, objective power rating makes us think that they are too weak. Kilowatts to Horsepower conversion: 1 KW = 1.34 HP, and 1 HP = 0.745 KW. Consequently, an electric motor can work well on flat water and at a moderate speed, but not necessarily in adverse conditions, namely strong current, strong wind, etc.
Range of travel – A gallon (3.8 liter) of fuel costs a few dollars, and it’s enough for a typical small outboard motor to run for 4 hours at a high RPM, or an entire day at a lower RPM. You can refuel a small outboard’s built-in fuel tank when you’re on board your Wavewalk®. You can take several gallons of fuel with you on a long camping trip, and you can buy more fuel almost everywhere, while recharging an electric motor’s battery can take half a day. Therefore, gas outboard motors offer a reliable and convenient solution whose price / performance ratio is unbeatable by any electric motor available today.
All small outboard motors listed above are considered to be Portable. However, between the 29 lbs of the 2.3 HP Honda and the 59 lbs of the 6 HP motors there is a considerable difference, if you need to carry the motor by hand over a distance.
The shallow water position
Most of the small outboard motors listed here offer to lock their propeller shaft in an intermediary position between the vertical (down) and horizontal (up) positions. In this intermediary, slanted position, the propeller drafts less than in the vertical position, and this allows for driving the boat at a moderate speed in very shallow (‘skinny’) water. Therefore, if you’re looking to fish in skinny water, we recommend that you look for this feature.
gear shift lever
Most outboard motors on our list feature a gear shift level, and this is a good thing, because the alternative is a centrifugal clutch that lacks an absolute neutral position. The absence of a full neutral gear can make starting the motor a little tricky, if you’re a beginner. Our preference goes to the outboard motors that feature the gear shift lever at the front, rather than on their side. The frontal position makes it easier for the driver to access the lever whether the motors points left or right, and even if the driver is facing forward.
built-in fuel tank
All the above listed outboard motors come with a built-in (integrated) fuel tank, and this is a convenient feature considering the alternative is to have a fuel line run from a separate tank to the engine. When you operate such a small craft as a Wavewalk, simplicity becomes increasingly important.
The propellers that come standard with these outboard motors fit Wavewalk’s kayaks and portable skiffs. Typically, these motors propel much heavier boats, which is why the propeller’s diameter and pitch which determine output in terms of speed and torque are of no real consequence to the owner of a Wavewalk under normal conditions.
price and brand
All the brands listed above are known to produce quality motors, and in fact some of them produce motors for others. For example, Mercury is a Tohatsu brand. This is to say that we see no reason to pay more for a particular name brand, and we recommend to consider only the motor’s technical attributes, and its price.
HP rating – can i overpower my skiff?
6 HP is the absolute maximum for which the W700 is rated, and this is only for its RIB model. Overpowering your Wavewalk can be hazardous, and if you use the wrong motor mount you’d be calling for trouble. This said, if you happen to own a 20″ shaft 5 HP motor and your W700 is rated for a 4.5 HP motor, you can keep your motor, and you won’t necessarily have to get a new one. Similarly, if your W700 is rated for up to 4.5 HP and you found a nice 4 HP that you like, you’d be fine with it.
If you choose to make a DIY mount for an electric trolling motor, chances are that you’ll succeed, since these motors are so weak that they’re not likely to cause trouble. But this is not the case with the gas outboard motors in the range that features on the above list. There are several issues to overcome with motor mounts, and the motor’s weight is the least of them. The main problem is that operating at the end of a 20″ lever, the motor’s propeller generates a great amount of torque, especially at high speed, in rough water and when making sharp turns at high speed. This torque can twist and crack a 4×2 timber, and pull out nails and screws from their place. After having seen motor mounts get broken by outboard motors ranging from 6 to 3.5 HP that were mounted on them, we strongly recommend not to build a DIY motor mount for these motors, and to use only the motor mounts that Wavewalk recommends.
Some of the more powerful outboard motors listed here can be outfitted with an alternator and an AC to DC converter. Note that such accessories cost hundreds of dollars. The electric current produced by this system can be used to power lights on board, or to charge a trolling motor’s battery. Such setups are common in bigger boats (e.g. bass boats) that feature much more powerful motors. Although some Wavewalk owners have outfitted their W700 with two motors (a powerful one for driving and a small one for trolling), we don’t know of anyone who’s outfitted their outboard motor with an electric current generation system.
Why an outboard motor?
Skiffs, Jon boats and other small boats sometime come with other motors, among which are air drives or air motors (large diameter propellers) for running marshes and flats, jet drives (similar to personal watercraft, a.k.a. jet-ski), long shaft mud motors for going in shallow water and over obstacles, and outboard motors that run on propane.
While each of these motors offers certain special advantages, and we’d love to see the W700 outfitted with any of them, as well as with other propulsion systems ranging from sails to oars, and even pedal drives… we think the common small outboards such as we listed here offer the optimal mix of price, performance, reliability, versatility, ease of use, and ease of maintenance – Just think how common are boat dealerships and repair shops that service these motors… And if you know how to use your outboard motor and you take care of it, it’s truly a wonderful thing that you’d enjoy for years, and possibly even decades.
“My father is retired, and he owns a sixty thousand dollar bass boat that he takes out maybe twice a year, but he fishes out of his Wavewalk nearly every day.” -Clint Harlan, Missouri
Different boats with many similarities
Bass boats and flats boats have a lot in common, and they also differ from each other in some details. Depending on their size and the speed required from them, these two families of small to medium size motorboats are propelled by one or more outboard gas engines, and they are relatively wide for their overall size. The decks of both types of fishing boats are generally flat, and they don’t feature a cabin. Both types of boats feature a special casting area in the front of their deck, where one and sometimes two anglers can sit or stand, and cast comfortably. Both bass boats and flats boats are stable, and their hulls are designed to have a shallow draft, which is why they are generally more flat than the deeper hulls of boats designed to travel offshore, in rough seas. All these boats are comfortable to travel in and fish from, and the more expensive ones offer a plethora of amenities that make traveling and fishing easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable for their crew.
Another noticeable difference between flats boats and bass boats is color – Flats boats tend to come in light colors, predominantly white, and bass boats tend to have a dark hull, with dark blue being their more popular color.
Many people who own a flats boat use it inland, in freshwater, as a bass boat, but it seems that the opposite is less commonly practiced.
Flats boats are skiffs designed primarily for saltwater, and in general, their makers strive to enable them to go in more ‘skinny’ water, namely very shallow water. They are named ‘flats boats’ after the wide stretches of flat, shallow water in coastal areas in the southern regions of the United States.
How shallow can you go?
Fishing in shallow water is the raison d’être of flats boats, skiffs, etc. This is where fishers of all disciplines, from reel and fly fishing to net casting strive to get those big redfish, snook, seatrout, snapper, tarpon and many other species that live typically in those rich fisheries.
When push comes to shove, it’s the depth of the propeller that determines how shallow the water you can go in can be, and not just the number of inches that the hull drafts.
Unless a boat is outfitted with a special outboard motor called ‘mud motor’, the effective depth where you can drive it is about one foot of water, or more. This is because even a small propeller is about 8 inches in diameter, and it rotates at least an inch below the anti ventilation plate (often referred to as anti cavitation plate), which itself is required to be immersed in one to two inches of water below the hull’s lowest point (typically, its keel). And naturally, you need some good clearance between the propeller and the bottom of the body of water in which you’re navigating, or else… Needless to say that the water you drive in has to be free of seaweed and other types of aquatic vegetation that’s likely to snag your propeller. These are the reasons why you need an alternative mode of propulsion for the really ‘skinny’ water, and this alternative is poling – The quintessential element that makes a boat a flats boat is the poling platform featuring at the stern, and some flats boats are dubbed ‘poling skiff’.
Poling? Come on…
Opinions differ as to how effective poling is in terms of covering any meaningful distance, because in the first place, not too many people are sufficiently fit to pole, and even an athletic, experienced and highly motivated pole pusher cannot move a skiff at a speed that’s comparable to the speed achieved in kayaks and canoes. As for poling against a current, even such as in a slow moving river, and let alone a faster, tidal current – good luck with that. Being flat bottomed, flats boats don’t offer very good directional stability, and their high deck structures tend to catch wind, and for these reasons, plus the overall size and weight of the vessel, poling in unfavorable wind conditions must be ruled out.
To be fair, it would be hard for one person to move a fairly large and heavy boat such as a flats boat just by using their muscles. These boats don’t lend themselves to human powered propulsion, whether it’s paddling, rowing, or poling.
It seems like the only effective human powered mode of propulsion for boats this size could be stand-up sculling, which is a traditional method that’s still popular in Asia, especially with heavier boats. But stand-up sculling is a technique that requires a skilled and experienced rower, namely someone who’s in excellent shape and rows frequently, and let’s face it, this requirement doesn’t fit the description of our typical weekend flats fisherman…
Hey, what about me?
The person who activates the push pole in a flats boat can help their fishing buddy by identifying fish from the height of their poling platform, but they are pretty much prevented from taking part in actual fishing action. Too bad for them…
Whenever you fish in skinny water that’s affected by tides, you risk getting stranded as the tide ebbs, and this means you and your fishing buddy would have to spend many more hours together, and in the company of mosquitoes. Lots of them… In other words, skinny water capabilities are not just about fishing.
Putting in, taking out, etc.
Being full fledged boats, you can launch neither a bass boat nor a flats boat from a beach, let alone one where rocks and oyster beds are present, and you can’t launch from a dock either. You need a facility known as a boat ramp that allows you to access water that’s deep enough with the trailer on which you transport your boat. Such boat ramp has to have a parking lot too, for you and other boat owners like yourself to park your vehicles and trailers. Driving to a boat ramp takes time, waiting for other boaters to launch and beach may take additional time, launching takes some extra time, and so does parking. And none of these activities is something to look forward to, because they’re not fun. Taking your boat out is equally frustrating in terms of time wasted on doing other things that are not fishing.
In dollar terms
Buying, operating and maintaining a bass boat or a flats boat isn’t cheap. However, we will not discuss these well known issues because we assume that if you’re reading this article, you can afford such expenses. Whether you would want to spend this money if you had a good, cheaper alternative to owning such a boat is another question. After all, owning a big and expensive boat offers other advantages that are not directly related to fishing.
In sum, neither bass boats nor flats boats are very practical for really shallow water and for shorter trips.
Not an alternative, really
No sensible angler would consider a SOT or sit-in kayak (SIK) to be an alternative to a full fledged motorboat, because of the obvious shortcomings of fishing kayaks, which are that they are extremely uncomfortable, wet, and slow, and paddling or pedaling them takes too much time and energy. A kayak’s range of travel is limited, even with an electric trolling motor, and besides – why did we even bother to mention these kayaks in the first place?…
Canoes are OK for a crew of two paddlers (well, sort of), but they don’t work well for one paddler, and motorizing a canoe is problematic.
As for Jon boats, dinghies, and other smaller fishing boats, you need a trailer to transport them, and you can’t paddle them effectively.
While the W500 is unrivaled in the world of kayaks, it is limited as far as load capacity is concerned. Its 360 lbs capacity is fine for one large size fisherman, an outboard motor, and plenty of fishing gear, but that’s about it – no carrying capacity for another large size fishing buddy, and this can be a problem for many people who are used to fish in crews of two. And this is where the perfect alternative can be introduced: The Wavewalk 700. This new boat does more than effectively bridging the worlds of kayak fishing and regular fishing from boats – It offers a range of benefits that in some cases make it a better solution than bass boats and flats boats –
The ultra lightweight (80 lbs) W700 can carry on board 580 lbs of passengers, motor and gear, which is enough for two full size fishermen, their fishing gear, and a powerful outboard. The 6 hp outboard featuring in our demo movies is overkill for it. The W700 offers all the advantages listed above for the W500, namely easy car-topping, easy launching anywhere you want, easy paddling, skinny water mobility, easy stand up fishing, comfort, storage, stand up paddling and fishing, etc., plus full tandem capabilities, for both short and long trips. This makes the W700 both a full solo and a full tandem car-top boat and paddle craft, and if you tried to go on a fishing trip in a bass boat or a flats boat by yourself, without a fishing buddy, you’d probably agree that neither of these full-fledged boat types are optimal for one person to use on solo fishing trips. It can be done, but it’s not that much fun.
The W700 is a unique watercraft, and you’re likely to appreciate it either as a great alternative to a bass boat or a flats boat, or simply as a new type of fishing boat that redefines the market.
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 –
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’
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.
Starting today, Wavewalk will be offering 3 new kayak models in the W500 series:
The W500 S model is a bare bones, economic kayak for paddling in very shallow water – less than 1 ft deep.
We do not recommend using it in deeper water, since it’s the only W kayak model that comes with no flotation at all – not even internal, cast urethane foam in its hull tips. This means that in case of a bad capsize, it could be lost.
However, outfitting the S model with side flotation modules is very easy, even for inexperienced owners.
As for casting urethane foam flotation in its hull tips, it is possible too, although we recommend that only experienced outfitters carry out such a messy project.
The W500 S model is good news for shallow water fly anglers, who sight fish in skinny water and require no rod holders in their kayaks. These hunter-anglers will find in it a a low-cost, super-stable, stand up fly fishing kayak, offering more storage than any other kayak on the planet, and best of all: 100% free from back pain, leg numbness, leg pain and other ailments typical of all sit-in and SOT kayaks that force their operators into infamous the L position.
The W500 GF2e H and GF4e H are the top of the line in saltwater kayak fishing today:
The two models feature only high, deck mounted rod holders (2 and 4, respectively), that put your precious tackle further away from the salt’s corrosive action, thus offering you to fish in choppy saltwater with much splashing and spray around.
No other fishing kayak in the world comes close to putting such a distance between your fishing tackle and the water.
You are free to choose any combination of tall RAM deck mounted rod holders from the following selection:
RAM-119 and RAM-301 tube rod holders, and RAM-114 and RAM-117 rod holders that are equipped with a safety latch.