The nature of the problem
Should I motorize my fishing kayak, and if so, when, and with whet kind of motor – A battery powered electric outboard motor, or a small, portable outboard gas engine?
These are questions that many kayak anglers ask themselves, for various reasons starting from being tired of spending so much time and efforts paddling or pedaling to one’s favorite fishing hole, through a need to have a backup plan and the means for going back home in case the weather and/or current change, and through the wish to extend one’s range of travel, and go for long fishing trips, as motorized fishermen like to do.
This is comparable to the decision about getting a snow blower –
If you live in a region that gets a lot of snow in winter, and if your house happens to have a long driveway, you realize at some point that a snow shovel no longer works for you, and you need a snow blower. You’d obviously get a gas powered snow blower, because big snow storms are often accompanied by power outages…
What factors to consider?
1. Ergonomics and safety
The first factor to consider is the human factor – yourself: Do you feel capable and comfortable paddling long distances, or does paddling drain your energy before you even get to start casting your baits, lures, flies, net, or whatever tackle you use? This question has to do with more than comfort – it’s about safety as well. Paddling long distances and while being tired can cause injury, and in rare cases it can lead to accidents. Not everyone is young and fit, and in fact, most kayak anglers are either middle aged or elderly, and many don’t benefit from being athletic. Furthermore, problems such as overweight and back pain are common in these populations.
2. Weather and water conditions
You may be a great kayaker and eager to paddle, but bad weather and strong currents are stronger, and may cut your trip short, or make it extremely difficult for you to get back to your launching spot, and even just back to shore, due to lack of propulsion power. Even an electric trolling motor might not be powerful enough in extreme adverse conditions such as a storm, a sudden swell in a river, strong wind, a fast tidal current, etc.
An electric trolling motor weighs about half the weight of a small outboard gas engine, but the battery that powers it can weigh twice as much as an outboard motor. Such setup can be inconvenient in several ways, starting from carrying your kayak from your vehicle to the launching spot (and back), and if the battery runs out of electricity, you’d have to paddle a kayak that’s considerably heavier.
4. Cost – performance
While you can get a small electric trolling motor, battery and charger for less than $300, a new outboard motor would cost more than twice as much. But if you go for an electric motor powered by a Lithium-Ion battery, you could end up paying more than what you’d pay for a top of the line outboard gas engine, and you won’t necessarily be better served than if you got an outboard motor.
5. What type of kayak?
You can’t put an outboard motor on any fishing kayak – In order for the motorized kayak to be safe and comfortable, it needs to be ultra stable and fully ergonomic to begin with, and the only kayak that fits this description is the W500. Rigging other kayaks with an outboard motor could be anything from uncomfortable to hazardous. As for electric trolling motors, most fishing kayaks including SOT and SIK can take them, although results may vary…
In sum, if you need to go far, and the water you’re going through can get choppy or fast moving, and if the wind can drive you where you don’t want to go – you’d better outfit your fishing kayak with an outboard gas engine. In contrast, if you fish in smaller bodies of flat water, an electric trolling motor could very well do the job for you.