Welcome to our guide on how to paddle a fishing kayak faster. There are many reasons why you might want to paddle faster. Maybe to spend more time fishing and less paddling?, or simply keep up with faster mates on the water. In this guide, I discuss ways on how to get some extra speed out of your fishing kayak.
Manufacturers design fishing kayaks with functionality and stability in mind. They are wide heavy crafts, often with raised cushioned seats. Not designed for performance paddling or speed. Even so, it is possible to paddle faster without paddling harder.
It is always possible to get faster by getting fitter, or by improving one’s technique (easier said than done in most fishing kayaks). In this article I am going to suggest ways to paddle faster, without requiring dedicated training or replacing your kayak.
Avoid the wind.
On windy days, keep out of the wind when your route allows. One side of a river or lake is usually more sheltered. Paddle there when pushing into the wind. On meandering rivers consider crossing at every bend to keep out of the wind.
The opposite applies when heading downwind, try to take full advantage and head into the middle to catch the full force of the wind. When wavy, it might even be possible to surf along a little.
Work with the current
Most experience trout fishermen know rivers do not flow at a consistent speed. Even in slow flowing gentle rivers there is usually a current and its speed changes throughout the width of the river. The current is typically fastest out in the middle, and slowest next to the shoreline where a series of eddies often form.
So when paddling upstream to your fishing spot, keep as close to the bank as possible and let the eddies push you upstream.
Avoid the shallows.
Bottom drag on kayaks exists. I do not understand the science behind it, but paddling in shallow water is tougher than deep water. When paddling fast, always try to paddle in water at least a yard or two deep. I nearly always prioritize deep water over keeping out of the current. Shallow patches are just a slog to paddle across.
Change your paddle
Upgrading to a better paddle can allow you to paddle faster. Cheap paddles rarely have efficient blade designs. Often made from heavy material so they are tiresome to hold and paddle with. Paddling with a lightweight full carbon paddle saves a lot of energy, allowing you to paddle harder for longer. Here I have written an article on choosing the best paddle for your fishing kayak.
Wash ride behind others
Struggling to keep up with a faster mate? Then position your kayak on the wash just behind their kayak. You get dragged along for free. If there are two faster kayaks, try to set behind them on their V wash. Paddling on another’s wash can use up to 20% less energy. Imagine you are a Canadian goose flying in formation.
The front paddler also helps to block the wind and smooth the chop. If everyone is similar in speed, take turns in the lead. Allowing the other to rest behind. For obvious reasons, this does not work well when trolling.
Raise your sitting position
If your kayak is sufficiently stable enough, a higher sitting position allows for a more powerful stroke. So raising the seat by an inch or two can allow you to generate more power per stroke.
Change your paddle length
Changing the length of an adjustable paddle is a bit like changing gears on a bike. A longer shaft is good for more power. While a shorter shaft is easier to maintain cadence with. When paddling is easy, and you are feeling stronger, extend the shaft a cm or two. At the end of a day, or pushing into the wind. Shorten the blade to maintain cadence and forward momentum.