Should Trolling Motors Be Allowed in Kayak Tourneys?

ICAST and Outdoor Retailer showed us what the kayak industry is moving to: motorized kayaks.
At least that's what it feels like. So how long will it be until they are allowed to fish along side human powered kayaks in tournaments?

Wilderness Systems is working on the ATAK kayak, Old Town has the Predator XL, Ocean Kayak has made the Torque for several years and more companies are joining the fold every year. Some companies like NuCanoe design their kayaks with the idea you might mount a trolling motor on it.

In the kayak tournament scene, very few tourneys allow kayaks that have trolling motors. It is thought by most to provide a distinct advantage because the angler doesn't tire from propelling the kayak. The ban is often also applied to sailboats and catamaran style kayaks like the Hobie Adventure Island as well.

Should trolling motors be allowed? 

The people for inclusion claim this would allow seniors and people with disabilities to participate which could continue the growth of the sport. With more models of electric motor kayaks becoming available, inclusion would be the natural thought. More people competing means larger purses, more sponsorship which also mean larger purses and wider reach to continue to grow kayak fishing and its eventual national tournament trails.

That sounds good. In theory.

The people against it claim it is a distinct advantage. Fatigue sets in faster when your body is having to propel the kayak. The advantage grows even greater in adverse conditions like high winds. The motor powered kayak would have the ability to cover more water, make more casts and fish longer throughout the day.

 That also makes sense.

In cases where the entry fee is fairly benign (think $25 or less) and the winnings aren't much over a couple of hundred dollars, I can see people being a little more lenient. Let's talk big for a minute.

Large trails are popping up as large events have been attracting more attention and it is only a matter of time before purses of $5,000+ are available. If you pay $100 to enter, $250 on gas and lodging, $100 in food, do you want to compete against someone who can cover three or four times the water as you, make more casts than you and fish more spots because wind and waves effect them less? You have $400-$500 on the line to win $5,000. Are you ok with that knowing you are at a disadvantage?

I'm very curious to see what the kayak community has to say. We are on the precipice and this issue is being decided. It would be nice to have some input. Please comment, share and discuss this so your voice can be heard. Now is the time to speak up and state your case. For or against, help the trails deciding these things know what you think.


Ben said...


Chris Payne said...

Nice and succinct. Thanks for weighing in Ben!

BigWorm512 said...

The simple answer is NO. If the industry leaning towards motorize kayaks, let them. That's good for consumers. If the industry is pushing for motorize kayaks in kayak tournaments, then have motorize kayak tournaments only (higher entry/payouts and such) or have them separate from non-motorize kayaks. Its as simple as that.

Chris Payne said...

Thanks for weighing in!

Jody Finley said...

Allowed only for combat wounded veterans or anglers w/ permanent disabilities. The playing field has to be equal in some aspects. In the PGA, all players walk the course, not some in carts, some on foot.

Alan Byrd said...

Does not the hands-free foot-peddled versions of the Hobie kayak provide an unfair advantage over other makes and models of kayaks that require two hands to paddle when you could be trolling or fishing? Why should the line get drawn just on the motor?

Craig Lilyestrom said...

No. But separate tournaments for powered kayaks could be considered.

Chris Payne said...


I think the line is drawn there because pedals are still human powered and limb fatigue is very much a reality, whether arms or legs. A motor is not. That seems to be the sentiment I am seeing today.

Bob Estes said...

Hello again Chris. Some organizers already allow motors for anglers above a certain age and to be truthful I'm probably old enough at 67. I believe the motors are ok but the legal waters should be limited to an area an average ability paddler can reach. I can't paddle 3.6 mph for very long and I do know how to paddle. Some much younger guys can go 4+, so they say, and I'm not sure about the peddlers. We are an honest bunch I feel and will abide by any limits of legal water placed on us. Plus I am installing a Torqeedo on my Big Rig regardless. Limited launch sites make for long trips on a 69,000 acre lake.

Chris Payne said...

Good thoughts Bob. Hope you are well! Places like Big G can definitely call for a little extra help. I'll be weighing in with my thoughts next week and didn't want to stunt the conversation. I wanted to make sure there was a well documented discussion on how the general public feels about it so both sides could represent.

TIG -Master said...

No No and NO. next thing will be small out boards on kayak. Look up the meaning of Kayak

Suicide Guys said...

Well considering that the legs carry over 2/3 of our body weight no matter what the number is... they're going to be 75% stronger than our arms. That being said, the MirageDrive makes kayaking easier than ever, giving those who use them a distinct advantage in tournaments.

Other factors to consider, the longer the kayak, the more distance you can travel in a shorter amount of time, and the more open water you can cover.

The greater the wetted surface area, the more friction, which equates to less speed for a given unit of effort. Which gives those using smaller kayaks an advantage over those using larger kayaks.

Fishing Kayaks of 12 to 13 feet, about 30 inches wide, have been known to dominate the fishing circles. However, 8 to 10 footers, are popular among anglers looking for lightweight, easily portable craft.

No matter what type of trolling motor you have, fish will still hear the whine of the prop. Giving those who aren't using them an advantage over those who use them.

The point I'm trying to make is that despite advantages and disadvantages it comes down to being in the right place at the right time with the right bait.

So until we regulate the tournaments like it's a Pinewood Derby, there will always be unfair advantages. That being said, let people use trolling motors if they want.

City of Ash said...

Yes. Many Kayak Tournaments have a Electric Powered Division.