Electric Kayaks – an in Depth Look E-mail
Written by Jon Shein   
Thursday, 20 October 2011 11:27

Bassyaks, Torqeedo and Torque

Ocean Kayak TorqueBonita caught from my Torque in Montauk, October 2010

I have been living with electric kayaks (EK) since July of 2009. I have done so in order to get a much better understanding of their potential, operation and pitfalls. I’ve lived with them under many angling situations because I believe interest is going to continue to grow and they will be a significant part of the kayak fishing world. To give you a better idea of EK interest the other day I was speaking with Dave Hadden from Freedom Hawk Kayaks. Dave told me 1/3 of all their kayaks sold in the past year were purchased with a motor mount option. Nobody is going to spend the extra money for an option if they don’t plan on using it. Freedom Hawk is a specialty kayak and the vast majority of sales are to fishermen. The other few percent are to hunters and photographers. EKs are going to be seen more and more. After 2 years I can emphatically say that I am a huge fan. I am of the firm belief kayaks are the most versatile craft available to fishermen and the addition of electric propulsion expands those capabilities. Many people initially reject the thought of a motorized kayak. I am not a kayaker, I am a kayak fisherman and I bought my first kayak because I wanted to catch more fish. Whatever accessories or adaptations which allow me to do so I’m in favor of. I purchased my first kayak because like many surf fishermen I was tired of seeing fish I couldn’t reach. I wanted to get off the beach beyond the surf and instead of watching and hoping they’d come within range I’d be catching. The only other means I would have had was to use a boat. However boats are more limited in some ways. A kayak can be launched practically anywhere, far from a launch ramp or marina. Often times places too far for boats to reach. Also as a fisherman I wasn’t interested in the Zen of Paddling or exercise. The physical aspect of using a kayak is fine and I still paddle often but I find other forms of exercise more beneficial. I get better aerobic exercise mountain biking or via brisk walking, hiking or running and anaerobic is accomplished much better via other means. Using a kayak for me means going fishing. In some environments like small rivers and weedy ponds a motor is a hindrance and on some bodies of water it is inconsequential. However with many it expands my capabilities and allows me to productively fish places I couldn’t otherwise.

In this article I will share what I have learned about 3 major electric kayak options. They are the Ocean Kayak Torque, Bassyaks and Torqeedo. The Torque is a complete system and comes with a kayak, integrated motor and wiring. It is manufactured by Johnson Outdoors, the parent company of Ocean Kayak. Ocean Kayak is one of the major kayak manufacturers and the only company discussed to offer a fully integrated kayak as a complete system (battery not included). Both the Bassyaks and Torqeedo are aftermarket systems. The Torque is only available as a complete system whereas the other two can be put on virtually any kayak. In order to make as good a comparison as possible I used the same or very similar hulls. I put the Bassyak on an Ocean Kayak Trident 13 (T13). The Torque hull is basically a modified T13. While not identical they are very similar. The Torque is 13’10” whereas T13 is 13’6” and the T13 is listed as a half inch wider at 29.5”. I put the Torqeedo on a 2009 (identical to the 2011) Torque hull from which I removed the rudder. I have spent the last 2 years with the Torque and Bassyaks. The Torqeedo joined the fleet in September of this year. Let’s get to know the kayaks better.

Torque: this is the system Joe Warren (former rep with Ocean Kayak) and I wanted as early as 2004. I have 2 of them and I’m using the 2011 model in the test. As mentioned earlier Ocean Kayak’s parent company is Johnson Outdoors, which also owns Minn Kota. So it was a natural for Johnson to put them together and make an integrated electric kayak system. The reported weight for the kayak is 71 pounds without the motor and 86 with. The kayak is 4” longer then the T13 and this adds some weight, but the majority comes from the massive rudder and the internal electronics. It is essentially a standard 12 volt electric trolling motor that has been adapted to be part of a complete system. The saltwater motor is attached to a plug that fits in the tankwell. The entire motor floats, which is nice. The electronics of the motor plugs into a socket at the rear vertical face of the tankwell. There is a plastic flap that covers the socket. The throttle control is in the center deck behind a hatch which serves as a dedicated battery box. It is a large plastic insert that closes off the rest of the interior of the kayak. The box will accommodate up to a group 24 battery. The motor is 36 pounds of thrust. It includes a variable speed control which the company calls a Maximizer which extends battery performance.

Ocean Kayak Torque motorOcean Kayak Torque motor mounted in kayak and ready for operation

Bassyaks: is an aftermarket company that uses standard Minn Kota trolling motors as the base of their system. The units are broken down and additional parts are used to make a system. Like the Torque the wiring is inside the kayak and only the motor is exposed. Bassyaks has kits already set up for the most popular fishing kayaks. They will put a motor on virtually any craft if you drop it off to them. Also they have worked with customers through pictures and measurements to do custom kits they can ship. Any 12 volt Minn Kota motor can be used as a base system with the 40 and 55 pound thrust being the most popular. There are a variety of options available. My Bassyak is a 40 pound thrust and has the Maximizer, motor lift kit and corded remote options.

Bassyak 40Bassyak 40 on back of a Trident 13 with Kapawa 314 prop

Torqeedo: is a German based company that makes high tech, light weight motors. It is a state of the art system using the latest technology and specialized components. This yields a unit that is light, powerful and extremely efficient. The 403 which is being used in this comparison is the latest version of the system. The difference between the 403 and its predecessor the 402 is battery capacity. It has an increase of almost 40%. The battery is lithium based which offers the best power to weight ratio presently available. At only 6.2 pounds when combined with the motor it performs similarly to a conventional battery weighing 10 times as much. The entire system, including the battery is only 15.4 pounds! The Torqeedo is designed to fit virtually any kayak. It’s a neat system and gives the installer a range of choices. I put the system on my 2009 Torque hull. I removed the rudder and battery box but left everything else intact. The system can be installed in a fixed position and the rudder used to steer the kayak. I didn’t use this installation option because most kayak owners won’t because they wouldn’t have a kayak with a rudder. Also you increase the turning radius of the kayak since the thrust is no longer directional.

TorqeedoTorqeedo in up position. That's the battery on the left side of the picture.

Price

I will be using MSRP for all pricing. The Torque is a complete system that includes everything except the battery. It all depends on your needs. The Bassyak is also a 12 volt system. The Torqeedo includes a battery because unlike the other 2 systems it is a 29.6 volt system and it can only be used with its own integrated battery. If you already own a kayak the Bassyaks is the least expensive system of the three. For approximately $600 you can purchase a kit and a battery and install it on a kayak you already own. There are a number of options I would like variable speed and the motor lift kit. These options will add a few hundred dollars to the system. The Torque is in the middle at $1999 excluding battery. The Torqeedo is $1799 and includes everything (motor, battery, and charger) except the kayak.

Top Speed

With the standard prop that comes with the Minn Kota motors (MK-6) I was able to do 4 mph. There is a prop called the Power Prop (MK-2) which gives an additional .5 mph on the top end. The standard prop gives a bit more mid range performance. I discuss the attributes of both and other props in the Prop section below. The Torqeedo is considerably faster than the others. I top out at 5.6 mph which is 140% faster than the stock prop and 124% faster than the Power Prop and I’ve been told on the longer SOT hulls speeds of 7 mph or more are being achieved. At the Cape May Jamboree Chris and Charlie were running at full speed and I would hit full throttle and accelerate quickly and dust them. You’re not going to run at top speed most of the time because it is very inefficient. I only run at full throttle for short bursts. It’s usually when I’m chasing down a blitz or it’s the end of the day and I want to get back to land ASAP and I know I have sufficient power left for a top speed run. Our next category is much more important.

Cruising Speed and Range

The difference between running at top speed and backing off the throttle by 50% is huge. Check out the chart below to see just how much range you lose. Cruising speed is the speed you’re going to use when going from one spot to another. It is educated guess work with the Bassyak and Torque but the Torqeedo’s integrated system gives real time information. At top speed (5.6 mph) my range was only 5 miles whereas if I backed the throttle down to 3.5 mph it increased to 18 miles. The Minn Kota based systems cruise best around 3 mph and have about the same range. If the Torqeedo were backed down to 3 mph the range jumps to well over 20 miles!

When I tested range it was with the Bassyak. I chose a very slow moving river and headed upstream. I figured if I miscalculated by a large margin a little bit of current taking me back to the launch had to be a good thing. I was using a new 55ah battery and after going about six miles I decided to turn around. I noticed a discernable amount of power loss about a mile from the launch and by the time I got to the ramp I was out of power. I traveled about 12 miles. After 2 years of living with EKs I’ve determined that 5ah is good conservative number to expect for a mile in range. If you have a 50ah battery figure you’re good for 10 miles. Since the Torque is a fixed system (meaning maximum battery capacity is a Group 24) I’d estimate a large battery will give the kayak a range of 15 or more miles. It all depends on the amp/hours of the battery. Most Group 24 AGMs will be 70 to 80ah. If you have a longer, more efficient kayak you can anticipate better economy and conversely a shorter kayak is going to be less efficient. I would say the Torqeedo’s performance in range would be at least 100 and 120ah in the other systems.

The following chart is from Torqeedo and the figures are based on its use with a Hobie Revolution. The Revolution hull is fairly close in proportions to the Torque hull I used and I got similar values.

Chart_1Torqeedo chart showing speed and range values

Batteries

An entire article can be written about batteries. It can be confusing. The two most important things that concern us are the type and the output. 12 volt conventional style batteries range from $50 up to $300 depending on the size and quality chosen. They’ve been around a long time and come in a variety of types. The least expensive are the ones where you can take the caps off and add water. I do not recommend this as leaking acid is the last thing I want to deal with in a plastic kayak. I’m using sealed lead acid and AGM types. AGM batteries while having the highest initial cost are actually the most economical conventional batteries. That’s because they can be recharged at a high rate whereas lead acid need to be charged at a much lower rates in order to last many charges. An AGM becomes the best value despite their higher initial cost because they can be charged hundreds of times and will last several years.

Conventional batteries are HEAVY. I have a variety of sizes and use the appropriate one for the days expected excursion. For instance when I fish my local reservoir that’s a bit over 3 miles long there isn’t a reason to schlep one of my Group 24 batteries that are each over 50 pounds. The launch is challenging because it’s at the bottom of a steep hill which means I have to lug everything back up the hill when finished. My 35ah which weighs 28 pounds is a lot more reasonable to carry then the twice as heavy Group 24. The 35ah is good for at least 7 miles and allows me to fish all day. When I go fluke fishing in Raritan Bay I’m rarely more than 1.5 miles from the launch and while the 35ah should suffice I take a 55ah instead. I do so because in saltwater wind and tide can be more of an issue and I never know what weather is going to do. Also in saltwater there are times I will use full throttle when chasing down blitzing fish and the extra 20ah could be the difference between having a motor and paddling. The 55ah weighs only 10 pounds more at 38 pounds. While I rarely use that extra 20ah it’s nice to have. Sometimes I go with a Group 24 because I don’t know what opportunities will be available. When fishing places like Sandy Hook or Montauk where I have to deal with a 2 knot plus current most of the time I want all the reserve I can get. At Montauk during my lunch break I sometimes trade out the battery for a fully charged one so at the end of the day I’m not wondering what’s left.

I’ve used ah (amp hours) as it’s the unit of measure that makes the most sense to me. It’s like miles per gallon. A value I can easily recognize. You’ll see some batteries listed using this value but you’ll also see Reserve Minutes used. I do not know how to equate this to usage because it’s dependent on output which varies with throttle settings.

The other type of battery is lithium ion. They are the batteries being used by the car industry for electric cars and offer the best option for storing power. They are smaller and much lighter for equal power output. The downside is they cost considerably more. Battery weight is the biggest issue I hear from prospective EK converters. That is what attracts us to lithium batteries. They also last longer. I found an average weight of 15 pounds for a 40ah lithium ion. The downside is they cost considerably more. I found prices starting around $500 for a 40ah. The equivalent battery in a lead acid or AGM can be found for well under $100 however lithium are high quality batteries and to be fair comparing them to the cheapest in a genre isn’t fair. I found prices starting at $206 for an Odyssey 40ah battery which is considered one of the top brands. The weight of a conventional battery is approximately 2.5 times that of lithium. However based on actual use it is more like 4 times the weight for the same power output. That’s because conventional batteries only produce maximum output for part of their stored energy. Once below a certain point you can feel the motor slowing down. Conversely the lithium will run at full power until fully discharged. Cost is the big issue with lithium but the good news is battery technology is improving daily and capacities will continue to progress and costs will keep coming down.

Torqeedo maximizes lithium technology by having a very efficient motor. The Torqeedo is a 29.6 volt system that uses an 11ah battery. The efficiency allows Torqeedo to get a tremendous amount of run time out of such a small battery. The battery is only 6.2 pounds. I found its performance conservatively equal to 100ah in a conventional setup. A 100ah conventional battery is going to weigh over 10 times as much.

I mentioned battery technology is evolving quickly and Torqeedo is a great example of this. The unit I tested, the 403, has increased battery capacity of almost 40% over its predecessor the 402. Battery technology is accelerating so we can expect continued increases so I would anticipate within 5 years a doubling of capacity, possibly more. That would enable users to go days without recharging and make multiday excursions possible.  The 40% increase didn’t have a price increase either.

Battery comparisonBatteries (left to right); Torqeedo (6.2 pounds), 35ah (28 pounds), 55ah (38 pounds) and Group 24 80ah (52 pounds)

 

Battery Care: Batteries are very important in EK function as they are the power source. Different batteries have different care needs. After the motor system, batteries are the second biggest expenditure and in order to get the most out of your battery proper care is needed.

Not all batteries are created equally and their care varies too. When I purchased my first 35ah sealed lead acid battery I learned they need to be charged at a low rate. It was recommended to get the longest life and best performance to charge at 3 amps/hour or less. A 35 ah battery is considered small. Medium lead acid batteries can be charged at 4 to 5 amps/hour and the big batteries, 75ah or more can be charged at 6 amps. Conversely AGM batteries (the conventional batteries I recommend) can be charged much higher which means you can recharge them faster. Conventional batteries should be stored fully charged. After use it is best to recharge an AGM battery ASAP. That’s because they have memory and it starts breaking down. This will greatly affect the life of the battery. Also they can be damaged if stored for long periods discharged and once damaged they won’t regain the same performance. Last when charging or storing, do not leave the batteries on concrete. Concrete will drain the charge out of them. I always have them sitting on a piece of wood.

The only lithium battery I have dealt with is the Torqeedo battery but in reading the literature I learned this type of battery is completely different and need to be stored at half charge or less. This is the opposite procedure of conventional batteries. If stored with a full charge the life and performance of the battery will be severely hampered. When I mentioned this to Chris he remarked that he constantly had to purchase new batteries for his lithium powered tools and he didn’t understand why. Now he had the answer as he hadn’t read the literature and assumed they should be stored fully charged.

Installation

The easiest by far is the Torque. All you have to do is bolt on the rudder and connect the steering cables. The rudder lift is already attached. Next would be the Torqeedo. Since it’s a one system fits all you have to make a bunch of decisions on how to do a variety of things. Everything is external and sits on the kayak. The Bassyak takes approximately 3 hours and there are parts of the system that has to be installed inside the kayak. If you are moderately handy you won’t have any trouble with it. If you aren’t you can always have a Bassyaks affiliate shop do the installation or if you’re close to Bassyaks have them do it. It’ll add approximately $200 to the cost of the system.  The Torqeedo takes less time than the Bassyaks and is easier to install. That’s because everything is external. I would think some shops would do the Torqeedo installation if you didn’t have the time or didn’t feel capable.

Setup/Convenience

Here I’ll try to give you an idea of how much time and the complexity of setting up the kayak at the water. A lot depends on how you transport your kayak. If it’s in the bed of a pickup truck or on a trailer makes a big difference. That’s because you can leave the motors on if you wish. Due to the weight of the Bassyak I would only do so for short distances. I wouldn’t want to have that much weight bouncing around back there. The Torqeedo is so light that it isn’t much of an issue but still I take mine off. However most of us transport our kayaks on the roof or our vehicles and that changes things considerably. The Torque is the clear winner for ease of setup. All you need to do is drop the motor in, plug the power cord into the socket, hook up the battery, flip the rudder over and attach the kill switch. Everything is the same with the Bassyak except it’s a bit more complicated to attach the motor. It’s still very easy. Neither requires the use of tools unlike the Torqeedo. The Torqeedo motor needs to be slid over the base shaft and the Allen head bolts tightened. I’m surprised they don’t use a handle of some sort. I know mine will have one next season to eliminate this issue. The motor lift cord needs to be attached and the rudder cables connected. In addition to an Allen head wrench you might need a wrench for the end nuts. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Connecting the motor and control system to the battery is very easy as both plug in and then they lock similar to many fish finders.

Other Considerations

Running out of power: The biggest fear you will have using an EK is running out of power. In many situations you just have to pick up the paddle and expend some energy. However the beauty of electric kayaks is they will enable you to access and fish environments you can’t with a human powered kayak. Last fall we watched a couple guys in kayaks who were stuck in the rip at Montauk Lighthouse. In an hour they made no forward progress. Finally a boat came along and towed them out. In an EK you will fish such places where running out of power will affect things. Also in some specialized situations you can’t fish effectively to make it worthwhile without power.

You can add a battery gauge (starting around $25) to either 12 volt system (Bassyaks and Torque). They take a little getting used to because conventional batteries aren’t like the gas in the tank of a vehicle. Your vehicles performance doesn’t change if you only have a ¼ tank left, but it does with a conventional battery. The more power you use the less performance you get. At a certain point you will notice a loss in performance and it continues to decrease until the battery goes dead. Another thing to consider is some anglers hook up their electronics (fish finder and GPS) to the same battery that’s being used for the motor. On the Torque this is assumed as it doesn’t come with the battery bag like the Tridents. I’m not in favor of using one battery for both motor and electronics for a few reasons. In a day of fishing my combo unit will use approximately 1 mile of battery capacity. My old combo unit would have used up 1.5 and 2 miles worth. I want all the power in my battery to be used for propulsion. I have a separate battery for this very reason and there’s a safety issue to consider as well. Should you be out on the water and fog rolls in or you’re in the dark a GPS needs a lot more reserve power than a motor. You could be in a situation where you need a GPS track to get back to the launch and your GPS has shut down while your motor is still performing. It could be inconvenient or considerably worse.

If you don’t purchase a gauge and you haven’t purchased a charger then I suggest getting a smart charger that tells you how much battery you used when you connect it. After a while you will become familiar with power use but it isn’t as good as a gauge.

The Torqeedo’s complete system includes everything except the kayak. You get the battery charger and an integrated control system that is much more than a variable speed throttle. The system has a built in GPS which along with its software provides some great information. It gives you speed, percentage of battery power remaining, and my favorite; expected range based on real time performance on the water. When charging the battery you can also hook up the control system and it will tell you how much charge, by percentage, is in the battery. The system gives you a lot of great information. Keep in mind with the Torqeedo you can’t run additional electronics off the main battery. It is a closed system and even if it weren’t it’s a different voltage. I haven’t lived with the Torqeedo nearly as long as the other two but recently I put it through its paces on a 3 day trip to Montauk. I covered the most water on the third day and still had 19% capacity left at days end.

Comparison ChartChart with a variety of EK information

* Bassyaks now uses a different variable speed control which lowers the cost of the system by $200.

Propellers: I recommend getting a spare prop no matter which system you have. Should you bust or lose one for any reason you’re SOL and then you’d have to get a new one anyway. If it’s the middle of the season you might miss some fishing time. I carry a spare with me always when on the water. They don’t weigh anything and take up little room. Torqeedo only offers one prop and its $99. There aren’t any choices. With the Minn Kota’s you have options. The Torque comes standard with the MK-6 weedless wedge prop as does Bassyaks. This prop was probably chosen because it performs well under most circumstances. However there are a variety of props you can try and since it’s a spare why not get something different. It’s very easy to change props and you may want to experiment. Besides like all aftermarket items different accessories have their place. The first prop I added was the Minn Kota MK-2 power prop. The difference between it and the 6 is its faster; 1/2 mph faster. The increased speed is nice at the end of the day when you want to get back to the launch ASAP. However nothing in physics is free. A practical example of this is a day when Chris and I fished Union Beach. The wind was blowing 15 mph and Chris had the MK-6 and I the MK-2. Against the wind I could only make 2.2 mph whereas Chris was doing circles around me. His speed was 3.2 and the difference was night and day. Jon from Johnson Outdoors after I related this to him said it well. “It does make sense that the speed prop would give up a bit in a head wind - the weedless prop has a lot more surface area which would help in a headwind. It also has a slightly lower pitch - so it's like being in 2nd gear going up a hill versus 4th gear.” The MK-2 is less money too. I found one for $13 at a local marine shop and a search online I found prices ranging from $10-20.

I also have a 3 blade after market prop from Kipawa. It’s the model 314 which is the hub diameter. It is a nylon and fiberglass composite which gives it strength and durability. The company claims better performance across the board over the standard prop and greater efficiency. It is very difficult to measure efficiency but compared to the stock MK-6 I did find it had too much low end, even more midrange and about the same top end. By too much low end I mean for a lower throttle setting I got more speed and it was hard to go very slow. When fishing for fluke I like to slow troll (1 mph or less). The MK-2 has a higher top speed. The Kipawa is the champ at backing up. It makes sense because it has more bite. It’s a prop worth considering especially if you’ll be doing a lot of fishing in close quarters where backing up is going to be important. Fishing close to jetties and bridges is just such a situation. MSRP is $29.99. Keep in mind you can only put a 2 blade prop on the Torque because a 3 blade will not fit through the opening in the hull.

Storage: With the Torque you lose the center hatch as it is the battery box. Also you sort of lose the rear portion of the tankwell, the large part, when you’re using the kayak in certain situations. Even though the Torque motor sits flush in the tankwell, if you put something like milk crate over it you can’t access the motor. If you can get to shore easily it isn’t much of an issue but if you’re out on the ocean and need to access the motor, while not impossible, removing a crate with rods and gear and putting it somewhere else is asking for problems, especially if you’re doing it unassisted. In the Bassyak and Torqeedo you have the entire rear part of the tankwell to put whatever you wish, including a crate.

Battery storage in the Torque is via the dedicated battery box. It’s simple and works really well. In the Torqeedo the battery is very light and half the size of its conventional performance equivalent (Group 24). In the kayak I keep mine in the rear tankwell or crate depending on how I set it up for the day’s fishing. There’s an extension power cord available if you’d like to move it further forward. The GPS receiver is built into the battery so it needs to installed or placed on top of the kayak somewhere. I leave mine sitting in the milk crate. In the Bassyak I can put the battery anywhere. A 55ah battery fits perfectly under the Sonar pod and I have foam channels on the bottom of the kayak to provide easy positioning of one or more 35ah batteries. I can put as many as 3 there. I haven’t done so but by adding a battery switch I would have the batteries all connected and working together or solo, whichever I preferred.

Ironically the Trident comes with a battery bag that’ll store up to a 10ah battery and I actually removed mine and put it in the Torque. I love the battery bag and think it’s a wonderful accessory but the sonar shield works even better. I use a waterproof box that holds a 4.5ah battery and it sits nicely there. I mount the battery bag in the Torque so it’s right in front of the battery box.

Extras Parts/Items: With each system you should carry some spare parts and tools. Carry a spare prop for each one. With the Torqeedo bring along the proper Allen and box wrench. Carry a spare prop nut (I actually had a prop spin off on a trip to the Core Banks in my Torque. Luckily it was shallow enough to retrieve it but that’s going to be the exception.) Also a roll pin for the motor shaft along with a punch to remove it. Pliers will suffice as a hammer (in a pinch) but make sure they’re metal and up to the task. I suggest keeping a hammer in your vehicle as backup. Carry spare motor securing pins for the Bassyak. They’re the pins that attach the motor to the bracket. Carry a spare fuse for the Bassyak, which is provided with the system.

On the water: EKs are different then human propelled kayaks. The only thing close are pedal kayaks because they are also mechanical systems. A spinning prop is a magnet for fishing lines. You must be cognizant of this all the time or you will learn about props and fishing lines, the hard way like I did. The first time I was at the Striper Shootout hugging the shore while trolling and I started to go under a dock and at the last second I noticed ropes. I immediately hit reverse barely avoiding tangling in the ropes but ran over my line while backing up. Notice I said first time. I have entangled my line a few times. Now any time I stop the kayak I make sure I know where my line is. Almost always I’ve reeled it in completely. If you troll a floating lure and stop the kayak it is imperative you know where the line is before turning the motor on again. While on the water you are rarely sitting perfectly still. There are factors like wind and on saltwater you have the added variable of tidal forces. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of reeling in all lines if you stop for even a minute. That’s because wrapping a line around the prop is a big headache. You’ll most likely lose whatever is on the end of it and some lures are very pricey. The more important consideration is only with the Torque can you get at the motor without assistance. You can pull the motor and take care of whatever issue you’re having. Line wrapped around the prop usually means you need to remove prop. Have a spare nut along just in case.

With the Bassyak or the Torqeedo you are not getting to the prop unassisted unless you go for a swim; if it’s your only solution than that’s what you need to do and still it will be extremely challenging.

Surf Launches: Both the Bassyak and Torqeedo have lift mechanisms for the motor. With the motor in the up position launching in the surf is the same as if you didn’t have a motor except the kayak is heavier due to the weight of the battery and motor. You just hop in and paddle. Once beyond the breakers you lower the motor and you’re in business. The place you want to spend as little time as possible when dealing with surf is in the wash. With the Torque it isn’t practical to be putting the motor in and connecting it while in the wash. That’s where most problems happen and you’re asking for trouble spending that much time there. On a trip to Cuttyhunk we came in from fishing to find Bill sitting on a log. Turns out he was injured. He was standing in the wash getting ready to hop in the kayak and paddle out when he went to adjust something in the tankwell. A wave came and smashed the kayak into him and broke his leg! You want to spend as little time as possible in the wash. In the Torque I keep the motor securely stored in the tankwell and paddle out. I wouldn’t rely solely on the bungees. Should you have a mishap you could lose the motor. Granted it floats but being black it is going to be very challenging to see from the low vantage point of a kayak. I have a strap that I put through the handle of the motor and then I put the bungees over it. Once safely beyond the breakers I place the motor in the slot and connect the power cord. Since the connection is on the rear of the tankwell I have to turn around and get on my knees in order to reach. Tall anglers (well over 6’) would be able to reach it sitting side saddle.

Torque motor in tankwellTorque motor strapped in back of tankwell for surf launches and landings.

Surf Landings: Raise the motor in either the Bassyak or Torqeedo and paddle in. In the Torque you have to reverse the process you did after launching. However while considerably more work you gain a huge advantage over the other two craft. That’s because the Torque has a massive rudder. It’s twice the size of regular rudders and it is fantastic in the surf. If a wave starts to turn you sideways rather than bracing with a paddle all you have to do is stomp on the rudder and it straightens the kayak out. No other kayak I have used to land in the surf does this.

Keep in mind the Bassyak and Torqeedo will be substantially heavier due to the weight of the motor and battery. It makes them harder to drag up the sand and should the turbulence in the wash flip the kayak its hard turning them over alone.

Reverse: One of the best things about an EK is reverse. The only human powered kayak to have this feature is the Multi Propel. Reverse is invaluable in some situations. Fishing close to jetties and bridges is such an example. It makes fishing structure very easy. I found the Bassyak with the 3 blade prop to be the winner in backing up. The additional surface area makes it the best. A very close second is the Torque. I found the Torqeedo to be the least effective backing up but it does.

Weeds: I only fished a weedy spot once with my buddy Quirkster in the eastern Everglades. We had my Bassyak and Torque. We were amazed at how well the Torque performed. The folks at Johnson sure hit a home run with the design of the motor under the hull rather than off the stern when fishing weedy areas. We were constantly clearing weeds off the Bassyak and not the Torque. The Torqeedo doesn’t offer anything different from the Bassyak so I expect it would perform similarly. It’s similar to dealing with line around the prop. The Torque is the only kayak you can clear weeds from the prop without assistance and is less likely to get fouled. However if it’s very weedy you would have both the Bassyak and Torqeedo motors in the up position, out of the water.

Shallow Water: The Torque is the least versatile because it sits below the kayak and its depth is fixed. The kayak needs only a foot of clearance. The unit is solid and the built in skeg offers protection. However if you get into an area where it’s too shallow you have no alternative except to pull the motor. If you’ve got items in the tankwell it’s a hassle. The other systems have the means to raise and lower the motor from the cockpit so they don’t pose any issue.

Noise: This really isn’t a big issue as a motor is mostly used to go from the launch to the fishing grounds. However it does matter to some people. The Torqeedo is significantly louder than the Minn Kotas.

Weight: How much a kayak weighs is something I hear about a lot. Part of it is because the baby boomers are aging. The boomers are the largest age group of people in this country. As they age how much a kayak weighs becomes more and more of an issue. Weight as it affects our discussion here has 2 variables. The first is the actual weight of the kayak. It’s the more important issue because most of us transport on the roof of our vehicles. This means we have to get it on and off the roof. The manufacturers published weights aren’t always accurate but they at least serve as a guide. When I was a retailer I weighed each model and listed their true weights. I put each of my kayaks on a bathroom scale. I would assume the weights I got would be within a few percentage of the true number. The only kayak of the three discussed here that has a fixed weight is the Torque. Ocean Kayak has a published weight of 71 pounds. In addition to the stock kayak I have a couple rod holder bases and a transducer. I got a weight of 77 pounds. My T13 Bassyak is 80 even. The published weight for the T13 is 56 pounds. That’s a 24 pound difference. My accessories along with the Bassyak additions can’t account for that and probably are only half. However only the Torque is a fixed system as both the Bassyak and Torqeedo can be put on any kayak. So if you want to keep the weight down go with a lighter hull. Put a system on a Phoenix Hurricane and you’re going to have a light setup. You control that variable.

The other weight consideration is the battery. Conventional batteries are HEAVY. The Torqeedo is LIGHT. At only 6.2 pounds it exceeds the performance of a Group 24 in the other systems which are 45 pounds heavier. Using a lithium 12-volt would drastically reduce the weight but would still be much heavier then the Torqeedo battery. Its efficiency is why the motor can get such stellar performance out of so few amps.

Throttle Position: The Torque has a fixed position behind the battery box hatch for the throttle. It’s a good position however with the other systems you have more flexibility as you can choose location. In the standard Bassyak you have a choice where to place the control. Also available, and it’s what I have, is a corded remote. What I love about this is I can place it anywhere. Usually it is sitting on my lap but I can also attach it to my vest. The Torqeedo’s control is much larger than the remote but allows you to place it wherever it’s convenient for you.

Durability: You can take a hammer to either of the Minn Kota motors and not hurt them. I once forgot that I had the Torque motor on the back of my tailgate and started driving down the road. Sure enough it slipped off and landed on the pavement. Other than a broken propeller everything was fine. In the water motors are going hit rocks and other hazards like stumps. Granted you don’t want to abuse them but they’re tough.

Conversely the Torqeedo is light and cannot take the punishment the heavy Minn Kota’s can. However under normal use it’s going to be fine. Just stay aware.

Photography/Video: Have you ever tried to video another person from a kayak? I have and it is very challenging. There’s a lot to deal with. In a paddle kayak I found it extremely difficult. Using a Hobie mirage was better but I often found myself drifting towards my subject or their being towed by the fish towards me. I could zoom out but at some point I’d run out of zoom. In an EK I have a tremendous amount of control over the kayak. This allows me to be in position for the best place to take video or pictures.

Other Intangibles – Kayak Length: There’s a reason Ocean Kayak Torque, the only fixed length unit tested here, is a sub 14’ kayak hull. It’s a great compromise that’ll function well in many environments. If you use a long kayak you’re going to lose maneuverability and the turning radius is going to increase. It’s not very important in big open waters like oceans, bays and large lakes (unless you’re shooting video) but if you need to turn more consider this carefully. Where a longer kayak will shine is they are going to be more efficient. I’ve been told by reliable sources using a Torqeedo on a 16’ SOT people are getting 7 mph top speeds. Half throttle would probably produce a cruising speed around 5 mph with a 15 mile range and ¼ throttle would probably be well over 3 mph and near 30 mile range.

Hands Free: Pedal kayaks tout themselves as being hands free but what does this really mean. To me it means being able to do tasks that occupy my hands and still travel to where I wish. I have fished out of mirage kayaks hundreds of days but I can tell you from experience if I tried to tie on a fly by the time I looked up I would not be heading to my intended destination. EKs, because you steer with your feet, are truly hands free. I can set a bearing, do something like cut bait, tie on lures or flies, whatever and stay on course. This is very convenient. Rather than doing tasks on land I can do them while underway. Since each of these use one’s feet for steering there really isn’t a discernable difference between any of them when considering the hands free aspect.

Non Motorized Use: Only the Torque is a completely independent fully functioning kayak should you decide to use it without the motor. The kayak comes with a rear plug/skeg for when the kayak isn’t used with the motor. It’s essentially a Trident 13 with a rudder. The Bassyak replaces the motor so when not being used you do not have a rudder. The Torqeedo can be installed and the motor left fixed if you wish. Then steering would be provided by the rudder. So if you wish to use the kayak without the motor often it is a consideration but keep in mind your turning radius will increase considerably.

Paddling: If you ever tried to paddle a pedal kayak while pedaling you know it isn’t easy. It takes coordination and you have to stop paddling periodically and adjust the rudder. In an EK it’s easy to paddle while the motor is running. That’s because all your legs are doing is steering. I have found paddling will add about 1 mph to my speed. It’s really nice when chasing down blitzing fish. It’s sort of like turbo boost. When I’d paddle with the Torqeedo the onboard digital display would show me how much my range would increase. Just by paddling regularly I could double my anticipated range. Paddling also allows one to get exercise while underway. Oftentimes fishing buddies have seen me paddling while in an EK. If I’m not chasing down some fish I’m sometimes doing it because I’m cold. I don’t produce any body heat from exertion in an EK so if I’m a bit underdressed early in the day paddling helps warm me up.

Bracing: This is how you gain more control over the kayak by pushing on the foot pegs of the kayak. We call it bracing. With the Torque motor being separate from the rudder system it’s normal. The Bassyak has a lock down position that has to be released to raise the motor so it performs the same. In the Torqeedo all that holds the motor in the down position is a cord in a line grip. It works fine if you don’t brace but bracing is natural to me in a kayak. The rougher the conditions the more I want to brace. Doing so in the Torqeedo makes the motor pop up. Not good. It can be remedied by adding a means where the motor will stay locked down when needed. In open water there isn’t any need for the motor to easily kick up should it hit something.

Troubleshooting – all are mechanical systems so there’s more to go wrong. Preparation and forethought will affect some situations. I mention above the parts I think you should carry.

When I saw the Torque prototype I said I didn’t like the positioning of the socket in the rear of the tankwell. I suggested moving the placement but knew that wouldn’t happen. I felt the location would result in more water washing over the area. The rudder channel is right on top of it and being in the rear of the tankwell also subjects it to more exposure. Saltwater is highly corrosive and we’re talking about an electrical connection. The two don’t do well together. The female socket has a door and tension is maintained with a spring. The spring of the door in my 2009 rusted quickly. Once rusted it doesn’t provide a seal. I don’t know if the material has been upgraded but my 2011’s spring still looks brand new after a season’s use. When making surf landings the motor will be unplugged and the wash gets into the socket exposing it to sand laden saltwater. The socket gets a lot of exposure. It is imperative you maintain the socket by keeping it clean. After each trip involving waves and sand it is prudent to check for any sand inside, clean it out and lube the socket. I use Corrosion X but there are other compounds that’ll work including WD-40. On the male connection I use waterproof silicone grease. Some owners have replaced the connection with a waterproof Marinco system. I know of 3 male pin failures so it is worth serious consideration if your Torque is going to see a lot of saltwater use. It is the connection setup used by Bassyaks. If your use will primarily be in fresh water then I wouldn’t bother. There isn’t an issue with Bassyaks or the Torqeedo with regards to connection issues.

Conclusion: When I started using EKs and decided to review systems for this article I had some preconceived notions. It’s hard not to. Reality is usually different than perception. I could easily live with any of these as my main kayak and be very happy with the choice. Each has its strengths and weaknesses as I’ve tried to point out. We’re all individuals with different needs. No system is perfect for everyone just as there isn’t a perfect fishing kayak. You have to decide which features/variables are most important to you and make a decision. If money is no object I like the features and light weight of the Torqeedo. For my use I’d need at least one spare battery which will set one back $2400. However most anglers don’t fish many consecutive days and wouldn’t need the spare battery. I would carry 2 batteries on the kayak on excursions like Montauk as I would only have 12.4 pounds of battery weight. That would give me all the power I could want. If you’re a boat angler coming to kayak fishing its still cheap compared to maintenance, gas and dock fees. However what I don’t like about it is the setup time. It takes longer to get going with the Torqeedo than the other two and you need tools. It would be great if it was on a system that utilized a couple of knobs or hand tightening devices.

For the few hundred dollars more than the cost of a Torqeedo you get a complete Torque and a Group 24 battery. It's a great system that works very well. In situations where you are fishing bridges and other vertical structure having the motor located under the kayak rather than on the stern prevents damage from banging into the structure.

All these kayaks essentially do the same thing. It’s like cars. A Mercedes sedan and a Toyota Camry both have the same primary function but one costs considerably more than the other. Many people who have the money prefer owning the Mercedes. If money is an issue Bassyaks is the most reasonable if you already have a kayak. If you don’t have a kayak and want a slick setup that’s ready to go without having to make many decisions the Torque is a total no brainer.  If you have very strong currents to contend with the Torqeedo is the most powerful.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article I have spent 2 years with the Torque and Bassyaks. I have fished out of the Torque the most because I found it the most convenient; drop the battery in, the motor and plug in the power and you're off. In my original Bassyak the place where the rudder cables exited the rear of the kayak to attach to the motor was to close. It took a while to determine this. Because of this the lift mechanism didn’t work properly so I didn’t use the kayak in the ocean or anywhere I had to deal with landing in waves because I couldn’t lift the motor unassisted. In my new Bassyak, the one featured in this review, the position has been changed and the mechanism works great. The Bassyak would have seen more use with this feature.

People have asked me if I had to chose one which would it be. I don’t feel I can answer that. Like I said I’d be happy to live with any of them and I’m glad I have all three. Tight lines and favorable winds.

 

Comments  

 
0 #1 ketchikankayak 2011-11-25 13:53
Thanks for the in-depth inf? Who is the author? He got no credit for all his work!
 
 
0 #2 JonS 2011-11-29 17:00
Thanks Howard and everyone else.
Mike, actually launching through the surf isn't an issue.
 
 
+2 #3 HenkvanGerwen 2012-01-03 05:00
This is a nice article with good in depth information, thank you!
I use a Torqeedo Ultralight 403 on my Hobie Pro Angler and I'm not using the eVolve V2 because I wanted to be able to use the Mirage Drive as well as the e-engine. What I noticed is that the screws are already damaged after just using it 2 times, because of taking the motor off and on during transportation to and from the water. This is a a bad thing in my opinion. I will change the motor mount shortly. For the rest I'm happy with the performance and ability to use the motor and the Mirage Drive together.
 
 
0 #4 Jim C 2012-02-28 13:55
Informative article Howard, thanks. I have been fishing out of a home built kayak for 5 years now and they are a ton of fun. My fishing is mostly in fresh water and up north where a dry boat is a lot more comfortable than a wet one. But I had to build it.

Perhaps your readers should consider using a motor with a continuously variable throttle, instead of the 5 speed fdw - 3 spd reverse types. These cv throttles convert the 12 v battery to 0 to 12 v providing the same effeciency at all speeds. Contrast this to a 5-3 throttle set at half speed, where half of the battery power is dissipated in a resistor (located in the motor) and the other half in the motor windings and actually pushing the boat. At this speed the cv motor uses about half of the battery power, thus giving twice the range. At very low speeds the situation is even worse with the cv motor running 4-5 times longer than the 5-3spd motor. At full speed both systems are using the same amount of battery power, but as you point out, this is the least efficient speed for the boat hull, and greatly reduces the boats range. I troll a lot for salmon and steelhead, and have seen several elect boaters rowing back with dead batteries.
When traveling to a new location on the water I usually paddle along with the motor running to increase my range. At 3.5 mph I use 10 amps from the battery and a 75 AH battery is enough for a day of fishing. BTW you can see my boat at kingfisherelect ricboat.com
 

You must be registered to post a comment.


Login

Newsletter

Subscribe here to receive FREE email issues of Kayak Fishing Magazine.

Most Popular

Choosing a Fishing Kayak
Like many kayak fisherman, my first fishig kayak was a mistake and I only used it a few times.  There wasn’t a lot of information available.  Things have...
Effective Trolling With Your Kayak
  While trolling is a mainstay of saltwater fishermen and also popular for targeting suspended fish in deepwater lakes of the northern US and Canada, it’s not the way most...
Kayak Fishing on a Budget
As we are all aware of we are in some tough economic times and even though kayak fishing is a pretty inexpensive sport relative to owning a boat or hiring fishing guides, it still...

Random

Down South, Down Under
When Australia is looked at from an outside angler’s perspective, most think of the northern region, where warm tropical waters host fishing similar to the rest of the...
A Kayaker's Checklist
Kayakers Check List;Enjoy Your Day Without Fear of Misfortune! Dieing to go fishing or a kayak trip to die for are but expressions not to really live by. Proper preparedness and...
New England Stripers
  If you look at a map of the Massachusetts coastline, you’ll see it’s perfect for hunting feisty stripers, with over 1500 miles of tidal shoreline. Gregg Crisp has...

Latest Kayak Reviews

Sun Dolphin Excursion 10
 
4.0
Santa Cruz Kayaks Raptor SOT
 
5.0
Old Town Predator 13
 
5.0
RTM Kayaks Tempo Angler
 
4.0
Hobie Mirage Revolution 13
 
3.0
Stealth Pro Fisha 575
 
4.0
Stealth Pro Fisha 475
 
4.0
Santa Cruz Kayaks Raptor SOT
 
5.0
Native Watercraft Manta Ray 14 Angler
 
5.0
Field and Stream Eagle Talon
 
5.0
Pelican Strike 120X Angler kayak
 
4.0
Elie Gulf 120 XE Angler
 
4.0

Latest Equipment Reviews

Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max
 
5.0
Body Glove 3T Barefoot Warrior
 
5.0
Body Glove 3T Barefoot Warrior
 
3.0
Columbia Drainmaker
 
5.0
Sperry SON-R Sounder Shandal
 
4.0
Garmin VIRB Elite
 
4.0
Polaroid XS100
 
4.0
Backwater Paddles Assault Hand Paddle
 
5.0
Backwater Paddles Assault Hand Paddle
 
5.0
Stohlquist Piseas
 
4.0
Wheeleez Tuff Tire Kayak Cart
 
5.0
Boga Grip
 
4.0