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Zoom Zoom: A Motorized Kayak Expedition

Posted: 12.05.2017

Two hands free was a revelation and for a fisherman and cameramen, it was ideal. An intelligent remote throttle using a GPS displayed the salient metrics for me: speed, remaining range and run time. It all seemed pretty sweet.

Zoom Zoom
by Rob Lyon

Wilderness System and Torqeedo, a German based industry leader in electric boating motor tech, hooked up to produce if not an outright wunderkind, then at the very least, a clever child.  I got wind of the Helix MD Motor Drive system in early 2017.  I had a kayak fishing project on the BC coast schedded for early that fall and it seemed like a good venue to test out the boats.  We’ve used Wilderness Systems Kayaks for years on long ocean treks and they’ve proven solid, so didn’t feel we were going too far out on a limb with the motors if they didn’t work out.  My photographer for the project was Steve Thomsen.  Come September we had a couple of Thresher HD kayaks strapped atop his Tundra and heading north from Seattle.

By noon the next day we were unloading our boats at a Government wharf in an inlet deep in the rugged coastal rainforest of Northwest Vancouver Island. Waiting for us was Richard Leo, our engaging water taxi driver from Rugged Point Lodge.  He opened up the big 250 Mercs and we shot out the inlet, then ran north over deep blue water before cutting the engines and firing up the kicker to maneuver through reef and kelp beds into a beautiful pocket cove replete with white sand beach and a tiny islet all to ourselves.

We had a week of messing with boats and very much enjoyed the process.  We motored to distant rivers and beaches to cast to salmon and trolled through our reefy and very fishy surroundings. My biggest take away from my time with these electric powered kayaks, though, was the scoot. Color me ear-to-ear grin when I pushed the throttle forward that first time, after paddling out of the cove through seaweed and rocks into open water—and felt like I’d been shot out of a cannon!

I could steer with the rudder pedals.  I stashed the paddle in a sleeve built onto the bow hatch. Two hands free was a revelation and for a fisherman and cameramen, it was ideal. An intelligent remote throttle using a GPS displayed the salient metrics for me: speed, remaining range and run time. It all seemed pretty sweet.

The bottom line for all new design systems such as this are inevitably judged against the time worn adage about trouble and worth. From day one we could see the considerable worth of what the motor provided and by the time we schlepped the boats and our pile of gear back aboard the water taxi to head home we were aware of the trouble.

Steve and I both agreed that worth won out. The practical side of scoot had us quickly fishing distant reefs or river mouths and with a new found capability to dash back to camp in face of a sudden storm.  We boated in some pretty big seas, jockeying around reef breaks and big swell trains. The boats felt very stable. I had the paddle in hand for beam seas to brace but never came close to needing it. Not only was the motor handy for trebling our strike range for exploring and fishing but it was perfect for bucktailing for salmon, our primary focus.  I could hold the rod in one hand, find the zone, relax, waiting to feel the sudden strike of a bright coho at the end of the line. And the battery will run all day on a troll like this.

But the electric kayaks were not without their troubles; most of which were situational. Launching and landing on a shallow beach requires dealing with the motor, retracting the prop. To go ashore, we had to get out of the boat and pull it up out of the pod port.  You can do this from the boat but it is difficult, and if the landing is bumpy you’ll need to secure it on deck.  It was easy enough for us in the cove but would be a pain in any kind of surf or surge.  Secondly, seaweed will shut you down in a blink, if you hit it.  This is a protective device, though, and only temporary; you can reset and start right up. Finally, we did have one battery go down (out of 4) with no field fix and later returned to the factory.

There is the issue of power management; not so much a trouble as it is intrinsic to all power sourcing, self-powered or otherwise. It means no more dragging our ride up the beach and putting her away wet, though. There is a power curve to stay ahead of. On a beach in the middle of nowhere our options were limited. We had two roll up Torqeedo solar panels and enough sun to keep us in the pink.  We also had a spare batt for each boat so we didn’t have to lay over a day while recharging (highly recommended on trips like this).  The batteries are powerful, sealed, lightweight Lith-ions that can provide enough juice to troll all day or tach out at 6mph for a little less than an hour.

In footnote to the BC trip, after returning from the coast I took the boat into a lake in the mountains where I stayed the night in a floating cabin.  There was no seaweed in the water and the boat rode like a wannabe skiff tied off to the dock with the motor in place while an AC outlet inside the cabin recharged the battery overnight.  Pretty much an optimum venue.

While the concept of a motorized kayak will be blasphemous to purists of the sport, there are fishermen and photographers and pretty much anyone who loves a little scoot that would enjoy the ride.  Like the popularity with ebikes, we’ll have to see where it all goes.  But I can well imagine a kayak cowboy in SoCal pushing off a dock in the early AM to a gorgeous Laguna morning sunrise with a Double Caffè Macchiato in one hand and waving at the other kayakers as he passes them by.

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The Helix PD™ Pedal Drive - Bass Fishing Machine

Posted: 12.05.2017

The use of the Helix PD was second nature and I used the pedals to my advantage without thought.

When I first heard that Wilderness Systems was developing a pedal system, I thought of all the advantages it could give me in my saltwater adventures.  After pedaling my Radar 135 this past year, I am happy to report that it far exceeded my expectations drifting for flounder and trolling for stripers.  I also fish sweetwater with the South Jersey Kayak Bass Fishing Club.  Our tournament lakes are relatively shallow and can be quite weedy.  I was thinking the Helix PD would be nice to have at times.  After a few times out I quickly realized this kayak and pedal system would change the way I fish!

One of the first advantages I noticed was how fast I can get going with the pedals and how effortless using them is.  Our tourneys are 6 hours long, and when I was paddling I was hesitant making long runs when fishing got tough.  After one or two trips pedaling I wasn’t afraid to take chances when the action slowed down, even if it was late in our tourney.  It was also nice to be able to fish the entire time I was changing locations.  My cast count had to at least triple with pedal power. 

If you are like me you’ve spent more than a few afternoons watching BASS, FLW or Major League Fishing tournaments on TV.  I always envied the pros when they put their trolling motors on high and covered water, chucking crankbaits or bladed jigs, searching for active bass.  Now I can do the same thing!  The AirPro MAX seat is comfortable enough to allow pedaling at a decent speed while casting the entire time.  The Helix PD allows speed changes instantly by pedaling faster or in reverse to slow down fast.  I did learn that a little rudder adjustment goes a long way in these situations.  Too much rudder and you will be zig zagging along the bank like a snake! 

One aspect that I never dreamed of was the ability to use the pedals to help fight and land bass.  There aren’t many “ledges” in our South Jersey lakes...some might be 6 feet at their deepest, so we are usually beating the banks for our bites.  I can clearly remember this revelation after skipping a T-rigged worm under some low-hanging branches.  I felt a big tug and realized quickly that I had a decent bass on.  I was using a spinning outfit with 15# braid but with an 8# flouro leader.  Almost without thinking I started pedaling backwards and this brought my bass into deeper and clearer water.  It worked like a charm!  Be warned that pedaling while fighting a bass can get tricky.  I lost one that decided boatside to dive under my kayak.  I was still pedaling slowly and cut my line.  If I would have stopped pedaling I believe I’d have caught that bass.

There are some precautions to remember.  You should be careful about pedaling fast through unknown waters.  Hitting a stump while moving fast could do some damage to your pedal system.  You will also run into some weeds even in open waters that can clog up your prop.  The Helix PD can easily be pulled up to allow cleaning.  I always carry a paddle on my Radar.  I like getting my kayak into areas that cannot be reached by bass boat.  These areas are often shallow, weeded up and narrow.  The Helix PD can be stowed forward on deck to allow paddling and does not get in the way of your deck space.  I do mount my fishfinder display on the side instead of atop the Flex Pod OS console.  I can see my screen better and it does not get in the way when stowing my pedals up.

By the end of my bass fishing tournament season, the use of the Helix PD was second nature and I used the pedals to my advantage without thought.  My WS Radar 135 with the Helix PD is, in my humble opinion, the ultimate kayak fishing machine in salt or fresh waters.

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Jeff Little - Maiden Voyage with Radar 135

Posted: 03.07.2017

Jeff Little - Maiden Voyage with Radar 135

My Radar will be a fully tri powered craft that allows me to switch between power modes depending on the type of fishing.

Radar 135: First Trip, Early Riggings & Favorite Features


Rigging a kayak is seldom carried out in one shot. In the case of my most recent project, the Radar 135, I had it on the water with only the installation of a retractable anchor system (video below), two flush mount rod holders, and of course decals. I'm not sure why, but application of decals is a critical step in feeling ownership of the vessel. Although the boat hasn't yet received a depth finder, AirPro 3D seat, YakAttack camera mounts or the Helix Pedal Drive that the tri powered kayak was designed around, it's maiden voyage was a productive one. Here are some thoughts on the boat, it's features and future rigging plans.

The Radar is above all else, a fishing kayak that can handle any kind of fishery. It isn't a shallow water specialist like the ATAK, but it stands solid and stable like the ATAK. It isn't a “beyond the breakers” surf launch and big swell specialist like the Thresher, but it's full bodied bow throws back the chop and allows the angler to ride over whitecaps and power boat wake without getting wet. It's not the speed demon that the Tarpon series is, but it cuts through water nicely with minimal start up power and maintains speed over long distances.

I plan on using my Radar on smallmouth rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, the Tidal Potomac, reservoirs and smaller bodies of still water that lack a ramp and require carting and carrying in. The first stop for this Radar was one of those smaller bodies of water, targeting deep late winter largemouth.

Accessing the water required carting the boat a considerable distance, then lowering the boat down the rip rap shoreline of the dam. Despite it's size, this wasn't that difficult a task, and certainly easier than moving some of the pedal drive capable kayaks I've helped friends move. Once in the water, I adjusted the AirPro Max seat to the high position, sized up the darkening border of a drop off at the edge of a flat and let my jig fly.

With the sun not yet over the tree line, and an air temperature in the upper 20's, braided line crunched and piled up ice in my guides. The sun did eventually break the horizon, but was periodically interrupted by dark clouds that dropped big fluffy snowflakes. The first fish, a chunky 18.25 incher didn't quite hit the jig, but announced it's presence with a lethargic throb. A livelier response ensued after I set the hook with the kind of lunge that causes wake. The boat proved to be a stable platform for my overkill hooksets.

Making use of the Bow Paddle Park, I stowed the paddle, scooted to the front of the seat and rose to my feet for the first time in the boat. Thanks to the Rectangular Center Hatch, I had plenty of room to move my size 14 boots around. To make even more room, I lifted the cam levers on the AirPro Max Seat, slid it backwards, folded it up and stowed it in a slot designed to keep it out of the way. It was cool to try out, but the fishery I was on wasn't the kind of shallow water fishery that standing all day calls for. I can't wait to target snakehead in the milfoil of the Tidal Potomac River with all that walking space this summer!

Knowing that I will eventually have a Helix Pedal Drive, I ordered the lumbar support for the AirPro Max Seat. It took some getting used to, and I had to let a little bit of air out of it, but it's actually a help in transferring more power to every paddle stroke. I know from talking with buddies who have pedal drive kayaks that lumbar support is a critical factor in how long you can pedal. I'll understand it on a first hand basis soon enough.


Two flush mount rod holders behind the seat were adequate for the simple jig pattern that I knew would work. I'll probably add a second set, as there's ample flat space for them behind the seat. There are lots of other examples of flat deck space all over the kayak, allowing for installation of tracks or camera mounts. I'll probably utilize a Ram Claw on the front handle and a pair of Ram balls at the frontmost portion of SlideTrax on each side for camera mounts. A SeaDog Zig Zag Cleat secured my anchor line when deployed 

or stowed. Two Harmony Deck Rigging fairleads guided the line from a home made retractable anchor spool to cleat and cleat to bow mounted anchor pulley.

I banged the sides of the boat a few times and dropped pliers in the hull once. Some Silent Traction padding will need to be applied in certain spots. Once the pliers found their way to the Molded In Tackle Storage Bins, I didn't have to fumble around under the seat to find them. On one side, I had an ample supply of jigs within arm's reach and on the other I had the pliers, scent and more jigs.

The Flex Pod PD and Flex Pod OS were both empty and unrigged. If I were to use the Helix Pedal Drive, the Flex Pod OS would be rigged with a depth finder. If I would use the Helix Motor Drive in the Flex Pod OS spot, the Flex Pod PD would get the depth finder install. I'm going to use the pedal option, so my depth finder that has already been installed in an OS Pod for my ATAK is ready to use. But for this trip, I left it at home and threw my lunch and three water bottles into the OS Pod. Anglers who wish to paddle the kayak can install a depth finder in the Flex Pod PD and just use the OS Pod for additional storage as I did on this trip. I will have to find the right Ram product to elevate the depth finder monitor above the Pedal Drive so I can see it. It's good to have options.In the rear tank well, I put a Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler Bag that I have decorated with a custom camo paint job. I thought about camouflaging the entire kayak, as I have done with prior kayaks, but thought better of it after seeing the new Solar color. The Catch Cooler Bag fit into the rear well perfectly. My kayak cart frame, folded up was back there as well. The wheels were stowed under the Orbix Bow Hatch.

I'll have to figure out a way to mount my trolling rod holders in a way that I can use the Pedal Drive. That may require the addition of tracks or a pair of opposing YakAttack Mighty Mounts forward of my pedal rotation. I think that I will want to put a Torqeedo on the stern, run rudder cables from sliding footpegs to steer it, and install the rudder to the separate steering arm that comes with the Pedal Drive. The stern will become a busy place soon, and the option to put a stern mount plate on the kayak will help that project. The Radar has the capability to be tri powered: pedal, paddle and power. I plan on rigging this Radar to take advantage of all three options as well as a depth finder. That requires a stern mounted Torqeedo to keep one of the pods open for the depth finder.

My Radar will be a fully tri powered craft that allows me to switch between power modes depending on the type of fishing. The Torqeedo and Helix Pedal Drive will figure prominently while trolling for Chesapeake Striped Bass. The Pedal Drive will allow me to move quickly from point to point throwing deep diving crankbaits for Liberty Reservoir Largemouth. But my Radar won't be too heavy to simply paddle down the Susquehanna River in search of Smallmouth. Where Tidal Potomac sub aquatic vegetation is too thick for the Torqeedo or Helix Pedal Drive, I'll be ready to paddle through with ease. 





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Tarpon 130X Blog

Posted: 12.20.2016

Tarpon 130X

Chasing reds in the Tarpon 130X


By Dean Thomas
Slowride Guide Service
Wilderness Systems Pro Staff
Port Aransas, TX

Efficiency and comfort does not always come equipped on the same fishing kayak, but the newest edition to the Wilderness Systems lineup does just that. The Tarpon 130X is designed with an efficient hull, AirPro Lite seating, and just about every accessory option available to kayak fisherman. Efficiency is the Tarpon family’s legacy and I have to admit, I did not expect the high seat and wider hull of the Tarpon 130X to have the glide that I am used to in the original Tarpon series, but the paddling pleasure is definitely comparable. My philosophy on kayak fishing is that the beauty of it is the simplicity; so I've always been a fan of faster paddling fishing kayaks despite the current trends that focus on stability and comfort. But after spending a few days chasing redfish in the comfort of the Tarpon 130X has definitely changed my perspective on that subject. Not only is it fast, but the T130X is light enough for petite anglers to handle while its width still provides stability and comfort for all sizes. 

When paddling the wide open flats of South Texas, the wind is the enemy. My home base of Aransas Pass has the highest average sustained winds on the entire Gulf Coast so we are way too familiar with the effort it takes to cross a couple miles of shallow flats in a headwind. I have always emphasized low-profile efficient kayaks and ultralite high quality paddles to battle the wind.  Paddling the distance that you have to some days to find big fish can be a challenge, but the sleek hull of the Tarpon 130X offers efficient paddling that will help you reach that goal with minimal effort. When you get there, you can enjoy the comfort and well thought out fishing platform with all your angling tools close at hand.  

My standard kayak fishing equipment consists of a crate with rod holders for four rod and reel combos, a small grappling anchor, my camera/GoPro equipment, a soft-sided tackle box and a waterproof Pelican Micro Case to hold my cell phone, wallet, etc.…..all within easy reach while standing in my kayak and sight casting the crystal clear flats. The wide cockpit and slide back seat provide ample space for standing and casting in any direction as well. The Tarpon 130X has been a very well recieved edition to the Slowride Guide Service armada of fishing kayaks here in Aransas Pass. The serenity of paddling around some of the most beautiful islands on the Texas coast combined with the amount of sea trout and red fish swimming in our bays continues to lure anglers in from far and wide. The Tarpon 130X is the next step in the evolution of kayak fishing that will help you reach undisturbed waters and get you back home in comfort and style. It is really cool to see how the needs of kayak anglers have been incorporated into the high quality of Wilderness Systems fishing kayaks and I am always anxious to see what’s coming out next.
Lots of anticipation with the T130X and I'd say it was definitely well worth the wait! 

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