Vanhunks Propeller Drive Review

Sep 14, 2022 0 comments
Vanhunks Propeller Drive Review

Vanhunks Propeller Drive

Vanhunks Fishing Kayaks are growing in their popularity due to their versatility. Many of their kayaks are capable of converting from a paddle kayak to a propeller drive, fin drive, or even powered by simply removing the toolbox and inserting the desired drive.

Which option is best for you? When choosing a drive, there are some important factors to consider. First, let’s quickly recap each drive type available for Vanhunks Kayaks.

Paddle

As stated, this type of propulsion relies upon paddling. Vanhunks kayaks come with a two piece, branded, padddle that is adjustable. The required effort to move and track your kayak is dependent upon the hull style, how much gear you have and your scupper configuration (more scuppers out typically means more suction to the water for better stability but more effort to paddle).

Propeller Drive

Propeller drives allow anglers to propel the kayak with a pedaling system much like a bike. Propeller drives require full circular revolutions just like a bike that spin the prop. Vanhunks' propeller drive allows forward and reverse by pedaling in either direction. This can offer a big advantage when in tight spots.

Propeller Drive

Fin Drive

Fin drives, like pedal drives, are propelled using pedals. Two fins attached to the pedal system flap sideways to propel the kayak. Fin drives only require minimal pedaling forwards and backwards, not circular revolutions like the propeller drive and can be put flush against the bottom of the hull. Fin drives are a good option for shallow water and for operators who may have limited joint mobility. Vanhunks Fin Drives do not have reverse capability.

Fin Drive Picture

Power Drive

There are many options for powering your fishing kayak with a motor. From simple rudder add-ons to hand-tilled trolling motors, to a specific Vanhunks power motor, almost any kayak can be converted to a powered kayak. Additional add-ons and accessories, like powerful batteries, are needed.

Vanhunks Trolling Motor


Vanhunks Propeller Drive Sizing

One of the most important things to consider when purchasing the Propeller Drive, is you CANNOT adjust the positioning of a propeller drive. With a fin drive, you can adjust the length from your seat to your pedal using a quick push of a button to adjust the pedal. With the propeller drive your pedal stroke length is fixed and only adjustable by your seat position. This is important to consider depending on your height and the Vanhunks kayak you choose (many have seats on a rail system to allow for a bit more seat positioning).

Let’s take a closer look at the pedal stroke and positioning. Our review was conducted using the Vanhunks Pike with individuals ranging in height from 5’6” to 6’4”. If you are considering the Vanhunks Pike or Sauger Tandem, which only have two seat positions available, the following sizing tests are important.

5'6" Female

First up was a female with a height of 5’6”. With the seat in the elevated position (back position), the rider was unable to reach the pedals without sliding forward on the chair. When the chair was moved to the forward position, the pedals became a bit more accessible.

Once she had her feet in the pedal straps (something that was cumbersome due to the distance of the stretched out leg), pedaling from the forward position was a bit easier, but still a stretch. For a person 5’6” or shorter, the propeller drive may be too difficult to reach and operate without pedal modifications.

Propeller Drive 5'6" Example

5'10" Male

From the elevated (back) seat position, reaching the pedals was still difficult at this height. When moving the seat to the forward position on the Vanhunks Pike, the 5'10" rider was able to reach the pedals and operate the drive.

Even at 5'10," and in the forward seat position, the operation and pedal stroke was still a bit difficult. If you plan on a long day on the water plan on taking breaks and having sore muscles.

5'10" Male in Vanhunks Prop Drive

6'4" Male

Operation for an individual over 6' tall is possible from the elevated (back) seat position in the Vanhunks Pike. At 6'4", the rider was easily, and comfortably, able to reach the pedals and operate the propeller drive with a smooth, natural cadence.

If you are in that 6' range, you should be able to comfortably operate the propeller drive from either the elevated or forward seat positions. Riders in this height range are also able to operate the propeller drive with a proper leg flexion/extension which should make longer trips more comfortable.

6'4" Propeller Drive Example

Important Consideration

Vanhunks models like the Pro Angler, Shad, Zambezi 10' and 12'6", and Mahi Mahi have seats mounted to a rail system to allow for more position flexibility. If you are 5'10" or below, it is worth strong consideration to purchase a Vanhunks that has adjustable seating. This will help make sure you don't purchase a propeller drive that you may not even be able to use.

Individuals with knee or lower joint issues may find the propeller drive difficult to use. One tester of the propeller drive had previous joint surgeries that included a total knee replacement. This individual had a range-of-motion of 0-100 degrees and found the pedal stroke with the propeller drive uncomfortable and requiring compensation and bad form. If you have lower joint concerns, the fin drive may be a better option because of its "push-pull" movement that only requires a few inches worth of motion.


Propeller Drive Performance

Speed

Two things stuck out right away with the propeller drive vs. the fin drive. First, the propeller drive moved the kayak faster with less effort. Second, you can go in reverse by pedaling backwards – a really useful feature when fishing tight spots.

Even with slow pedal strokes, the propeller drive seems to get the kayak up-to-speed faster than the fin drive. With a smooth cadence, propulsion is steady and fast. Maintaining a speed of 2-3mph is relatively simple. In a side-by-side pedal with another Vanhunks Pike with a fin drive, the propeller drive kayak pulled ahead easily.

Tracking & Maneuverability

On top of its speed, the propeller drive seems to track slightly better than the fin drive using the hand rudder on the Vanhunks Pike. Maneuvering is more responsive than the fin drive, especially considering your ability to pedal in reverse. If you plan to fish tight spots, the propeller drive helps the Vanhunks kayak track well.

Install & Removal

Like the fin drive, the propeller drive is installed by removing the toolbox and installing the drive box. From there, it is as easy as placing the drive in, locking it in, and then inserting the plate to hold the prop drive in tight.

Where the propeller drive falls short compared to the fin drive is its functionality in shallower water or weeds. The prop, much like a boat prop, gets weeds wrapped around it easily. Where the fin drives can fold close to flat agains the hall in weedy or shallow areas, the propeller drive has to be lifted out of the water. This means you'll need to lift the plate out first, unscrew the secure latch and then lift the prop out each time you have weeds or come upon shallow water.



Additional Thoughts & Considerations

Propeller Drive vs. Fin Drive

If you are trying to decide whether the propeller drive or the fin drive is right for you, here is a quick comparison:

    • Fin drives can fold up mostly flat against the hull in shallow water or weeds
    • Propeller drive has to be pulled up if you encounter shallow water or debris
    • Propeller drive is heavier than a fin drive
    • Propeller drive is a traditional bicycle pedaling motion (circular)
    • Fin drive is a “push-pull” motion and can be operated with minimal knee flexion
    • Propeller drive seems to track better and turns the kayak quicker
    • Fin drive is easily adjustable and can fit people of many different heights
    • Propeller drive will be difficult to use for people shorter than 5'10"

    Best Places to use the Propeller Drive

    Where you fish or use your kayak can, and should, play a large role in the type of drive you choose. If you are on a shallow river, paddling may be the best option. If you fish in water that has weeds or shallow points, paddling or employing a fin drive can be a good way to go. If you are primarily kayaking on open water or bigger lakes, a propeller drive or power drive will help you cover more ground.

    If you attack fish in waters that are deeper, have little to no debris, and a lot of ground to cover, the propeller drive is a better option than a fin drive. You can cover more water quicker and with less effort than a fin drive.



    Final Impressions

    If you are in the correct height range (5'10" and above to operate comfortably), the Vanhunks propeller drive is a solid drive for its price. Vanhunks' kayaks that are compatible with a drive system make changing from paddle to pedal as easy as removing the tool pod and installing the drive box. The Vanhunks propeller drive is fast and the rudder controls respond well when turning while pedaling.

    Having the ability to also pedal in reverse is a major advantage over the fin drive. If you find yoursel getting too close to shore or in a tight spot, you can get yourself out by pedaling backwards and remaining hands-free for fishing. When using the fin drive, you have to always be conscious of where you are and how you are tracking because you won't be able to make a quick adjustment after it is too late.

    Like any other decision, you need to weigh the benefits of both the propeller and fin drives. Matching your kayak with the right drive depends on the type of fishing you do the most and especially the type of water you primarily fish on. Consider everything before making your purchase.

    If you still aren't confident or you are unsure, try speaking with someone with experience. Check out the Kayak Anglers Resource where members share their real-life experiences with everything related to fishing kayaks. Or, give our customer service line a call, 1-844-987-5777. Check out the whole lineup of Vanhunks Kayaks & Accessories to learn more.


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