Shad Kayak and hands-free drive systems review

Shad Kayak and hands-free drive systems review


I’m a full-time traveler and I carry two kayaks with me: the Mahi Mahi and the Shad, both from Vanhunks. The Shad is an awesome, feature-rich, all-purpose kayak for the recreational paddler or the dedicated angler.

The Shad measures just 10’ 4” in length which allows me to fish in really tight cover whether I’m in fresh water, log-strewn swamps, or up close to mangrove-covered islands. Longer kayaks can be a challenge to maneuver quickly so when I have clients and they need assistance the Shad is easy to spin around and quick to move. This length kayak is also easier to transport as it will fit in the back of a pickup truck or on a roof rack without hanging out too far. There are several scupper hole wheel systems to assist you in moving it around on dry land. I prefer to load my fishing gear in the parking lot, out of the way of other people launching, making sure that I have everything I need, and then wheel it to the water. The balloon tires are my favorite Vanhunks wheel system as I can transport over just about any obstacle including rock-strewn shoreline and if you do need a hand there are five built-in hand holds. The Shad also only weighs 71 lbs making it lighter than many Sit on Top (SOT) kayaks. Total weight with the seat and peddle drive system is 81 lbs so the 440 lbs of capacity leave plenty of room for you and all your gear.

The Shad, at 34” wide has outstanding stability due to the pontoon-style hull and bow. As a kayak fishing guide and angler, I spend a lot of time scouting so standing is a must for me, and getting up and down is a breeze due to it’s stability. The deck area under your feet is foam padded and super wide helping you maintain balance while on your feet. The pontoon-style hull also lets the Shad track really well. The deployable rudder with hand or foot controls is super responsive and can be quickly pulled in shallow water. This kayak handles open ocean conditions really well as the short length lets the kayak ride swell with ease.

Of course, the Shad comes with a paddle and is perfectly suited for casual paddling but as an angler, I feel that it is best suited as a peddle drive kayak. Vanhunks creative thru the hull drive box allows you to choose either the bicycle-style prop drive or the push/pull fin drive. Both drive systems have their advantages depending on where you plan to use this kayak. The prop-style drive is quick and has the ability to instantly reverse by simply peddling backward. The adjustable fin drive really shines in shallow water as the fins can be tucked up under the kayak by simply pushing the peddles opposite each other and can be adjusted according to the kayaker’s height. Either drive propels this kayak quickly and efficiently, especially on those windy days when you wouldn’t even think to launch a paddle craft. When ordered with a paddle only, you get a tool or equipment box with a lid that fits in the drive pod area.

If you plan to spend a lot of time on the water, you’ll appreciate the raised nylon mesh seat with adjustable back and seat straps. The seat is also adjustable front to back on a rail system making it versatile for any size kayaker. As a professional angler, the two preinstalled flush mount rod holders and the front and back track rails let me mount fishfinders, camera booms, landing net, and extra rod holders with ease. There is plenty of room behind the seat for coolers or milk crate style rod holders or bait wells and the bow has a large covered hatch for the things you want to keep dry. Vanhunks has preinstalled additional brass screw bosses for their transom mount motor block as well as their outrigger system.

The Shad is truly a feature-rich kayak, suitable for all types of water including open ocean or flat-water ponds. With a lot of preplanned and preinstalled equipment, you will find this kayak a recreational paddler’s dream or an advanced angler’s weapon.


Fin and prop drive system review

Hands-free propulsion has changed everything about kayaking for naturalists, guides, photographers, anglers, and recreational kayakers.  Vanhunks has a whole line of single and double kayaks designed to utilize either of their two drive systems.

The Fin Drive is a technical marvel of engineering as it uses a push and pulls foot motion but a sweeping back and forth motion under the kayak to propel your kayak forward. Another great feature is that it can be adjusted allowing me, a 6’4” tall person, and my wife at 4’10” tall to use the same drive in the same kayak. This style of drive is very quiet allowing you to sneak up on spooky fish, and approach wary birds or other aquatic life as you are not swinging a paddle around in the air or splashing water as you paddle. One great advantage that the fin drive has is the ability to make the fins go almost flush up under the kayak so you don’t run aground. Due to the design, there is no lubrication needed but there are nuts and screws that need to be adjusted periodically. There is an adjuster screw that allows you to change the rubber fin tension and angle for added efficiency.

Vanhunks newest drive is the bicycle-style prop drive. As you peddle, it drives a propeller below the kayak that pushes you along. This may be a little faster than the fin drive but does need to be removed in very shallow water. One huge advantage of the prop drive is your ability to reverse direction by simply peddling backward. When you’re fishing tight up against cover or structure you can easily pull a hooked fish away from it by reversing course.

Both drive systems have some inherent advantages for all kayakers. Paddling can be tiresome after a long trip leading to upper body fatigue. Most of us have better core strength in our legs leading to a more comfortable day on the water. My favorite feature involves adjusting the rudder and using a gentle peddle stroke against a moving tide to maintain the perfect position for fishing. The same holds true for windy days when I would need to deploy an anchor. Hands-free propulsion also means that you can be fishing or doing photography all the time instead of paddling to the next location.

If you are a new kayak buyer or thinking about upgrading, the Fin or Prop Drive from Vanhunks is a true game changer for kayaking. 

By: Pro Staff Team Member, Dan Carns