If you have spent any amount of time on the water in windy conditions, possibly with some waves, or with a current, you probably are familiar with the “one arm” paddle. This means that when you find yourself in any of these conditions, you may be forced to paddle on one side of the kayak just to maintain the kayak tracking straight. In some instances even the one arm paddle isn’t enough to achieve this. I have had my fair share of one arm paddling experiences and let me just say, they are not fun. At times, I was so wore out from paddling on one side that I could swear that my bicep had grown disproportionate to the other. If you have experienced this, then chances are you probably need to be using a rudder and at the very least you can start to appreciate their value.
A rudder is not only for turning your kayak, as some believe, but is mainly used to help your kayak track correctly in conditions such as wind, waves, and/or current. Simply put, it keeps your kayak going straight without having to do the one arm paddle. I would imagine that many people who kayak fish have found themselves in these types of conditions on more than one occasion. Now, if you have never used a rudder but have done the one arm paddle, let me try to explain what you are missing by not using one. Remember the times when you were paddling like a maniac on one side of your kayak and possibly angry because no matter how hard you paddled, you couldn’t keep your yak moving straight. Imagine those same conditions but now you drop your rudder. Instead of paddling frantically on one side, you can paddle normal, on both sides of the kayak and without any added effort. You feel yourself start to veer in one direction but with a slight adjustment of the rudder, you are now back on track and proceeding straight without any added energy being wasted. If that isn’t enough, now imagine yourself on the water wanting to “beat the banks” with your favorite confidence lure. However, the wind and/or current makes this difficult because you keep getting pushed into it. You find yourself paddling to keep from getting slammed into the shore more than fishing. Now drop the rudder and float with the current and/or wind, using your rudder to steer and maintain your kayak parallel to the bank that you want to work. There is no need to paddle but just cast and “beat the banks” using mother nature as your trolling motor. It’s nice! Hopefully, this helps you see some of the many benefits that a rudder offers.
So, is a rudder for you? I understand that there are kayak anglers that don’t want to cough up the money. In some cases, they may not be in a position to. However, I do believe if you are able or when you are able, a rudder should be a serious consideration depending on the conditions in which you fish. In my opinion, they are worth it. And after some “one arm” paddling experiences, the question: “To Rudder or Not To Rudder” may become evident!