Difference between a skeg and a rudder.


What’s the difference between a “skeg” and a rudder? Inquiring minds want to know!


Good thing you asked that on the
fishing forum, it would have sparked a 200 post debate on skegs vs rudders. Basically, skegs are a permanent part of the kayak. They drop down out of slot in the boat and are fixed, that is, they can’t be turned. A rudder on kayaks is usually attached with bolts to the stern of the kayak and may be turned left and right. Both act to give the kayak directional control. Both generally are operated by foot controls and cables. The skeg retracts into the kayak when not used, drops down when in use. The rudder generally comes up at the stern when not in use, drops down when in use.

They are aids to assist the kayak in maintaining a straight course, especially in heavier winds. For fishing, they can be a great help when drifting and fishing, keeping the kayak on course, or at least better than without the skeg or rudder. Some, though, will argue neither is necessary if the kayak is a good one and the paddler experienced.

Others can give you more information, I don’t have either on my kayaks and don’t feel the need for one, my Loon tracks well as it is and my Necky Sky is not going to get any faster or do any better by putting $2-300 into a rudder system. I will say one would help when I drift fish, but its not an expense I can justify.

Skeg control
The skeg is usually operated by a sliding hand control to the side and on the outside of the cockpit. It has to be trimmed to the water conditions meaning the amount of skeg you extend. There are also some other skegs that are controlled differently but are in the minority. I have adjustable skegs on 2 boats and fixed skegs on 2 others. Getting those sized correctly was a hassle. I also have one boat with a rudder. In heavy wind it needs it but a skeg would do too.

A rudder is not really meant for turning the boat but for tracking. A skeg is simpler but usually has to be installed when the boat is built. There are some after market skegs available.

He got it
Basically, if you’re paddling through on moving water, neither is probably that useful.

If you’re drift fishing, either is useful. Skegs are usually less expensive. Whether the additional cost of a directional rudder is worth the money is a personal choice.

If you’re paddling in a coastal environment, or in big flatwater like a lake, a rudder is very useful for additional boat control to help you correct for the influences of current and wind. Your primary directional control should always be your paddle and the strokes you use. Your posture and how the boat sits in the water (on edge, forward weighted, rear weighted, etc.) are other features that a paddler has at his/her disposal for boat control. A rudder is a useful addition to all those other aspects of boat control.

So, depending on what kind of boat you’re paddling, where you’re paddling, and in what conditions your paddling, whether you want either, and if one which one, varies.

Also, some recreational kayaks have molded in skegs. I hate them, but I paddle in ledgy rivers and the skegs catch on the ledges and can cause some balance issues. Others like the molded in skegs because they help improve “tracking.” I think tracking is over-rated. But that’s my personal opinion.

  • Big D

I like Rudders for fishing
Well since this is in the fishing section I will assume you plan on fishing with it. My opinion is that they are both invaluable for fishing… with a slight wind you can fish an entire shore line without ever using your paddle.

For me I have rudders just for this purpose on my yaks… they are rarely used for normal paddling but I rarely have it up when fishing.

As for Skegs outside of the molded ones they generally come on more exspensive yaks… atleast in the boats I look at which are basically yaks for fishing for myself and family.

Hope that Helps

skegs vs rudders
Thanks so much to everyone for answering my question. My Dirigo Fishing yak doesn’t have either and I just read about them so of course, had to know!


That Dirigo should track just fine.
Its built similar to a Loon.