By Tim Lesmeister
The popularity of fishing from a kayak has grown dramatically in the past decade. This is the result of kayak manufacturers designing their watercraft specifically for the angler. While some still use a paddle for propulsion, the majority of the anglers who choose kayaks are using their legs to propel them. This frees up their hands for casting, reeling, and handling fish.
There is a range of kayaks available to anglers and many different options and price points. Let’s cover some of those options and give you an idea of what to expect when you make a purchase or upgrade. Final advice: Do as much research as possible, talk to other anglers who kayak fish, and try before you buy. Every watercraft has a personality, and you want one that feels comfortable to you.
A paddle-only fishing kayak with a low price point is the Ascend 128T. This watercraft has a tunnel hull with a wide transom and flared bow sections to create exceptional stability, which allows PFD-wearing anglers to stand and fish if they choose. The seating is comfortable and it comes with a built-in power system including a wiring harness, master controller, and three strategically placed power plugs. The latter allow you to add and control 12-volt electronics. There are midship and aft weathertight storage compartments for sensitive gear and two rails that accept virtually all rail-mount accessories.
The Ascend 128T sells for around $800 and is available at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Visit www.ascendkayaks.com to find a local dealer.
Ocean has been in the fishing kayak business a long time and their paddle-only kayaks are stable and comfortable. The Prowler Big Game II is a favorite of anglers because it features the Element Seating System: an extremely comfortable option. This kayak also comes with six strategically placed mounting brackets that allow you to surround yourself with all your gear without drilling into the hull. The Prowler provides plenty of storage space inside and on top, and this kayak has a lower price point due to the lack of a pedal-powered drive system.
Cost for the Ocean Prowler Big Game II is around $1,400. Find it at REI, Cabela’s and at many other regional marinas. www.oceankayak.com.
NuCanoe has ben around since 2006 when Tim Niemier, founder of Ocean Kayak decided he wanted to put “a billion butts in boats.” Based in Bellingham, Wash., NuCanoe has been moving east, and anglers across the country have discovered it’s a very stable fishing platform. The Frontier 12 and the Pursuit are the two models most popular with anglers.
Recently NuCanoe entered the pedal drive arena with its Pivot Drive system, an add-on accessory that one can retrofit onto existing NuCanoe hulls. The Pivot Drive does not require an intrusive hole in the deck floor, so it maintains a clean, open deck.
NuCanoes for anglers start at around $1,500 and the Pivot Drive add on is $1,250. View website at www.nucanoe.com to find a dealer near you.
Now we step up to the leg-propelled kayaks, and the Pelican Catch 130 Hydryve is a kayak that brings pedal-drive technology within reach of the angler who is trying to enter the sport on a budget. The Catch 130 Hydryve is 12 feet, 6 inches long and, while made with polyethylene, they’ve incorporated an advanced resin in the top layer imparting a glossy finish which provides significantly more rigidity than standard polyethylene. The Catch 130HD remains light, stiff, strong, and easy to move at only 78 pounds. Pelican uses a tunnel hull for a high level of stability and the seating system is very comfortable.
Find the Pelican Catch 130 Hydryve kayak at Bass Pro Shops, Fleet Farm, Meijer Sporting Goods and Dick’s Sporting Goods at around the $1,500 price point. Check website at www.pelicansport.com to find a local dealer.
When pedal kayak fishing began to take hold, Old Town entered the program with a prop-based pedaling system that offered forward and reverse, which thrust them into a top spot in the market. Their Predator PDL is their top-of-the-line watercraft with all the whistles and bells.
Powered by the low maintenance, forward/reverse drive system, the Predator also has a shallow water anchor mounting area with pre-drilled holes. Most of the fishing kayaks use sonar, which is why Old Town incorporates a Universal Transducer Mount system and built-in accessory tracks on front and rear mounting plates. Their Element Seating System delivers adjustable, all-day comfort. If you’re looking for a high-end fishing kayak designed by anglers that put everything in the right place, this is a great option. The kayak sells for around $2,500. Find it at Fleet Farm and Cabela’s, or check website at www.oldtowncanoes.com.
Hobie played a key role in the kayak fishing revolution. It designed a kayak with a pedal drive and rod holders and pitched it hard to anglers. Two key Hobie models garner most angler attention these days: the Hobie Outback and Pro Angler series.
The Mirage Outback is a fully loaded fishing machine built for every conceivable fishing expedition. The recently introduced Kick-Up Fin automatically retracts upon impact. There is an extra-wide standing deck that offers an improved casting platform for those who like to stand for sight fishing. The seat is extra-wide and there are four molded-in rod holders, multiple deluxe H-Track mounts, and numerous high-capacity storage compartments for all of your gear.
The kayak propulsion is the MirageDrive 180 with Kick-Up Turbo Fins and ARC Cranks which are now standard on all Outbacks. This unit sells for around $3,000.
The Pro Angler Series comes in 12- and 14-foot models and a tandem kayak is 17 feet long. These kayaks are the ultimate fishing machine. There is loads of room, incredible stability, and you get the stealth and comfort of a well designed kayak. There’s a non-skid deck for standing – a huge advantage for sight kayak fishing. Loads of H-Rail make it efficient for mounting rod holders and electronics.
The Pro Angler series can now be powered by Hobie’s unique MirageDrive 360 with new Kick-Up Turbo Fins that allows these kayaks to spin on a dime and are incredibly maneuverable.
Pricing ranges from $3,800 to $4,800 depending on your size and drive options. Visit www.hobie.com to find local dealers.
Lots of bandwagons come around. The kayak fishing bandwagon is definitely one worth riding.