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6 Feature-Packed Kayaks to Maximize Fishing Success

We review a half-dozen great fish-finding kayaks from Hobie, Old Town, Bonafide, Native, NRS Fishing and Jackson.

6 Feature-Packed Kayaks to Maximize Fishing Success

Jackson, a longtime maker of quality performance and fishing kayaks, now has a well-equipped pedal-driven boat. (Photo courtesy of Jackson)

Kayaks designed for anglers keep getting better as builders add more fishing-specific features to make time on the water productive and efficient

Let’s not forget about comfort, either; improved seats that support the back and adjust for legroom help us stay out there longer.

Plus, pedal-drive systems get us to our spots faster and let us position boats even while firing off casts to prime structure. No doubt about it: Today’s purpose-built kayaks are serious fishing machines.

Our friends at Florida Sportsman recently put a bunch of the latest fishing kayaks to the test, and here are six that stood out for exploring a variety of waters.

Hobie Mirage Compass

Kayak Fishing Special Hobie
Sonar mounted on the Compass' H-Track rail helped this angler find a chunky largemouth. (Photo courtesy of Hobie)

The Compass features a new seat this year, built of anodized aluminum, mono-mesh and ripstop nylon. The retractable rudder is mounted beneath the stern, where it won’t snag lines or stand in the way of a Power-Pole Micro Anchor, which can be installed easily in the pre-fitted brass inserts.

The rudder is a Kick-Up design, like the MirageDrive fins, meaning it folds up and out of the way automatically if it strikes something and then returns to position.

H-Track accessory rails installed forward of the seat enable mounting anything from additional rod holders and camera booms to chartplotter and fishfinder units. (Hobie designed its transducer mounting system and cable plugs for Lowrance compatibility.) Storage options include a forward net and a Twist and Seal hatch.

TAKE NOTE: The Compass Camo package features a pattern appropriate for duck hunting and comes with Kick-Up Turbo Fins.

USE IT FOR: This is a clean, beamy fishing kayak capable of tackling all kinds of waters. It’s well-equipped as-is but also popular with DIY-minded anglers who wish to install custom accessories.

Kayak Fishing Hobie
Photo courtesy of Hobie

Hobie Mirage Compass Facts

  • Length: 12'
  • Width: 34"
  • Weight: 87 lbs. rigged, 68 lbs. hull
  • Overall Capacity: 400 lbs.
  • Propulsion: MirageDrive 180 pedal system, paddle
  • MSRP: $2,599 Seagrass Green; and Papaya Orange, $2,749 camo

Old Town Sportsman BigWater PDL 132

Kayak Fishing Special Old Town
The BigWater is loaded with fishing conveniences, and its hull has a lifetime warranty. (Photo courtesy of Old Town)

A proven performer in the Old Town Sportsman lineup, this is a big boat that feels nimble and quick thanks to the company’s innovative PDL propeller drive. The pedal stroke is rotational, intuitive and much like a recumbent bicycle. For reverse, simply backpedal. The PDL unit, with a 5-year warranty, may be removed for storage or tilted forward while beaching the boat.

There are pre-installed fittings for mounting a shallow-water anchor, non-slip EVA deck pads and a universal transducer mount—all features once in the DIY domain but now standard on the BigWater. The seat is comfortable and easily adjusted for preferred pedal stroke length by lifting a tab and sliding fore or aft on a shuttle track. Gear management is also a strong suit, with sealed dry storage forward and a large stern tank well.


TAKE NOTE: The twin aft-facing BigWater rod holders are just where they should be for trolling or carrying, and the forward-facing single holder is in the perfect location for keeping a rod close for spot casting. Easily add more rod holders or other accessories via built-in track mounts on either side of the boat, both fore and aft.

USE IT FOR: Any water body where an angler might wish to cover lots of area, haul a lot of fishing tackle and spend several hours out there. Freshwater lakes, big rivers, saltwater bays, the open ocean—this kayak is built for comfort and the confident handling of waves, currents and winds.

Old Town Sportsman BigWater
Photo courtesy of Old Town

Old Town Sportsman BigWater PDL 132 Facts

  • Length: 13'2"
  • Width: 36"
  • Weight: 122 lbs. rigged, 95 lbs. with drive and seat removed
  • Overall Capacity: 378 lbs.
  • Propulsion: PDL Drive pedal system, paddle
  • MSRP: $2,899.99

Bonafide P127

Kayak Fishing Special Bonafide
Long known for comfortable seating and standup stability, Bonafide now adds the seventh-generation Propel drive to the P127. (Photo courtesy of Bonafide)

The P127 is a hybrid catamaran-style hull tuned to accommodate the Propel drive and any added stern weight, such as from a motor. Hand-sewn and made in the U.S., the seat provides great back support along with fore and aft adjustability; it mounts in a relatively high position, giving the angler good visibility and ample space below for storing tackle trays and other gear.

The Propel unit is the same design found on the Native Propel kayak models. Now in its seventh generation, it features a new integrated weedguard to go with the proven stainless gearing. Aluminum YakAttack GearTracs are mounted port and starboard, fore and aft. Quick-draw rod stagers and covered areas for the tip sections are included. There’s also a transducer recess with mounting plate.

TAKE NOTE: The bow hatch has Doubleheader hinges. If standing outside the kayak, as on the trailer or bank, swing the hatch back to slide rods inside the body of the kayak. If seated, swing it forward to access supplies or the battery and transducer wiring.

USE IT FOR: Great capacity makes the P127 well-suited for larger anglers in freshwater and inshore saltwater conditions. The new rudder design retracts up and down, a benefit for anglers who traverse shallow water to reach deeper, rougher areas.

Bonafide P127
Photo courtesy of Bonafide

Bonafide P127 Facts

  • Length: 12'7"
  • Width: 34"
  • Weight: 120 lbs. rigged, 100 lbs. with drive and seat removed
  • Overall Capacity: 475 lbs.
  • Propulsion: Propel Pedal Drive system, paddle
  • MSRP: $3,099

Native Slayer Propel Max 10

Kayak Fishing Special Native
Bass anglers on small lakes and winding rivers will appreciate the maneuverability of the Native Slayer Propel Max 10. (Photo courtesy of Native)

The Max 10 is similar in many (and good) ways to the company’s fishing-specific Slayer Propel Max 12.5, only in a shorter package. The Propel pedal drive has a marine-grade aluminum body with stainless steel gearing, offering instant forward or reverse. A weedguard has been added to this latest (seventh) iteration.

The seat is hand-sewn in the U.S. and may be positioned where desired, fore or aft, on a track. Lots of sturdy BMX-style lifting grips are provided for moving the kayak from truck to water and back. Pre-installed mounting plates for running switches and wires—without drilling into the poly hull—are a nice touch. Inserts for a powered stake anchor are included in the stern. The hull is derivative of the proven Native hulls, fairly flat with a shallow tunnel traveling the length, drawing 4 or 5 inches.

TAKE NOTE: The bow compartment is perfectly sized for installing a battery and running a transducer thru a scupper. The under-seat sliding tackle drawer is a feature found nowhere else on this side of the DIY world.

USE IT FOR: This boat is engineered for quick turns, making it ideal for working around twisty creeks and structure-laden ponds. Plus, it’s small enough to easily slide into a truck bed or SUV.

Native Slayer Propel Max 10
Photo courtesy of Native

Native Slayer Propel Max 10 Facts

  • Length: 10'
  • Width: 34.15"
  • Weight: 97 lbs. rigged, 75 lbs. with drive and seat removed
  • Overall Capacity: 400 lbs.
  • Propulsion: Propel Pedal Drive system, paddle
  • MSRP: $2,649

NRS Fishing Kuda 126

Kayak Fishing Special NRS
The Kuda 126 inflatable’s open deck features EVA foam surfacing to prevent feet from slipping and to enhance comfort. Gear mounts are preinstalled in spots where kayak anglers will want them. (Photos courtesy of NRS Fishing)

The Kuda 126 is a playful-looking rig, but NRS doesn’t play around. This is a fishing-mission-equipped inflatable with rugged three-chamber PVC construction. The center chamber, or deck, is high-pressure drop-stitch, and the independent side chambers offer stability and confidence. Extremely durable, the material is built to withstand stress on boulder-strewn streams.

The aluminum-frame, nylon-mesh seat is installed with four nylon straps and may be moved fore or aft as desired. Adjustable footpegs are included, a rarity for inflatable rigs. Five YakAttack base mounts are pre-fitted in strategic spots over reinforced nylon plates. EVA foam deck surfacing offers a non-slip standing platform, plus resists fin spines and other spiky stuff. Nylon D-rings and bungee fasteners are also included.

TAKE NOTE: At the bow is vulcanized rubber reinforcement to protect against anchor line chafing. The stern area is clear for mounting a Torqueedo or Power-Pole Micro Anchor (with two-part Stabond adhesive).

USE IT FOR: It’s hard to beat an inflatable kayak for backwoods lake excursions. Shoulder the lightweight carry bag, hike or bike to the water, then pump up the Kuda and go! It’s also a super option for fly-outs or packing on a powerboat for long-range voyaging.

NRS Fishing Kuda 126
Photo courtesy of NRS Fishing

NRS Fishing Kuda 126 Facts

  • Length: 12'6"
  • Width: 38"
  • Weight: 31 lbs.
  • Overall Capacity: 300 lbs.
  • Propulsion: Paddle, accessory motor
  • MSRP: $1,495

Jackson Coosa FD

Kayak Fishing Special Jackson
The Coosa FD's stern is clear for mounting motors or anchor poles. (Photo courtesy of Jackson)

The Coosa FD’s High Ergo Seat Frame with Molle system offers all sorts of options for adding accessories at the angler’s workstation. It adjusts forward and back, up and down. A new pass-through system enables quick wiring for installing a fishfinder, and like many kayaks in this size and feature range, the stern includes inserts for the four bolts used to mount popular stake anchors or Torqeedo motors.

The forward hatch has a bin to keep stowable gear contained and a Hypalon belt on top to secure the paddle when it’s not needed. Hinges have been reinforced, too. Integrated gear tracks are located port and starboard, fore and aft. The rudder comes with the boat, and there are controls for either left- or right-hand operation.

TAKE NOTE: The company’s new Flex Drive 3D, deployed with the flip of a lever, offers forward and reverse operation and includes a unique articulating system for deep- and shallow-water navigation.

USE IT FOR: This is a boat for any fishing technique that demands copious volumes of gear and a stable, wave-taming hull with generous features for angler comfort and efficiency.

Jackson Coosa FD
Photo courtesy of Jackson

Jackson Coosa FD Facts

  • Length: 12'7"
  • Width: 35"
  • Weight: 107 lbs.
  • Overall Capacity: 450 lbs.
  • Propulsion: Flex Drive 3D pedal system, paddle
  • MSRP: $3,759

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