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New Breed of Fishing Kayaks Packed with Features

We take a look at the latest self-propelled fishing crafts unveiled at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

Fishing kayaks have come a long way in recent years, as has the sport of kayak fishing.

My first fishing kayak quite a few years back was a pretty straightforward sit-in design that had two rod holders and a storage slot for a milk crate toward the stern.

While that kayak served me well, today’s dedicated fishing ’yaks are so feature-packed and accessory-compatible that they are offering kayak anglers never-before-seen levels of usability and versatility.

A number of new kayaks were shown off to the public and media at ICAST 2019 this year in Orlando. Below are some of those new ’yaks and a little bit of info about each new model.

Feelfree US 3 Waters Kayaks Big Fish 108

Feelfree US 3 Waters Kayaks Big Fish 108 (Photo by Drew Warden)

This new kayak is the latest in the company’s Big Fish series, and it is built around the new Pro Fish Pedal Drive propulsion system. That’s paired with Feelfree’s intuitive 8-Ball steering system and an oversized Beaver Tail rudder. The Big Fish 108 also features a Cathedral-type hull design for solid stability and great maneuverability, even with its fairly wide design. The kayak is a little bit longer than 10 feet in length and has a weight capacity of 400 pounds. $1,799

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 with 360 Drive Technology

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 with 360 Drive Technology (Photo by Drew Warden)

Hobie’s latest is chock-full of features for the kayak angler, not the least of which is the MirageDrive 360 propulsion system with Kick-Up Fins. This system allows the angler an unprecedented array of movements — literally in any direction. Forward. Backward. Sideways. And every degree in between. Hobie’s website has some really cool videos illustrating the impressive maneuverability of these ’yaks. The Kick-Up Fins, meanwhile, automatically retract upon impact, which allows anglers to go shallower than they have been able to go with previous pedal-driven systems. Add in Hobie’s Vantage Seat for comfort and a host of other built-in angler-friendly features, and this is truly a versatile fishing machine for the serious kayak angler. $4,799

Jackson Kayak Kilroy HD

Jackson Kayak Kilroy HD (Photo by Drew Warden)

Although many of today’s purpose-built fishing kayaks are of the sit-on-top variety, sit-in ’yaks still definitely have a place. Jackson Kayak’s new Kilroy HD offers an incredibly versatile sit-in option with a number of great features. The new hull has been reshaped from the previous Kilroy model for additional storage and stability, and the kayak includes Bow2Stern gear-and-seat track systems. The layout has also been reworked to offer a diverse functionality that extends beyond fishing. The modular setup allows for customization based on intended use, so hunters can add in duck decoy bins or a kennel cot; or a casting brace or a second seat can even be added. $1,295

Old Town Topwater 120 PDL

Old Town Topwater 120 PDL(Photo by Drew Warden)

The newest member of Old Town’s Topwater line, the 12-foot 120 PDL offers a hands-free, pedal-drive kayak along with a lot of great fishing features. The PDL pedal-driven system itself comes with a 5-year warranty, and a rudder is included with the ’yak. The DoubleU hull offers solid stability and a 500-pound weight capacity, meaning it can be loaded up with fishing tackle and gear. The 120 PDL’s universal transducer mounting systems allows for any fishfinder to be placed without excess hassle. Add in a comfortable and breathable ElementAir seat and rod storage options, and it’s a potent angling tool for kayakers. $2,150

Jackson Kayak YuPIK

Jackson Kayak YuPIK (Photo by Drew Warden)

Another highly versatile option from Jackson Kayak, this sit-on-top watercraft has full Bow2Stern track systems, which include gunnel tracks and seat tracks, and storage pockets placed along the length of the kayak. The YuPIK also incorporates a moving standing pad system, the company’s StrapDown gear track for 360-degree storage security and a new, fully trimmable seat pan. This kayak is very customizable to fit the task at hand, whether it’s fishing, hunting or just paddling along with family or friends. $1,295

Wilderness Systems Kayaks Recon 120

Wilderness Systems Kayaks Recon 120 (Photo by Drew Warden)

Developing a kayak with a pedal-drive propulsion system is a natural progression for makers of traditional, paddle-powered crafts, and that’s exactly what Wilderness Systems Kayaks has done with their launch of the Recon 120 at ICAST 2019. The kayak is the manufacturer’s first with a pedal-driven system. The layout of the Recon 120 is left pretty open with tracks appearing to be found on each side, a front storage compartment and an elevated chair for comfort. The design of the Recon 120 also looks to be kept wide enough for improved stability for those fishing from a standing position. $1,999

Perception Kayaks Outlaw 11.5

Perception Kayaks Outlaw 11.5 (Photo by Drew Warden)

This new offering from Perception Kayaks offers abundant features at a very reasonable price point. Tailor-made with the angler in mind, the Outlaw 11.5 utilizes a wide and stable pontoon-style hull with a walkable deck from stern to bow. A high-perch seat offers comfort on the water; however, it can also be easily removed and stored on the kayak for those preferring to fish standing up. In this same seating area, there is storage space for a fairly large cooler. The Outlaw 11.5 comes ready to accept a motor or Power-Pole, and “double barrel” rod holders on each side of the kayak offer storage or a trolling setup for a total of four rods. Lots of angler-friendly features at an accessible price. $649

Pelican International CATCH PWR 100

Pelican International CATCH PWR 100 (Photo by Drew Warden)

As kayak fishing has evolved over the years, many folks have been modifying their ’yaks with trolling motors to help expand their fishing capabilities. The CATCH PWR 100 takes this further. Designed from the ground up for use with an electric or gas motor, this watercraft is perfect for the kayak angler not looking to paddle or pedal to their next fishing spot. Built for serious fishing pursuits, the kayak has a 500-pound weight capacity, features a built-in transom and comes equipped with fat wheels for easy transport. $1,300


Pelican International CATCH 110 HYDRYVE

Pelican International CATCH 110 HYDRYVE (Photo by Drew Warden)

A little shorter than the company’s CATCH 130 HYDRYVE, the new 10-foot, 6-inch CATCH 110HD includes Pelican’s Ergocast G2 seating system for maximum comfort and a host of other useful angling features. Like the 130, the 110HD has tracks on each side of the ’yak for accessory mounting as well as ample bungies for storage. It also features a patented tunnel hull design, rod holders and Pelican’s RAM-X Premium construction. $1,300

Vibe Kayaks Shearwater 125

Vibe Kayaks Shearwater 125 (Photo by Drew Warden)

The new Shearwater 125 from Vibe Kayaks is jam-packed with features and a very well-thought-out design and layout that offers anglers a ton of versatility. To start with, anglers can choose from three different propulsion methods — traditional paddle, foot drive or Bixpy jet motor (price varies with each option). There are ample rod storage options onboard, with both horizontal and vertical choices (four of each). There’s also a removable sealed fishfinder pod with built-in transducer mount and four different integrated top-loading gear tracks. The kayak’s Vibe Summit seat flips up and down and offers a sitting/standing perch. Add in tackle tray holders and an assortment of other helpful amenities, and it’s easy to see just how much versatility and performance the Shearwater 125 offers — and all at a very tolerable price. $1,300

Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 120

Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 120 (Photo by Drew Warden)

This 12-foot sit-on-top kayak offers a lot of great angling features at an affordable price point. The Yellowfin 120 comes equipped with a rudder-ready hull, 10 integrated top-loading gear tracks, rod stagers, rod holders and a number of other useful items. It utilizes Vibe’s Hero seat, which folds down flat and has a lower support bar in the back for comfort. The kayak itself is also quite lightweight at just 64 pounds. Despite this, it supports a fairly hefty weight capacity of 400 pounds. $799

Other Options

Panther Martin/Sea Eagle SUPCat 10 (Photo by Drew Warden)

While the above represent more clear-cut kayak designs, in recent years there’s also been a lot of interest in stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) and hybrids that feature elements of both types of watercraft. Some prime examples from the show include the Panther Martin/Sea Eagle SUPCat 10, the Kaku Kayak Zulu, the BOTE Lono Aero Kayak and the Pelagic Inflatable Stand-Up Paddleboard.

The Kaku Zulu perhaps most closely resembles a traditional kayak, in terms of material and overall look, but it definitely incorporates some SUP design aspects. The other three utilize inflatable materials for easy on-the-go usage. The SUPCat10 comes ready to attach a small motor and features a stable deck from which to stand and cast. Like the SUPCat10, the Lono Aero utilizes a drop stitch construction. It has an adjustable seat, self-draining cockpit, storage for various gear and rods and comes ready to mount a Power-Pole Micro or BOTE’s Sandspear stakeout and push pole for shallow-water fishing.

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