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First Look: Old Town's New Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 Fishing Kayak

With Old Town's new Sportsman ePDL+ 132, kayak anglers have never had more options or capabilities when it comes to their fishing pursuits.

First Look: Old Town's New Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 Fishing Kayak

Pedal-drive kayaks, like Old Town’s new Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132, allow anglers to instantly reverse by simply pedaling backwards. Not all foot-powered kayaks have this capability, but it’s particularly handy when fighting fish close to the watercraft. (Photo courtesy of Johnson Outdoors Watercraft/Old Town)

The benefits of pedal/foot-powered propulsion have been apparent to kayakers—and especially kayak anglers—for many years now. Most people’s leg muscles are usually more powerful and better suited for continuous use than are their arms and backs. Thus, kayakers with foot-propelled watercraft are typically able to travel faster and for longer periods than those using a standard manual paddle-powered kayak. But, perhaps, most importantly for anglers, pedal-driven kayaks also free up your hands to fish without compromising your ability to navigate.

There are currently many different pedal drives and foot-powered propulsion systems for kayaks on the market, and a number perform admirably for kayak anglers. However, manufacturers never cease innovating, and each year it seems that new technologies or improvements are introduced. This year, Old Town, a well-known canoe and kayak manufacturer, has done just that with its brand-new Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132.

While the watercraft itself bears resemblance to Old Town’s existing 13-foot Sportsman BigWater PDL 132, at its heart is something groundbreaking. Specifically, the new patented ePDL+ drive system, which is the industry’s first seamlessly integrated battery-powered pedal drive. What this remarkable pedal drive system does is give kayak anglers three different methods (technically, four if you count paddling) for propelling their kayak. Users can pedal manually, pedal with powered assistance or basically engage cruise control and let the battery fully power their propulsion.

BigWater ePDL+ 132 Fishing Kayak
The ePDL+ drive easily flips up for storage or when traversing very shallow water. (Photo courtesy of Johnson Outdoors Watercraft/Old Town)

The ePDL+ pedal drive system has been fully integrated into the newly renovated Sportsman BigWater 132 hull, and it provides up to five different levels of power assistance—in addition to simple manual pedaling and full-on cruise control. Obviously, this opens up loads of capabilities to anglers. Users can maintain higher speeds for longer periods with the varying levels of powered assistance, allowing them to cover water faster while actively fishing or to make runs to known hot spots more quickly. If tired, the angler can also simply engage the cruise control, take their feet off the pedals and take a break from pedaling entirely.

The ePDL+ drive is a single self-contained piece that drops right into the watercraft’s hull, and part of the unit is its screen/user interface. The drive features intuitive keys and a polarized sunglass-friendly display. With these two elements, kayakers can easily control their propulsion power settings with the simple push of a button. They’re also able to view their current level of power-assisted pedaling and battery power consumption at any time on the screen.

Beyond this ground-breaking new pedal drive system, the new Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 includes many of the same great features as other kayaks in Old Town’s Sportsman line. This includes things like EVA foam floor pads, upgraded breathable seats, at least one forward-facing rod holder and two rear-facing flush-mounted rod holders, a branded tackle box and full-length accessory tracks paired with intuitive storage options, among others. And, of course, a limited lifetime hull warranty (the ePDL+ drive itself comes standard with a 2-year warranty). Naturally, the new kayaks also come in three attractive colorways: Ember, Marsh and the all-new Steel Camo.

ePDL+ drive in Old Town’s new Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 kayak
The innovative new ePDL+ drive used in Old Town’s new Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 kayak allows anglers to choose from three different methods of propulsion: manual pedaling, power-assisted pedaling or fully motorized cruise control. (Photo courtesy of Johnson Outdoors Watercraft/Old Town)

“We are incredibly excited to introduce the watercraft that does it all,” says Alex Sherbinow, the marketing manager for Johnson Outdoors Watercraft (Old Town), “a fishing kayak with unmatched versatility combining manual pedal propulsion, power-assisted pedal and fully motorized cruise control. The ePDL+ technology introduces a novel way to experience the water, giving anglers the confidence to extend their time fishing with ease. Navigating and fishing variable conditions like large bodies of water, tidal conditions or river currents from a kayak has never been more accessible.”

ON THE WATER

All this information about the new Old Town Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 sounds great, right? But how well does it work in practice?

Well, I actually had the opportunity to test out one of the new kayaks firsthand during a February fishing trip to Florida’s beautiful Marquesas Keys. Located about 25 miles west of Key West, Florida, the Marquesas are a collection of uninhabited islands, which together are about 4 miles in diameter and are covered mostly with mangrove forests. Protected as part of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge and separated from the rest of the keys by the 6-mile-wide Boca Grande Channel, the Marquesas offer solid fishing and a picturesque backdrop that was perfect for testing out the new Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132.

We had chartered a large vessel to act as a mother ship and transport the new kayaks—and us anglers—from Key West over to the Marquesas. There we spent several days and nights getting familiar with the new Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 and catching tons of fish ranging from small jacks, snappers and barracudas to bluefish, baby tarpon and even smaller sharks.

It was a tremendously fun trip, and it gave me a chance to get my hands (and feet) on this new pedal-drive kayak. After fishing with it for three days, I came away with a number of observations and opinions on the Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132, almost all overwhelmingly positive.

shark caught from Old Town kayak
Sharks were another common target while fishing in the Marquesas. While fights were longer with some of the bigger sharks, the Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 kayaks were certainly up to the task. (Photo courtesy of Johnson Outdoors Watercraft/Old Town)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

First off, it’s hard to overstate how nice it is to have the versatility of manual pedaling, power-assisted pedaling and fully motorized cruise control. In recent years, I’ve had some experiences with e-bikes designed for hunting, and the multi-level assisted propulsion concept with those is somewhat similar to Old Town’s ePDL+ drive. You simply select what level of battery-powered assistance you want—ranging from none (manual pedaling) to “5,” which provides a hefty boost, to full cruise control—and go.

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Power-assisted pedaling and cruise control are extremely helpful when making runs to a specific fishing spot, and for limiting your fatigue when traveling directly into current, wind or waves. One day in the Marquesas, our group of anglers made a run over to a nearby wreck in our kayaks. It wasn’t an offshore trip by any means, but the wind was blowing a bit and waves were slapping at my kayak’s bow. In that moment, I appreciated having the ability to increase and/or maintain my speed without an associated increase in effort. While I haven’t used the Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 in a river, I can also see the cruise control setting being a great way to stay positioned in consistently flowing current, or even to slip the current when such presentations are needed.

Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132
The author casts toward one of several mangrove-covered islands in Florida’s Marquesas Keys. The Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 made it super easy to position for casts and reach different fishing areas. (Photo courtesy of Johnson Outdoors Watercraft/Old Town)

When actually fighting fish in the Marquesas, especially larger ones, I relied almost universally on manual pedaling. One benefit of a pedal drive kayak over some other foot-powered designs is that you can instantly reverse by pedaling backward, and I certainly appreciated this capability with Old Town’s ePDL+ drive.

The kayak’s rudder control, meanwhile, is a simple ball-shaped knob on the watercraft’s left side. This ball pivots left and right, or it can be locked in place via a separate hex knob that tightens or loosens the control. Overall, I found this effective and easy to use for navigation. The rudder itself flips up and down for use or for storage. In extremely shallow water, it must be stowed to avoid dragging on bottom.

Of course, the same is true of the ePDL+ drive itself, as with any other pedal-drive kayak. Thankfully, Old Town has made pulling the pedal drive out of the water a highly intuitive process. You simply unlock the mechanism keeping the drive in place and lift up with the built-in handle to pull the drive up and into the kayak. Once you reach deeper water, you can simply redeploy the drive, lock it in place, flip the rudder back down, and you’re on your way.

As with other watercraft in Old Town’s Sportsman line, this kayak comes purpose built for anglers. These design touches are immediately noticeable if you’re a serious kayak angler, or if you’ve ever fished from a kayak in the past that lacked such features.

The forward-facing rod holder makes it easy to have a rod on standby if you spot a fish while cruising or if you’re landing a fish or re-rigging a line. The full-length tracks on each side allow for customization with your favorite accessories. The sealed bow dry storage hatch, interior side pockets and wide stern tank, meanwhile, offer ample options for storing a whole host of gear throughout the kayak. The enlarged stern tank is especially great for colors or the tackle crates that many kayak anglers prefer. While I didn’t make use it during my fishing, the Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 also comes equipped with an improved offset shallow-water anchor mount.

Comfort is critical on fishing kayaks, and this new offering in Old Town’s Sportsman line doesn’t disappoint. The Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132’s breathable seat felt great, even after three full days of fishing. While the kayak is certainly wide enough to fish from a standing position, I didn’t stand and fish much in the Marquesas. I did, however, still appreciate how comfortable the built-in EVA foam floor pads felt on my feet. No doubt you would appreciate this even more if you were an angler that frequently stands to fish from your kayak.

PARTING THOUGHTS

Above all, there’s a lot to be excited about with this new release from Old Town. The development of a battery-powered pedal drive should cause a serious splash (pun intended) in the kayak angling world. Some kayaks have incorporated fully motorized trolling motors in the past, while others have relied solely on manual pedaling. However, the new Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 effectively brings both together in a single unit, while also permitting a hybrid option with power-assisted pedaling. Anglers can now go farther, faster using their choice of a few different propulsion options.

If you’re in the market for a new kayak that offers loads of flexibility, this new ride should be on your radar. With its variety of propulsion methods and baked-in angler-friendly features, it can perform well in a host of different conditions.

The new Old Town Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 has a suggested retail price of $5,999.99, which also includes the 36V 20Ah lithium-ion battery. For more information on this brand-new kayak, visit oldtownwatercraft.johnsonoutdoors.com




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