Back pedaling! New Kayak Review

Wilderness Systems Radar 115 is the Editor's Pick for Top New Kayak Concept

By Rich Holland

This short new kayak review focuses on the fact fishing kayak manufacturers are full speed ahead — and backward — pushing pedaling technology for the 2017 model boats recently introduced at the two big summer outdoor and fishing industry shows, ICAST and Outdoor Retailer (OR). Jackson Kayaks was the only holdout at the ICAST show, choosing instead to bring out their pedal pusher Coosa out at the more traditional kayak OR venue in Salt Lake City this August.

Still, as the name of this media stream, Kayak Fish, suggests, fishing and fishing kayaks are becoming more and more the center of interest in the kayak world and there was no shortage of kayaks on display when the fishing industry met in Orlando in mid-July. In fact there was quite a crowd, as well as practically all of the suppliers of goodies and gadgets to put on kayaks. Pedals stole the show.

Not only was pedal power ubiquitous at the outdoor products shows, so was the ability to go backwards. The compelling reason for a fisherman to have a foot-powered kayak, leaving out increased speed, is to have both hands free to fish while having complete control of the direction of the ‘yak. Total control (pedal and rudder) in all directions is obviously the ideal.

“The Perception Pilot 12.0 looks to be a game changer — or at least a pain in the bottom line — in the kayak fishing industry, as Perception says they will offer the pedal-drive boat for $1799!”

According to voting by media and buyers at the show, honors for Best of Show – Boats at the 2016 ICAST show went to the new Old Town Predator PDL from Johnson Watercraft. Johnson has been showcasing some form of mechanical power plant for kayaks for nearing a decade and has a handful of Best of Show awards to show for the effort.

Yet was the Old Town Predator PDL the most innovative kayak on the show floor at ICAST? Hobie continues to build on the Hobie ProAngler, the most boat-like fishing kayak in the industry, with a simple pair of wires that allow it’s unique MirageDrive pedal/paddles to now work in reverse as well and in forward and a sleek new Lowrance transponder for the plug-and-play sonar system. (The Mirage 180 works on all of Hobie’s pedal drives)

A simple pull of a wire switches the Hobie MirageDrive 180 from forward to reverse and back. Photo Hobie Cat

A simple pull of a wire switches the Hobie MirageDrive 180 from forward to reverse and back. Photo Hobie Cat

Native Watercraft, with its claims of “First with Reverse”, introduced their stumpy new Propel in a couple sizes, all featuring many built in fishing amenities, including a compact 10 footer rated to carry 450 pounds of ‘yakker and gear.

The new kayak display that attracted the attention of this editor was the Confluence booth that offered not one, but two brand new pedal power kayaks in its kayak brand, covering the bases from a complete top of the line fishing system, the Wilderness Systems Radar 115, to the most affordable pedal-powered kayak yet on the market, the Perception Pilot 12.0.

The Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0 looks to be a game changer — or at least a pain in the bottom line — in the kayak fishing industry, as Perception says they will offer the pedal-drive boat for $1799! The boat in display was a prototype, so it will be interesting to see if the price point hangs along with the actual product debut.

The Radar 115 is a completely new hull design based on two principles — the new dual pod array in the bow and a unique chined hull designed for a much more stable ride for the kayaking angler. Wilderness Systems actually markets the Radar 115 as a Tri-Powered kayak in that it can be 1. Paddled 2. Pedaled 3. Motor-driven. The main pod will take either the new Helix Pedal Drive or the recently introduced Helix Motor Drive, while the hull is not only designed to be stable, but also offers its ideal trim to the paddler. The second pod makes it easy to install a complete electronics/sonar array.

Note that all of the boats above have a host of optional gear designed just for that ride, while all come with a varying array of basic fishing amenities included; everything from seats to rod holders to storage.

For instance, the Radar 115 gets the nod for Editor’s Pick for Top New Kayak Concept for 2017, yet the basic version of the boat comes with a minimalist standard layout that’s not much more than the seat and what was molded into the hull. Don’t worry, you can add just about anything your fishing heart desires and it’s all been made for this kayak. It just has to be installed.

On the other end of the spectrum is the new Pelican Catch 120 NXT that is a basic gear upgrade from the popular 2016 Catch 120. Built with the less-expensive thermomolding process and designed for placement in big box stores, the 120 NXT is another product that will appeal to kayakers both on fishability and price range, with the price set at $879 when the kayak comes out in 2017.

Stay tuned for more complete boat reviews coming in future stories from Kayak Fish.

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