Hobie kayak review: Part 2 – it’s not all beer and skittles

In Part 1 of the fishing kayak review, I focused on the Hobie range, in particular the Revolution model.  I discussed the joys of kayak fishing; the serenity, unique access to shallow water, the stealth and the ease of storage and transport.  I tried to include some nice scenery shots and a few fish as well.  In order to present a balanced argument though, I think it’s important to touch on some downsides to fishing from a narrow, hollow, plastic vessel. With some common sense, creativity or just more cash many of these issues can be overcome, but nevertheless, here are a couple of things you might like to consider before you race out and spend a considerable amount of your hard-earned money on a new toy.

Fishing effectively

For the keen sports fisherman, the goal is to fish effectively.  By this I mean several things.  Keeping the lure or fly in the strike zone as long as possible.  Making long accurate casts to where the fish are holding.  Maintaining contact with the lure to feel any bites.  All of this is quite difficult to do while sitting down and in most of the kayak models you will be fishing sitting down.  Expect plenty of short and wayward casts.  Over the summer we found that getting good action on surface lures is also a challenge.

Sitting at water level it is also very difficult to see the different colours in the water as it changes depth.  You are much more reliant on your electronics, if you have them, to work out what’s happening downstairs.  The obvious solution is to get a kayak you can stand up in, or make your current model more stable.  Check out part 1 for more on this.

Safe as houses! The Revo is very narrow but really stable with the outriggers attached
Safe as houses! The Revo is very narrow but super stable with the outriggers attached.  Photo by Stu Smith

Solitary confinement

While a day on the water in a kayak can be one of the most enjoyable and relaxing activities imaginable, it is something you might have to do by yourself.  Hey, maybe that’s exactly what you’re after when fishing, not to talk to anyone for a few hours.  But when something truly spectacular happens, you land a new PB for example, you’ll wish there was someone else to share the experience.  On a fishing trip or family holiday, kayak fishing can be very anti-social, unless of course all your mates have kayaks too! <Hint Hint>

Capturing the moment

For the catch and release fisherman, bragging rights come from photos.  But in case getting a good selfie wasn’t hard enough, try doing it while holding a flapping fish, a rod and a net.  And don’t drop anything over the side!  A good camera mount is a must and a water-proof camera comes very highly recommended.  Even then as I’ve discovered, it’s easy to get a great photo of your feet, rod holders or the back of the sounder.

Photo fail! There's a 38cm whiting in there somewhere
Nice fish – crap photo

One solution to getting a good kayak selfie is a high mounting position, perhaps 50-70cm higher than the boat.  For fisherman who aren’t concerned about sailing, the obvious mounting spot for a camera is the hole for the Hobie sail.  The neatest solution, but not necessarily the cheapest, is to use RAM mounts, which have a huge range of components to pick from.  I’ll post a couple of pics of a new, higher camera mount when the extra bits arrive.

I was happy with this 65cm flattie, but even happier to get a decent photo of it
I was pretty happy with this 65cm flattie, but even happier to get a decent photo of it through the pedals, rod holders and sounder

The devil is in the detail

“We arrived at our campsite late in the evening, unpacked all our gear, set up the tents and went to bed.  As the birds stirred early the next morning, we woke, quickly packed the car and headed off for a fish.  I would fish from the kayak and dad would fish land-based. After bouncing and bobbing 35 minutes down a windy, sandy and pot-hole ridden bush track we finally reached the mouth of the estuary.  I had just read about one unfortunate angler who had his kayak stolen from the roof of his car, so ours was locked to the roof racks overnight for piece of mind.  We pulled up and started unloading gear.  I reached into my wallet for the key to retrieve the kayak and … sh!t! I had left the keys back at camp!”

Kayak fisherman have an endless list of gear and gadgets to remember for a days fishing.  Admittedly it’s tempting to add extras and creature comforts (eg sounder) which aren’t strictly necessary, but they are lovely toys to have if can justify them.  To give you an example of the packing list, here are the items that can be required for a day on the water:

  • Kayak
  • Lock (for the security conscious)
  • Key
  • Battery (fully charged)
  • Battery charger (if fishing for more than one day)
  • Sounder
  • Sounder mount
  • Rod holders
  • Trolley
  • Mirage drive
  • Seat
  • In-deck tacklebox
  • Camera
  • Camera mount
  • Paddle
  • Inflatable side kicks
  • Side kick poles
  • Pump
  • Life Jacket
  • Fishing rods
  • Net
  • Esky, ice and a cold drink!
  • etc.
  • etc.

Ready, set …….. go!

With all this gear, don’t underestimate the time it takes to set everything up – it can be a good 30 minutes or more. Also, be prepared for bewildered bystanders to watch as you dart between the car and the kayak, clipping, pushing and bolting more and more bits onto the mothership.  At the end of a long day, it is quite daunting to have to go through this process in reverse.  There have been many times when I’ve sat back in awe at how quick it is to launch Lee’s tinnie. Just fill ‘er up, throw the rods in, back it into the water and take off!

One way street

Speaking of backing things up, the Hobie Mirage drive.  It doesn’t have a reverse gear. Get your lure snagged, the boat stuck on a sand bar or in a tight spot and you’ll be reaching for the paddle and performing kayak gymnastics for the next couple of minutes. Watch a Hobie drifting close to structure and they will inevitably spend much of their time spinning round to reposition the boat.

While doing a little extra research for these reviews I’ve learnt you can take the Mirage drive out, spin it around 180 degrees and re-install it.  It works in reverse!  This will be really handy to hold position in the wind or current.  I look forward to trying it.

Travel time

In a busy world, many of us are time poor and might not have hours and hours to spend on the water.  The downside of a kayak, after the setup time, is the how long it takes to move from place to place.  At a leisurely peddle, travel speed is typically only 4-8km/h, a fast walking pace.  Moving around a large lake takes ages when compared with even a modest 10HP petrol engine.  Once you’ve fished a few different spots you might be surprised to learn that several hours have gone by and you’re already running late for some social engagement.

Cruising from one spot to another doesn’t have to mean wasted fishing time though.  Have a rod rigged up with your favourite trolling lure.  At the cruising speed, trolling is a great way to cover a lot of water and cross paths with plenty of hungry fish.

Even a river like the Clyde can seem vast from a kayak
A river like the Clyde seems absolutely vast from a kayak.  At least the rod holders allow a couple of lures to be trolled when changing spots.

Design & Build quality

The design of the Hobie boats is quite amazing.  Off the shelf they are a great fishing vessel and with a few extras they are phenomenal.  But … the quality still has a little room for improvement.  In the three years I’ve owned a Revo, I’ve snapped two paddles.  One when launching from a shallow beach to fish bluewater which nearly capsized the boat and would have put a lot of gear in the drink.  The second on a Sunday paddle and I just wanted to finish with a burst of speed.  The salesman at my local dealer wasn’t surprised, apparently he had seen quite a few.

The ingenious rudder system, which allows you to lower & raise the rudder and steer left & right is all operated by cables.  On a couple of occasions these cables have popped out of their housing or become jammed.  The last time this happened I couldn’t turn right and had to turn 270 degrees left to change direction – it must have been funny to watch.   Plus the cable housing is awkward to access and it is frustrating to have to pull in to shore to try and find the problem.

These tackleboxes are really handy and well located in front of the seat.  The lids are pretty ordinary though
These Hobie tackleboxes are really handy and well located in front of the seat. The seal with the flimsy lid isn’t great though.

My last little whinge before I wrap up relates to the tackleboxes and the in-deck hatches.  This was one of the first things I noticed after buying the yak.  The hatches are hard to close properly and they have a tendency to leak water into the hull.  Also, in an age of really good Plano tackle boxes, the round ones Hobie supplies with the boat feel flimsy and are difficult to seal.  But faults aside, the two most expensive parts of the kayak, namely the Mirage Drive and the hull itself, have been completely trouble-free thus far <touch wood!>.  For this I am very grateful.

Final thoughts

Hobie kayaks are expensive, the models referred to here are generally around $2500 – $3800.   No doubt Hobie has spent a lot of money in R&D and securing patents and they want to make their money back.  The extras (sounder, battery, camera mounts, rod holders, side kicks) also quickly add up to hundreds if not thousands of dollars more.   But in my experience, the more toys you add, the more fish you catch.  Well that’s what I tell myself anyway. You can certainly fish more effectively.

Ok, so it takes longer to move around a lake than a boat with an engine, but at least you get fit and are going at a good trolling speed while doing it. You’ll save money and hassle worrying about fuel and oil but will spend a few bucks on muesli bars and iced coffee to power your legs.  Reign in your goals for your fishing session, fish fewer areas but fish each one more thoroughly.  Enjoy the ride and the peace and quiet. As another round of national and international kayak fishing  tournaments kick off, I think it is fair to say, these kayaks are here to stay.

by Graham Fifield – Flick & Fly Journal

flickandflyjournal.com

Hamish Webb, Dan Firth, Graham Fifield and Lee Georgeson have been fishing the south-east Australian region since 1987. Since then they’ve become avid sportfishermen who are constantly looking for new ways to challenge themselves. They are all scientists and conservationists who are passionate about the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem in which they live. They promote understanding and appreciation of the complex socio-political, economic and environmental issues surrounding fish, fishing and fisheries, while never losing sight of the various motivations that keep them coming back. In English, that means they love all things fishing and have a damn good time on the water, and that’s all that really counts in the end!

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