Real kayak anglers, real reviews

The paddling public shares its opinions

Buying a kayak can be a daunting experience for some. The different makes and models are seemingly endless. While virtually any kayak can be used for fishing, it is always best to get one that better suits your needs and style of fishing.

Louisiana Sportsman reached out to several kayak fishermen with various levels of experience to get some personal reviews of popular models. These are non-sponsored anglers who did their homework before plunking down hard-earned money on their kayak of choice. Below is what they had to say about their choice.

There are some important considerations that help ensure you make the right decision. Choosing a brand and model of fishing kayak should not be done lightly. What’s best for me and my preferred fishing area and techniques might not be right for you. Models are available to comfortably fit anglers of all sizes. The most-important piece of advice is to try as many models as possible before making a selection. Utilize kayak demo days offered by your local dealer to test drive several different kayaks for a side-by-side comparison.

Paddle or pedal?

Paddle kayaks are the least expensive, and most manufacturers offer entry level models. Often, purchasing a lower-end paddle kayak is a great way to experience the sport without going all-in not knowing if it is something you really want to do.

Although paddling is the traditional means of propelling a kayak, almost all major manufacturers also offer some type of pedal-drive propulsion. Pedaling allows anglers a hands-free fishing experience, but it also adds significant additional purchase cost. Pedal-drive mechanisms vary greatly, and making an informed purchase is highly advised.

A new kayak will not come with all of the things you need to make your fishing more successful and enjoyable. You will certainly look to add accessories to suit your needs.

From beginners to seasoned fishermen, kayaking is a great way to get into fishing or off the bank in a relatively inexpensive manner. By putting a little time and research into your purchase, you’ll be sure you are getting the right model to fit your needs.

Perception Pescador Pro 12.0

  • Length: 12-foot
  • Width: 32.5 inches
  • Capacity: 375 pounds
  • Hull weight: 64 pounds
  • With seat/drive: n/a
  • MSRP: $879.00

Reviewer: Kyle Adibyazdi

Hometown: New Orleans

Age/Gender: 30, male

Years kayak fishing: Six months, but canoe fished with father all his life

Freshwater and saltwater

Skill level: Fake it ‘til you make it

How often: Two to three times a month

I purchased this kayak due to the size, price and ease of accessibility and modification. The price was good, and it has lots of accessory rails built in, as well as being lightweight. The kayak has good front- and rear-deck storage. The boat tracks well and moves through the water easily. The kayak is light enough to car-top, but I use a cart for launching and carrying. I added an anchor trolley and a couple of rod holders. I also added a fishing crate with two additional rod holders and a taco clip to hold an anchor pole.

The only thing I would like to see different is a raised seat. Paddling/fishing from the boat floor can be tough and it is a little harder to paddle. The kayak is pretty stable for smaller people, but larger anglers may have a little trouble standing. This was a wonderful starter kayak and did exactly what I needed to determine how seriously I wanted to get with the new hobby. I will be looking to upgrade soon.

Hobie Outback

  • Length: 12-foot-9
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Capacity: 425 pounds
  • Hull weight: 85 pounds
  • With seat/drive: 103 pounds
  • MSRP: $2,799.00

Reviewer: Aaron Larose

Hometown: Baton Rouge

Age/Gender: 37, male

Years kayak fishing: Five

Freshwater, saltwater and offshore

Skill level: Advanced

How often: Two to three times a month

Having owned both a Hobie Outback and Pro Angler 12, I was excited with the totally redesigned Outback for 2019. Many of the great features of prior Hobie models were combined with the all-new hull design and ability to customize.

The hull is a hybrid of several models and is noticeably faster, quieter and more stable. With the Mirage Drive 180, reverse is quick and simple, and Turbo fins are standard. The hull tracks straight and paddling — if ever necessary — is easier. The carrying capacity was increased by 25 pounds to 425. I like that the cockpit is wider, and the new H-Track Deluxe with H-Rail integrated track makes adding accessories simple. The tracks and rails eliminate the need to drill into the kayak and allow for easy removal or repositioning of accessories.

With front and rear accessory options, the ability to customize the Outback is endless. The easy open square cockpit hatch provides plenty of dry storage and bow hatch provides plenty of in-hull storage options. With the wide, flat floor, standing is easy and comfortable. The outback is really stable. The new rudder takes some getting used to since it doesn’t fold out of the way like the old one, but I also like that steering is from either side. Using a cart to carry and launch the kayak can help prevent damaging the rudder.

The stern has inserts installed to easily mount a Power Pole Micro — which is the first thing I did. Also, the new Guardian transducer mount protects the new large transducers by allowing them to be retracted into the hull. My next addition will be a Lowrance Elite 7 with Total Scan transducer and some rod holders.

Old Town Predator PDL

  • Length: 13-foot-2
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Capacity: 500 pounds
  • Hull weight: 96 pounds
  • With seat/drive: 117 pounds
  • MSRP: $2,799.00

Reviewer: Matt Laborde

Hometown: Alexandria

Age/Gender: 24, male

Years kayak fishing: Four

Freshwater and saltwater

Skill level: Advanced

How often: Two weekends a month

On a summer vacation to Destin, Fla., I went on a guided kayak fishing trip, and the company has a fleet of PDLs. After fishing all day in the PDL, I noticed that my back and legs were less fatigued, and the kayak was sturdy in the chop. Having instant reverse capabilities was a game-changer. I literally got home, posted my previous kayak for sale.

The best thing about the kayak is the PDL drive. With a 10.6-to-1 gear ratio, it makes it the most-efficient kayak on the market. You can keep the drive down in 11 inches of water. Anything less than that and you will have to raise the drive and paddle. I target mostly speckled trout, so getting into very skinny marsh water isn’t a must-have for me.

The Predator PDL comes with six sacrificial mounting plates to allow for easy mounting of accessories without having to drill holes in the kayak. One of the most overlooked but handy features is the self-bailing scupper plugs. They allow water to drain out of the kayak but not flow in. It allows you to stay dry while fishing, which is very helpful in the colder seasons. The Element seat took some getting used to because it sits high up compared to other kayaks. This actually makes it easier to go from sitting to standing. It also has a built-in pocket under the seat to store Plano boxes, pliers, baits or anything you don’t want rolling around on the deck.

The rudder deployment and steering system is also very easy and responsive. Old Town has a “locking rudder control” to keep your kayak straight when pedaling long distances in wind or current. The Predator is 36 inches wide, which makes it extremely stable. Due to the seat height, it takes very little effort to go from a sitting to standing position or from a standing to seated position. With the way the drive well is designed, paddling can be tough at times. When the PDL drive is in the “up” position, it causes the drivewell to be open on the deck. The drivewell catches water when paddling that causes added drag. The kayak is 13-foot-2, so it tracks well when pedaling, and compared to its competitors, the PDL has the most responsive rudder I have used.

The fully rigged weight of the Predator PDL is 117 pounds. This makes carrying the kayak impossible for anyone except the Hulk or Coach O. Buying a quality kayak cart will be necessary. I purchased the C-Tug cart, and it has been a nice pairing.

The only issue I have is the rudder steering control is on the left side of the boat. I am left-handed, and this can sometimes put me in a pickle. I would like to see either a way to swap sides for the rudder steering handle or for them to install one steering control on each side of the boat.

I added a Lowrance depth finder and two Zooka Tube rod holders. In addition to fishing, the Predator PDL can be used as a waterfowl-hunting platform. It is sturdier and has more weight capacity than your traditional pirogue.

Jackson Coosa FD

  • Length: 12-foot-7
  • Width: 35 inches
  • Capacity: 450 pounds
  • Hull weight: 102 pounds
  • With seat/drive: 115 pounds
  • MSRP: $2,999.00

Reviewer: Joe Cantino

Hometown: New Orleans

Age/Gender: 51, male

Years kayak fishing: Seven

Saltwater mostly, a little freshwater

Skill level: Better than average

How often: One or two times a month

The first kayak I owned was a Jackson Cuda. That kayak was fast, and I would typically cover 8 to 10 miles a day. The problem was the stability wasn’t that great. I enjoy standing to sight-fish, and more than once I joined the aquatic club. So I switched gears and purchased the SuperFishal. The stability was outstanding, but it limited the amount of ground I could cover. Several times I found myself too far out from the launch. Fighting storms or wind became laborious and unsafe. The decision was made to get a pedal kayak to improve speed and the ability to cover more ground.

The Coosa FD has gear track all over the boat and allows for a serious amount of customization. There is a Power Pole micro mount in the back, which is great for anchoring. I think the seat is very comfortable. Also, I liked that the Flex Drive kicks up if you run aground or into other objects. Pedaling the kayak averages about 3.5 mph on the GPS. It tracks very well under both paddle and pedal power. Paddling isn’t as efficient as pedaling, but it paddles well.

The stability is very good; I can stand and turn around without fear of tipping over. The drive on the Coosa FD has a nice grab point that makes standing up a bit easier. Shallow-water performance — measured in inches in this boat category — is amazing.

The Coosa FD has a rudder flush with the hull that allows the kayak to be poled around in the shallow ponds of south Louisiana without losing its tracking. When compared to its rivals in this class of kayak, it is a beast. It weighs 115 pounds with the drive and 102 pounds without. Fishing solo requires a kayak-specific launch or a cart to wheel the yak down a boat ramp. Loading the boat beforehand makes this very tough to handle. I keep tackle and gear very light on most days.

The Flex Drive is not nearly as efficient as others and overall speed is a bit slower than the Outback. When fishing grassy areas, I am constantly clearing the prop. I carry my Coosa FD in a truck with a bed extender.

The Lowrance Ti5 is the most-favorite thing I’ve added — followed by a Power Pole Micro, then an anchor trolley (not necessary with the Power Pole), and rod tube up front to hold fishing rod while standing.

Jackson Cruise 12

  • Length: 12-foot-3
  • Width: 31.5 inches
  • Capacity: 375 pounds
  • Hull weight: 63 pounds
  • With seat: 69 pounds
  • MSRP: $899.00

Reviewer: Cody Petty

Hometown: Dry Prong

Age/Gender: 26, male

Years kayak fishing: One

Freshwater and saltwater

Skill level: Amateur

How often: One to two weekends a month

I did some research, Jackson kayaks seemed to be a good brand, and the Cruise 12 was moderately priced. The kayak is lightweight, everything is easily accessible, it has high-low seating adjustment and is comfortable.

The Cruise tracks very well and is easy to paddle. The stability sitting down is great; you can stand up in it, and it has a stand-up strap and a flat floor. Standing in this kayak isn’t the easiest; however, I have decent balance and can stand in it for a while.

The kayak is very easy to launch, load and carry due to the lighter weight of under 65 pounds. I would like to see additional areas for accessory rails or adding accessory rails to the production models. I added an anchor system and rod holders. The Cruise is east to cartoon and is a great kayak for those just starting out.

Native Slayer Propel 13

  • Length: 13-foot-2
  • Width: 33 inches
  • Capacity: 500 pounds
  • Hull weight: 89 pounds
  • With seat/drive: 108 pounds
  • MSRP: $2,599.00

Reviewer: Stephen Thompson

Hometown: Canton, MS

Age/Gender: 35, male

Years kayak fishing: Six

Freshwater and saltwater

Skill level: Above-average

How often: Once a week if possible

This boat is loaded with a high-quality metal gear track that allows a fisherman total customization. A big front hatch that is accessible while on the water, a large rear tank well, and a very comfortable seat. The propel drive is built like a tank. I’ve already hit a few stumps and they didn’t leave a scratch.

Another really cool accessory is the right-hand, forward-facing cup holder/rod holder. When you’re retying or unhooking a fish you just place your rod in the holder next to you. The boat is an easy pedal that follows a very natural motion, like riding a bike. The tracking is greatly improved with an upgraded rudder like mine from Pack and Paddle. One of my favorite things about this boat is how well it paddles when you’re too shallow to pedal. If you removed the drive, it would still be a great paddleboat for fishing.

It’s a stable boat that is easy to fish and paddle while standing, and I’m no gymnast. The boat is a heavy, 108 pounds rigged with the drive. To help with that, the boat has four heavy-duty attached handles that are padded with foam so you can get a strong, comfortable grip. Native sells an aftermarket accessory called the Native Landing Gear made by Boonedox that mounts to the rear gear track and makes loading, unloading and launching a breeze. It’s a must-have. The instant reverse makes fishing in wind and current very easy. Some days you can fish all day and never touch an anchor or paddle.

I have added a Pack and Paddle upgraded rudder, Native underseat organizer, a Yak Gear anchor trolley and a prop Weed Guardian. I’ve also added a Lowrance fish finder, rod holders and a Visi-Pole.

Hobie Compass

  • Length: 12-foot
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Capacity: 400 pounds
  • Hull weight: 68 pounds
  • With seat/drive: 87 pounds
  • MSRP: $1,949.00

Reviewer: Robyn Bordelon

Hometown: Destrehan

Age/Gender: 40, female

Years kayak fishing: Seven

Freshwater and saltwalter

Skill level: Above average

How often: Once a month, but every weekend in spring

I like that Hobie combined features from several of their top models when designing the Compass. I made my purchase decision based on weight, price and excellent reviews. It tracks well, turns on a dime and is very easy to pedal. It also paddles as well as it pedals, which can’t be said for many pedal-drive kayaks, including some of the older Outbacks.

Most people can stand in them; I try not to due to balance issues. It’s very stable as well.

I upgraded from a paddle kayak, and the Mirage pedal system is great. I use a Hobie cart for ease of loading and launching, and I carry the kayak in the bed of a pickup truck. As for accessories, I added a square hatch, map pockets and relocated paddle bungee hook. Rod holders and an anchor trolley were also added. The only suggested changes I have would be to have carry handles on the sides and not just hand indentations to grab. The paddle bungee hook also needs to be relocated as it interferes with the seat strap.

As a female angler who does a lot of fishing alone in the spring, I appreciate that Hobie designed a lightweight, minimalistic kayak that I can easily load into the truck bed and not struggle with. I’d rather struggle with an ice chest full of big catfish than with a heavy kayak.

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About Chris Holmes 231 Articles
Chris Holmes has kayak fished in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and many places in between.