SLH Guide to Hobie's Best Fishing Kayaks
*Note: this article was written in 2014, so is more relevant to Hobie kayaks built before 2015. We've archived this information here for users looking for resources on older models
So you're planning to get into kayak fishing and your instincts are telling you to get a Hobie - your instincts serve you well. For all sorts of reasons Hobie Mirage pedal kayaks are respected as being some of the best fishing kayaks available and for good reason. A large part of that reason is the Hobie MirageDrive, which offers reliable high-performance pedal power that provides a host of advantages over traditional paddle kayaks. Hands-free fishing is just the beginning. They also provide the ability to maneuver the kayak while fighting a fish, not to mention they are much more efficient than paddling. This means that the angler can reach fishing grounds that might otherwise be difficult to reach and return from. And by virtue of having two means of propulsion, they're also safer than a kayak the relies upon a paddle alone.
It's not just about the pedals though; Hobie's hull designs also play a large part in facilitating frustration-free kayak fishing. However they vary greatly in form and function and are designed to accommodate a wide range of usage scenarios. Some offer greater stability, while others offer greater efficiency. Some are designed specifically for to flat water fishing while others will handle open-water scenarios better. Because there are so many models in the range it can be a little daunting at first when confronted with over a dozen models to choose from. That's where we come in - we can help take the guess work out of it to make sure you choose the right model for your needs.
Many beginners approach the prospect of buying a Hobie kayak for fishing by paying exclusive attention to the models Hobie have put the most effort into marketing as a fishing platform - the illustrious Pro Angler kayaks (of which there are three models - The PA12, PA14 and PA17T). They are a fabulous kayak for fishing, offering unsurpassed load carrying capacity, stability, utility and comfort and as such Pro Angler kayaks are particularly popular with tournament fishermen. However, not only are these models too large and heavy or expensive for some users, they're also not always the most suitable option. It's all about jockeys & horses for courses - the horse being the kayak, the course being where you plan to use it and the jockey being you.
All Hobie kayaks are equal in quality and all of the models in the range can be rigged out for fishing so the key to figuring out which model is best for you is to pay the most attention to which of those models best suit the usage scenario you have in mind. There are a few considerations to pay attention to. In a nutshell they are:
- What specific attributes does your ideal kayak have to feature?
- What kind of water is the kayak going to be used in?
- Are there any other issues to consider?
What specific attributes does your ideal kayak have to feature: stability, efficiency, carrying capacity & utility
Stability and efficiency: Most commonly we are asked about stability and there's an obvious reason for that. Anglers aren't at all interested in the prospect of capsizing their kayak so the potential stability of a kayak is an issue for many, especially beginners. While some of Hobie's pedal kayaks are more stable than others it's worth knowing that all of their models are pretty stable. It should also come as some comfort that although stability might seem like a huge issue when starting out, it is almost always the first thing that stops being an issue. It doesn't take long for most users to become comfortable with the stability of their kayak, regardless of which model it is.
Its also worth noting that there are two types of stability - primary and secondary. Kayaks that offer more primary stability are less 'tippy' in nature and often make for a more comfortable fishing platform for beginners and they are particularly well suited for flat water use. Kayaks that offer a higher degree of secondary stability are usually more forgiving in rougher waters and are generally better suited to open water kayak fishing scenarios. Because they are more responsive they are more likely to be leaned over to precarious angles but are actually less likely to capsize than a model with better primary stability if it gets to a potential tipping point. Some hull designs - including most models in Hobie's range offer a good balance of both primary and secondary stability, but there are a few exceptions.
Typically kayaks that are more stable have a wider beam and as such aren't as fast and are less efficient, which also translates to being less capable of covering longer distances. This is rarely an issue, however, as most kayak anglers don't need or want a speedier kayak because they aren't planning to cover long distances or fish terribly far from land. Most of the best fish can be found in pretty close, after all. Narrower kayak hulls are usually more hydrodynamic and thus more efficient, though obviously less stable. Because they are more efficient they are, however, better at contending with stronger winds and currents. Hobie have options that fit both descriptions and a few that offer a good balance of both qualities. It is very common for our customers to get torn between certain models and their attributes though most beginners will prioritize stability as a requisite over efficiency.
A rough guide on the primary and secondary stability (assuming low set seated position) as well as efficiency of the popular Hobie Mirage fishing kayaks is as follows (assuming the tandem models are used with two people):
- Sport - primary: 8/10, secondary: 7/10 - efficiency: 6.5/10
- Revolution 11 - primary: 7.5/10, secondary: 8/10- efficiency: 7.5/10
- Revolution 13 - primary: 8/10, secondary: 9/10 - efficiency: 8.5/10
- Revolution 16 - primary: 7.5, secondary: 9/10 - efficiency: 9.5/10
- Outback - primary: 9/10, secondary: 7.5/10 - efficiency: 7/10
- Outfitter - primary: 9/10, secondary: 6.5/10 - efficiency: 7.5/10
- Oasis - primary: 8/10, secondary: 9/10 - efficiency: 8.5/10
- Pro Angler 12 - primary: 9/10 and secondary: 8.5/10 - efficiency: 7/10
- Pro Angler 14 - primary: 10/10, secondary: 8.5/10 - efficiency: 7.5/10
- Pro Angler 17T - primary: 10/10, secondary: 8.5/10 - efficiency: 8/10
- Adventure Island - primary: 10/10, secondary: NA* - efficiency: 9.5/10*
- Tandem Island - primary: 10/10, secondary: NA* - efficiency: 10/10*
* Secondary stability on the Island models is not applicable due to the pontoons and the efficiency rating of the Islands assumes usage under sail
Weight carrying capacity: Before going on to discuss weight carrying capability of the various models, we'd first like to offer some sage advice: when it comes to kayak fishing, less is more. A mantra we like to chant is 'maximum use of minimal gear'. Part of the art of kayak fishing is achieving good results without the need for excessive amounts of equipment. The trick to getting this right is to carefully plan your fishing excursions and gear up specifically for the target species and environments you plan to fish. When it comes to fitting out a kayak for fishing it pays to carefully consider any equipment you intend to attach to it. If you're unsure about what accessories and appendages you may or may not need it is always better to start off with a minimal load out and accessorize incrementally as the need arises.
All of the models in Hobie's range have varying levels of weight carrying capacity and this is well worth examining if you plan to load it up with lots of gear. This is especially true if you're planning on partaking in kayak camping and also if the user is large and heavy. You don't want to choose a model that is likely to struggle with the weight you're planning to load it with. While all Hobie kayaks are sink-proof (all current models offer internally installed foam blocks for positive buoyancy) performance and stability can be greatly effected if a large amount of water finds its way into the hull, so you definitely want to play it safe. Most Hobie kayaks have a good deal of weight carrying capacity and several of them offer exceptional weight carrying capacity, particularly the Pro Angler and Island models. However a few models have limited weight carrying capacity and because of this some users should approach the following models with caution:
Utility: While there isn't a single model in Hobie's range that can't be easily configured for fishing, it is true to say that some models in the range offer more utility and for a lot of users this makes them more appropriate fishing platforms. With more room, storage and mounting options one doesn't need to be quite as creative or thoughtful when fitting them out. The kings of the castle is clearly the Pro Angler range, which offer a huge amount of utility in the form of deck and storage space, mounting options and integrated tackle management features. PA12 and PA14 models from inception through to 2014 models boast mounting boards on the port and starboard sides, both of which offer ideal mounting points for rod holders and fish finders. 2015 Pro Angler models have trimmed the mounting board down somewhat to make room for the new 'H-Rail' which is compatible with a range of dedicated Hobie kayak fishing accessories. Without doubt, the Pro Angler series of fishing kayaks are the easiest to fit out for fishing in a myriad of configurations.
These models also feature the rectangular twist and stow hatch that boasts the tackle-management system, which most anglers find to be very convenient. They are also the only models that incorporate horizontal rod holder tubes, which make it easily possible to store spare fishing rods. They were also the first models to offer 'Lowrance-ready' transducer scuppers, which make for simple installation of fish finder transducers and provide optimal sounder performance. With features like these it is no wonder Pro Anglers are so popular among anglers and especially for fishing tournament competitors.
However before the Pro Anglers were made available the Sport, Outback and Outfitter models were considered to offer the most utility to accommodate fishing. This is partly due to the utility trays molded into the gunwales, all of which offer useful mounting platforms, as well as storage of items such as pliers, fish grips, tackle boxes, scents, sun cream, etc. Current Sport and Outback models also feature transducer scuppers. However the Outfitter does not have a bow hatch and a relatively small rear storage well, so it loses out in storage capability. The Outback has loads of storage space, however and the current model is also compatible with the rectangular twist and stow hatch and tackle management system (as an optional extra).
The Adventure and Tandem Island boats are unique in that they have thick crossbars that are designed to support the pontoon akas and these can also serve as alternative mounting points for accessories such as cameras, rod holders and fish finder units. 2015 models also feature Lowrance-ready transducer scuppers.
At first glance some people will assume that the Revolution and Oasis models lack utility and while this may be true to some degree when compared with the other models, it is still easily possible to fit them out for fishing in various configurations, though more of a minimalist approach works best.
What kind of water is the kayak going to be used in?
Open Water: Kayaks that perform well in open ocean waters are typically quite different from those that are designed to better suit inland flat waters. They are generally longer, thinner, shallower and more hydro-dynamic. The extra water-line length provides superior paddling efficiency and speed. Slender, more hydro-dynamic hull shapes create less drag and splashing as they move through the water which also helps with speed and efficiency. They are generally also more efficient to paddle than shorter, tubbier hull shapes as well. Kayaks that boast these advantages are well suited for open-ocean kayaking as they are more capable of covering longer distances more efficiently in rougher conditions. This makes them good options for more ambitious kayak anglers who want access to reefs, headlands and islands that might otherwise be too challenging to reach with a slower, less efficient model.
The cons often associated with kayaks that are well suited for open ocean kayaking is that they usually don't offer much in the way of utility space, lag behind in load carrying capacity and are usually less stable than their flat-water counterparts. These trade offs are less of an issue for more experienced paddlers however. Just because they aren't quite as stable as some other models, thats not to say they are unstable. And a cleverly organized fit-out configuration gets around the utility space issue. If weight carrying capacity really is a problem it's likely that you're planning to carry too much gear and reconsidering your plan of attack is well advised.
Hobie Mirage kayak models that are better suited for open ocean kayak fishing include:
Bays, Estuaries, Creeks, Rivers, Dams and Lakes: All of the above mentioned models will also perform well in pretty much any other kayak fishing scenario as well, but are especially worth considering for use in bays and estuaries, particularly if the paddler intends to cover some longer distances and or use it in waters with strong currents are potentially rougher conditions. Water conditions in bays and estuaries are typically more forgiving than open ocean waters, however and as such the other models that aren't quite as fast or efficient will generally perform really well as well. For this reason pretty much any model in Hobie's range are capable of being used in bays and estuaries, though the slower models should be used with caution on windier and choppier days.
Likewise, all of Hobie's models are quite capable when used in dams and lakes, though some of these waters can get surprisingly rough as well, particularly in windy conditions. The models that perform best in open water will excel in these conditions. All of the other models will provide a good experience in calm conditions though, so depending on the model you have it might just pay to watch the weather.
Once again all of the models in Hobie's range of pedal kayaks will perform quite well in rivers and creeks, though some are more maneuverable than others and as such may work out better in tight areas, such as skinny creeks and around submerged trees. The shorter models such as the Revo 11 and Sport handle these situations beautifully, but even the Revolution 16 can handle itself in these conditions as well. The Pro Angler models turn on a dime and as such are exceptionally well suited for use in tighter areas.
Are there any other considerations to deliberate?
Weight: It is worth looking into the hull weight of any given model to determine whether or not the user is going to have a difficult time managing it off the water. Car-topping is the main issue here (though there are many car-topping solutions as well as trailer options) but also cartage to waters edge. If you need to cart the kayak for long distances - especially if there is lots of soft sand involved, weight might become an issue. Fortunately Hobie offer a wide variety of wheel carts and dollys and some of them are surprisingly good at hauling heavier kayaks over challenging terrain.
Storage: Some users have size limits due to storage and or management issues. If a kayak is too large for the storage area intended for it then obviously it isn't going to suit. Figure out a plan for storing your kayak and then look into the models that are of an appropriate size to suit.
Pedal Vs Paddle?
This topic gets debated a lot so we thought it prudent for us to chime into the topic with some words of wisdom. Before delving too far into the subject, however, its worth pointing out that all Hobie kayaks are equal in quality, from the entry-level 9' Lanai to the 18' Tandem Island.
Hobie Mirage Pedal-powered kayaks are notably more expensive, but come with a bunch of advantages that (for most) make the extra investment worthwhile. It is possible to fish from almost any kayak although the experience of doing it from a paddle-only kayak Vs one equipped with a MirageDrive pedal-powered propulsion system are significant. Pedaling a Hobie Mirage kayak is technically easier, more efficient and offers a hands-free kayak fishing experience. There are numerous advantages to list here, including:
- Ability to troll while holding onto the rod
- Ability to cast on the move
- Ability to pause position in wind and currents
- Ability to maneuver kayak while fighting a fish
- Ability to pedal after a bruiser fish that is towing your kayak
Its also fair to say that pedal-powered kayaks are safer because they offer a secondary propulsion option. Should the user get a cramp in their leg they can always paddle. Or if their shoulder pops while paddling they could always pedal. And should the paddle become separated from the kayak the user would not be up-the-creek-without-a-paddle so to speak. All of that said, some people are hard to convince that pedal kayaks are the better option for fishing. Some people just prefer the idea of paddling as well, which is fair enough. Fortunately Hobie has an option for everyone, offering a superb range of paddle kayaks as well, most of them also very well suited to fishing. The Quest 11 and Quest 13 models in particular are really good options for fishing.