Saturday, August 6, 2016

2016 ICAST Kayak Wars Part 2

Visiting all the kayak booths during the 2106 ICAST was a blast.  Here is a short summary and a few takeaways from the show about fishing kayaks.

Hobie Fishing Kayaks: This year Hobie exhibited their updated 180 Mirage Drive System that now has a reverse.  Other than that the lineup of Pro Angler kayaks remained unchanged from last year.  Did you know that the Hobie Mirage Drive system has been around since its inception in 1997? Hobie has been the leader of the pack in innovating fishing kayaks since the start.  Look how long it has taken the other major brands to come up their own drive systems.  This new propulsion system will give the angler full power in both directions and it will be available on all 2017 model year Mirage kayaks.  Click HERE for the Hobie website.

Wilderness Systems Kayaks:  This  brand went all out this year at ICAST with a new kayak and a new pilot prototype pedal drive system.  The new Advanced Tactical Angling Kayak, (A.T.A.K.) 120 gives the kayak angler all the features of the A.T.A.K. 140 but at a shorter length.  The introduction of the pilot prototype pedal drive system shows how important that Wilderness Systems keeps up with the Jones as they compete head-to-head with Hobie and the other major brands for market share. Click HERE for the Wilderness Systems website.

Nucanoe Kayaks: With a short visit to the Nucanoe booth it was clear that they did not have any new kayaks or pedal drives to offer.  The Nucanoe Pursuit fishing kayak from last year remains a hot seller and a very stable kayak for the pedaling crowd. Click HERE for the Nucanoe website.

Jackson Fishing Kayaks: This year Jackson added a new kayak, the Cuda HD, to their stable of great fishing kayaks.  The Cuda HD is longer and more stable than the basic Cuda. Being a big guy, I liked the 32.5" width of this kayak.  The extra width makes yak really stable for a guy like me.  Jackson has one of the biggest lineups of fishing kayaks of any brand.  The new Cuda HD fits nicely between the Cuda 12.0 and the Big Rig.  Click HERE for their website.

Old Town Fishing Kayaks:  At the 2016 ICAST the new Old Town Predator Kayak with pedal drive was presented with a 2016 ICAST "Best of Show" in the "Best Boat" category.  Best in Show awards are selected by voting media and buyers who attend the show.

Accoding to Old Town, "The Old Town PDL Drive is a brilliant piece of engineering founded on proven technologies in the lifecycle market.  The result is an easy to carry, operate and stow system that efficiently converts modest pedaling into maximum propulsion. A 10.3:1 gear ratio means that anglers can reach speeds up to 5.5 mph to reach fishing spots fast and efficiently.  Additionally, Pedal Drive allows smooth forward and reverse and a small turn radius allow for the ultimate in boat control via one-handed rudder control on the boat itself."  This new kayak is a great addition to the Predator lineup of fishing kayaks. Click HERE for the Old Town website.

Native Watercraft: With this year being the year of the pedal drive, Native Watercraft rolled out their new prototype Manta Ray Propel fishing kayak. Native designed this boat to appeal to more kayak buyers because they planned to bring this yak to market at a lower MSRP than other kayaks with pedal drive. It will compete head-to-head with other brands who are introducing their own pedal drive systems this year. Only time will tell what the final Manta Ray Propel fishing kayak configuration will look like.  No date has been set when the kayak will ship to re-sellers.  Click HERE for their website.

Eddyline Fishing Kayaks: Eddyline was the 2015 ICAST Best in Show Boat.  This year they returned with their entire lineup that won that honor last year.  The Eddyline Fishing Kayaks are by far the prettiest kayaks at the show with their shinning hull and top deck. Click HERE for their website.

After visiting a few kayak booths you might just start to see how close the fishing kayak  brands seem to mirror what their competitors are doing.  It is just like the 4 for 4 at Micky Ds.  Once the bundling of sandwiches, fries, and a drink for one price started, every fast food brand has jumped on the band wagon.   This year it is the pedal drive.  Last year it was seats.  What will it be next year?   Who know. That is what makes coming to ICAST fun.

Viking Fishing Kayaks: Viking is an Aussie brand that brought their Profish Reload premium kayak to the show.  The Profish Reload kayak is their fastest kayak. Viking still has not upgraded their seats to match what other brands have done. This is not necessarily a bad because the molded-in seat does not add additional cost and weight to the kayak that an aluminum and nylon mesh seat would do. Click HERE for their website.

True Recreation Kayak: True Recreation brought the most innovative basic kayak to the show with the DFP with its integrated pontoon system. This kayak has been in development for the past five years.  The DFP has a long list of features. The DFP is 13 feet long and 32 inches wide with pontoons inboard.  With the pontoons extended the width is 96 inches.  This is a heavy kayak at 90 pounds and has the capacity to carry a weight of 500 pounds.  This makes the DFP a great choice for really big anglers who weigh 250- 300 pounds. Click HERE for their website where you can read about all the other features of this kayak.

Bic Sports Fishing Kayaks: Bic Sports exhibited two of their fishing kayaks the Java and the Boreno.  These kayaks are made in France. These kayaks just do not seem to be on the same level of the other kayaks at the show when it came to accessories.  These tow kayaks are bare bones.  That being said, the quality of the molded kayak finish was extremely high.  Bic kayaks come with a few features that the other brands do not have like the rigid front nose handle and the real wheel that makes the kayak easy to move from the parking lot to the water. I suspect that Bic fishing kayaks suffer from the fact that Bic Sports focuses more on their surfing, wind surfing and SUP products which have a much stronger market presence. If you have ever attended  Surf Expo and you will see what I am talking about.  If not click HERE for their website as you will see how Bic Sports markets all their products. In the surf, wind surfing and SUP world, Bic Spots rocks. In September check out my fall Surf Expo  article where you can read about the new Bic Sports products for next year.

Crescent Kayaks: This brand is more focused on recreational than fishing kayaks.  Their Fish Xtreme I and Fish Xtreme II kayaks were bare bones.  These kayaks had molded in foot rests and two rod holders behind the molded seat There were no accessory rails or tracks.  The Xtreme I has a price point of $649.99 and the Xtreme II at $699.99.  The price point for each kayak might be the perfect fit if you are on a tight budget or you do not want to spend a lot of money to try out a new sport with out making a big investment. Click HERE for their website.

Feel Free Kayaks: Feel Free has a full lineup of fishing kayaks.  They were exhibiting their Lure 11.5 fishing kayak with their fully padded raised aluminum seat and the new Overdrive motor pedal drive system.  The motor runs on a 12 volt battery and is bout the size of liter of Coke.  The Overdrive system lets the angler switch between motor and pedal power.  This is a very interesting concept. I wonder how all the kayak fishing tournaments will treat this kind of propulsion system with a combination of motor and pedal drive.  I ask this question because pedal and Mirage drive kayaks are allowed where motor powered are not.   Looks like this kind of powered kayak will give tournament organizers something to think about.  All Feel Free kayaks are quality build and have similar standard and optional features many of the other brands offer. Click HERE for their website.

RTM Fishing Kayaks: I never made it to the RTM booth but I was able to grab a photo of their kayaks from one of the catwalks that joined two of the convention halls buildings at the Orange county Convention Center.  RTM is one of two kayak brands made in France exhibiting at the show.  One of the kayaks shown in the photo is the RYTMO Angler kayak.  It is the second one down from the top.  According to the RTM website, " This is a streamlined, performance kayak allowing the paddler fast access to his favorite fishing areas.  Long and stable with several storage spaces: front hatch with removable basin, 2 central storage areas - 1 rectangular with a rectangular hatch and 1 with a round hatch cover, rear storage area for a case." This kayak comes an installed rudder cable system to make a tiller installation very easy.  Last year RTM teamed up with  Torqeedo, a German Company, to add a battery powered motor drive system to their Abaco fishing kayak. Click HERE for their website.

All and all the 2016 ICAST was filled with great fishing kayaks from all the major brands.  There are sure a lot of kayak choices available in the $600 - $2,500 price range.  If I were to purchase a new kayak today I would not know here to start.

Until next time, be safe in the sun and have a great day in the great outdoors.

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