I’m not sure where to start with this craft, as it is unique in so many ways.
Firstly, there is the Propel Pedal Drive, which gives you hands-free fishing. Like other pedal-drive kayaks, this allows you the freedom to have a fishing rod in hand while you’re moving around.
The Native Watercraft system has the advantage of not just forward propulsion, but reverse. This is great for maintaining your position without the need for an anchor and also for fishing the rivers, estuaries and canals.
Then there is the First Class Seat, which is easily removed from the kayak and can be used as a regular seat around camp. The seat is made from HiFlow 3D Mesh, which dries quickly and vents well to stay cool.
The tunnel hull shape gives this kayak catamaran-like stability. You can stand and fish in this kayak more easily than any other craft of comparable beam. The hull also tracks well, making it a nice option to paddle without using the rudder.
The final unique design feature is that it is not your regular sit-on-top kayak, it’s more like a canoe.
There are some great seating options available on kayaks these days but this could be the ultimate.
The Propel Pedal Drive is easy to deploy. When not in use there are three positions that you can pivot the drive to. This would be done when in shallow water or if you wish to paddle for a while, rather than pedal.
When the Propel Drive is not deployed there is a cover that snaps into place, sealing the hole for the drive.
If paddling, there are foot braces that slot in to place to provide support while paddling. Because the seat is located almost 10cm higher than the resting position of the feet, this creates an unmatched level of comfort while paddling.
At low speeds the pedal drive is easy to operate but at higher speeds you do have some resistance on the pedals. Because the Ultimate 12 is quite streamlined, we found it comfortable to paddle and even quicker under pedal power.
A handle on the left hand side controls the rudder and although it’s not super-responsive, it does an adequate job of manoeuvring the kayak and also keeping it straight.
Most people’s leg lengths will be catered for by the adjustment in the seat. It slides forward and back and locks in place by straps attached to the hull. People under 1.7m (5’7”) tall may run out of adjustment and would have to pad the backrest to reach the Propel Drive and maintain back support.
The hull is quite efficient through the water. It tracks in a straight line and is also manoeuvrable, which is unique – normally you don’t really get both.
While the Ultimate 12 is travelling in a straight line it seems the Tunnel Hull channels water down the centre of the hull, keeping the kayak straight. Once you initiate a turn and the boat starts to turn, it then spins quite quickly.
With its hands-free propulsion, comfort and stability, the Ultimate 12 is great to fish from.
It also has loads of storage space due to its canoe-like design. The demo kayak used for this review was fitted with four Scotty flush-mount rod holders so a number of rods could be used.
Although the Ultimate series has an optional paddle park that clips into the Adapt-a-Trak on the side of the boat, I’d recommend getting a two-piece paddle and splitting it to simply stow in the substantial space behind the seat.
The Ultimate series has a full range of accessories such as extra pockets, covers for the bow and stern, and a headrest.
I find people are quite often worried with a pedal drive that if they hit the bottom or, even worse, a rock, that they will break something. I refrained from ramming a rock at full speed but did find when encountering a few sandbanks that the Pedal Drive is a robust unit.
There is a locking clip at the front of the Propel Drive that holds it in the down position. I think if you hit something hard this may be the sacrificial week link and is easily replaced.
The Native Watercraft Ultimate 12 Propel lives up to its name and is certainly up there with the best kayak fishing craft. It is lightweight, streamlined, extremely comfortable, stable and can be propelled forwards and backwards even while busy catching a fish.
It is not a cheap, entry-level kayak but for the enthusiast wanting the ultimate rig, it may just be the one.
The Native Watercraft retails for about $3000 (variations may occur due to freighting costs). The company also makes the Mariner series of sit-on-top kayaks with the Propel Pedal Drive system.
For Native Watercraft dealers in Australia, visit www.nativewatercraft.com.
Craig McSween of Splash Safaris Kayaking who is also a Sea Kayak Instructor with Australian Canoeing conducted this review. For feedback on this review you can contact Adventure Outlet (Kayaking, Camping and Outdoor Store) in Southport on (07) 55712929 or --e-mail address hidden-- .
Watch for more kayak reviews in next month’s edition.
|Weight:||22kg (plus seat and propel drive)|