Anyone who knows me will understand that I might get a wee bit excited every now and then when it comes to new stuff I have never seen. This happened when I had the chance to test the Ultimate 14.5 Propel Angler from Native Watercraft.
Most of us are familiar with the canoe shape and the Ultimate 14.5 Propel Angler has the classic lines of typical canoe, yet this is style a kayak. However, and this is a very big however, the craft is fitted with the Propel Pedal Drive, an ingenious system that allows users to pedal their way around a waterway rather than paddle.
The Propel Pedal Drive system is ingeniously designed and feature-laden. First and foremost you can pedal the craft forwards, but the Propel Pedal Drive also allows you to pedal in reverse, which is invaluable for fishing, docking and photography. And it takes little effort to go either forwards or back, something I must say I was not expecting.
We took the Ultimate 14.5 for a spin on Lake Mulwala and the speed I achieved, first time in the craft, was pretty impressive. I didn’t have a GPS to measure the speed and I didn’t get up to a speed where my cheeks were flapping in the breeze, however it felt like I was scooting across the surface with little effort and I liked it a lot.
The real eye opener came when I started cranking the pedals in reverse. The craft took a little distance to slow (due to my immense forward speed generated by my indefatigable legs!), but soon enough I found myself at a standstill and then moving backwards. To my knowledge no other pedal propulsion system allows you to go backwards so easily.
The Propel easily tilts out of the water and out of the way when you'd rather paddle or pole and there is a specially designed area for it to rest. The unit is sealed against sand and grit and made from marine grade aluminium and stainless steel. Basically Propel is built to perform in fresh or salt water with minimal maintenance required. It is actually quite brilliant.
One thing you will need to be aware of though is that the unit will need to be raised when launching and retrieving. Two clips are released and the unit pops up and all you need worry about is having the propeller in a vertical position so it doesn’t catch on the hull. The clips are also designed to break before the Propel unit, giving the end user a get out of jail free card if they were to inadvertently crash into an underwater obstruction.
While my time was brief in the Ultimate Propel there were a few things I noted and was very happy with.
Firstly the steering via the tail mounted rudder was great. For some reason it took me a few minutes to get the steering right. I feel a little silly mentioning it but I was turning the rudder control to the left and expecting the craft to turn right, when it’s actually set up so that whichever direction you turn the rudder control is the direction the boat goes. Guess I was used to a tiller steer outboard and, if you are too, remember the Ultimate Propel is opposite to that of a tiller steer boat.
I was also pretty impressed with the turning circle of the Native Watercraft. The harder you pushed the rudder control the tighter the circle and it provided some pretty impressive turning ability. I may have pushed a bit too hard at full pace once or twice and given myself a little heart flutter as centrifugal force took over and the boat started tilting towards the outside on the turn. But after a few of these moments I got used to the process and really worked it hard to see if I could fall out. I didn’t and trust me I am not an Olympic gymnast with the balance of a young cat!
Speaking of balance, this little rig did allow me to stand up and sit back down quite easily. This is great for stretching the legs or back or just for getting a higher aspect on your fishing target. In retrospect I’m lucky a big cod didn’t jump onto my lure or else I would have been swimming for sure. But this stand up and sit down test showed that the craft can handle this sort of behaviour, remembering all the while that it is not designed with anglers standing all day in mind.
Given that you can stand, most of your time in the Ultimate will be spent sitting and the rig comes with one of the most comfortable seats I have ever sat in while fishing from a paddle/peddle craft.
The Sling Seat suspends you in comfort off the hard deck and is adjustable forwards and back and the back easily adjusts forward or reclines to provide the perfect level of back support while the bottom can be raised to three different levels offering customizable thigh support. All these adjustments are made with clipped webbing and you can easily adjust the seat to your requirement on the water. The Sling Seat is resistant to damage from the sun or from saltwater and the Textelene Solar Screen fabric is stretched over a lightweight anodized aluminium frame. The suspension and quick draining fabric ensure that you will never spend your day on the water sitting in water.
I was testing the base model with few accessories, but even a quick look at the accessories list on the website reveals a level of customisation few watercraft, including boats, offer. This is due to the clever plug and play design that provides a place to install a number of lash points or other accessories for tying down gear or rigging, creating a system of your own creation.
The Ultimate features the Tunnel Hull, a patented hull design that offers amazing stability without compromising other key performance attributes like speed and manoeuvrability. Additionally, the concave wells inside the boat let your feet ride lower than your torso, which puts you in a very comfortable position regardless of paddling or peddling. All told, you can stand with confidence, sit with less fatigue and manoeuvre like a pro.
It’s a pretty impressive hull and the manufacturers claims seem to be on the mark, although I doubt I would ever be called a pro at paddling!
So many new options open up when you're kayak fishing in the Ultimate 14.5 Propel Angler. You can enjoy the ability of hands-free trolling, while covering more water and fishing with an additional rod. Deploy this kayak fishing machine to keep more lines wet and catch more fish.
I found the Ultimate 14.5 Propel Angler a surprising pleasure. And I mean that in every sense. It was a really comfortable craft for me to spin around in. If you’re looking at getting into a yak, consider the Native Watercraft range, a peddle or paddle option that is very surprising.
|Length||14' 7", 445cm|
|Depth at Beam:||14.5", 30cm|
|Colours:||mango, lime, olive, sand|
Cost (base model with Sling Seat):Reads: 5045