It would be a massive understatement to say that fishing kayaks are becoming popular. If there is one section of the ‘going-fishing-afloat’ market that is exploding it is the use of kayaks/canoes for fishing.
While conventional canoes/kayaks are designed for paddling and getting from point A to point B, the Hobie range of boats is designed to allow you to fish hands free while still being on the move via the use of a foot powered ‘Mirage Drive’. From a practical standpoint this difference between a foot-powered kayak and a paddled powered one is enormous.
The Hobie Pro Angler is another leap forward for Hobie – this latest model is much larger than other models in the range. As such it allows for greater stability, greater weight capacity (272kg) and an extremely versatile fishing platform. The test boats were provided by Scott Lovig of Scott Lovig Hobie in Mornington, as was the fishing spot!
Hobie’s are perfect for fishing in small waterways where it is either impractical or illegal to use a conventional boat. They are easily launched on a beach or other access point and don’t require any formal launching facilities apart from somewhere to stash your car!
Even if the water’s edge is a little way from the nearest car access, the demountable wheels and sturdy hand-grips allow for the Pro Angler to be pulled with relative ease. The Pro Angler is also equipped with replaceable skids on the rear of the boat to facilitate dragging the boat.
On the day of the test we dragged the boats through the sand at Port Phillips Safety Beach using the wheels with no real drama. There are two sorts of wheels available – hard ones for harder ground and softer/wider ones for the sandy and muddy stuff.
Once the boat is in the water it is a case of pushing yourself out to deep enough water, putting your feet into the Mirage Drive and away you go. All Hobies are equipped with a paddle if you need an extra push to get to deep enough water (which is really only knee deep).
This is the key feature of all Hobies, not just the Pro Angler – you can be paddling and fishing at the same time. During the test we fished and paddled around Safety Beach at Dromana casting around for a few salmon – which after some exploration proved to be tucked away in a quiet corner. The Hobie Pro Angler is a dream to peddle and fish from, especially when flicking plastics in search of a nice sambo. The rudder is positioned at the side of the seat and can be located on the left or right depending upon your preference. The test boat was set up with it on the left, which suits a right-handed caster perfectly.
With a little practice the rudder becomes second nature, and small adjustments rather than big sweeping ones yield the best manoeuvrability. After a little practice you can slowly move along casting at structure (or fish) without constantly adjusting the rudder.
The stealthy nature of the Pro Angler is fantastic. Australian salmon can be spooky things – powerboats have a great knack of putting them down, however the Hobie can quietly sidle up to the school without the fish even knowing you are there. The same goes for estuary bream and other snag loving species, the extreme quiet of these boats allows for a perfectly quiet approach every time.
I have used a Hobie on the South Esk River in Tasmania as well – the opportunities that this style of boat creates for the larger freshwater river/smaller estuary angler is limitless. Add to that the shallow lakes in the Nineteen Lagoon region of Tasmania, farm dams, electric-only or no power only waterways and other small fishing locations.
Paddling the Pro Angler is relatively easy on the heart rate. If you can easily walk a couple of kilometres and are of average fitness you will have no trouble at all peddling one of these around. We covered around 3-4kms while testing the Pro Angler with no issues at all – it is a very relaxing way to get a bit of exercise and a few fish as well.
You can actually stand up in a Pro Angler – you do need reasonable balance and a degree of confidence, but I had no issue with getting to my feet, casting and getting back down again with ease. Flyfishers looking for the ultimate Tasmanian western lakes kayak need look no further.
I have always felt that a good test of a boat/kayak is to catch a few fish while you’re at it. You can’t always do this, but when Scott Lovig suggested we catch a few fish while putting through their paces, well who was I to argue.
Chasing Australian salmon is a good test for this type of craft – they move around quickly, require rapid changes in direction, fight hard and don’t come to hand very easily.
So you need a craft that is quiet, manoeuvrable and stable. The Hobie Pro Angler scores full marks in each of these aspects. The stability issue cannot be overstated. The centre of gravity is very low, meaning that you are less inclined to topple (in fact you would have to try very hard to tip one of these over). Perhaps even more importantly is the feeling of confidence you get with the Pro Angler. Phill Jones who came on the test with me hasn’t spent much time in kayaks (basically none), yet within 5 minutes he was scooting around with full confidence, casting here and there and catching some nice fish.
Many experienced kayakers head out into the open waters of Port Phillip and Western Port with no qualms at all, and once you become accustomed to the way the boat moves in the waves it is pretty easy stuff.
In addition to the very important stability issues, the fact remains that you can’t walk around the craft to access all your gear. However Hobie have very cleverly designed a number of storage features that allow the angler to easily access the gear required. In-between the legs is a tackle storage compartment that contains Plano tackle boxes, to each side is further tackle box storage and drink holder.
The jewel in the crown for me is the rod storage for up to six fully made up spin rods. Three rods slip down each side and are completely housed within the hull – only the reels, handles and a section of the blank are open near the paddler. This means that you don’t have to have rods in holders bristling all over the boat like a stray porcupine. If you were into flyfishing a nine foot rod will fold in half and be stowed very easily.
To the front of the angler is a 60lt bin with removable liner. In here you can put all manner of things – even a three-course lunch! Down the back is a serious waterproof hatch that has plenty of room for the overnight gear – tents, sleeping bags and so on. The expedition potential of this boat is massive, and I can see many previously un-touched areas being accessed by Hobie Pro Angler equipped fishos.
I love kayaks, in a previous occupation I taught outdoor education for four years, and kayaks were a big part of the experience. The recent expansion of the kayak experience into all facets of angling is a great leap forward for the sport. A whole new demographic of ‘yakkers’ has emerged, and with craft like the Hobie Pro Angler we can expect anglers who may not have considered a kayak to become involved with the sport.
But it seems it isn’t just me who is super impressed with the Pro Angler. At the recent 2009 ICAST Show (America’s biggest tackle expo), the Hobie Pro Angler was voted by buyers and media as the most innovative product in both the Marine Category and the overall ‘Best of Show.’ This is a massive endorsement of just how versatile and good this craft is.Reads: 7408