Paul Lebowitz – IT'S JUST FISHING

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Friday, December 05, 2008


This year’s Fred Hall Show is a tour de force of all things kayak fishing. New man-powered watercraft from no fewer than four manufacturers capture center stage. All look great, but one mold-breaker in particular commands attention. At Long Beach, every time I walked by the three booths showing off Hobie’s intriguing Mirage Pro Angler, fishermen of all stripes were gathered around admiring this boat’s evident fishing utility.

You read that right. Hobie doesn’t consider the sizable Pro Angler to be a kayak, despite its obvious heritage. This is a boat in the true sense of the word, a sizable pedal-powered machine that obliterates any comparison with its tippier cousins, something capable of carrying an angler, a quiver of 8 rods or more, a powered live well, and flat after flat of tackle comfortably. That means high and dry, with the angler perched on a mesh-back seat that’s more throne than backband. In other words, a boat for virtually anyone who wants to go fishing.

When I bumped into Hobie’s Fishing Product Manager Vince Console at Long Beach, I couldn’t resist the question. For a big boat like this, what’s the limit? Clearly, its six horizontal rod holders, flat deck designed for standing, and numerous other fishy touches will excel on any flat water – freshwater bass better watch out, this baby is an ideal stealth weapon. But what about the salt?

Console grinned wide and picked up the gauntlet, and that’s how I found myself standing on the soggy sands of La Jolla Shores a good ninety minutes before sunrise. A constant crash foretold we’d picked an excellent day for a sea trial. To get off the beach we’d face serious surf.

Armed for yellowtail, we strapped everything down flush on the deck using the standard retractable bungee keepers, waded out and launched into the unseen sets. The Pro easily powered over the first foamer, hopped a pair of curlers, and just like that, we were out over the canyon.  

For the next several hours we cruised easily, wandering across the canyon so recently plugged with squid, then down around the corner and in tight to the outside kelp edge. The miles went by with no special effort, the boats taking on the 3 to 4-ft swells with supreme confidence.

A school of mackerel swam lazily by, sadly untroubled, yet Console grabbed his jig stick and stood to prove a point. His cast flew dozens of feet beyond my seated reach. Now that’s a nice trick.

In my time in the sport, I’ve sat in dozens of kayaks and other man-powered fishing craft. I give Hobie the nod; the attention to detail here is impressive. They’ve got their hands-free Mirage Drive system polished to a fine gloss. The drive clicks right into place. The rudder – approaching set it and forget it precision – boasts a new spring-loaded mechanism that’s a joy to use, deploying with the lightest of touches.

The horizontal rod storage is another winner. Why didn't anyone think of this sooner? The square hatch in front of the cockpit is brilliant, perfectly sized to hold tackle trays. Simply put, the fishing ergonomics are excellent. There’s nothing else like it.  

With only a bit of sun to show for our efforts, we ambled back in to the beach – the Pro won’t win many races – and repeated our surf safari. No problem. The experience was so enjoyable, Console grabbed Hobie staffer Morgan Promnitz and shredded some sets.

Ok Hobie, you win. The Pro Angler is not to be underestimated. In experienced hands, it has little to fear from the Southern California salt. This is one killer fishing craft.

Reader Comments
I haven’t yet taken the plunge (hopefully no pun) into kayak fishing, mainly because the features I thought should obviously be built into a fishing kayak just were not in any models on the market... not until the hobie angler-pro that is. I hope to be first on the list when the new models come in!!!!!
John Thomas
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