With colder weather in the air, it’s time to look at re-outfitting your plastic boat to get ready for spring. Never before in the history of paddling have outdoor manufacturers, designers and marketers been so attuned to the needs and wants of the paddler.
Last summer’s ICAST show in Orlando proved that again and again, not with just the big names that won awards, but also with small, growing companies backed by owners and staff who fish and paddle as much as they work.
When you see that jolly old elf at the mall after Thanksgiving, give him a wink and a nod— and this list of items, ranging from some that might fit in your stocking to others that will require some rearrangement of the garage.
Based in the Carolinas, Wilderness Systems is rapidly gaining a reputation as a large kayak company with its ear to the water. Along with introduction of a motor-driven propulsion system to enhance mobility in some of its newer boats and enhancements to it’s industry leading fishing stand-up paddleboard, Wilderness has released a number of angler-inspired accessories.
At the top of the list is the Flex-Arm LED Light, which retails for about $70. The Flex-Arm is a light anywhere when you need one but just as important, one that’s not in the way when you don’t. The light features a 2-foot plastic arm that’s flexible, yet stable. The LED light can be precisely aimed anywhere: vertically for visibility, towards the deck for workstation lighting or bent into the water as a fish attractor. The 300 lumens light is exceptionally bright, with adjustable beams of green and white, and navigational green/red filters. Anodized aluminum casing protects it from the elements, and a quick-connect attachment system on both the top and bottom of the flex-arm allows for easy installation into SlideTrax.
Wilderness also recognizes that every lure on a kayak doesn’t have to be artificial and has entered the live-bait market with its Thrive Baitwell, at a retail cost of $299.
The new bait tank is engineered to integrate with most sit-on-top kayaks and features a unique flexible hose system to draw water from any scupper in the rear tank well, while a pump simplifies the input/output cycle. The Thrive Baitwell boasts a compact, lithium battery that is chargeable by USB. The lid is spring-loaded and secures with strong rubber latches. The unit is easily transported, with comfortable carry handles, and comes standard with three rod holders.
The industry leader in pedal-driven kayaks, the folks at Hobie apparently got tired of hearing “Yeah, but it can’t go in reverse,” with their MirageDrive system, and they have answered with the Hobie MirageDrive 180 Forward-Reverse Propulsion System that will be integrated into all 2017 Mirage kayaks.
Weighing in at under 8 pounds, the MirageDrive 180 produces full power in both directions and offers unprecedented maneuverability. The user can pull one of two shift cables to direct propulsion 180 degrees almost instantly from forward to reverse and back again.
Two shifters, one marked in green for forward and a longer one in red for reverse, are involved. Pulling the appropriate cable pivots both MirageDrive fins 180 degrees, reversing the direction of the power output.
“The shifters really shine,” said Morgan Promnitz, Hobie’s fishing products manager. “I found myself using them constantly. Paddle in, easily back out, and you’ve got great maneuverability whether your fishing for bass in a tight spot between docks or out in the open ocean fighting big game.”
Probably the best news for existing Hobie anglers is that the MirageDrive 180 is retrofitable to existing MirageDrive kayaks and is expected to be available as a stand-alone accessory by the middle of next year. Price has not yet been released.
Fortunately, as the kayak industry keeps getting bigger, YakAttack founder and designer Luther Cifers keeps thinking small, filling in the performance gaps on boats of all types. His latest is the Stealth pulley. Not satisfied with existing anchor-trolley pulleys, Cifers designed a new, low-profile pulley that runs on a Teflon impregnated hub and is smooth and silent. The pulley is shielded by a high-impact plastic cover that will protect it from pilings and rocks. The new pulley will be included in their anchor trolley kits and available to purchase separately.
Finally, make room for Jackson Kayak’s new MayFly fishing kayak, a 12½-foot boat that leads the way in being designed and built specifically for fly-fishing anglers. This sit-on-top kayak is designed for waters that range from trout streams to lakes, ponds and inshore flats. Jackson has developed a snag-free deck, making it difficult to hook a line around foot rests, storage and other key components, but without losing the Jackson advantage of a great fishing setup.
The MayFly is a clean and well-organized kayak featuring flip-down and snag-free fly box storage bins with integrated fly patches on sidewalls. An open footwell area makes it easy to stand and move around, and present a snag-free place to strip line.
The MayFly will be available at Jackson Kayak dealers in 2017. Manufacturer suggested retail price is $1,799.