By Paul Lebowitz
Did you guess right? Last month, when we first reported that Old Town’s new Predator XL (briefly and formerly called the P3) will offer hands-free operation, kayak anglers were inspired (like us) to toss out predictions. Savvy readers aware of the company’s relationship with trolling motor manufacturer Minn Kota landed shots right in the 10 ring.
The clues were obvious – a switch pictured along the cockpit gunwale, and of course sister brand Ocean Kayak has offered the juiced-up Torque for years. That electric ‘yak is a good one, but it somewhat missed the mark. The Minn Kota powerplant would have been a better fit in OK’s supremely stable Big Game, one of the first stand-up ‘yaks, than it is in the sweet-paddling sit-down hull of the Prowler 13. Last year’s well-received Old Town Predators offered a much more suitable platform to realize the advantages of optional electric power. Old Town’s product designers didn’t hold back when they dreamed up the flagship of the newly dubbed Premier Angler Series.
“We knew we had a winner with the Predator MX and 13, but we realized we were not servicing all customers. Hands free fishing is a growing trend and for customers who want to fish at the highest level it is the most effective way to fish. Imagine never having to put down your rod and the ability to fish non-stop,” says the company’s David Hadden.
Advancement in fishing kayak design provided the impetus to put the spark where it best belongs, right at the heart of the action, into a removable cockpit console. There are three interchangeable options.
The optional Minn Kota or Power Console ($999) will deservedly garner the most attention. It houses a corrosion resistant 45-pound thrust saltwater grade electric motor. It offers forward and reverse, with a wide range of variable speed control – there’s more than slow and fast. The wiring is plug and play, pre-rigged in the hull.
The Minn Kota Console comes with a removable battery box big enough for a full-size marine power cell. It fits behind the seat. Hadden, as enthusiastic as they come, is pumped by the prospect of true hands free operation. With no pedal drive involved, the user’s feet are free to work the rudder.
Old Town Predator XL promotional video
“Utilizing a motor allows you to steer your boat with a foot-controlled rudder system and cast, reel and fish more. With pedal drives you have to stop fishing when you need to position your boat due to the hand-controlled rudder,” he says. No more missed strikes while repositioning the boat.
“Both the Minn Kota and Utility Consoles ($199) have a spot inside for an average Humminbird or similar battery, making sonar self-contained and removable. It is great theft protection,” says Old Town’s Luke LaBree.
The third option is the flush-deck Exo-Ridge Console ($99). It creates a huge open standing platform for those times clutter would be a handicap. Hadden expects power users will switch between the interchangeable consoles to customize the Predator XL for specific fishing missions.
The new Predator XL itself includes all of the innovative features of the original Predator models, including the excellent dual-height Element Seating System. Other strengths include sturdy accessory mounting plates (replaceable), the Exo-Ridge stand-up deck, and a large Click Seal bow hatch. The XL lives up to its name with a massive 600-pound weight capacity, achieved by widening it 2.5 inches – it is three feet across and 13 feet long.
“We heard customers wanted a larger boat. Think mini flats skiff or bass boat and you get the picture. We also knew there were innovations that could be made in terms of electronics. We went to work with our designers, pro-staff, dealer design council, and consumer feedback and went back to the drawing boards to create the most sophisticated fishing boat on the market,” Hadden says proudly.
We can’t wait to give it a try. The motor placement makes a lot of sense. Unlike the Torque, where it drops into the stern tankwell, it should be easy to pull the motor should it grab grass or weeds. Many more features should be revealed when we take a closer look at the Predator XL at ICAST, and later put it on the water.
Predator XL $1599; Predator XL w/Minn Kota $2699. Available on November 1, 2014.
This article is based on prototype information subject to change.