By Paul Lebowitz
Bigger isn't always better. Sometimes low and fast is the ticket, particularly for a slashing, surf-savvy speedster. Enter the Viking ProFish Reload, a New Zealand import distributed by Yak-Gear and unlike any big water fish 'yak currently made in North America.
It's a sleek and predatory lightweight missile with sexy curving lines. It is a paddler's fishing kayak meant to tackle rough water, spun from plastic and fully customized for serious offshore fishing. "A wider fishing kayak is perfect for how most people fish in the U.S. To stand up and sight cast makes perfect sense. In New Zealand, we're going offshore, through surf. You can count on 20-knot winds," Viking Kayaks owner Grant Montague says.
Montague walks the talk. He came up as a kayak angler, eventually partnering with Down Under clinical biochemist turned 'yak angling guru Stephen Tapp at Viking. The pair has more than 30 years combined experience crashing out through surf. Tapp cooked up the ProFish hull design.
"My goal was to create an efficient shape capable of long paddles, yet one that would provide good stability to target big fish," he says. Tapp positioned the boat's greatest buoyancy slightly towards the rear, designed a proudly flared bow with tremendous lift, and stretched the keel with an unusual extended stern. With a low volume cockpit that drains quickly, we think the ProFish is one of the top performance-oriented fishing kayaks on the market.
"The start point was deciding on the length. 14.8 feet allows enough waterline length for efficiency yet doesn’t compromise maneuverability too much. It's also a good length when dealing with choppy coastal conditions where longer kayaks can sometimes wallow. Width and profile then become a balance of working with the seating position and load distribution (trim range) to create the handling we need when fishing the wide variety of techniques in use," Tapp says.
The bare hull weighs a refreshingly featherweight 64 pounds. The Kayak Fish test boat had one of the thinnest layups our seasoned test crew has ever seen. Consequently, it demands an extra measure of care during transport and storage to prevent temporary hull deflection.
Montague says it's thin by design. "This is a tricky one. We try to keep the weight of large kayaks as low as possible so people can lift them onto roof racks and to the waters edge more easily. The trade-off is a little more care in how you support the kayak on roof racks. The hot conditions in some parts of the US and kayaks with dark colors has increased the amount of flex so we have decided that we will add a little more resin to the hull to minimize this," he says.
The boat is happiest trucked upside-down on its gunwales—it doesn't like cradles—but let's keep this in perspective. While we wouldn't want to carelessly drag the hull across rocks and asphalt, it isn't near as fussy as a glass 'yak. The layup was no issue at all when our test Profish was on the water, where it was stiff and responsive.
The seat is down low, enhancing stability, but Tapp and Montague carefully shaped it for improved comfort. The seat isn't as cushy as a beach chair, but lounging isn't the point. The thigh area is raised and the bottom is contoured, creating an intimate connection with the boat that aids control. Our test paddlers felt well connected to the Profish—we could lean and put it on edge. Yet the kayak is stable enough that sitting sidesaddle is no problem, nor is scooting up to the nose.
The Tackle Pod System is the fishing centerpiece. It's a large removable sonar console and storage area that offers direct transducer water contact for superior sonar performance—the largest tackle pod currently offered. There's a tube inside for neatly coiling all that excess transducer wire, and plenty of room to store tackle close at hand. "It hit us that if you have a drop-in console you can have all your gear packed up and ready, including your battery and fishfinder," Montague says.
The pod can be optionally plumbed through a nearby bilge pump scupper for use as a bait tank. Montague points out such a heavy weight is better positioned in the boat's center. The Kayak Fish test crew found the oversized Reload Pod so useful for tackle storage, we exiled our bait tank to the tankwell. We didn't notice a performance hit.
Our test crew pushed the Profish to its limits, combat launching through hurricane swell much larger than depicted on the photos in this story. We took some heavy hits that filled the cockpit to the brim. Once we clawed into the clear, we found our pod had taken on several cups of water. The hull, however, stayed dry, a testament to the seaworthy hatch design. Montague says users who regularly dare nasty surf glue a foam seal around the Tackle Pod hatch—it doesn't come equipped with one.
The Profish boasts a large bow hatch, but it's located close to the cockpit and pitched backwards for easier access and to shed water. It's big enough for two-piece rods, but there's no other way to store sticks inside the hull. The lengths of shock cord on the nose will hold a paddle blade, but they also work with hull indents as horizontal rod holders—a stashing place when busting through surf.
There's a tankwell—pretty standard—with an optional fish box, and a trio of round storage wells, all scuppered but equipped with screw-in plugs that keep them dry. These small rounds are intended for storing smaller baits. "I personally like to take a bag of pilchards or similar dead baits and stash these in one of the wells—this keeps messy bait out of the cockpit," Montague says.
Our test kayak wasn't equipped with a rudder—we didn't miss it. The length is right in the sweet spot for big water, and nicely streamlined.
While we took on hurricane swell, we never found an opportunity to paddle the Profish in 20-knot plus winds. For those who want a rudder, Viking's is intriguing. The low profile blade is stretched out horizontally instead of vertically. It's designed to run right onto the beach—there's no up/down control. We would have loved to test it in the local kelp beds to see whether it would catch. Montague says it would run right over the weeds.
Yak-Gear offers most of its Profish as an otherwise blank canvas so there's nothing to clutter the new owner's vision. Just be sure to rig it high speed, low drag for wild water. The Profish wants it rough. —KF
Viking Profish Reload: L14' 8"; W29"; 64 lbs; Cap. 440 lbs; $1399 with a seat and two rod holders / $1549 as tested. www.yak-gear.com/viking-kayaks