6 highly evolved fishing kayaks tested

6 highly evolved fishing kayaks tested. Photo: Jose Chavez

Posted August 2012

By Paul Lebowitz

Fishing kayaks have come a long way since the Ocean Kayak Scupper first hit a West Coast beach in 1971. It was a new sort of boat—one designed to get watermen through the waves and the chop to dive and fish. Self-draining, open-topped, and capable of carrying scuba tanks and other heavy gear, the aptly named Scupper was square one in the evolution of today's fishing kayaks.

Forty years later, contemporary sporting kayaks share the same basic plan, minus the big rear hatch—that has morphed into the indispensible open-topped storage well. Other changes were incremental, such as decks designed to accommodate an ever-increasing range of equipment: rod holders, fishfinders, GPS and the like. The hulls themselves grew wider for better cargo capacity and increased stability for battling big fish, or standing tall to hunt fish by sight. Contemporary fishing kayak design has come so far, manufacturers now offer models suited to virtually any water, whether that's the infinite skinny acreage of the flats or tumultuous Big Blue.

To get a sense for the state of the fishing kayak art, Kayak Fish convened a representative bi-coastal crew to put a half-dozen of the latest and greatest human-powered fin chasers to the test. The salty dogs of the Tampa Bay-headquartered Hardcore Kayak Anglers Club stood tall for the multitudes of flats casters. In Southern California, a motley set of traditionalists fished the inky deeps. We liked what we saw.

Emotion Grand Slam Angler

Emotion Grand Slam Angler. Photo: Jose Chavez

The Emotion Grand Slam Angler

In this age of truck-like fishing kayaks built to carry a load, it sure is sweet to hop on a boat with get up and go.

Freedom Hawk Pathfinder

Freedom Hawk Pathfinder. Photo: Jose Chavez

The Freedom Hawk Pathfinder

Bar none, the Pathfinder is the most stable fishing kayak on the planet.

Jackson Kayak Cuda 14

Jackson Kayak Cuda 14. Photo: Allen Bushnell

The Jackson Kayak Cuda

Jackson took concepts developed for the company's 2011 sensation, the pioneering river-running Coosa fishing kayak, and made them bigger and better for the new Cuda.

Hobie Mirage Revolution 11

Hobie Mirage Revolution 11. Photo: Jose Chavez

The Hobie Mirage Revolution 11
The spitting image of the original pedal-powered Revolution (a 13-footer), the new 11-foot, 11-pounds-lighter Revolution is a near-perfect blend of maneuverability, cargo capacity and fishability.

Ocean Kayak Trident Ultra 4.3

Ocean Kayak Trident Ultra 4.3. Photo: Paul Lebowitz

The Ocean Kayak Trident Ultra 4.3

We put Ocean Kayak's newest fishing kayak to the test out West, where the water's more boisterous than any found on a Florida salt flat.

Wilderness Systems Ride 135

Wilderness Systems Ride 135. Photo: Jose Chavez

The Wilderness Systems Ride 135

The original 135 is a time-tested survivor from the earliest days of the kayak fishing movement.