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Boat Review: Old Town Canoe’s New Topwater PDL Angler Fishing Kayak

man standing on an Old Town Canoe kayak fishing
“It feels longer than 10-foot,” Kevin Whitley. Photo: Roberto Westbrook

What would you do for a friend? Would you go against your nature? Would you embrace the other side?

Would you trade your paddle for pedals?

My buddy “Kayak” Kevin Whitley has paddled his fishing kayak from Florida to Virginia, Virginia to Maryland, the mouth of Chesapeake Bay to its source and back, but he has rarely pedaled a kayak. He frequently says;

“Pedal-fishing is a different sport”

When I asked Whitley to help test kayaks for the spring issue of Kayak Angler, I didn’t tell the Johnson Outdoors pro he’d be pedaling Old Town Canoe’s new Topwater PDL.

As a test of our friendship, I expected him to complain, cry or quit when I showed up with the 10-foot pedal boat. Instead, he jumped onboard and headed to the first fishing spot.

In addition to a world-traveling paddle kayaker, Whitley formerly worked at Appomattox River Company, the biggest paddlesports shop in Virginia.

When we discuss the cleavage between the two most popular propulsion methods, he explains paddling appeals to a specific segment of anglers while pedaling is for everyone.

Which is where Old Town’s new Topwater PDL comes in. In 2004, Johnson Outdoors bought Old Town Canoe, the Maine stalwart has been building user-friendly paddlecraft since the nineteenth century.

Topwater PDL Angler Specs
Length: 10’6″
Width: 36″
Weight: 95 lbs
Capacity: 450 lbs
MSRP: $1,999.99


When it came to fishing kayaks, Old Town’s designers turned to producing user-friendly, high-quality, performance kayaks for every angler.

Their premier fishing kayak, the Predator, quickly gained fans of high-stability, high-volume, highly comfortable kayaks for any size and ability angler. After two years of research and development, Old Town engineers released the PDL pedal system.

Introducing Old Town Canoe’s Topwater PDL Angler

Last summer, Old Town hit the water again with the Topwater line, value-priced models with fewer features and a design leaning heavy on stability, comfort and ergonomics (see the Topwater 120 review). This spring, Old Town installed the proven PDL in their economy-class Topwater.

The Topwater PDL Angler offers the ergonomics and function of the Topwater family plus the reliable performance of the PDL for less than $2,000. The result is a pedal kayak designed for any angler.

As Whitley pedaled from fishing spot to fishing spot, we discussed the performance of the new boat. “It feels longer than 10-foot,” was our first observation.

While a short waterline would make a paddle kayak squirrely, the pedal system and rudder keep the 10-foot, six-inch Topwater PDL Angler on course.

The Topwater PDL Angler’s Features

In fact, Old Town’s PDL consistently performs at the top of the pedal pile. In our head-to-head Pedal Boat Olympics the PDL was one of the fastest and most powerful pedal systems.

Whitley adds that the rock-solid PDL is also one of the most reliable pedal systems. “We have the least trouble with PDLs at the shop,” Whitley says. The enclosed system is sealed against the elements with corrosion-resistant components and backed by a four-year warranty.

While the PDL is one of the largest pedal systems, the oversized base completely fills the scupper leaving a flat deck on the top side and smooth hull underneath improving hydrodynamics and reducing hull noise.

The tight fit also keeps the pedal system from flexing under a load, sending maximum power from the pedals directly to the propeller.

Putting the PDL in a sub-$2,000 fishing kayak is like stuffing a Cummins diesel into a Honda Civic. The power and performance propel the Topwater out of its class.

In addition to the proven PDL, Old Town brought features, like the rudder and controls, from their more expensive models.

Like the other Topwater models, the PDL Angler glides on a modified pontoon hull Old Town calls the DoubleU. Pushing the volume to the outside edge of the hull improves stability while the narrow keel running down the center of the hull keeps the kayak pointed straight.

Ryan Lily, brand manager at Old Town says their designers worked late to make the hull efficient and quiet. Lily explains, “For a 10-foot, six-inch boat, it performs like it has a longer waterline.”

Performance On The Water

On the water, we noticed very little hull slap as the PDL Angler cut cleanly through a slight wind chop. The short waterline allowed the rudder to turn the boat in tight circles going forward or reverse.

The topside of the boat is no nonsense. A huge tankwell is molded to hold either a 12×12 or larger 12×16-inch crate. In the bow, a small, covered hatch allows for dry storage. Under the seat, space is molded to hold two tackle trays.

Flushmount rod holders behind the seat are angled for trolling. Under the hull, a large scupper and molded pocket will accommodate any size fish finder transducer without affecting the boat’s performance.

The efforts to make the Topwater PDL Angler a fishing kayak for anyone were not lost. The pocket boat is easy to transport and store. A waistline under 100 pounds makes the boat friendly on and off the water. On family outings, I put my mother-in-law in the Topwater PDL Angler.

I also put my oldest fishing friend in the boat. When I asked Whitley for his impressions, he reported the boat handles and fishes to his satisfaction.

While I pedaled off to hit another fishing spot, I watched Whitley doing donuts, pedaling in reverse and giggling like a kid. “This boat is fun,” he laughed.

“It feels longer than 10-foot,” Kevin Whitley. Feature Photo: Roberto Westbrook

Fishing Kayak Rigging Essentials

Today, kayak anglers have a plethora of gear and accessories to make adding rod holders, mounts, bases, crates, lights, power and other accessories quick and easy. Railblaza, Scotty, YakPower, Tightline and YakGear are designing rigging solutions for any type of kayak and every type of fishing.

Railblaza R-Lock S and R

The R-Lock S Fish Finder Mount offers a great way to mount any Fish Finder with a square or rectangular base. Using the R-Lock system allows you to turn your Fish Finder 360 degrees and also pivot 180 degrees. The R-Lock S is compatible with any of Railblaza’s 12 mounting options to best suit your needs.
Price: $34.99





Scotty 162 1.5″ Ballmount and 241 Side Deck Mount

The 162 1.5″ ball design gives you a much greater clamping force for larger accessories while still having a smooth full range of motion. Click and lock any Scotty post mount accessory into the 162 Gear Head. Designed for use with Scotty Baitcaster Spinning and Fly rod holders.

Price: $45.99







159 1″ Ball with Post

Adapt your Scotty post mount to the 1″ ball mounting system. For use with all Scotty post mounts.

Price: $15.49







168 1.5″ Ball with Track Adapter

Adapt your Scotty low profile track to the 1.5″ ball mounting system. For use with all Scotty 1.5″ ball mounts and Scotty low profile tracks.

Price: $18.99






163 1.5″ Ball Mount Fish Finder and Universal Mounting Plate

The 163 1.5″ Ball Mount design gives you a much greater clamping force for larger accessories while still having a smooth full range of motion. The 163 top plate has been designed to accept fish finders up to nine inches. Works with all electronic brands.

Price: $45.99






158 1″ Ball with Track Adapter

Adapt your Scotty 158 low-profile track to the 1″ ball mounting system. For use with all Scotty 1″ ball mounts and Scotty low-profile tracks.

Price: $15.99




169 1.5″ Ball with Post

Adapt your Scotty post mount to the 1.5″ ball mounting system. For use with all Scotty post mounts.

Price: $16.49







Tightline Anchor K4X, K5

Tightline has spent two years developing an innovative anchoring system for you. Each of the anchors are formed from top-quality 316 stainless steel, then assembled by hand. The unique design weighs less than a can of pop and folds up neatly, saving space and weight for your other mission-essential kit. Brake spade design ensures you set the hook the first time, every time.

Price: $59.99 – $120






Yak Power Wireless Digital Switcher

Yak Power introduces totally wireless rigging and control of your kayak. The new YP-RP5WR features five switched outlets, battery-powered keypad with quick disconnect base and a T-nut rail track mounting option, integrated Bluetooth with mobile app control, last memory mode, inline 15A fuse, and Yak Power plug-and-play connectivity. Yak Power lets you spend less time rigging and more time fishing.

Price: $TBD





YakGear YakSack

The YakSack is new for 2019 and will be available as of Labor Day. The YakSack gives you storage options not only for your favorite lures, pliers and Fish Grips in the four outer pockets but also has a dry pouch interior that allows you to store your wallet, keys and phone. The YakSack is splash-proof and water-resistant. It can mount to a track, rail or framed seat.

Price: $TBD



Gator Guards Gator Patch Seals and Repairs Any Part of Your Kayak

Even tough rotomolded and thermoformed kayaks need protection and repair. Gator Guards polyester resin patches are the strongest way to protect or fix contact points on a board or boat. This year, the patch material comes in a 36-inch roll to fix or protect any part of the kayak.

Nick Barr, VP of Sales, gave us a step-by-step demonstration of the technology. Nick started by sanding the plastic to rough-up the contact point. Then, he wiped off dust and dirt with rubbing alcohol before drying the area and preparing it for patching. Nick cut a piece of the material to fit over the area. Once he sized up the patch, he removed the backing and slowly affixed the patch to the hull.

Starting in the center, he pushed the air out the sides while firmly pushing out air bubbles and creases. He used a rubber mallet to further press and roll out imperfections. Once the patch was attached, he removed the plastic film on top of the material and further squeezed and worked out air bubbles and creases.

Then, Barr set the patch in the sun to cure. Average wait time is 30 minutes to an hour, but could be as short as a few minutes on a sunny day. Once the resin cures, the patch can be sanded, painted and molded to perfection.

Best Inflatable and Folding Fishing Kayaks

Inflatable and folding kayaks solve the problem of transporting and storing a traditional boat. These innovative designs approach the problem with a unique solution. Perfect for storing in a closet, packing for vacation, checking as airline baggage and carrying to remote fishing holes, Advanced Elements, AIRE, Uncharted Watercraft and ORU combine functional design with good looks for a fishing kayak that will go anywhere.

StraightEdge Angler Pro

Price: $999.99

Designed for the kayak angler, the StraitEdge Angler Pro has great stability, and is made of multi-layer materials and multiple air chambers, providing maximum durability. Its removable Accessory Frame System allows anglers to customize the kayak with aftermarket accessories. It also features a drop stitch floor for rigidity and stand-up capability as well as Advanced Elements’ ultra-comfortable AirFrame Pro seat.


AIRE IK Angler 1

A fishing-specific kayak, the AIRE IK Angler 11 is designed for avid fishermen who want to access more water. Built for comfort, the adjustable seat has you sitting above the water making casting a breeze and providing extra support for your lower back. Equipped with a removable fin for superior tracking, a quick one-handed paddle holder, self-bailing floor and Integrated Gear System to add cargo pockets and rod holders.

Price: $1199



Uncharted Watercraft Outbound

Uncharted Watercraft’s Outbound is molded of high-molecular weight polyethylene using twin-sheet thermoforming technology. Frame is made from 1.5-inch powder-coated aluminum tubing. Features molded-in foot wells, three flush-mount rod holders, paddle clips and two six-inch hatches. It packs down to 60 x 34 x 22 inches for easy transportation and storage. Wheels included. Assembles and disassembles in seconds with no tools. Made in the USA.


Oru Haven

A tandem model that can convert to a single, the Oru Haven hardshell kayak is great for fishing and camping—bring the whole family. Dogs too! When not in use, stash it in your closet, throw it in your trunk, or check it on a plane to make paddling part of all of your adventures. Built dimensions: 16′ x 31″. Boxed dimensions: 34″ x 16″ x 29″. Weight: 40 pounds. Max load: 500 pounds. Assembly time: 15 minutes.

Price: $1999



Best Fishing Kayak Paddles

Fishing kayak paddles are some of the toughest gear on Earth. At once strong enough to cram into a rock or push off a dock with the performance to move a heavy fishing kayak quickly and efficiently. The latest generation of paddles is purpose built to take the abuse come out shining. Accent, Backwater, Wilderness Systems and Bending Branches are ahead of the game with paddles that perform well and look great.

Accent Crank Bait

Price: $315

The Crank Bait is a first for fishermen wanting to take it to the next level. The Crank Bait is a carbon foam core kayak paddle that looks and performs like no other. With the Advantage Grip Technology, paddlers receive all the benefits of bent shaft technology to keep you on the water longer. With ABS edge protection and full blade graphics, you will be the talk on the water.

Assault Hand Paddle

Price: $29.95

The Assault Hand Paddle is lightweight and compact, designed for single-handed use. Patented hook-and-teeth blade design provides unmatched versatiltiy on the water. Hook for grabbing, snatching and pulling, teeth for shoving and pushing. Raised blade graphics. OD Green for stealth and Hi-vis Orange for safety. 100-percent guaranteed.



Price: $159

Assassin Kayak Paddle

The Assassin Kayak Paddle is designed for the paddle sportsman requiring the utmost in stealth and mobility. The patented hook-and-teeth blade design delivers one of the most versatile paddles ever manufactured. The hook provides for grabbing, snatching, pulling and the teeth provide positive purchase when shoving or pushing. Adjustable carbon fiber shaft. Raised blade graphics. 100% guaranteed.



Price: $299.95

Bending Branches Angler Pro

The six-time Angler Paddle of the Year, Bending Branches Angler Pro now comes in a shiny new color with the Glowtek pattern. Designed by the ProStaff fishing team, Glowtek offers the visibility anglers desire with the performance they need. Anglers buy Bending Branches’ paddles because they know and trust the reliability, but are always delightfully surprised by the effortless weight. Now available in 270- and 280-centimeter sizes.

Price: $79.99

Carlisle Magic Angler

The Magic Angler’s powerful blade, durable shaft. Fiberglass-reinforced nylon blades provide a slightly stiffer yet efficient stroke that is further supported by an aluminum shaft. For paddlers that need a bit more strength and durability from their paddle, the Magic is the recreational paddle of choice.


Price: $289.99

Tarpon Glass Paddle

Introducing the Tarpon paddle—the optimal propulsion for the new Wilderness Systems Tarpon series kayaks. The Tarpon blade features an optimized shape that provides the ideal angle of entry into the water, a large 640-centimeter-square power face for responsive boat control, and an asymmetric dihedral for smooth, efficient, flutter-free strokes.

Best Motor Drive Fishing Kayaks and Kits

M otorized kayaks are no longer considered cheating. Today, major tournament trails, anglers with disabilities and folks looking to have fun without breaking a sweat are jumping on board electric-powered fishing kayaks. Bixby, Feelfree, Jackson and Jonny Boats are leading the race to motorized fishing kayaks and motor kits.

Bixpy Outboard Kit for Kayaks

The Bixpy Jet is an electric water-jet propulsion system designed to motorize virtually any kayak, canoe or small watercraft. At lower speeds, a single charge allows you to troll for 10h. At full speed, a single charge can boost your kayak to about seven miles per hour for up to 75 minutes of continuous use. The Bixpy Outboard Kit is emission-free, weighs only nine pounds and is easy to mount, operate and transport.

Price: $999




Feelfree Lure Tandem

The Lure II Tandem is based on the same amazing comfort, stability and versatility of the popular Lure series—times two! With two complete cockpits featuring sonar and electronic sonar pods and patented Gravity Seats, the Lure II cuts no corners to offer the best for two anglers. The Lure II can also be paddled as a solo kayak from the rear seat position. Also available with Overdrive.

Price: $2299




Feelfree Dorado

The Dorado offers features unlike any other, including a fully integrated electrical system with navigation and cockpit LED lights and ready for the optional Motordrive, fish finder and more. The kayak is designed from the ground up with a focus on stability, tracking and propulsion performance made possible by the innovative cathedral tri-hull. The Dorado is for the serious kayak angler.

Price: $2499




Jackson Kayaks Flex Drive E

The Flex Drive E is designed to connect with your Flex Drive lower unit to provide electric-powered propulsion. The Flex Drive E system makes switching from pedal to electric power quick and easy. Designed for use with Jackson Kayak or BlueSky Boatworks to provide you countless adventures to come.


Price: $599






Jonny Boats Bass 100

The Bass 100 borrows from the classic johnboat concept, featuring an open platform to build upon as they did in the good ol’ days. Jonny Boats blends this classic concept with modern boat and kayak technology, offering a highly customizable base model ready for multiple outfitting options, including whether you choose to paddle it or outfit with a motor. Shown with optional accessories and motors.

Price: $899



Best Fishing Kayaks Under $1000

ne of the most exciting advancements in fishing kayaks comes at the low-end of the price range. In the past year, major brands have released value-priced kayaks with the fishing features and paddling performance of their higher-priced models. Using their design experience and existing accessories and rigging, Feelfree, 3 Waters, Native and others have released capable fishing kayaks with price tags under $1000.

3 Waters Big Fish

Price: $799

The 3 Waters Big Fish offers all the features, stability and comfort you expect from a high-dollar kayak but at an affordable price. The kayak is designed from the ground up with a focus on stability, tracking and performance, made possible by the innovative cathedral tri-hull. The deck features a standing platform, storage space along the gunwales and built-in rod holders. Available in two sizes.


Feelfree Lure 10

Price: $899

The Lure 10.5 comes with everything you need to get out and go fish in a smaller and more manageable size. The kayak comes with a variety of unique comfort features seen on the Lure series, including the removable multi-height adjustable Gravity Seat and Wheel in the Keel. New for 2020 is the addition of the sonar and electronics pod for your fish finder and more.


Moken 12.5 V2

Introducing the new Moken 12.5 V2, featuring a new multi-position and height-adjustable seat and removable sonar pod. The Moken 12.5 has been Feelfree’s perfect all-around fishing kayak and it’s now better than ever. The kayak is brimming with standard features, including UNI-Track rails for easy accessory outfitting, front and rear hatches and the Wheel in the Keel for easy transport.

Price: $799

[ Learn more about the Feelfree Moken 12.5 ]


Native Watercraft Falcon 11

The Native Watercraft Falcon 11 is a feature rich, super stable, compact fishing machine at price point that’s hard to beat, especially when the cooler is packed with fresh catch. At 11 feet long and 32.5 inches wide, the Falcon 11 slides through the water with excellent tracking and ample stability for standing up to sight fish.

Price: $799

[ Learn more about the Native Watercraft Falcon 11 ]

Perception Kayaks Outlaw 11.5

The Outlaw 11.5 boasts a wide-open deck, an expansive standing platform, seriously elevated seating, and intuitive features throughout, disrupting the notion that an incredibly unique angling platform needs to break the bank. So good, it should be illegal.

Price: $699

Best Fishing Life Jackets for 2020

Before catching fish, paddling miles and taking in the scenery, safety should be the primary concern for kayak anglers. The easiest way to prevent injury or death is wearing a comfortable and reliable life vest. Fishing life vests combine the function of a floatation device with the convenience of pockets and attachment points for tools and tackle. Life jackets by Onyx, Old Town and Stohlquist have balanced form and function to keep anglers safe to enjoy the fishing.

Old Town Lure Angler PFD

Price: $129.99

Performance high-back fishing life jacket. Designed with the performance kayak angler in mind, the Lure Angler jacket comes equipped with many features and adjustments that are designed to keep you fishing in comfort longer. Featuring a high-back construction, which nests comfortably with tall kayak seats and the AirComfort system to keep you cool on the hottest days..


Onyx Pike Paddle Sports Vest

The low-profile Pike Paddle Sports Vest has a segmented foam design for increased range of motion when paddling and casting. Other features include contoured lower back foam to fit the body comfortably, adjustable neoprene shoulders, reflective piping on shoulders for increased visibility, six adjustment straps to cinch vest up for a snug fit, and six zippered pockets for storing essential gear. D-ring included.

Price: $89.99





Onyx A/M 24

This inflatable life jacket can be converted from automatic/manual to manual-only inflation, making it easier to use when paddling, but it still keeps you safe. Utility pockets for storing gear, padded air mesh for additional comfort, a heavy-duty outer shell fabric and a padded, fleece-lined sunglass pocket are other important features. Use ReArming Kit #1352 when a replacement CO2 cartridge is needed.

[ Learn more about the Onyx A/M 24 ]

Price: $209.99







Stohlquist Keeper

Soft foam combined with Stohlquist’s exclusive Graded Sizing and Cross-Chest Cinch harness create one of the most comfortable fishing PFDs on the market. The thin back design is perfect for tall seat backs. Multiple zippered pockets and mounting points ensure your tackle is close at hand when needed. Available in both hi-vis and low contrast colors.

Price: $149.95



Best Pedal Drive Fishing Kayaks for 2020

What was first called a gimmick is now ubiquitous in fishing kayak design as every major manufacture has added a pedal drive to their line-up. Old Town, Ocean Kayak, Hobie, Feelfree, Jackson Kayaks and Perception have introduced reliable pedal systems allowing for hands free fishing and easy propulsion. Here are a few of our favorite pedal-powered kayaks.

Big Fish 108 with Pro Drive

Price: $1799

The Big Fish 108 is the newest edition to the popular Big Fish kayak series specially designed to accommodate the Pro Fish Pedal Drive. At about 11 feet and with a capacity of 500 pounds, the Big Fish 108 is an all-around, have fun or go-fish kayak for the masses utilizing a Cathedral Hull design that is super stable yet easy to maneuver.

Mirage Pro Angler 14 with 360 Drive

Price: $4799

Truly the ultimate fishing machine. The 2020 Pro Angler 14 with the MirageDrive 360 and Kick-Up Fins delivers power in every direction for unprecedented maneuverability and control. Staying on top of the fish has never been easier. Features everything elite anglers are looking for in a fishing kayak—total control, power, stability, performance, stealth, comfort and rich in features.

Kilroy HD

Price: $1295

The Kilroy HD hull has been reshaped for more storage and more stability, and features a Bow2stern track system and a layout more suited for functional modification. Fish today, hunt tomorrow or take the family or dog on an expedition. Rig your own adventures without limitations. Use the Kilroy HD’s versatile modular set up to match your craft to your adventure as you see fit.

Jackson Kayaks YuPIK

Price: $1295

The YuPIK is inspired by those who first hunted from a kayak. Bow2Stern track systems and storage pockets molded in along the boat allow you to rig your own adventure without limitation. Customize your fun with more room, and even second seat capabilities. Additions, like the fully trimmable seat pan and a unique moving standing pad system, make the YuPIK one of the most versatile kayaks out there.

Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal

Price: $2199


Dive in feet first with the Malibu Pedal. It features an advanced PDL Drive System that makes for a fresh new kayaking experience. It’s fun, zippy, stable and has turn-on-a-dime performance. A kid’s jumpseat makes family outings a breeze, and it even has plenty of room to bring your dog along for a complete family adventure.

Old Town Predator PDL

Price: $2499


One of the most advanced pedal-powered kayaks just got an upgrade. The award-winning Predator PDL gets you to your favorite fishing spot fast, and keeps you there without paddling. With forward and reverse maneuverability and stability, you’ll experience precise boat control while your hands remain free to focus on fishing. The removable pedal drive installs in seconds and tips up instantly for shallow water docking.

Old Town Topwater PDL

Price: $2149

Expanding on one of the most coveted series of fishing kayak to hit the water, Old Town is proud to debut the all-new 12-foot-long Topwater 120 PDL. The new Topwater 120 PDL joins Old Town’s esteemed family of pedal-powered kayaks, featuring the industries-best PDL Drive system. Maintenance-free and saltwater-ready, the PDL Drive system, backed by a industry-leading five-year warranty, provides anglers hands-free control with the ability to pedal forward and reverse instantly.

Wilderness Systems Recon 100

Price: $2149

Wilderness Systems’ proven and improved Helix PD Pedal Drive in an all-new open fishing platform, the Recon is the definitive DIY kayak with sure-fire stability for extreme fishability. With revolutionary features—an open deck, a new take on storage, and a unique, comfortable and adjustable seating system—coupled with proven pedal power, the Recon is destined to be a class leader.