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
Weight: 95 lbs
Capacity: 450 lbs
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