What, exactly, is a full-size fishing kayak? With boats getting bigger, and propulsion getting easier, many people are asking what is a kayak anyways? We asked four veterans in the business how big is too big? What is the limit? With pedals and motors pushing the envelope on kayak size and weight, how big will big boats grow?
Living Large With Full-Size Kayaks
“It depends on how big you can rotomold the hull,” points out Morgan Promnitz, product director at Hobie. The long-time industry insider has worked on some of the most iconic big boats in the sport. “The PA17 is about as big as we can go,” Promnitz admits. He says anything larger than their tandem pedal boat pushes the limitations of manufacturing.
Kayaks started growing with the switch from paddle to pedals. “When we invented the pedal drive, we knew people were into fishing first,” he says. This realization snowballed into their flagship Mirage Pro Angler 14 with 360 drive. At 13 feet, 8 inches long, 38 inches wide and 148 pounds, the certified big boat is one of Hobie’s most advanced designs and a staple on the tournament trail.
Pedal power inspired Native Watercraft to release the Titan Propel 13.5, aptly named after the line of giant Greek gods who are the spawn of Uranus and Gaea. Measuring 41.5 inches wide and 178 pounds, the Titan Propel 13.5 is a battleship. Shane Benedict, co-founder and designer at Native, admits designing a pedal-powered kayak is a challenge. “It’s like we’re designing a bike and a boat to work together,” he laughs. But the demand for easy access fishing inspires the company to break down barriers to participation.
Today, the introduction of more reliable motors has led to a renewed interest in big kayaks. After releasing the original big-boy kayak, Blake Young, owner of NuCanoe says, “We have been designing big fishing kayaks from the beginning.” The company premiered in 2006 with the NuCanoe Classic, still one of the biggest fishing kayaks on the market. The boat was initially designed as an open-cockpit, super-stable kayak. With the growing popularity of motors, NuCanoe’s open design and massive capacity make it a favorite for motorheads. Young maintains, “Our boats still paddle like a kayak.”
To join the big boat party, Johnson Outdoors introduced the Old Town Predator line and recently developed the Sportsman line with several full-size, full-feature boats. Designer Bob McDonough has developed boats from 10 to over 15 feet long. “The design principles stay the same with a small kayak or a big boat,” he says. The prime directive is to move the boat through the water with the least resistance and disturbance.
“The design principles stay the same with a small kayak or a big boat,” he says. The prime directive is to move the boat through the water with the least resistance and disturbance.
“We try to figure out how to put the water back where it was before the kayak passed through,” he explains. Just because a kayak is powered by motor or pedals, doesn’t change the equation. “A pedal or motor-powered kayak will go 10 to 20 percent faster,” he says, but anglers still demand stealth and efficiency.
Fishing Kayaks Evolve, But Size Limits Remain
All four experts agree, the drive is motivated by motorboaters moving into a kayak. Promnitz says, “Motorboaters are looking for a way to fish shallower, more isolated areas and a kayak is the perfect answer.” Boaters turned kayak anglers aren’t concerned about trailering or storing a big kayak. Even the heaviest kayak can be trailered with a small car and parked in the yard.
At Native, Benedict agrees: “People want a smaller boat, but they still want stability and capacity for gear.” Designers attempt to give customers their cake and let them eat it, too. “In a 13-foot-long boat, we have room for vertical and horizontal rod storage and space for tackle with rigging for electronics,” Benedict adds.
As tournament anglers chase big checks, they insist on the latest gear, tackle, rods and electronics. NuCanoe’s Young says his pros are looking to completely customize their kayaks with every bell and whistle and smart, clean rigging. “If a boat angler has it, a kayak angler wants it,” he laughs.
The popularity of big kayaks may mean the sky is the limit, but these experts say there is a ceiling for full-size plastic boats.
At Johnson Outdoors, McDonough expects to see grassroots development of the next generation of full-size kayaks. “Fishermen are amazing at coming up with new inventions,” he says. McDonough predicts big boats will go through more fine tuning in performance and features. He bets the next big advancement will come in transporting a big kayak. “It takes a trailer to move a 100-pound kayak,” he points out.
The popularity of big kayaks may mean the sky is the limit, but these experts say there is a ceiling for full-size plastic boats. Young points out a wider, heavier kayak is more difficult to design. For example, he says there are issues supporting a wide, flat deck. “A combination of deck channels and scupper placement improve rigidity,” he says. Bendict adds motor power requires a completely different hull design. “Adding a motor causes serious issues with hydrodynamics and stresses on parts.”
After introducing the Native Watercraft Titan Propel, Benedict says, “To me, personally, we’ve reached the limit of how big a kayak can be.”
Full-Size Kayaks Attract New Anglers
Young expects customers to demand more out of their full-size kayaks as tournament anglers push the limits. McDonough at Old Town says big boats with an open cockpit designed for motors often don’t even resemble a kayak. “But that line of distinction gets less clear every day.” Hobie’s Promnitz admits big, motorized kayaks are good for everyone. “They bring more people to the sport and it’s fun to see it grow.”
This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 44. Subscribe to Kayak Angler and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos or browse the digital archives for your desktop here.
Live large and in charge with a full-size fishing kayak. | Feature photo: Jeffrey Fortuna