Early last summer, Hobie Fishing was hinting they would be making a big announcement. Something new and exciting was coming soon. What could it be? Last year about this time we learned of the MirageDrive 180, the first Hobie to go backwards. Big news for sure.
In July, I flew to Orlando for ICAST, the big fishing industry trade show. I hurried to the Hobie booth as soon as the convention center doors opened. What was the big news? A minor upgrade to the MirageDrive 180 with beefed up shifter cranks and adjustability. For the really big news we’d have to wait even longer.
It wasn’t until late August at Paddlesports Retailer, the inaugural paddling industry trade event, when we finally got to see Hobie’s best-kept secret—the Mirage Compass. What’s the big deal about a new MirageDrive fishing kayak? This one costs less than $2,000.
Hobie’s Director of Global Strategy and Development, Keeton Eoff, describes the Compass as a “build-up boat.” He made it pretty clear it’s not a bargain boat or a beginner boat, but a Hobie MirageDrive kayak you can fully customize from the ground up to your exact desires. I later met up with Eoff at my local Hobie dealer, HITEC Outdoors, on my home turf of Kentucky Lake during the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association Conference for a test drive, and to find out how Hobie was able to save you $600 off their next least-expensive option.
While unloading the new Mirage Compass from the trailer, the first thing I noticed was the open well in the bow. Hobie went away from the storage hatch design for an easier to produce and more cost effective open well with a mesh cover. Turns out the big open area was perfect for holding the MirageDrive while not pedaling, and I found I didn’t miss my storage hatches, which usually are just filled with trash or forgotten junk food anyway.
With the Hobie plug-in carts attached below, my fishing partner and I rolled our boats to the ramp. He was noticeably winded towing a Pro Angler 14—me, not so much. The Compass’ feathery 87-pound fully-rigged fishing weight with seat and drive was a cloud on wheels compared to the 144-pound Pro Angler. To be fair, the Compass is almost two feet shorter and four inches narrower than the Pro Angler 14. But even a Pro Angler 12 scales 41 pounds more. There is just less plastic in the new Compass.
Pulling away from the ramp, I was immediately impressed by how responsive the Compass is. The proven MirageDrive snaps the Compass into gear. My fishing partner couldn’t keep up with me in the Pro Angler. The 12-foot long Compass, like the Revolution, cuts through the water like butter. The MirageDrive easily pushes the Compass to five miles per hour, and cruises around at three miles per hour with minimal effort.
The rudder is tucked under the stern of the Compass like on the Pro Angler. It drops straight down behind a skid plate with a spring mechanism and is retracted with a deck bungie. Instead of the rudder cables attaching to a bulky steering handle mounted on the side of the boat like other Hobies, the Compass uses an ergonomic steering knob that sits mostly flush on the left side of the boat with a small finger grip. This new ergonomic steering handle gave me the ability to turn while only using my fingertips.
Pedaling the two miles to our spot, I found the new seat on the Compass to be more comfortable than Hobie’s elaborate Vantage ST seat. The new seat uses the same breathable mesh and light aluminum rails as Hobie’s fancier seats, but on this one the back is cut shorter making the seat fit perfectly below my fishing PFD. Hobie saved here with a simpler seat resting on supports molded into the deck. There are no height adjustment points and no ratcheting Boa lumbar support doodad. The seat does flip back out of the way for more standing room. If you have short legs like me don’t worry, the MirageDrive adjusts so it is not a problem reaching the pedals.
Once we arrived to fish, I stood up to make my first cast like I would on a Pro Angler. The Compass wobbled a bit as I stood up, but I never felt like I was going to tip. The Compass is narrower, but I’d say it still has the second best stability of any Hobie behind only the Pro Angler. The primary stability kept the Compass steady in boat wake, and the secondary stability allowed me to fish off the side and dance around the open front deck.
I felt naked fishing the ledges without my electronics. Ledge fishing is all about knowing exactly what the water under you looks like. It’s impossible without electronics. The Compass comes with the Hobie Lowrance Ready transducer mounting plate on the bottom. Unlike most Hobie Fishing kayaks however, the Compass doesn’t come pre-drilled for power cords and transducer cables. This is a great feature, or non-feature, in my opinion. On the Compass you can mount your fishfinder on either side of the boat using the factory installed Hobie H-tracks and run the power cable out anywhere you’d like.
Probably the one biggest cost savings on the Compass is the drive itself. Hobie opted to equip the Compass with the previous version of the MirageDrive—the one without reverse—keeping the MirageDrive 180 as their premium drive for the rest of their line. Eoff told me there are a lot of anglers who still prefer the MirageDrive because it is practically bulletproof.
The new Compass allows Hobie to play in the evolving lower-priced pedal drive market. The Compass offers anglers a well-designed boat with a proven drive system and a fishing platform on which to upgrade. If someday you want your Compass to go backwards you can drop in a MirageDrive 180 out of another Hobie, or for $840 you can pick one up at your local authorized Hobie dealer. JON RUSSELBURG