It was time to go. Unfamiliar kayak, inky black skies, persistent winds and near-invisible surf. Check! We had all the ingredients for a challenging test drive. Two days earlier, Morgan Promnitz, product manager at Hobie Fishing, invited me for a sneak peek at the redesigned 2019 Mirage Outback.
Hobie Mirage Outback 2019 Specs
Weight: 85 lbs / 103 lbs outfitted
Capacity: 425 lbs
MSRP: $2,799 / $2,949 for camo
What’s New with the Hobie Mirage Outback?
Howie Stretch, Hobie product manager, joined Promnitz and me on our home beach at La Jolla Shores, San Diego. It was pitch black and an onshore wind promised bumpy conditions.Standing next to two of the godfathers of kayak fishing ready to launch the newest kayaks took some sting out of hitting open water in the dark.
The Mirage Outback, born in 2001, is arguably Hobie’s first purpose-built, pedal-powered fishing kayak.
Since then, Hobie has added dozens of fishing models from the full-size Pro Angler to the speed-demon Revolution, but the utilitarian, easy-entry Outback remained one of the company’s all-time best-sellers. In almost 20 years, the Outback has remained essentially unchanged.
Can you mess with a classic? After years of demand for a more modern design, Hobie jumped off the deep end and completely reimagined the Outback while retaining its do-it-all soul.
Sizing Up the 2019 Mirage Outback
The Hobie Mirage Outback has always been the choice of kayak anglers who prefer a lighter, easy handling platform. With a hull weight of 85 pounds, the new Outback falls squarely in the same category.
Under the unsteady light of my headlamp, I rigged my ride for the day. Some differences were immediately clear. The bow comes to a fine point reminiscent of Hobie’s svelte Mirage Revolution series. I anticipated a smoother, quieter ride than the original Outback.
At 12 feet, nine inches, the hull is a bit longer too, adding glide for a faster ride. The stern is squared off, like the Pro Anglers and Compass, for improved stability without sacrificing speed.
Hobie got rid of the finicky Twist-n-Stow rudder and replaced it with an integrated rudder kicking up into the hull when not in use. The system moves the rudder further forward to improve handling. The new Hobie Mirage Outback is snappy in its turns. Rudder controls on each side of the seat are convenient when the other hand is busy fighting a fish.
One of the biggest changes, the driver sits elevated on the new Vantage CTW high-low seat. The CTW is an inch-and-a half wider than the Vantage with four-way adjustability to dial in for any size of angler. Despite the rolling seas and crisp breeze, I felt rock solid in the high-level seat.
I wish I could say I made it through the surf clean, but I had to weather a couple foamers. The old Outback’s volume-rich bow is replaced by the new model’s piercing entry. I’m sure I was a tad wetter than I would have been in the original model, but I scooted out of the surf zone more quickly.
Testing the Outback’s New MirageDrive 180
The new Outback comes standard with a MirageDrive 180 equipped with Turbo Fins. From the start, it feels faster than its predecessor. Adding reverse to the equation makes the boat easier to use. Hobie even added a recess in the hull where the MirageDrive fins tuck in protected.
Dawn found us pedalling the three miles to yellowtail fishing grounds as we worked to catch live mackerel. I finally had the chance to study the cockpit. It is exquisite, a model of fishing ergonomics done right. All the tackle and tools were right at hand.
My irons, deep-diving Rapalas and leader spools rested in the drop-in gear bucket under the cockpit hatch. Hooks and leader were in a waterproof Plano tackle tray secured with a tie-down in the H-Rail Deluxe compartment on the side of the cockpit. The unique catch-all includes places to secure pliers and scissors with H-Rail and gear tracks offering countless options for customization. It’s simple and brilliant.
Rounding out the cockpit features, the Lowrance Ready System makes sonar installation a snap with pre-plumbed lines and integrated space to mount a display unit. Hobie added the Guardian retractable transducer shield protecting large transducers from hitting bottom.
Fishability is No Mirage
As we travelled over the submerged kelp, we tossed irons and ripbaits for calico bass. For a while it was full speed. Morgan stood on his Outback roping bass after bass. The deck has two EVA standing pads flush with the top of the cockpit hatch, making for a stable, solid platform.
Howie dropped his Sabiki near the kelp line and loaded up with mackerel. Finally, we could get down to serious business. We each put fly-lined baits out as a school of yellowtail flashed through.
Howie was the first to hook up. Not long later, rod in hand in free spool as I trolled, I was picked up. Soon I had a yellowtail dragging me in circles and putting the new rudder to the test. It passed.
The new Hobie Mirage Outback boasts stability in spades.
Howie connected with another drag-ripper but then the bite faded. We moved out to one of Morgan’s favorite halibut spots. He got bit on his second drop. Howard, the hot stick for the day, captured his own halibut as the action wound down.
On the way back to the beach, I contemplated the results of the keel-up redesign. The new Hobie Mirage Outback boasts stability in spades, yet it is quicker and turns more tightly than its predecessor. It is quiet and the cockpit design is outstanding. The only tradeoff is a slightly wetter ride in rough water, but an extra set of scuppers helps drain the cockpit. Hobie’s designers accomplished all this while keeping the hull and outfitted weight unchanged.
Hobie’s New Mirage Outback is a Worthy Successor
The new Outback brings the first pedal kayak into the modern age keeping the all-around performance and fishing focus while improving rigging and comfort. Expect the second generation of Mirage Outback to carry on as Hobie’s most popular design.
Video Review of the 2015 Hobie Mirage Outback:
The 2019 Hobie Mirage Outback pedals into the 21st century. | Feature photo: Paul Lebowitz