How do you improve on a classic? New Coke was not better than old Coke, The Monkees were not The Beatles and no one remembers Next Friday. When I got wind Old Town was redesigning the Predator PDL my first question was, “Why?” The deluxe-model, do-it-all, go-anywhere pedal kayak is one of my favorite boats of all time.
Old Town Predator PDL 2020 Specs
Weight: 75 lbs w/ MirageDrive
Capacity: 325 lbs
Then I remembered three years has passed since the original Predator PDL hit the water. A lifetime in kayak design. Few boats can compete with the Predator’s sporty handling and reliable PDL drive, but the old girl could use a facelift.
Old Town, new Predator PDL
The story goes back to the original Predator 13 paddle boat. Six years ago, storied paddlesports company, Old Town Canoe and Kayak, jumped into fishing with their first sit-on-top kayak.
With more than a century of experience behind a brand-new design, expectations were high for Old Town’s new boat. I remember the first time I climbed into the Predator 13’s frame seat and pushed away from the dock, the first few paddle strokes revealed a smash hit.
The designers at Old Town put in years of research and development working with pro staff anglers to dial in a boat with stability and smart handling with comfortable features on the topside. Old Town built a legacy on the Predator, following up with a shorter, MX river model, XL standup special and MK motorized version.
But fans were screaming for a pedal drive. At the time, the trend in design was towards big-boy boats with high-low seats, rock-solid stability and a pedal system. Despite the pressure, the folks at Old Town delayed release of the Predator PDL a full year to complete the development of their new pedal system. Old Town used the extra year of R&D to dial in the seat height and pedal placement for comfort and performance.
Old Town launches the first Predator PDL
When the Predator PDL hit the water in 2016 it was an instant hit, equally capable on a bass pond as offshore. The speed and reliability were popular with tournament anglers. Easy to rig accessory plates and electronics-friendly design were perfect for the time.
Old Town’s PDL turned out to be one of the toughest, most powerful drive systems. The mechanics are completely sealed and maintenance-free. The original Predator PDL was a winner in our 2017 Pedal Kayak Olympics shootout. After two days of tough testing and hard pedalling, the PDL was one of the last drives standing.
The only downer for the PDL is weight. At 21 pounds, it’s one of the heaviest drives. While the drive’s size makes it awkward to carry, on the water the weight sits low in the kayak to improve stability. The Predator has 500 pounds capacity, so the heavy pedal system doesn’t affect performance.
The trade up with a big drive is a snug fit in the hull to reduce drag and noise. The tight fit allows more power to transfer from the pedals to the propeller. To raise the drive in shallow water, turn a knob locking the base into the deck and the propeller pops up.
Keeping what works and updating the rest
Good thing Old Town didn’t touch the best parts of the Predator PDL. The same V-hull with pronounced chines improves speed and tracking while providing plenty of stability. Besides improving the hatch in the PDL base, the drive stayed the same, too.
Instead, Old Town modernized the top side of the Predator PDL to keep up with the times. They brought the Quick Seal hatch with a Tupperware closure and bungees instead of the hard lid and latches.
The original Predator introduced replaceable accessory pads. Instead of drilling and cutting into the kayak hull, attach gear tracks or accessory bases to the heavy plastic plates on the deck and gunnels. When it’s time to change the set-up, simply remove the pad and replace with a fresh one.
For the updated Predator PDL, Old Town improved the accessory pads by adding grooves to accept gear track accessories. The pads are still thick enough to drill into, with the added convenience of gear track grooves.
Installing a fish finder and other electronics is easier with a new transducer scupper and internal battery compartment.
EVA foam padding on the deck is a step-up from the Exo Ridge deck on the original Predator. Deep grooves in the deck still drain water towards the scuppers, but the foam padding is welcome relief for bare feet.
My favorite detail is a new forward-facing flush rod holder on the right side of the seat, a perfect place to stick my rod when changing lures or fumbling with a fish.
The jury is still out on the composite rudder replacing the aluminum blade on the original Predator. The new rudder is lighter and stiffer with less chance to bend, but I can’t help worrying about the blade snapping. I guess glass-reinforced nylon must be tougher than it looks.
When Old Town introduced the first Predator, Power-Pole didn’t even make a micro anchor system. The final touch on the new boat is a reinforced mounting area pre-rigged for an automatic stakeout pole.
Old Town’s 2020 Predator PDL is a modern classic
With the update to the Predator PDL, we hope the improvements will trickle down to the rest of the family. Old Town kept the sporty hull and reliable drive and gave their big boy pedal boat modern amenities to keep it relevant. Proving you can remake a classic, just don’t call it New Predator.
Video review of the 2020 Old Town Predator PDL:
Get the royal treatment with the 2020 Predator PDL. | Feature Photo: Roberto Westbrook