On Friday I hit a backwater creek. Saturday, I was fishing the flats. And Sunday I paddled across a bay to my favorite spot. All three days, I was fishing Native Watercraft’s new Slayer XC. In a world of purpose-built kayaks, an all-around multi-tool is a refreshing change for anglers fishing a variety of water.
In the recent history of kayak fishing, it seems designers are focusing on building boats for specific types of fishing. There are offshore, inshore or river-fishing boats with features and designs to tackle single problems. When a new all-around boat comes out, it’s usually offered to an entry-level audience. With the Slayer XC, Native built a boat designed to cover every scenario, and they didn’t spare any expense.
Native Slayer XC Specs
Weight: 104 lbs
Capacity: 500 lbs
MSRP: $ 1,499
The Slayer line-up is Native Watercraft’s premium offering and the XC features the same high-quality features as her older sisters. But Native went overboard to design this boat for all-around action.
One thing I like about Native, they always tackle a problem from outside the box. The stalwart company is credited with designing the frame seat and first propeller-driven pedal system, with the XC the designers balanced the needs of river, inshore and offshore anglers with bold and innovative solutions.
First, for river fishing, the Slayer XC hull has a shallow draft to slide over rocks with a slight rocker to snake through rapids and spin around for a cast. In the stern, a molded channel makes it easy to drop a drag chain. The bow hosts two rod tip protectors to keep rod tips out of tree limbs. All of these are requirements of a river boat.
To facilitate standup fishing, on the other hand, the cockpit is flat and wide with anti-slip deck padding. Remove the seat, and the cockpit opens from bow to stern. Or replace the seat with a cooler that doubles as a poling platform. The hull is wide and flat for superior primary stability. Standing on the deck is solid, perching on the seat or a cooler is steady.
The Slayer XC saves its best trick for last. Maneuverability and tracking are opposable qualities in a kayak. The first rule of kayak physics is: a boat that turns fast won’t paddle straight and a boat that paddles straight won’t turn quickly.
But the Slayer XC bucks the laws of nature with a retractable skeg. Turn a lever next to the seat, and a fin drops below the stern to significantly improve straight-line performance. The skeg allows the XC to paddle as straight as a longer boat with less resistance.
Drop-down skegs are common on touring kayaks, but finding the technology in a fishing kayak is unique. With the skeg retracted, the boat slides over rocks and deadfalls and turns in tight circles. When the skeg is deployed, the extended keel keeps the boat paddling straight.
Paddling across wind and current, the improvement was noticeable. I had no trouble covering miles in the Slayer XC. When I get to the fishing spot, I retract the skeg for tighter performance.
Native went crazy genius with the seat, once again coming up with a completely unique solution to an impossible problem. River anglers and long-distance paddlers need a low seat. Standup guys like a high seat. To solve the problem, and get the paddler ultra-low, the Slayer XC uses a molded base to hold the seat.
To balance the boat, the seat slides forward and back on gear tracks. Space below the seat is molded for tackle trays and fishing tools. The result is a seat that can be positioned low for paddling and raised for fishing. However, the solution comes at a price, the seat system adds 20 pounds to the kayak. The weight isn’t an issue on the water, it actually improves the boat’s ballast, but it can be a chore to lug up the shore.
Native invented the frame seat and the Slayer XC is equipped with their top-of-the-line, hand-sewn throne. The seat is secured with two thumb screws, which I found difficult to line-up on the water. I could usually get one to catch, which was enough to keep the seat in place while fishing.
Another versatile feature is the removable gear pod in the middle of the deck. The pod includes a cup holder, tool and tackle cubbies and a large space for dry storage. Gear tracks and flat spaces on the lid offer several options for mounting a fish finder display. The battery can be stored inside the pod and the transducer mounts to the bottom, recessed in the hull to keep it safe from snags.
The advantage of the pod comes at the launch. I can rig my electronics and house essential gear like my ditch bag and fishing tool in seconds. If I don’t need my electronics, I replace the pod with a flat deck plate included with the boat. This is also a popular feature with fly anglers who are always worried about snagging their line.
But it’s the little touches that make the new Slayer XC appeal to any angler. Gear tracks on the gunnels double as side handles. The stern well is large enough to accommodate a full-sized crate, cooler or live well. When I’m using the horizontal rod holders, a molded area behind the seat keeps the reels secure.
Also behind the seat, two flush-mount rod holders are angled for open water trolling. In the bow, the Slayer XT has a rubber flap to hold the paddle blade without damaging it.
My favorite innovation is the staging rod holder next to the seat. The mouth is wide enough to double as a cup holder. I love the convenience.
As the seasons change, anglers are looking to follow the fish. This requires a boat that can cover skinny water, standup and long distance. The long list of features and diverse applications for each make the Slayer XT a boat truly capable of doing it all and doing it well.
Do it all in one boat. | Featured photos: Roberto Westbrook