Recently I was invited to Pattaya by Blue Seas Marine Co. Ltd. to go test out their new line of Hobie kayaks and catamarans. This was done so that I could evaluate it’s functionality as a fishing tool. The testing took two days with the first day to test out all their available models and the second day to test one out in a freshwater fishing scenario.
Now what makes the Hobie kayaks completely different from the other regular kayaks was what they patented as the Hobie MirageDrive system. The Hobie people explain it on their website like this:
“Here’s how the MirageDrive actually works: you pedal by stepping alternately left and right, not unlike an exercise stepper, to drive two underwater flippers. They work much like a penguin’s fins to propel the Hobie Mirage with surprising speed and ease. All of which lets you go into kayaking. Feet first.”
With the MirageDrive, the Hobie kayaks are capable of covering much more distance by utilising the biggest muscles in your body: your legs. So basically your legs are the engine and you steer the rudder with a little dial on the side. On top of being 100% corrosion proof, the pedals are also extremely easy to remove for when you need to switch to paddles in shallower water conditions.
After testing several of the models I have come up with some of my conclusions about which one works best for the different kinds of fishing one can do. Below I have compiled a general description of what each model is capable of, it’s functionality as a fishing boat and a link to the kayak’s website for more specific details (just click on their headings).
Description: The love-child of a catamaran and a kayak, the Hobie Mirage Advenure Island is like an Autobot. With a pull of two ropes this three-piece kayak transforms into a fully functional catamaran. There are two compartments for live-bait, a storage space at the back and two in-built rod holders. The side hulls and the sail can easily be detached to convert the entire to into the Hobie Mirage Adventure (sans “Island”).
Fishability: The Hobie Mirage Adventure Island is the ideal vessel for trolling the seas alone without the use of a motor. Hoist up the sails, cast out the live bait, place rod in holder and wait for the bait as you skim along the sea letting the wind do all the work. Check out these guys doing it right:
Description: What does a kayak and a girlfriend have in common? They both fit better in the trunk when they are inflatable. The Mirage i series are just that; the same awesome kayak armed with the MirageDrive system. The inflatable kayaks conveniently shrink into the size of a small suitcase and takes about 2-3 minutes to fully inflate. Due to its light weight (when inflated), these kayaks actually pick up good speed on the water. These inflatables also come with a sail mount meaning that you can literally fit a sailboat in your trunk. The numbers in i9S and i12S refer to their length in feet, when fully inflated.
Fishability: For a space-starved city-guy like me, the inflatable series is the way to go. You can fit about three to five of these in the trunk of an average car making group fishing trips much more logistically possible. However, without a livewell like the Adventure, live baiting is not really an option for them.
Description: This long stream-lined kayak has seat for two as well as the MirageDrive system for both seats. Its longer length allows for better stability and it dual MirageDrives allows for extra speed. The Outfitter comes with four rod holders and three seperate stowage areas that can be turned into livewells.
Fishability: Personally I find that all the of tandem, two-seat kayaks to be best for the kind of sight-fishing I do when going after giant snakeheads. One person can control the boat while other person can cast with precise accuracy to where the fish are hiding without drifting away with the wind.
Description: The Hobie website describte the ProAngler as a “no-nonsense fishing boat” and they really aren’t kidding around. It boasts that it could hold up to 13 Plano tackle boxes (don’t know why anyone needs to bring that many). Other features include six rod holders, a centre hatch that can become a livewell as well as a cutting board and plenty of storage space. The best part about this design it the extra wide hull which provides for extra stability.
Fishability: This is one serious fishing kayak. The added stability actually allows for plenty of balance for the fisherman to stand and cast, something that is a little more difficult in the other models. The storage is perfect for fishermen who feel the need to bring everything from their arsenal to the fishing location. Since you can stand and fish from this kayak, I would say that it is the one most suitable for fly fishing.
Conclusion of Hobie Kayaks
Pros: With the MirageDrive system, these Hobie kayaks can really cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time with a lot less effort than your traditional kayak with their paddles. Their overall design really took into consideration the ease of the fisherman.
When testing out the kayaks in a freshwater fishing environment, I found that the kayaks were extremely useful in the sense that it could get to all the locations a lot faster than the traditional hand paddle kayaks. When trying to silently enter a fishing location full of water vegataion, all I had to do was detach the MirageDrive and switch to regular paddles. Soon after, I was sitting on a kayak right in the middle of a lily pad jungle. My presence was so stealthy that a little lily frog actually jumped onto a lily pad beside my kayak and basically hung out with me until I moved again. This sort of silence would have been impossible with a motorboat with a trolling motor.
Also, the idea of catching something like a shark or a marlin from a kayak just sounds pretty Old Man and the Sea-esque. Some of the reports of these kayak-marlin encounters usually involve the kayak being towed over 10kms by the fish over a period of 4-6 hours.
My favourite attribute of the Hobie Kayaks is that they efficiently run on clean kinetic energy. I am very impressed by the fact the I could cover so much distance for so little effort while doing the minimum damage to the environment.
Cons: There are two things that bothered me about these kayaks. My first issue was having to fish from a seated position. This was only a small issue that eventually was overcome after some practice. The bigger issue was the price. These kayaks were around USD$2,000-3,000 each. In Thailand, you can buy a pretty decent bass boat with a good motor for that price but… then again… kayak vs marlin does sound quite legendary.