Kayaking

The Ultimate Yak?

Reviewed: Hobie Mirage Pro Angler

The benchmark for fishing kayaks looks to have been raised with the release of Hobie’s new “flagship” as Jim Harnwell reports.  

YAK fishing is the biggest growth area in modern sportfishing, with anglers around the country enjoying the stealth and excitement offered by the new generation of tricked-up kayaks.

The American-made Hobie fishing range, which offers a bevy of stable, well designed single and double kayaks from 2.92m to  4.09m, has been justifiably popular with Aussies fishos. Aside from being great fishing platforms, Hobies feature the unique MirageDrive pedal system, which allows for “hands free fishing”. The benefits of this patented leg-operated pedal system can’t under overstated – simply put, the MirageDrive makes fishing from a yak more effective and enjoyable.

Hobie has just released its latest – and possibly greatest – fishing ’yak, the Mirage Pro Angler. Although still featuring the MirageDrive, this 4.17m specialist sportfishing craft possesses many other innovations and design improvements. We predict the Pro Angler will significantly extend the general appeal of ’yak fishing due to its overall fishability.

Fisho organised an exclusive test of the Mirage Pro Angler with keen angler and Hobie Cat Australasia MD Steve Fields. A detailed video showing Steve running through the features of the Pro Angler can be viewed in the “Boats” section of our website, www.fishingworldmag.com.au, along with footage showing us fishing and field testing two of these nifty new kayaks.

The defining impression of the new Pro Angler is that it blurs the lines between “boat” and “kayak”. It’s almost 14 feet long – the size of an average tinnie – and it has a beam of just under a metre carried through about three-quarters of the length of the craft. It looks radically different to other Hobie fishing ’yaks, featuring a large flat rear deck, a huge forward hatch and expansive cockpit.

inline_751_https://yaffa-cdn.s3.amazonaws.com/fishing/images/dmImage/SourceImage/hobie_deck_mid.jpg The design and deck layout is first class. A proper seat that gives good back support ensures long hours on the water aren’t a chore.

The square stern features a sturdy alloy carrying handle and twin replaceable skid pads to prevent damage when loading or unloading from roof racks. Unlike other Hobies, which feature a rudder at the stern, the Pro Angler boasts a retractable rudder located in a tunnel in the hull about half a metre up from the stern. An access panel in the back deck allows for rudder adjustment. Forward of this is the massive back deck with sealed hatch, rod holders and tie downs.  

The folding and removable seat amidships is one of the key points of difference between the Pro Angler and other fishing ’yaks. Anyone who’s fished for long periods in a kayak will know that a sore arse is par for the course. The new Hobie’s seat is more akin to a deck chair than the typical ’yak seat. Constructed of tough, quick drying mesh material, it’s very supportive, comfortable and fully adjustable. The comfort and security offered by this well designed and innovative seating arrangement will be a major selling point for the new Hobie.

A rudder control is mounted under the seat, allowing for effective and easy steering, with a cord controlling the activation of the rudder located port side. The steering handle can be moved either side of the seat to allow for left or right handers.  Fisho found steering the Pro Angler to be easy and very precise. The location of the rudder located up and under the hull enabled the ’yak to turn much more sharply than expected. A pronounced keel on the hull provides for straight tracking, even if the rudder isn’t deployed.

Either side of the seat are alloy grab rails (the starboard rail features a handy ruler for measuring fish).

Three moulded horizontal rod holders are situated either side of the seat, with tubes extending up into the foredeck, allowing for safe storage of six fully rigged rods up to 10 feet long. This is an outstanding design element which makes this kayak a stand-out sportfishing craft. Access to the rods is easy and inbuilt straps ensure everything is secure   

Directly in front of the seat is a replaceable cutting board which lifts up to reveal a removable lure/tackle box. Non-slip floor mats allow for a good grip when standing – yep, you can easily stand up and sight fish or cast a fly out of the Pro Angler – check out www.fishingworldmag.com.au for footage showing how easy this is. Hard plastic mounting boards – for your electronics or even a downrigger – are positioned each side of the MirageDrive system (which comes standard with the high performance turbo fins).

A massive front hatch complete with removable liner (in which you can keep extra gear, camping equipment and such like in or fill with ice to keep your catch fresh) is another notable feature of the
Pro Angler.

Yet another carry handle is located at the bow.

Optional trolley wheels make the Pro Angler fairly easy to pull around on boat ramps, driveways and even over beaches and river/lake foreshores.

And the boats can be tricked-up with all manner of marine electronics, livebait tanks, downriggers, a sail, anchors and drift bags.

Fishing
I own a Hobie Mirage Sportfish, which I’ve operated for the past two years. Yak fishing – inshore, offshore, estuary and freshwater – is something I do regularly and really enjoy. As soon as I hopped in the Pro Angler I realised it represented a new chapter in ’yak fishing – the comfort, storage and overall performance puts this kayak into a class of its own.

That said, it is a large and bulky craft, which is designed specifically for active sportfishing. If you’re not a keen fisho, the Pro Angler is too much boat for you. Whereas other ’yaks might be the equivalent of a no-frills tinny, the Pro Angler is like a tricked-up US bass boat. This ’yak is for the guys who put in long days chasing a range of fish species with a variety of different tackle. From my perspective, I can see that the Pro Angler would be ideal for a full day out in my home waters of Jervis Bay. I generally like to minimise the tackle I take out, but sometimes you need to cover the bases. Unlike most other kayaks, the Pro Angler allows this, mainly because of the augmented rod storage. For example, if I was planning a serious session in JB I could fit two light spin sticks rigged for bream and squid, a heavier rod for salmon and tailor, a 24kg jig stick for towing livies for kings, another spin stick rigged with a bait jig and a dedicated snapper on plastics rod. You could load a bag of ice into the front hatch, fill the tackle box with lures and mount a small esky with food and drink on the back deck. Thus equipped, I’d be set for a solid six or eight hours of fishing in a range of environments from shallow seagrass beds to washes, bommies and deep reefs. The innovative rod storage system in the Pro Angler, combined with the comfortable seating and expansive storage options, will allow the keen angler to radically expand his/her ’yak fishing horizons.

Our test day showed the Pro Angler to be a very stable boat. I stood up and fished confidently in the calm waters of St Georges Basin. I wouldn’t be so keen to stand up and fish in swell or chop but simply being able to stretch your legs like this makes this sort of boat more attractive than a typical ’yak where you’re seated all the time.

inline_296_https://yaffa-cdn.s3.amazonaws.com/fishing/images/dmImage/SourceImage/hobie_pedal_system_source.jpg

Hobie’s unique MirageDrive pedal system means you get places at a good pace, but more importantly, your hands are for casting and pulling in fish.

Young blokes probably don’t mind roughing it but as I get older and twinges and pains in my lower back region become more apparent, the idea of a really comfy and supportive seat is paramount. This factor alone will make the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler extremely appealing to many fishos.

 The downside of the Pro Angler, in my view, is its size and weight. Hull weight of the ’yak is almost 40kg and it’s about 63kg when fully rigged. My Hobie Sportfish weighs 28kg hull only and I struggle to lift it by myself onto my roof bars.

The Pro Angler is designed to sit in “cradles” fitted to your roof bars. Steve Fields explained that it was actually fairly easy to single-handedly lift the bow onto the rear cradle and then lift and slide the stern so the ’yak is positioned correctly on the racks, where it can be strapped down. Getting it off the car sees the procedure reverse – which explains those replaceable skid pads on the stern.  

In my experience, this procedure will be ok for reasonably strong people but probably out of the question for older or frailer types. Check out a demo video showing how to load the Pro Angler on www.fishingworldmag.com.au.

A specially designed trailer will be available to tow the Pro Angler; this will add cost to the package, but take a lot of stress and strain out of the loading equation.  

All in all, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler is a very cool fishing boat, bridging the stealth and ease of use aspects of kayaks with the comfort and storage of an actual boat. My prediction is that you’ll see plenty of these distinctive ’yaks on waterways around the country over the next few years.

Length: 4.17m

Beam: 0.97m

Hull weight: 39.9kg

Rigged weight: 62.6kg

Capacity: 272kg

Price: As tested, $3300

Contact: www.hobiecat.com.au

 

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