Get There Fast
Belly boats had their day—and still do on small stillwaters across the West. Drift boats are king on big rivers, but only if you have a friend who can do his share of the rowing, and adequate boat launches to get in and out. If you want a solo fishing craft that moves swiftly on the ocean or large stillwaters, navigates even steep, churning rivers with ease, and doesn't require a trailer or an improved boat launch, a kayak makes more sense than the U.S. Mint. Here are our four favorite boats.
1 Diablo Adios $1,500
You can't accessorize your Diablo Adios with a stand-up bar. That's probably because you don't need one. The wide, narrow hull design of Diablo kayaks make them a hybrid between a kayak and a stand-up paddle board. Not only is it easy to stand, but easy to lean to one side or another (and land a fish) without tipping the boat. Our favorite "accessory" for this boat is the Larry chair which gives you 10" of extra elevation for spotting fish and easier paddling, and still lets you lounge all day on your butt. The traction pad in front of the chair gives you no-slip grip, and a pull-up strap attached to the bow makes it easy to stand up and sit down. Standard with the Adios are adjustable foot pegs, wet storage areas front and back with tie-downs in the stern and bungees on the bow, molded drink holders, and a 13"x24" cockpit-accessible front dry storage. Smooth, flat surfaces allow for suction-mounted rod-holders and electronics.
Weight: 56 lbs
Capacity: 450 lbs
2 Hobie Pro Angler $2,500
When our testers first saw the Hobie Mirage Drive, they were skeptical of the two pedal-powered "flippers" but when testing these boats at Chapin Beach against lighter traditional kayaks, the Hobie Pro Anglers got to the diving birds first every time, and after a 7-mile-round-trip tour of North Dennis, Sandy Neck, and deeper water offshore, made it back to the beer cooler early as well. The Mirage Drive not only moves you efficiently from place to place, it leaves your arms free (and less fatigued) to fish. The downside is that you need at least two feet of water to operate the drive. Our testers dragged the boats at low tide while other kayaks were still afloat. The Pro Angler has storage for six rods plus bow and stern dry lockers, and a between-the-knees tackle locker. Scupper holes can be used to add an H-Bar ($190)—a stand-up bar for easier casting and sight-fishing—or a wheelbarrow attachment for portage.
Weight: 88 lbs
Capacity: 600 lbs
3 Outcast Commander $1,000
At 35 pounds, the OSG Commander is the best kayak for hard-to-access rivers, and for long road trips into unknown territory. You can take this kayak on the plane as checked luggage, and even with a pump stay way under the weight allowance. While shaped like a kayak, the commander comes with an oar system—not paddles—so you can pick your way slowly through serious whitewater. The open bottom means you can stand up, stop, and fish at midriver gravel bars, seams behind islands, and long sweeping inside bends. You can also use fins to fish while you float. It's a great boat for West Coast steelhead and Rocky Mountain trout streams—particularly ones without traditional boat ramps. It's also suitable for small stillwaters, but don't expect to cover a lot of water. The Commander has adjustable foot rests, and cargo straps to secure your gear behind the mesh-back seat.
Weight: 35 lbs
Capacity: 500 lbs
4 Freedom Hawk Pathfinder $1,400
Trapper Rudd is insane. That's the conclusion "normal" people would come to when they see him dragging his Freedom Hawk kayak through mangroves and mosquito-infested creeks in God-forsaken locations from roadless Mexico to Africa. I prefer to think of him as a genius. His E=MC2 is taking his fully equipped kayak to places nobody else goes. He paddles there under his own power, pops out the two stability outriggers, and then stands up where he can spot bonefish and other flats species. He catches fish as if he were the patron of a $4,000 per week lodge, when actually he's a DIY maverick with the credo "have kayak will travel." Search youtube.com using his name and you'll see his Freedom Hawk kayak in action. The new Pathfinder is a larger, pimped-out version of the original Freedom 12. It has a standard lean bar, two watertight compartments, self-bailing scupper holes, and adjustable foot braces.
Weight: 79 lbs
Capacity: 450 lbs