Purists may call me a whiner. But one of my knocks on kayak fishing is all the cluttered clunkiness of the enterprise itself. You have to paddle. You have to stop paddling. You have to put the paddle down. You have to anchor. You have to re-anchor when the wind or the current shifts the boat’s position. You have to fish your rod out of the boat. Yay! Now you can cast.
Pedal-powered boats are a huge improvement, and many die-hard kayak anglers love them. But even that technology seems a somewhat inelegant solution. Frankly: I love to fish, but kayak fishing always seemed like a bunch of trouble.
Until this spring, that is, when I tried out Old Town’s spiffy new Sportsman fleet of fishing kayaks during a couple of gorgeous days on the water around the Lago Mar Resort in Fort Lauderdale. A bunch of writer types divvied up into fishing teams and headed out for the labyrinth of canals inside Port Everglades Inlet. The sad fact is, I didn’t exactly do Team Red any favors when it came to points on the board. But part of that was due to my careening around the water in Old Town’s new motorized kayaks like a kid who’d just kicked his training wheels to the curb.
That sound you hear is me crunching on crow. These hands-free, motorized kayaks are just the thing for folks like me.
There are seven new craft in the Sportsman line-up, models powered by paddles, pedals, and trolling motors. But the two trolling-motor-outfitted craft are what I think will tilt the scales for those who’ve been on the fence about a kayak for fishing, or just for poking around a lake, river, or coast. The top-of-the-line AutoPilot 120 incorporates an integrated 45-pound thrust Minn Kota motor wired with Spot-Lock technology. You punch a button on the remote, which connects the motor to overhead satellites, which then direct the motor to swivel and run so you maintain your exact position, no matter the wind, tide, or current. But the AutoPilot 120 is tech-heavy and not super intuitive, so it’s still probably more in the realm of the hardcore angler.
Not so the more compact Sportsman 106. This is a sweetheart of a boat. The 45-pound-thrust motor is out of the way, and like the AutoPilot 120, the camp chair-styled seat rides you high and dry and comfy. And a third-grader could operate this kayak. You push a simple side throttle forward or reverse. You steer with foot braces connected to the rudder.
The motor will hum along for up to six hours, and you can remove it and paddle like an honest kayaker, if you must. The boat is loaded with lots of fishy details, from rod holders to shallow-water-anchor mounts to accessory racks. But really, if you just want to sit down in a kayak and go with zero fuss and bluster, I think I’ve found your summer fling.
Follow T. Edward Nickens on Instagram @enickens