2017 Pedal Drive Kayak Review

2017 Pedal Drive Kayak Review

It was such a nice day to play with the new 2017 Kayak lineup! With only a few missing we felt confident we had what we needed to compare what was on the market today.

What we had to play with: Hobie Pro Angler 14, Hobie Outback, Wilderness System Radar 115, Perception Pescador Pilot 120.

We had six staff down at the water each taking the time to adjust, play, and use the kayaks.   With all hands on deck we started jumping into the kayaks. After we all had a chance to use each model we started comparing notes. It was not surprising that we came to a similar conclusion on all the kayaks; what we liked, what we didn’t, features, adjustment, ease of use, comfort, and of course price.

Who won? It depends on what you’re looking for. They are different enough that we could not agree on a true winner. We found it was dependent on what your use was and how much you could afford. We can say however why they are different.

Breakdown by Kayak:

Hobie Pro Angler 14– The Pro Angler is at the top end of price coming in at $3449-$3599. This was the best overall fishing option. You can’t beat the features of this kayak. It had the largest standing room of all the kayaks and greatest stability with most of us being able to walk front to back without falling in. Nothing was close in terms of all the built in rod storage and compartment storage. Since there are plenty of reviews on how awesome this thing is, let us explain why it wasn’t our winner. It’s big! It was noticeably slower in the water then the others, just more kayak to push. For a non-fishing environment, this would not be the one I would choose.  As for the price, it was so much more than everything else. But really those were the only downfalls we found. For purely fishing, however, it wins hands down.

Hobie Outback– At $2499-$2649 this was the sweet spot for most pedal drive kayaks this year. The Outback was much faster than the Pro Angler, and the seat was equally comfortable. Steering was also really nice compared to others. However, while the Outback comes with rod holders built in and fish finder ready, we found the standing room for fishing lacking and without installed track mounts.  I think this would win as our favorite non-fishing option only.

Wilderness System Radar 115– Coming in at $2495 with drive, the radar was also in the average price zone. The radar seat was instantly comfortable and easily adjustable. The pedal drive worked flawlessly, which was good because we had some worries since it was so new. We used the kick retracting option which brought the drive up to clear objects but since it never came up fully some of the unit was still exposed. It was nice how easy it was to drop it back down and continue pedaling. This thing was also great for fishing with plenty of standing room and aluminum track mounts on sides.  The Radar is Power Pole and fish finder-ready as well. So what didn’t we like? The steering is a forward-aft steering system, which isn’t immediately intuitive.   I didn’t like the feel of the plastic handle, but that was minor. If you are looking for both fish and rec this would probably be the best option. Also note that this system is sold separately giving you the option to buy the pedal drive system later.

Perception Pescador Pilot 120– At only $1799, this was the least expensive one we tried. While the price is less the features are all there; nice standing room and fish finder ready, it even has four rod holders built in. So easy choice for fishing. The seat is ok and has basic adjustments, and we found it comfortable enough for the price. The drive system worked great and was very easy to pedal.  The pedal drive does have to be retracted manually, but again, that’s ok for the price range. Just stay in deep water areas. The only big complaint was the steering handle; it was not as comfortable as the others. It also didn’t have the steering sensitivity the others had, but we did not think that was a deal breaker. Needless to say this surprised us, for the money it is still a contender. Great price for recreational use.

*We all agreed that we liked the Mirage drive pedal system better than the rotational pedal styles. While it was not noticeably faster than the others, it did seem smoother and required slightly less effort. At the same speed the rotational style required two rotations compared to the Mirage drive’s one stroke. The Hobie did give greater resistance per stroke, so we think for all day they might be equal in the long run. Another advantage of Mirage drive was shallow water. We could easily glide over rocks and debris when needed and then continue to pedal once clear. The Radar pedal drive did have the option to get over objects although it still required the use of a paddle. The Perception was more like the Native and others which required full stop and retraction for shallow water. The big advantage of the rotational style was an instant reverse motion.  While not as powerful while going backwards, it worked well enough. We did find the prop slowing us down as we coasted. The Hobie Mirage 180 drive has to be switched to reverse and we had issues with the timing of the pedals interfering with it, but it was a full-power reverse and did not slow us down while coasting, which was somewhat annoying with the others.


Andy Graham