First Impressions: Hobie Pro Angler 14

For 2014, I’m honored to be a part of the Hobie Fishing Team representing Hobie and Portside Marine Sales in Westfield, Indiana.  Hobie practices grassroots marketing, encouraging its dealers to have staff anglers to promote the sport of kayak fishing and Hobie’s amazing line of fishing kayaks.  To say I’m excited about this season and this opportunity would be a tremendous understatement. Many many thanks to Portside Marine and to Hobie.

As I mentioned in my previous article, I finally got to sink my teeth into a Hobie kayak, a Mirage Pro Angler 14 provided as my demo boat for the season.  I was certainly not disappointed in this kayak despite my inability to locate any fish during the tournament.  In an effort to explain to my family how great this kayak was, I used the analogy that it’s like going from a rusty old bicycle to a Ferrari for daily commuting duties.  I’ll try to break down the reasons I feel this way.

Rigging

As kayak anglers, we’re constantly making modifications to our boats to add accessories for use while on the water. Even with purpose-built items such as track systems from companies like YakAttack, we still have to drill holes in our kayaks.  For me, this was very nerve-wracking the first few times, especially when concerned with sealing all holes to make them water-tight.

Fish finder on kayakIn the location where most of would mount accessories, Hobie has provided replaceable mounting boards.  With these boards you can mount all of your accessories without ever having to modify the integrity of the kayak itself and replace them if needed.  To provide the ultimate flexibility for me, I chose 12″ YakAttack GearTrac SL-90.  This should allow me to mount any of my camera mounts, rod holders, and fish finder in a wide variety of locations on either side of the kayak.

Many anglers also choose to install fish-finding electronics onto their kayaks.  The options for mounting the transducer are many, ranging from shooting through-hull with glue or putty, to utilizing a transducer arm setup, to mounting the transducer into an existing scupper.  Hobie took this last option to the next level with their Lowrance-Ready setup.  An oversized scupper located underneath the seating area is designed specifically for mounting a Lowrance transducer (an adapter for Humminbird transducers is available through the Hobie Accessory Catalog).  A plate with 3 screws holds and protects the transducer in the water for the best signal and accurate water temperature readings.  Hobie has also provided pre-drilled holes that all seal up water-tight with provided plugs.  Installing my Lowrance X-4 took roughly 30 minutes…in the dark.

Convenience

Perhaps the most convenient aspect of the Mirage Pro Angler is the rigging you DON’T have to do.  Many of us build crates with rod holders to carry our tackle boxes and unused rods while on the water.  I will admit to strapping down my YakAttack BlackPak during the Cedar Creek Lake tournament, but it only carried my cooler, snacks, and Ziploc bags of plastics.  What it DIDN’T have to do was hold my tackle boxes or my spare rods.

The Mirage Pro Anglers provide horizontal rod storage located along either side of the boat and extending (via full-length tubes) to the very tip of the bow.  The 12 foot version has 4 rod holders (2 per side) and the 14 foot version has 6 (3 per side).  This provides the kayak angler with the same advantages that big boat fishermen have had for ages: quick access to your rigs when you need them.  No more twisting awkwardly to reach for another rod.  No more getting rods tangled in overhanging limbs.  No more snagging the vertical rods during casting.

The tackle management system also nearly replaces the need for a crate.  2 Plano 3600-sized tackle boxes stow completely out of the way, under the deck, located inside the twist and lock hatch directly in front of the seat.  2 Plano 3700-sized tackle boxes stow away nicely onto a molded tray underneath the seat.  There are additional pockets and trays located on both sides of the seat that worked out perfect for holding bags of plastics and tools needed throughout the day.

Mirage Drive

The feature of the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler that I was most looking forward to using was the Mirage Drive.  This somewhat controversial pedal-driven propulsion system did not disappoint one bit.  Being able to move from spot-to-spot, reposition the boat, or maintain location in wind and current while leaving both hands free for fishing, snacking, drinking, and utilizing electronics takes kayak fishing to a whole new level. Despite the fact that the Pro Angler 14 is a hefty boat and I’m a hefty man, the Mirage Drive pushes this boat at surprising speeds.  During one of my cross lake moves at the Cedar Creek Lake event, I used an app on my phone to discover that I was traveling at 6 mph.

Comfort

For the Mirage Pro Angler kayaks, Hobie has developed their Vantage Seating system.  This seat is more comfortable than any office chair I’ve had the privilege of using.  Nearly everything imaginable is adjustable on this seat: the bottom, the recline of the back, and the lumbar portion of the back.  A few twists of the arms of the seat are all that are needed to get the seat into the most supportive and comfortable position.   A simple cable pull and lean forward can also lower the base of the seat into a lower position to provide additional stability by moving the angler closer to the kayak.  I mentioned in my previous article that this first tournament was the longest I’d participated in to date, yet due to the Vantage Seat, I was not sore in any way.

The pedals of the Mirage Drive are also adjustable to make pedaling safe and comfortable for nearly any angler.  I found myself trying out a few different positions of the pedals until I found the spot that seemed to keep my knees from extending too far and the Turbo Fins from slapping the bottom of the kayak on aggressive pedaling.

Learning to Fly

The learning curve for moving from my Future Beach Angler 144 to the Pro Angler 14 seemed steep until I got into the PA.  It took very little time to get used to the ins and outs of this kayak.  In short time I was relatively comfortable fishing from a standing position, thanks to the outstanding stability of the hull and the sheer amount of standing area available on the kayak.  I plan to work on this some more, as many fishing techniques are easier to do from a standing position.  One other thing I need to continue to practice is boat position and not getting myself into certain positions that are difficult to get out of.  This was particularly obvious fishing the thick flooded timber at Cedar Creek Lake, where many times I made my way back into the trees until I was forced to paddle backwards to get out.

The next opportunity to get this fantastic kayak onto the water can’t come soon enough!