The sport of kayaking has grown exponentially in popularity. The most recent addition to an already wide array of paddle craft options is the FISHING SPECIFIC KAYAK. I remember paddling my 16-foot sea kayak down the Menominee River between River Park and the Mason Park launch like it was yesterday. I told my wife, you grab the camera (it was an actual camera), and I'll do a few casts… I should have a smallmouth bass on in five minutes. To her complete surprise, I did what I said I was going to do. Then to my complete surprise, bad things happened. A sea kayak is designed to go straight on large bodies of water like the Bay of Green Bay or Lake Michigan. Speed with minimal work is the goal. Not an ideal set-up for fishing. The Menominee isn't narrow by any means, but the sea kayak without an anchor mise well be a shore shuttle. That's where the boat took me. I can't hold a paddle and a rod/reel even with a 3-4 lb fish on the lure at the same time. The bass was swimming in front of, behind, and under me. This ended up turning my boat turned into a giant caterpillar chrysalis. Not an ideal experience. So now what?
In 2014 I brought in my first SIT-ON-TOP Pedal Drive Fishing Kayak. Since that time, this concept has totally changed not only the kayaking world but fishing forever. Old Town and Minn Kota motors are owned by Johnson Outdoors (Johnson & Johnson). After watching competitors come on the scene with pedal drive kayaks, PDL or Propel drives, and the Hobie fin systems, Old Town released its first pedal drive in the Predator with PDL. The sleek hull design with the ability to make tight turns continues to be a top seller in the category for our shop and nationally. Within the last two years, Old Town released the Sportsman category to more directly market to anglers that were either onshore or on traditional boats too far away from the fish they target. This category includes Sit-on-tops, Sit-on-top PDL, and Sit-on-top AutoPilots in a variety of sizes to best match angler size and space preferences. These kayaks, not unlike others in the category, are known for stability with pontoon shaped hulls and vast amounts of deck space, including beams (widest point of a boat) that reach 36" wide. The new AutoPilot motorized kayak leverages Minn Kota's GPS Spot-Lock technology to deliver the most advanced fishing craft on the market. Motor to your spot no matter the conditions. Controlled with a touch of a finger using the i-Pilot remote, your hands remain free to fish. The Autopilot features a seamlessly integrated, saltwater-ready 45lb thrust 12v Minn Kota motor that is compatible with lead-acid or lithium-ion batteries.
I had the opportunity to use the Autopilot throughout the 2020 season. It's really changed my mind about the creature comforts of an Old Town Kayak (It's hard to imagine life before Autopilot). While on Shakey Lakes Resort Lake, I set the i-pilot to a number 4, dropped the rudder, steered with my feet, and had both hands focused on fishing. This was the 'aha' moment for me as I watched others struggle with anchors, boat control in even the smallest of ripples, and coverage of the lake. I was fishing more efficiently in less time than any other angler out there. There are so many more reasons to consider a sit-on-top kayak; I could literally write a book. So very impressed by what I initially thought would be a heavy barge of a boat. This is a nimble vessel in any of the flavors it comes in (non-PDL, PDL, AutoPilot).
Definitely plan ahead in 2021 as boat supply is at an all-time break-neck pace. The Autopilot mold can produce about 50 boats a week or one per state per week. That's not many. Old Town is trying to address this, but all resources are focused on building boats. Styles, features, and more will remain the same in 2021, but it doesn't matter. There are no 2020 boats to be found. To get on the list for a kayak with a hopeful delivery date in April, stop-in or contact us via social media or our website NOW.
Fishing Tackle Retailer: "A look at the ICAST 2020 Best of Show" Sept-Oct 2020 – Page 32