Expecting a noticeable difference in stability I was pleasantly surprised: in fact this kayak felt slightly more stable; even the rocky uncomfortable sea conditions weren’t a problem for it.
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Reviewed by Rob Fort
There is one kayak that has continued to take precedence as the preferred boat for use during fishing and diving expeditions: the Ocean Kayak Prowler Ultra 4.3 which is one of the fastest sit-on-top kayaks around.
It was originally designed right here in New Zealand after plenty of consultation with Kiwi kayak anglers so it’s a boat the kayak fishing community is proud to have been a part of and a credit to the original designer.
One of this kayak’s main assets is a much superior hull design; however like any model available on the market it did have some aspects that required further refinement. Earlier this year the market changed, meaning that some of the Ocean Kayak models would be produced overseas, in America. There was much anticipation created by this move; and with the arrival of new models it was clear to me that some changes had been made. This brought about the new updated Ultra 4.3 model, now renamed the Trident Ultra 4.3.
At first glance, while it was on display at the Auckland Boat Show back in May this year, it was clear the changes were an improvement. The first noticeable one is within the cockpit area, with a new seating configuration that places the user in a slightly higher position than previously. This suggested not only a dryer more comfortable ride but also better leg positioning, as they are now below the seating height. Small integrated recess areas on either side of the leg area in front of the seat base allow storage of small containers, using the included bungee that is attached to the deck. The rudder track and pedal system is different, and includes a larger pedal profile to rest the foot against.
Then we find the moulded-in rod holders, previously located behind the seat area on the old model, but now removed. Originally the concept had merit; however the two holders were located in very close proximity to the seat area, meaning the user was in close contact with anything placed in them. The four-inch hatch located on the rear well’s front side wall is no longer there either. Looking below deck at the kayak’s hull, a slight change to the bow (nose) shape meant it appeared at first glance to be flared slightly wider.
One really noticeable thing that drew my attention was the plastic these boats are made of, which feels more rigid. This raised the issue of a heavier kayak because of more plastic, but this isn’t the case.
With all the changes looking so positive for the new-version kayak I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one! What the Trident 4.3 offers overall as a kayak for fishing and touring is a good range of optional extras to customize on top of the factory-installed fittings included.
Starting at the front end we find the click-seal hatch that is so easy to open and close, offering quick access to the inside of the hull. Immediately after the hatch, just inside the cockpit area, are four inserts to allow easy attachment of an externally-mounted base like those found with the Scotty rod holders. Directly after this is the centre hatch within the cockpit area which seals a good-sized storage cavity moulded into the kayak. The centre hatch is wide enough to allow for larger fish finders which also allows for the flip style rotational centre hatch. The rotational hatch allows a fish finder to be installed on one side then the lid can be reversed over so the sounder is inside the centre cavity. I hope that’s what he meant? There is also the option for a standard-style lift hatch that is much lighter than the flip lid option. As mentioned previously the foot wells have a decent amount of room for any size of neoprene bootie, and a pair of new wider adjustable pedals that also operate an optional rudder. The new-design seating area is raised, with an integrated seat. The 4.3 offers one of the biggest rear well areas on the market, catering for anglers who target larger fish species like kingfish; there are options for either an extra icebox or insulated bag for storing the catch. At the very rear, just before the area containing the rudder, there are two flat areas on the deck that allow the mounting of a flag base or VHF aerial.
Both sides of the kayak have bungee cord systems that can double as paddle retainers and attachment points for fish thread rod. There are plenty of saddles on the deck, especially around the seating area, that are ideal for attaching leashes and other items.
One of the best assets featured on all Ocean Kayaks are the 100% waterproof inserts moulded into the plastic. Not only this, but there’s also an attachment system that is strong, as opposed to self-tapping screws that can pull under excessive strain. Originally the manufacturers in America did not use this system however they have finally embraced brass inserts also – but in imperial, rather than metric.
When looking at the Trident 4.3 its overall shape has close resemblance to a sit-in type touring sea kayak. Flipping it upside down reveals a hull that strengthens this impression further, with cutting-edge design that gives a new more slightly-flared bow, offering efficient water shedding and minimal hull slap. The characteristics of this hull design suggest speed and stability with responsive-looking lines, which is what the earlier Ultra 4.3 offered. The rear end of the hull has an extended keel for better tracking, plus a transducer scupper hole that allows a wide range of fishfinder brands to be fitted, including the larger side-imaging transducer from Humminbird.
When I first became attracted to the early models of this kayak it was the impressive performance of the hull that put it at the top of my “favourite” list, but after paddling one for quite a few years the boat I am used to now is slightly different from those offered as stock standard.
The Trident 4.3 was customised to be similar in set-up to what I am accustomed to paddling and fishing from, which is the Prowler Ultra 4.3. This was going to ensure an accurate comparison of the two models, with the exception of a new larger model Humminbird seven-inch-screen fishfinder.
My first outing with the kayak was on a fishing adventure, out from the coast of upper Coromandel at Goat Bay. The weather forecast was much different from that predicted and conditions were not ideal, with a decent chop and one metre swell, but until it calmed off later, this rough water paddling provided a good environment for its maiden voyage. My first focus was on the new seat height, which places you at a greater distance from the surface of the water. Expecting a noticeable difference in stability I was pleasantly surprised: in fact this kayak felt slightly more stable; even the rocky uncomfortable sea conditions weren’t a problem for it. A most noticeable difference is in the bow, with the Trident 4.3 climbing over swell and lumpy seas better than the older Prowler Ultra. It paddled really well also and when the paddle stroke was increased it responded as I expected.
Then there is the seat itself which was a most excellent improvement, with the height keeping your butt dry in the cockpit area. The foot wells did let water in and out; however a set of one-way scupper valves soon had the area dry again. The change in the seat has resulted in a leg position that is lower than the butt - and this does appear to have made it a very comfortable kayak, easy to spend the whole day sitting in. Of course this includes fishing, where the Trident is more stable, providing a steadier platform from which to catch fish.
With the kayak proving its worth over various sea conditions its next adventure was as a dive platform. For spearfishing and diving the Trident offers a good platform that is stable enough to allow exit and re-entry from deep water. It also offers lots of capacity to carry heavier gear like dive bottles and weight belts, plus space on deck to stow the equipment. The foredeck bungee is useful for holding gear, along with the one fitted above the rear well, and this makes setting the Trident up for diving very simple.
On the day, a good swell was rolling in at the launch site, which gave me a chance to see how the kayak performed in this tricky environment. The first noticeable difference was during my paddle out, when a wave broke right over the kayak. The extra volume created by the modified bow meant the kayak punched over waves better than the old version, with less water coming into the cockpit area. Coming back in to shore the Trident tracked nicely as it travelled down the face of a breaking wave, with that altered bow keeping the front end from digging in. During spearfishing it once again proved itself, being easy to tow around while swimming - in water which was choppy at times. It stayed steady and true during re-entry also, which made this easy even after fatigue had set in because of hours spent swimming around.
To conclude: the Trident Ultra 4.3 is at the top of its class; the changes have really lifted its performance a few degrees higher than its predecessor. I enjoyed putting the kayak through its paces so much that the Trident has now taken pride of place in my own collection, and will be used for most of my adventures in future.