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In the past most traditional fishing kayaks that have been introduced to the New Zealand market have been based more around paddling than fishing. With hull speed being the main requirement, compromises have been made in order to accommodate the need to cover longer distances. Most anglers who look at kayaks as a platform to fish from are influenced towards the faster kayak designs because of the example of other, more experienced, users who are probably at the top of their game.
My own experiences span decades of promoting this amazing sport, but I’m also guilty of pushing newcomers towards the paddlers’ kayaks. In reality though, there’s no need to travel that far out in order to find our quarry; many anglers who get into kayak fishing will rarely go out further than a kilometre from the coast. Besides, most of the main fish species targeted in our country are found relatively close to shore most of the year anyway.
Until recently the kayaks available have been limited in capacity, which meant that larger body sizes couldn’t be accommodated that well. In the last year or two though, we’ve seen the first kayak models that are designed to cater to for such persons; these are made with fishing in mind and offer greater ability to target large species. Cutting-edge seat designs allow all-day use without suffering the discomfort you’d expect to find with a large number of other kayak designs.
Traditional cockpits are small, with limited space; however these larger kayaks offer way more room ... but they do lack paddling speed.
This all changed however with the release of the Old Town Predator back in 2013 – a kayak that finally made its way Down Under late last year. The name Old Town has been around since 1898 when the company started building canvas kayaks and canoes, and is part of Johnson Outdoors, who also manufacture the Ocean Kayak brand. Old Town is their premium line, with kayaks made to the highest standards; the range covers many types of boats including sit in/sit on top/fishing kayaks and canoes.
The Predator 13 immediately caught my attention because of its unique design, and in particular the deck area, that offers a very large amount of space. The kayak is no lightweight though – coming in at 36kg including the rudder. However it’s only a few kilos more when compared to other top end polyethylene sit-on-top fishing models. It’s wide too, 85cm maximum beam, yet it’s just 4.1 metres long – and both the size and weight are easy to deal with by using a trailer, a much more desirable method of transporting anyway.
I was curious to see how it performed, considering the overall dimensions, and I soon had the kayak on the water in Coromandel harbour. The first noticeable feature is its stability: it’s rock solid. At no time did I feel that this kayak could be easily tipped over, which is not surprising, I guess, given its width. The second thing was its speed; I was pulling 7 km/hr without much effort, and still more with a bit more input. This is quite surprising, considering its combination of shorter length and greater width. My partner Janet had a go in the Predator also, finding it easy to paddle even though she has much less strength than I do. In fact she found it so easy to use that she felt sufficiently confident to stand up, something she’s never done on other models. So, with the first paddle under my belt I set about getting the kayak set up with fish finder, rod holders and a centre storage system (see my article in this issue).
Deck and cockpit area
One of the really cool aspects of the Old Town Predator 13 are the six plates mounted along the sides of the upper deck. These can be used to attach accessories like Scotty base mounts, that in turn support things like camera booms and rod holders. They do away with the need to drill holes into the kayak, or use special fasteners, and you can move the plates around the kayak to one of six places that allow the user to really customize the layout.
At each end of the kayak you find moulded-in curved carry handles – a clever shape, because they allow line to move over them without getting caught up, as can happen with traditional, sharper designs. The carry handle configuration is adequate although it wouldn’t be great for longer carrying distances; the front handle is comfortable but the rear is more difficult to hold. Halfway along each side we also have solid carry handles; these are positioned well, and are easy to hold.
On the upper part of the forward deck area is a hatch fitted with a good click-seal locking system designed to allow quick access; under the hatch is a nice amount of space for whatever you want to carry, be it spare gear or camping equipment. Right at the bow a soft battery holder is suspended underneath the deck surface. This is a nice fitting to have; it allows for a fish finder, a must-have for any keen angler. Back on deck, just in front and to the sides of the click seal hatch, are rod tip holders. These sit over scoop-shaped recesses in the deck and are large enough to accommodate a few rod tips that can be laid on the sides of the deck. The butt section of the rod is secured with bungee retainers located beside the seating area on both sides; this will be handy when you need to stow rods away before passing through the surf.
The Predator’s deck has a slip resistant Exo-ridge design that further assists if you want to stand up on the kayak to fish.
Take a seat
One of the most common things that kayak anglers complain about is suffering from a sore rear end, often associated with sitting on a hard deck – despite it having been moulded to a seat shape. The Element seating system however offers the most superior comfort, including back support large enough for the biggest person, and the new Element seat suspends the user above the deck so you have air between. The seat adjusts to allow different backrest angles, and two height settings allow greater perspectives of the water’s surface.
Unclip the front of the seat from the deck and it folds over to sit back towards the rear, offering an extended area for standing. And when it comes time to stand, just behind the front hatch, at the edge of the cockpit area, is a stand-up assist strap that makes pulling the body out of the seat really easy.
On the rear of the seat is a storage pocket large enough to hold a fair amount of gear for easy access while on the water, and in front of the seat is the centre hatch, supplied stock standard; this opens to allow access into the hull. To open a hatch that allows access inside the hull is of course not recommended at sea – but the kayak’s stability more than caters for any risk of roll-over, so it’s not really an issue. The hatch is moulded with inserts for the addition of rod holders and has an area for mounting a fish finder. It also has a ruler for fish measuring, and good rubber seals that provide a watertight fit.
On each side of the seat area are moulded-in inserts that allow for easy attachment of the Scotty paddle clip supplied with the kayak, while behind the seat is a support bar that braces the kayak and can be utilised to mount accessories. The rear well is large with plenty of room for an insulated fish bag big enough to hold a kingfish. The kayak also provides for a rudder – the preferable of dealing with wind and current.
Turning the Predator 13 over reveals the clean lines and faultlessly smooth finish of the Old Town performance-crafted Tri-hull; it’s no wonder the kayak slides through the water so nicely. A Kevlar wear strip on the rear keel allows for dragging it down to the water without wearing the plastic.
The hull also offers a large transducer scupper that accommodates all the standard Humminbird sonar, down imaging and side imaging equipment. The kayak’s hull has hard chines for stability, and the extended beam at the centre adds to this further; while the bow has an angled curve shape that is fine enough to really cut through the water. The side areas above the waterline flare out to push water away from the kayak, further contributing towards a dry ride, and the centre keel keeps the kayak tracking along nicely, in a straight line.
Here’s how it performed
These results are based on a number of expeditions, including one that took me more than 20km in search of fish. Spending a large number of hours in the Predator has certainly changed the way I think about kayak fishing, especially where comfort and stability are concerned. The cockpit area offers enough legroom for the tallest person to stretch out, and the Element seat has it all – with superior comfort allowing you all-day use without suffering, plus versatility that lets you change positions and stow it away if required.
But what I really enjoyed about this kayak was its fishing ability; its stability allows for greater drag pressures to be applied, something that is not recommended in other models. And although I didn’t get to catch any kingfish I have no doubt the Predator will be a formidable ally when it comes to targeting them.
The Predator 13 offers a really dry ride, even in choppy conditions, thanks to the slightly raised sides at the bow that then taper down to allow for paddling at close quarters to the water. It comes supplied with enough one-way scupper valves for every scupper on deck, so as to prevent water in the cockpit, and these do keep it completely dry; however even without them water would stay well below deck anyway. Although not the fastest kayak on the market the Predator 13 certainly isn’t the slowest either. Its versatility means it can be utilized for a wide variety of fishing styles and environments, so it certainly has advantages over the competition. It would be hard to find a kayak that offered as much comfort and ability for all-day fishing.
Distributed by Cameron Sports.
Leg length: 121.9cm