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Fishing From The Lap Of Luxury - The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler

A Fly Fish Ohio In-Depth Product Review

Article by Joe Cornwall

Photos By Jim Stuard and Joe Cornwall

 

Click Above For The Fly Fish Ohio Rating System

 

 

In the process of writing this review I did a lot of thinking about Cadillac's and other boulevard cruisers of the leather-trimmed ilk.  It just seemed like a natural metaphor.  As I pondered the right opening lines for this review, I came across this definition of luxury vehicle from Wikipedia and I just knew it was the right description.  "Luxury vehicle is a marketing term for a vehicle that provides luxury — pleasant or desirable features beyond strict necessity—at increased expense.... The term suggests a vehicle with greater equipment, performance, construction precision, comfort, design ingenuity, technological innovation, or features that convey brand image, cachet, status, or prestige—or any other discretionary feature or combination of features."  The folks that wrote that wiki-entry were obviously thinking about the Hobie Pro Anger, too.  I've never, in all my years of fishing, been in a paddle craft that offers a higher level of comfort, design ingenuity, technological innovation or features and that, dear reader, is the summary of this review.  But that's most certainly not all there is to say.

 

As you might guess, arranging for a review of something as large as a kayak isn't exactly easy.  The post office doesn't just drop this off on your front porch like a 4-piece fly rod.  It takes a bit of coordination to pull all this together, coordination that Ingrid at Hobie arranged in full.  Our host for the review sample was Canoe Kentucky livery, on the banks of the Bluegrass State's premiere smallmouth stream, the Elkhorn River.  CanoeKY is a great place to test paddle dozens of models of kayaks and canoes, or to rent a canoe for a day's fishing on several stretches of the Elkhorn.  The Fly Fish Ohio sample was to become their demo boat at the conclusion of the review, so if you want to paddle the same boat reviewed here all you need to do is get to Frankfort, Kentucky ask Alison and she'll make it happen.

 

The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler is 13' 8" long, a portly 38" wide and weighs a cumbrous 89lbs dry and 139lbs outfitted with seats, storage covers, inserts and stock amenities. The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler is surprisingly large, as is demonstrated by the image at the top of this article. That's a 15' Malibu eXtreme sitting next to the Hobie!  And it's price matches its mass.  This sit-on-top kayak will set the well-healed angler back a hefty $2199.  Before you even think about buying this boat, add to that cost another $50 for the optional (and entirely necessary) plug-in cart to help you move it from your vehicle to the water's edge.  A paddle is included in the purchase price, however.

 

The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler is an amazingly well thought-out fishing boat.  It's not fair to call this a kayak, as it's more of a personal paddle-yacht.  When size (and price) have few limitations, then pleasant and desirable features beyond strict necessity are easy to add.  In addition to the clever MirageDrive peddle paddle (more on that later), you'll find a very necessary retractable rudder system, horizontal storage for six rods, a Barcalounger-sized adjustable seat, huge bow storage area with removable liner, a center hatch with integral cutting board, side mounting boards for electronics and rod holders, built-in vertical rod holders for spinning and casting rods, and a rear cargo area large enough to embarrass a 1972 Cadillac Coupe de Ville.  When you're on the water and actually fishing from this boat you come to realize that the folks who did the layout really are first class anglers.  The only adjective I can use to summarize the design is "brilliant"!  Short of a wine rack and butler's pantry, there's nothing more I could have asked for.

The rudder is vital on this craft.  First, when you're using the Mirage system its the only way to steer the boat.  Beyond this, there's enough boat above the water line to make wind shear a potential problem.  The rudder keeps the hull pointing in the right direction with even the slightest amount of forward momentum.  The rudder retracts into a slot in the hull with a pull on the rudder lanyard.  With the rudder up, the boat can navigate very shallow water and even be run onto the bank or a gravel bar without damage.  Once you've got about a foot of water under the craft the rudder can come back down and assist with maintaining orientation.

 

For such a physically large craft, the Hobie was surprisingly easy to move via paddle.  Unfortunately, its width made traditional paddling a bit awkward.  At 6' tall I had barely enough reach to use the 220cm kayak paddle without constantly hitting the metal side rails. A longer 240cm paddle would have been a very good upgrade for me. Paddlers under 5'8" tall may lack adequate reach for comfortable paddling from the requisite sitting position. 

 

The hull design was also conducive to shallow water; a boat with a wide beam and larger water-surface area ratio-to-weight drafts shallower.  I was truly surprised at the Hobie during its tests in the rock-strewn Elkhorn.  It was able to negotiate riffles and sand bars with the carefree aplomb of the reference Malibu eXtreme or my own Mad River Malecite Kevlar canoe.  Fully loaded, it takes only about 3-inches to float.

 

The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler wasn't as friendly on the front of maneuverability, though.  Any boat with a keel and lacking in substantial rocker (rocker describes a "C" shape from bow to stern) will want to move straight ahead.  Add to the lack of rocker this boat's semi-tunnel hull design and you definitely end up with the need to learn to side-stroke and j-stroke to maintain control.  It's no surprise that the Pro Angler isn't a white water trooper, nor is it designed as such.  This is a boat for stately flows, stillwaters and smooth, flat rivers.  Creeks populated with switch-backs, sweepers and complex currents created by rocks and blow-downs will demand advance knowledge of the terrain and familiarity with the craft's personality for safe and efficient passage.

 

One great advantage conferred through hull size is stability.  I'll go so far at to say that the new dictionary definition of "idiot" should include a picture of the person able to capsize this beast on any normal flow.  Paddling while standing is something I often do in my canoe while reconnoitering shoreline structure in lakes and ponds.  Even the timid will find standing to paddle or fish in the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler easy. The boat's immense initial stability is confidence-inspiring.  I found that I could easily lean over the gunwale to net or lip a fish.  Double-hauling for distance was as easy to do on this craft as it is on a flats boat.

 

This boat defines the state-of-the-art in angler gear storage and organization.  A pleasant surprise was finding that the boat ships with a full complement of Plano-style snap-cover adjustable compartment tackle boxes.  The boxes are designed to fit into the small storage compartment located between the seated angler's knees and, though designed for tubes, jigs and plugs, will work perfectly for sculpted deer hair bass bugs, bulky streamers and cork-bodied poppers.  Warm water anglers rejoice!  Such is the totality of the ergonomic design that the boat also ships with a reusable drink bottle designed to fit into a precise spot next to the angler's seat!  If the bottle came pre-loaded with single-pot-still bourbon I'd call the review complete at this point!

 

The rear cargo deck of the Mirage Pro Angler is as equally well thought-out.  It is easily large enough to accommodate a large cooler and a dry bag. There are integral bungee tie-downs strategically located almost everywhere you look.  The rear deck storage is particularly important, because there are times when the Mirage Drive system must be removed for sustained shallow-water navigation.  Strapping it to the back of the boat provides a perfect stowage solution There is also a sealed storage "pot" with removable liner in the rear deck.

 

The front storage area rivals the space in the trunk of my BMW Z4 two-seater, or so it seemed.  I was easily able to drop in two full bags of gear, extra flies, foul weather wear and snacks.  The liner of this storage area is also removable for cleaning and even greater storage area in the hull itself.  Indeed, I can see the intrepid angler putting rod tubes into the hull for a prolonged day on the water.  The rod storage is also genius and generous.  Designed for 7' spinning and casting rods, I found no problems carrying up to 4 fully-assembled and rigged 8-foot fly rods and changing out rods at will while fishing.  9-foot rods present a bit more of the challenge, but with the plethora of short rods designed for kayak fishing currently available I see no reason to stuff 9-feet of graphite into a space so warmly accommodating of 8-feet of fiberglass.

 

The "revolutionary" aspect of the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler is the Mirage drive system itself.  Peddle-power is making inroads in fishing craft, and there are several competing designs from which to choose.  The biggest rival to the Hobie's crown is the peddle-powered propeller of the Native Ultimate.  The Hobie, on the other hand, employs a very clever version of diver's fins.  There are two peddles which are adjustable for reach to accommodate anglers of various body shapes and sizes.  The fins can be recessed into the hull by pushing forward fully on one peddle or the other, but for normal operation you need at least 18" of water under the boat. This might be a problem on many Midwestern shallow creeks, but isn't a problem on the ponds and lakes (and even many saltwater flats) where this boat is intended to spend much of its time.

 

 

Peddling the Pro Angler is a surprise.  First, it's not at all like peddling an ordinary bicycle.  It's much more like peddling a recumbent bike and uses more of the butt muscles than the thigh muscles.  You'll ache in surprising areas after peddling this boat the first time, especially if you spend a full day on the water.  My boss asked if he'd already given me my annual review when I returned to the office the day after first peddling the Pro Angler.  I told him I was suffering a pain-in-the-ass of a different variety that day...

 

Much is made about how fast this boat might travel with peddle power. One on-line review claims that GPS readings confirmed top speeds somewhere north of 4.5mph.  I'm not sure about that, but it's easy to keep a pace akin with any normal conventional paddling rhythm.  One thing is for certain, this might be the perfect craft from which to troll either fly or plug.  A gentle and steady peddle pace moves the boat at a great speed for presenting anything from a deep diving Rapala to a streamer on a sinking fly line. 

 

Fishing while peddling is what this boat was designed for.  Using the hand-controlled rudder to steer the boat demanded only minimal adjustments, so it was easy to keep the kayak following the contours of the shoreline while simultaneously casting to likely looking structure.  The peddles were a perfect trap for fly line, however, so line management is an important aspect of effectively fishing from this craft. Of course that's also true when fishing from an ordinary sit-on-top kayak or canoe, too.  Consider a stripping basket if you plan on fishing more than 20' of line regularly.

 

 

Finally I have to get back to the sheer size and bulk of this boat.  At 139lbs, this isn't something you casually toss on top of your compact car and take to the pond.  Car-topping is something best left to those built like NFL linebackers.  I found it possible to load and unload the boat solo on my Jeep's safari rack, but every time I feared for the integrity of my back. This boat is best purchased by anglers owning a full sized pick-up truck with a tailgate and bed closer to the ground.  An optional trailer is offered, but I can't seem to get past the idea that once you need a trailer you might be better off purchasing a "real" boat.  Either way you're going to loose access to waters that require a long walk into an unimproved gravel or mud launch site. The optional pneumatic wheels will likely improve short-distance portability (they weren't tested for this review), but tossing around this kind of weight isn't something to be approached cavalierly.

 

In summary, Hobie is to be congratulated for truly stretching the boundaries of what is meant by "kayak".  This is a personal water craft of the highest order, and one that will serve many anglers with performance beyond reproach.  I loved fishing from this boat, but hated trying to transport and store it when not on the water.  Space has its costs.  Examine how and where you fish, and if the strengths of this boat match the demands of your home waters, don't hesitate.  The first time you fish from this Cadillac-of-kayaks you'll understand the meaning of luxury vehicle.

 

More information about the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler and a list of authorized dealers is available on-line. Or you can just head down to the Elkhorn in Kentucky, visit our friends at CanoeKY, bring your spinning and fly rods and paddle it to your heart's content.  You might just end up tossing it on the roof of your car for the ride home!

 

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