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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!