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Could This Be The Ultimate Fishing Machine?

By Joseph D. Cornwall


Originally Published in Country Anglin' Outdoor Guide - March/April 2006


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I’ve fished from canoes, kayaks, float tubes, drift boats, motor boats, and pontoon boats.  Once upon a time I even fished from a floating lawn chair designed for use in a swimming pool!  The ‘pool chair’ came complete with a beverage holder, but it was tough to handle in the wind.  Ask anyone who’s known me for more than a day and they’ll tell you that I put fly fishing in the same category as ESPN’s X-Sports.  Nothing that can get me closer to the fish is out of the question!


The first time I fished from a sit-on-top kayak was several years ago in Puzzle Lake, part of Florida’s enormous St. John’s River system.  It was an eye-opening experience.  Unlike a canoe or sit-inside kayak, I was able to get on and off the vessel in thigh-deep water to wade and work critical cover without incident or concern.  A short tether attached the kayak to a belt around my waist and a half-pound anchor draped off the stern kept the boat trailing behind me regardless of wind or current direction. 


Later I fished in the same type of kayak for sea bass, perch and halibut in busy San Diego bay.  Sitting on fifteen feet of plastic boat in a shipping channel is quite an experience.  Despite the best efforts of three foot wakes to swamp me, I’ve got to say that the confidence inspired by the unshakeable stability of the boat allowed me to fish with a thoroughly relaxed attitude. 


In the big bay we covered some serious ground, too.  I’ll bet I paddled six miles in the wind and against the tide.  The roomy efficiency and back-supporting ergonomic design of the hull and cockpit allowed a level of comfort unmatched by any paddle-powered vessel in my experience, save my own Kevlar Mad River Malecite.


I was thrilled when Lisa Rudy of Catillac Kayaks and I first spoke last July.  Lisa and her partner, Joe Gribble, went WAY beyond the call of duty, hauling half a dozen fresh new Malibu Kayaks to the Stillwater River for a Buckeye United Fly Fishers outing.  What can you say about a couple of folks who consider driving three and a half hours each way, just to let a group of fly fishers try out a new kayak design, a fun outing?  I’ve got an idea… how about “committed”?


Lisa and I have been emailing and talking about these Malibu kayaks ever since.  I was elated when she and Joe insisted that I strap one to the top of my Jeep after the February 11 BUFF Greater Cincinnati Fly Fishing Show so I could get some quality hands-on time.  Perhaps February isn’t considered peak kayaking season, but that’s no reason to stay out of the water!  Waders in hand, I managed to launch the boat twice so far and I guarantee that you’ll find me out on the Great Miami at least one or two more times before I have to return the boat to Lisa at the Tracy Byrd Hunting & Fishing Expo.


The Malibu eXtreme may be the ultimate fishing vessel for the Great Miami River and its tributaries. It offers a dry seating design, though you have to wear waders for cold water fishing.  It’s incredibly stable and robust with a 525lb weight capacity. At fifteen feet long with a 31-inch beam, this kayak can float on heavy dew. 


The eXtreme is plenty maneuverable for navigating the often challenging Mad River, yet you’ll never feel under gunned if you’re working the lower GMR’s main channel.  If I were buying one for myself, I’d certainly add a skeg or rudder for added efficiency and maneuverability on lakes and ponds or in the larger main channels of the rivers.  A rudder or a skeg can make the paddling much easier when you’re faced with waves, currents, tides, or wind.  That said, I never felt “pushed,” even without the skeg, despite the fact that the wind was strong enough during my last outing to have kept my canoe on the roof rack!


At a hefty 57 lbs without rigging, this probably isn’t a boat for long portages.  Even so, I found no problems lifting, launching and stowing the boat single-handed.  Plastic kayaks, like plastic canoes, are heavier than Kevlar, fiberglass or (God forbid) aluminum.  But they reward that weight penalty with an unflappable build quality  The “Superlinear” polyethylene and custom closed cell foam layer construction (totaling about a 1/2" hull wall thickness) of the Malibu eXtreme makes it virtually indestructible!


Why would I recommend a sit-on-top Malibu kayak over the more popular sit-inside designs such as the Perception Sundance?  The answers are easy. 


First, a sit-on-top kayak offers much easier ingress and egress for stop-and-wade fishing. This is the most effective way to fish the Stillwater, Great Miami, Little Miami, Mad River and just about any other waterway in this region.  Certainly you can fish quite comfortably and effectively while you’re sitting on top of an eXtreme.  I spent two hours trolling for white bass in 37 degree water and a stiff 20mph wind in late February and I never felt like I was in the wrong boat (the wrong season, perhaps).  This is a fine choice for pond and lake paddling, but if you’re thinking kayak chances are you’ve got smallmouth on your mind.  And that’s where this design excels!


Second, a sit-on-top allows plenty of room to stretch your legs and bend your knees.  My 46 year old joints really appreciate this!  Fishermen don’t often make casts in the middle of class V rapids.  Why would you choose a white water boat to fish rivers without white water?  A sit-inside keeps you dry (sort of), but you pay for that with mailing-tube leg room and compromised storage.  A sit-on-top places you just a bit higher over the water’s surface, gives you excellent access to cast or fish in any direction, and when you’re properly outfitted a s-o-t kayak is equally comfortable in terms of exposure.


Third, a sit-on-top like the Malibu eXtreme or X-Factor offers significantly more flexibility in rigging and stowage, including extensive dry storage.  Proper rigging makes all the difference in your kayaking experience and I heartily recommend that you get the assistance of a professional like Lisa and Joe to outfit your boat with up to six rod holders, comfortable seating, efficient footrests and proper paddle length as related to your body size, boat choice and upper body strength.  I’ll go one step further and endorse this suggestion for any first time boat buyer (and even seasoned pro’s) looking at a new design, whether it’s a canoe, kayak or jon boat.


I love this Malibu Kayak.  It will be a sad, sad day when Lisa collects this little red ‘yak’ and I have to go back to a canoe or float tube as my only fishing choices.  Maybe for Father’s Day I’ll buy myself a little gift.  It will be “hunter green” and fully outfitted with a Spider Seat and graphite paddle.  Oh yeah, and it will come from Catillac Kayaks!


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