The Model T's of Kayak Fishing E-mail
Monday, 12 September 2011 08:02

 Peter in a Cobra Fish in Dive with a nice blue caught in Manhasset Harbor, NY September 2001

Amazingly Joey and I are each entering our 3rd decade kayak fishing. That doesn’t mean we’ve been fishing from kayaks for 30 years but rather that we started in the 90s. A lot has changed since then. For one thing I see kayak fishermen on the water everywhere. I remember when I’d fish with Joey in NY and boats would come up to me and ask if I was Joeykayaker. I’d say no but he’s over there. In NJ boats and surf anglers were always asking if I was JonS. That hasn’t happened in a long time because there is thousands of people kayak fishing in this region now. Back then we all knew each other there were so few of us.

Several of us planned a trip in late summer 2001. We all had become friends on the SOL kayak forum. The trip was planned for September 15th. The Tuesday before the trip we all know what happened to the World Trade Towers. We thought about cancelling the trip but we were all so depressed about it we decided getting together and spending time with friends doing something we enjoyed was better than sitting at home. We didn’t forget about 9/11 as we could see the smoke plume from the water whenever we looked towards Manhattan.  So that Saturday we fished Glen Island. The crew consisted of Joey, ScottO, Santiago2, Porter, Mullet Miller, Doug, JoeV, JimW and me. The kayaks used were Scupper Pro TW (Joey), Cobra Tourer (Me), Cobra Navigator (Doug), Perception Swings (ScottO and Santiago2), Wilderness Pungo (JoeV) and Necky Dolphin (Porter) and Looksha IV (Mullet Miller). Many of the kayaks will be unfamiliar to you. Some models are no longer made or rarely seen. The Pungo is a sit inside along with the Looksha which is an expedition touring kayak.

In my earliest posts I wrote that one of my goals when I became a retailer was to educate the kayak world about the potential using them for fishing vessels. I knew the way to get the industries attention was by moving kayaks and gear to fishermen. I wanted there to be a kayak and gear arms race. Well the arms race is in full nuclear cold war status now. There are well over 100 kayaks that are being used by fisherman. Kayaks are getting highly specialized too. Look at models from Freedom Hawk and Jackson Kayaks to name a couple. We even have integrated electric motors in some models too.

Kayak fishing owes its growth to fishermen in Florida and most importantly southern California for developing the sport. In California they were using surf boards until the first SOTs became available. In researching this article it surprised me to learn the first SOT kayak was built in 1971! It was built by Tim Niemier for Ocean Kayak. The model was a composite Scupper Classic. I would have guessed the mid 80s and even though I missed the actually date by a decade and a half, I was partially right. That’s because they didn’t start roto molding (making them out of plastic) until the mid 80s. So the Scupper Classic was the first. I actually had one of them for a little while. A couple years later the Scrambler was introduced. In 1992 Andy Zimmerman, then with Confluence Water Sports, was contacted by Jimbo Meador who was with Orvis at the time. Jimbo thought kayak fishing needed a dedicated kayak that a fisherman could fly fish from while standing. So they created the Ride. Shortly after this time Cobra Kayaks took its tandem model and set up a single seating position and called it the Fish in Dive. It was a beast but with a 600 pound capacity it could handle anyone. The first incarnation of the Dive didn’t have the tank well and large hatches it does today. Being that it had so much weight capacity they put a rear facing jump seat in the bow for taking a child along. Cobra also made a motor mount for the kayak and it was available as an accessory.  In 1997 a quiet revolution of sorts started when Hobie introduced the mirage drive; the first system to eliminate paddling. It utilized the legs as the means of propulsion whereby freeing up the hands for more fishing time. In 2000/2001 the Tarpon 16 was introduced. A touring style SOT that became very popular. Many of us fishing the NY Bight saltwater had one. A couple years after the 16 the Tarpon 120 was introduced and in my opinion it is the kayak, more so then any other, that ushered in the modern age of kayak fishing.

Most kayak anglers are unaware of how limited our choices were back then. As the list of kayaks we used after 9/11 exemplifies. Other then the Pungo, which is still a popular choice of freshwater anglers, none of the kayaks are really main stream anymore. A few are no longer in production. Back in the later 90s a handful of models were being used by 90% of the fishermen. Popular models when we got started were the Cobra Explorer and Fish in Dive, Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro TW, Malibu 2 and Scrambler, and to a lesser degree the Perception Swing.

The first kayak I liked for fishing was a Cobra Explorer and when I went looking to buy a used one (to take my brother and friends along) that’s when I met Joey. He had one up for sale as he had replaced it with a Scupper Pro TW. The Scupper Pro TW was the most popular choice in southern California and for anglers who primarily fished saltwater.  The Scupper Pro is the predecessor to the Prowlers which have morphed into the Tridents.

These aren’t all the early kayaks that were in use but they are the ones we saw the most often. Hope you enjoyed this little history lesson and the old pics we’ve included in the article.

Ocean Kayak Scupper Classic and Pro TW

As mentioned above the Scupper Classic was the first SOT. It was 14’1” and 26” wide. It had front and rear hatches. It was the basis for the Scupper Pro TW (tank well) which was the definitive saltwater fishing kayak in the 90s. If you look back at old pictures, especially west coast, more anglers were fishing out of the SPTW (as it was commonly abbreviated in posts) than any other kayak. It is a sleek, touring style SOT, which performed beautifully and is still one of the best paddling SOT kayaks ever made. The SPTW is 14’9” long, 26” wide and 55 pounds with a weight capacity of 350-400. When I first met Joey it’s because he purchased one to have a faster kayak for fishing his backyard, which was Long Island Sound. I didn’t actually use one until 2004 when several of us went to Baja and fished with Jim Sammons and the fleet there consisted of this SPTWs and Drifters. I loved the kayak as it was a fast, efficient and handled great. It has a large front hatch but the center hatch is an anemic 5”. At only 26” wide there wasn’t much room for doing much else. That’s why the Prowler 15 was developed which widened the kayak to 28.5” and made it a bit longer at 15’4-1/2”. The Scupper was discontinued however when the Prowler 15 evolved into the Trident series the Scupper was brought back in Ocean’s classic line of kayaks. It’s still available in yellow or sunrise and if you’re a small to medium sized person seriously consider it as it’s still a terrific fishing kayak.

Scupper Classic Jack at the Salty's Enclave in a Scupper Classic, North Fork, Long Island, NY, June 2001 Scupper Pro TW Cevichi in a Scupper Pro TW fishing off of La Jolla, CA. late 90s with a nice White Sea Bass Scupper Pro TW Joey in a Scupper Pro TW with a striper on our first Cape Cod trip, June 2001

Ocean Kayak Scrambler – 11’2”L standard, 12’L XT

After the Scupper the Scrambler was one of the most popular kayaks when I got started. It was 11’2” and there was the more popular XT version at 12’. Most people who I met that had a Scrambler did have the XT version. The hatches were small but at least the XT had room for an oval up front. However most kayaks were bought without hatches and everyone I met had the basic, hatch less kayak. I almost never see them anymore but they’re still in production.

Scrambler XT John's Scramber XT, a NJ beach 1999 Scrambler XT The Scramber XT is a very simple SOT.

Ocean Kayak Drifter – 12’7”L, 32.5”w, 56#, 450-500

Back in the 90s there were basically 3 kayaks for big people. If you were a large person and needed weight capacity you either had a Cobra Fish in Dive, Ocean Kayak Malibu 2 or a Drifter. The Drifter had a wide seat area that measures 22” to accommodate bigger people. It was the fastest of the big men kayaks of its day. The original Drifter was nicknamed the wet butt drifter because you were always sitting in water. When I used one in Baja in the 100 plus degree temps it was welcome relief having all that water in the cockpit. Keep in mind that I’m only 200 pounds. The original raised seat cushion seats were designed for this kayak. The kayak has been redesigned and isn’t as wet as the first version.

Drifter Bill in a Drifter with a Dorado, Baja, October 2004 Drifters Bill and Terry in Drifters in Baja October 2004.

Cobra Fish in Dive – 12’6”L, 36”w, 60#*, 600

As mentioned earlier Cobra took their tandem lower hull and put a new top on it designed for a solo angler. The first version, according to Wes at Cobra, was very basic. The second version got the huge tank well and the deck was configured to accommodate up to 3 hatches. Being that the kayak had so much capacity they added a jump seat in the bow to take a child or small adult along. I have a couple nick names for this kayak; the aircraft carrier or a kayak with training wheels. In my early days as a retailer I use to take anglers fishing all the time. I knew if I put them in the Fish in Dive I didn’t have to worry about them. I recall at one demo day two girls standing on the edge of the kayak trying to get it to flip; it didn’t. Cobra gives a weight for the kayak of 60 pounds. That’s without hatches – with 2 rounds and a center rectangular it weighs in at 73 pounds.

Cobra Fish in Dive A southern California angler in a Cobra Fish in Dive fishing La Jolla, CA. late 90s.

Cobra Fish in Dive Joshua in the front jump seat of a Cobra Fish in Dive, Vermont, July 2003 Cobra Fish in Dive Peter in a Fish in Dive, Manhasset Harbor, NY. September 2001.

Cobra Explorer – 11’3”L, 31”w, 43#*, 400

This was Joey’s first kayak and my second. It was a nice functional kayak. It had a large round center hatch and the Cobra insert bucket, which is wonderful. I still have some buckets in my fishing shed.  There was room for a large ‘A’ hatch up front. The Explorer is still in production. The new Explorer looks the same but Cobra changed it a bit several years back giving it more secondary stability. I found it a nice kayak as it was easy to take into tight freshwater places but still performed OK in the salt.

Cobra Explorer Ken in his Explorer on Splitrock Res, NJ Summer 2002 Cobra Explorer Cobra Explorer with all factory options.

Wilderness Systems Pungo –12’L, 29”W, 49#, 325

This is the only SIK that makes the list. They were very common, especially in New England. Once saltwater anglers up that way figured out a SOT was a better fishing vessel they began to be used a lot less. They’re still very popular for freshwater use and I see them all the time. Originally there was only the 120 but now there are several lengths. It comes in an ultralite version which brings the weight down to 40 pounds.

Pungo JoeV in a Pungo, City Island NY, Summer 2001 Pungo A gent getting out of a Pungo at a demo we did in Little Neck Bay, Spring 2004

Wilderness Systems Ride – 13’L

The original Ride came into existence because Jimbo Meador, then with Orvis, contacted Andy Zimmerman, then with Confluence and suggested a stand up fishing kayak. Andy thought it was a good idea and the Ride was created. It had a unique bottom contour consisting of 2 parallel longitudinal bulbs the length of the kayak on either side. It was 13’ long and I believe 30” wide. It had a funny hatch behind the seat area that was only 5” and hard to reach while on the water and a hatch in the bow. The kayak was very stable and performed well for standing. Several years back it was redesigned and is now the Ride 135 and recently released was a Ride 11.

WS Ride Joey fly fishing from a Ride in Cedar Key, FL. July 2002 WS Ride Author with a striper first time fishing Jamaica Bay, NY. November 2002

WS Ride The Ride was the first SOT kayak to have a large, flat area for standing.

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 16 –16’L, 28”W, 62#

I first became aware of the 16 when JoeV bought one. It was a touring style SOT developed in 2000/2001. When I started selling Wilderness System kayaks I started using one. It was the fastest SOT that still fished well. It was 16’long and 28” wide. It had large front and rear hatches. I use to attach a milk crate on top of the hatch when I fished inland waters and when surf launching the rear hatch was handy for rods and gear. The kayak was fast. It got a tank well a couple years later and became the 160, which is still being made but it had volume added to it a few years back and the kayak isn’t quite the same.

Tarpon 16 Author in a Tarpon 16 landing a nice striper, Larchmont, NY. August 2002 Tarpon 16 Author in his first Tarpon 16 with the only striper caught on a trip to Cape Cod, September 2001

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 - 12’3”L, 30”w, 55#, 350

This kayak, in my opinion, ushered in the modern age of fishing kayaks. It is such a versatile performer and does just about everything well. The seat has evolved quite a bit from the integrated plastic seat of the original version and because of this and some other additions it has put on some weight. It’s still one of the best kayaks for fishing ever made. The new version is 63 pounds but the seat is so much nicer and the added goodies are nice too. If you only want one kayak that will handle fishing the ocean and big waters as well as being able to put it on a cart and wheel it into a remote lake or river, I don’t know of any kayak that is more versatile. It comes in an ultralite version that’s 43 pounds and I’ve been told by Jeff Little who swears by it that it’s an even better performer then the standard.

Tarpon 120 Marko in a Tarpon 120 fishing salt for first time. Jamaica Bay, NY. May 2003 Tarpon 120 Tarpon 120 as seen from the rear. That's the original hard fixed seat that they came with. Now they have the terrific Phase 3 seating.

Necky Dolphin - 14’L, 28”w, 55#

We weren’t sure if we should include the Dolphin in this discussion. I felt it was an important kayak as it was an excellent performer (according to the reviews I read) and everyone that had one really liked the kayak. From what I can ascertain it was the best performing kayak that still fished well. It was a high performance vessel that handled most conditions very well. It had 2 large oval watertight hatches (bow and behind seat) and a center hatch along with a rear tank well. There weren’t a lot of these in use, but then again there weren’t many of us fishing from kayaks either. Porter, from our post 9/11 excursion, still has his.

Dolphin3 Porter's Dophin sitting anchored while he wades the Susky Flats, MD. April 2001. Necky Dolphin Porter sitting side saddle on his Dolphin, Susky Flats, MD. April, 2001.

Perception Swing - 13’2”L, 30”w, 55#, 375

A couple of our earliest kayak fishing brethren, ScottO and Santiago2, had Swings. That’s how they came to our attention. I did meet several other anglers online that had them as well. Everyone loved the performance but like most early kayaks they had features we wanted to change. On the Swings they needed bigger hatches.

Perception Swing The Perception Swing was a terrific handling kayak. Perception Swing Another view of a Perception Swing

Hobie Outback - 12’1”L, 33”w, 66#, 400

Even though the mirage drive was created in 1997, the system wasn’t readily accepted by the kayaking public. That’s because serious paddlers didn’t consider it paddling, which it wasn’t. In 2001 the Outback was introduced – a dedicated mirage fishing kayak. It was very stable and had lots of great features that made it more fishermen friendly. Paddlers are a different breed but when fishermen discovered the advantages pedaling had over paddling a quiet revolution of sorts transpired in the kayak fishing world. In places like the northeast now pedal power dominates. Go to a tournament like the Striper Shootout and 90% of the kayaks will be Hobies. The Outback has changed quite a bit since the first version. Each version of the Outback evolved. The original was very basic. The second one added the side trays. That’s the model I started with. It only had a 4” round hatch under the seat and a large round in the rear. The third generation got the front and center hatches.  Hobie has continued to evolve the Outback and continues to improve it. The mirage line has expanded to from the 9 ½’ Sport up the Adventure at 16’. There’s a size and model to fit everyone’s needs.

Hobie Outback, fourth generation Chris in an Outback pedaling along showing what hand's free is all about as he trolls.

*Some kayak company’s list weights of a kayak without any hatches as the kayak is available for purchase in this form. Keep in mind that hatches add weight. Most kayaks include hatches so the weight given is essentially what the weight of the kayak is.


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