From the Archives ...

Early season - Bob McKinley

Presented from Issue 105, August 2013
Bob is a professional fishing guide and guides for trout and estuary species. Check him out at

There are several things we look for in our early season trout waters. It is still winter and cold, so some of the things to consider are: Altitude as this dictates the water temperature and therefore feeding activity. Food for the fish. Availability of trout food is generally dictated by the quantity and quality of weed beds.

Quantity of fish.

Three waters which I believe fit all three requirements are:

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Ocean Kayak Prowler 13

Craig Vertigan

I'm going to attempt to be as objective as possible when reviewing this kayak. I own one myself and love it to bits. But like all anglers I'm always on the lookout for the perfect bit of tackle, whether it be the perfect bream rod and spinning reel, the perfect five weight fly rod, the perfect fly reel to match, or as a kayak fisherman I am of course always looking for the perfect kayak for fishing from. I wouldn't say the Prowler is the perfect fishing kayak, but it is one that will perfectly fill the needs of many kayak anglers.

The New Zealand built Prowler has all the ingredients for a good all rounder kayak - if such a thing exists. It is a 4.1 metre, polyethylene sit on top kayak, weighing 28 kg, with a width of 71 cm and a carrying capacity of 180 kg. Designed primarily for fishing it also includes:
- two flush mount rod holders behind the seat
- a specially designed scupper hole for holding a fish finder transducer. There is a "Humminbird fish finder ready kit" you can purchase that comes with all the bits to easily fit a Humminbird fish finder. Or you can do a DIY fish finder install. See issue 78 for the fish finder install I did on my Prowler.
- an adjustable padded seat
- large rear tank well with quick release bungee cord
- a six inch bucket hatch between your legs
- two drink holders
- a waterproof Plano tackle box that fits into a recessed centre console and is held in place by a bungee cord
- handles for and aft as well as one on each side of the cockpit
- bungee paddle keeper on each side of the cockpit
- very large forward hatch
- rudder (an optional extra - but I suggest a necessity on a fishing kayak)
- deck rope around the entire kayak
- multiple deck loops around the cockpit for strapping all your gear to
A real selling point is the inclusion of moulded in screw-in lugs or attachment points for attaching extras. In fact all the attachment points on the boat have been done using this 100% waterproof moulded in process. The extra attachment can be used for extras such as a Scotty rod holder between your feet in the cockpit and for constructing an anchor trolley. There is an anchor running rig available from Ocean Kayak, but it is cheaper and fairly easy to make your own. I covered that in a previous article in issue 77 of TFBN. There are also a number of other lugs around the rear tank well. These were positioned for a New Zealand designed insulated cover for the rear tank well. You may be able to think up some other novel way to use these lugs for attaching extra bits of kit to.
All this is a recipe for a kayak capable of taking you up small rivers and creeks seeking out species such as bream and trout as well as taking you far off shore looking for a feed of salmon or flatties. And taking all the gear you need with you. On the mainland and in New Zealand anglers use the Prowler 13 for targeting big fish such as snapper, yellowtail kingfish, large mackerel and some of the smaller tuna species. This is testament to its seaworthiness and fishability.
The Prowler is a very capable kayak for paddling through a decent swell or choppy conditions. The day I bought mine it was blowing a gale at 45 knots on the Derwent, but I couldn't be stopped and took it for a paddle in Prince of Wales Bay. The Prowler proved itself as a very seaworthy SOT kayak in atrocious conditions. The rudder helped it track straight through the wind. A rudder is an essential item on any fishing kayak for helping you paddle straight when you're going across or against the wind, as well as maintaining your current drift angle when drift spinning along a shoreline, weed bed or other structure. In fact the hardest part of the trip was getting the kayak back on the car with a 45 knot cross wind threatening to blow it off the racks.
There are two types of stability that get talked about when referring to kayaks. Primary (or initial) refers to how the kayak performs in flat water, or how tippy it feels. Generally speaking a wide beam and flat bottom or V shaped bottom will give good primary stability. Then there is secondary stability, which refers to how easy it is to stabilise and control the kayak when it has already been pushed onto its side, by a wave for example. A U shaped hull provides good secondary stability by riding the waves, whereas a flat-bottomed hull will tend to tip up with the waves. A tippy U shaped hull gives you plenty of warning before the kayak reaches the tip over point, and you can use your body to move the centre of gravity and keep the kayak upright. A flat-bottomed or V shaped hull can tip very suddenly without any warning, even though they'll give you a sense of stability all the way up until that tip over point.
The Prowler hull is a triform design, which gives good primary and secondary stability. It combines a beamy mid section and long centre keel design that provides primary stability with a U shaped exterior with round shoulders for secondary stability. The keel helps it track straight. In conjunction with the rudder it does a very good job of keeping the kayak on track when the wind is against you. Another good feature of the hull are the flared V bow and stern. This is very useful for riding the waves, especially during a surf launch, since it allows the bow to ride over the wave nice and high rather than punching straight into it and sending the force of the wave over the top of the bow. I've done some big surf launches and landings on the Prowler and had no problems. One last point about the hull shape is that it produces a very quiet ride with very little hull slap, which will come in handy when you want to sneak up on some fish.
The seating position is comfortable for a whole day of paddling, though the standard seat may give you a bit of a numb bum after that amount of time in the saddle. There are a number of different seats you can get with more luxurious padding to fit the Prowler if this becomes a problem.
The rudder is raised and lowered by a rope pulley on the starboard side. The rudder is well constructed with a metal blade and fittings and steel wire to the adjustable foot controls for steering.
There's enough room in the cockpit to allow larger paddlers around six foot to fit in comfortably. With a weight carrying capacity of 180kg, it's certainly specked high enough to carry those on the larger side. Although the Prowler 4.5 may be a better fit for larger paddlers.
The layout of the deck works well for the angler. It's easy to reach the rods and your tackle behind you. Though if you need to get at something back a bit further in the large tank well you are best off sitting side-saddle to reach it. The numerous deck loops are handy for attaching your gear so you don't lose it overboard. There are four screw lugs ready to take a Scotty rod holder at the front of the cockpit, and there is enough room to drill and screw other extras such as another rod holder or a GPS holder.
Is it the perfect fishing kayak? Well if you're after an all rounder that is okay in rivers and lakes as well as the choppy seas then it gets a tick. If you are after something more dedicated such as an ocean going tourer then you'll want something a bit longer like a Prowler 4.5 Elite or a Hobie Adventure. The Prowler 13 is an all rounder, and if your fishing takes place in all sorts of waters chasing all sorts of species then it's worth a serious look.

Craig Vertigan

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