Have you ever read a negative product review from someone selling the product? I haven’t.
That being said, I’m going to rave about this kayak because I really do love mine that much. We’ve had the Native Watercraft kayaks here at the shop since early May. In that time I have had the opportunity to get out on the water in mine chasing Puget Sound Cutthroat, trout on local lakes, and even Tiger Musky on some local reservoirs. Native makes a bunch of cool kayaks, but for the sake of fishing I am talking about the Mariner pedal-drive model.
Having this kayak has drastically changed my Western Washington fishing opportunities and success. The Mariner has allowed me access to all different types of water that were unreachable previously without this boat. Granted a lot of this stuff I could do with some type of motorized boat or a float tube or pontoon boat, but after a few months of using the kayak I would choose it over every other option. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
Pedal Drive Kayak vs. Motorized flat bottom or Whaler:
- No gas $$$
- No trailer to load, unload, and store.
- Minimal Maintenance
- Launch it anywhere with water access.
Pedal Drive vs. Float Tube or Pontoon
- More stable platform.
- Gets you up out of the water.
- Stand up and fish.
- Gets you there faster.
(The only situation I would not recommend it for is a swift moving river with whitewater where a one man pontoon boat is a much better option.)
I think of the Native Mariner Pedal Drive as more of a one man boat than an actual kayak. It has a tunnel hull to it that makes it more stable than any other kayak you will ever find. Additionally, the lowered pedal unit acts as a keel further increasing its stability. What you notice when you first get in to the kayak is that it will rock back and forth but it will never roll. It takes a little getting used to the movement of the kayak but once you do you will find that it is literally impossible to tip this boat.
I should mention that I am talking about standing in this kayak, not sitting! I can confidently say that you will never, ever fall out of the Mariner sitting down. Standing up, there is the potential to fall out but in two months I am yet to do so. If you are expecting this boat to be stable like an 18 ft Boston Whaler you may be disappointed but when compared to any other one person self propelled watercraft the Native shines in a class above. As I continue to test what it is capable of I have even stood up and continued to fish on Lake Tapps with ski boats doing circles around me and continuous boat waves from every direction. All of this is with my 100 lb. chocolate lab on the back.
For we fisherman, the pedal drive gives us nearly hands free operation allowing us to not have to worry about having a paddle in one hand and a rod in the other. The Mariner has a clip in paddle holder on the side but most of the time I store my two piece paddle in the large bow dry storage. In an emergency I could get it out of there otherwise it is just there to comply with Coast Guard regulations. The pedal drive moves you very comfortably at about 3 mph with a nice low effort pedal speed. You can crank it up to about 5 mph if needed or slow it down. It is also capable of going in reverse unlike the similar foot powered Hobie Kayaks. When standing up in the kayak, I reach down and can turn the pedal by hand adjusting my position while continuing to fish. Steering is done with a small rudder handle near the left side of the seat. The boat turns fairly sharply with the rudder although in real tight quarters a paddle can help but I haven’t needed it enough to justify taking it out of storage.
Native has a bunch of accessories available to customize your kayak to the way you want it. So far I’ve kept mine fairly simple. Scotty rod holders are easily added to the boat with a couple of screws. Most people add two, so far I have just one behind my seat but I am planning to add a second in the front. An anchor trolley is a system that lets you adjust your anchor contact point and the anchor your boat maintains to the current. Comes in handy when fishing a tidal current or stronger wind. So far I have just used the many lash point on the boat to tie down my anchor in different spots. Not as quick as the trolley but very flexible.
Native has a couple sizes of mounting plate that can be added to the side for adding a fish finder or other electronics. I am thinking of adding a low end $100 fish finder to give me basic bottom structure and depth primarily for inland lake fishing, for sea runs I don’t think it is needed. . There is also a wheel cart that allows you to transport the boat down beaches at low tide or over a moderate grade trail. This has already come in handy a number of times.
Transporting the Kayak
I transport mine on a Thule Kayak roof rack on top of my Nissan Pathfinder. I am able to lift one end onto the roof, then push it up from the back. I won’t claim this to be super easy but it is possible with practice. I know Thule and Yakima make special racks to make this easier by having extending support arms. If you have a pickup truck, a couple boats can easily strap in to any of them. For multiple boats, my flat bed raft trailer can load 4 easily.
Fly Fishing from the Native Mariner
Fly fishing is always tricky from any sort of watercraft. Line gets tangled on things any time you get an opportunity to. Keeping your boat or in this case the Mariner pretty clean and not over accessorizing helps a lot. It is possible to drift over your fly line in the Mariner and tangle in the propeller. The nice thing is that the design allows you to lift the prop drive and untangled the line with relatively minimal inconvenience. And opposed to tangling in a gas motor, here you wont ruin the line! The best trick we have found for minimizing tangles is to use the William Joseph soft stripping basket. We can then stand up and strip into the basket and then fold the basket in and sit down as well.
Casting from the Mariner works best when you can keep the boat pointed in the direction you are casting. I’m not much for sitting down and casting but if you like doing that from a pontoon or float tube you will probably find it very similar and doable. Native makes an elevated seat pad that straps to the back of the normal seat allowing you to sit up a little higher which could be a great option as well. I stand essentially all the time I fish unless I am dragging a fly on a lake or in the salt between casting locations. I would say your casting radius while standing is essentially the direction you are pointing and then up to about 60 degrees to each side, maybe more if you are good at backhanding a cast.
The best thing you can do is be particular about your boat positioning and you wont have to worry about fancy casting. I try to adjust my boat position slightly every couple casting to maintain my position and keep from drifting around. In strong currents, dragging an anchor from the proper angle will allow you to maintain boat position with very minimal adjustments made by hand cranking the pedal in forward or reverse. This really shines fishing the beaches for Sea-Run Cutthroat. Using this method I have been able to ride a tidal current parallel to shore making cast after cast covering an entire length of beach with minimal wasted effort. This technique along with just having the ability to fish rarely fished water has greatly increased my Sea-Run Cutthroat success this year from last.
If you are curious about these kayaks and want to give one a try we are having a demo day July 7 at Fox Island Sand Spit from 9am to Noon. I am planning on doing a 15 minute demonstration on how I prefer to fish from the Mariner. We also are offering guided trips for Sea Run Cutthroat in Puget Sound using these boats.