Native Watercraft "propel" fishing kayaks - anyone used these?

Brian White

Recovering Bugmeister
I have longed for a fishing kayak for many moons - one that I can use, but also one I can plop my daughter on, just play around with, etc. Anyone ever used these Native Watercraft yaks? The pedal-boat functionality appeals to me (kinda like what Hobie has, but the hull on these Native boats looks more tuned for stand up fishing than the Hobies)...I provided link to their site below. REI sells these but they are "online only" so I haven't actually seen one. Thoughts? Reviews?
i have a native ultimate 12 and love it.

every boat has its pros and cons and like fly rods, one boat/rod isn't perfect for every species and environment.

what i love about it:
it's light and easy to load - mine has to weigh under 50lbs now. super stable and yes, you can stand and fish in it, provided the water is fairly calm. the seat is amazing. open cockpit design makes managing fly line fairly easy. i just moved here from maryland and back there i did a good bit of smallmouth fishing on the potomoac river, fished smaller lakes for bass, and even had it out on the open water of the chesapeake quite a bit.

what it's not great at:
with no scupper plugs and the open hull design, once water gets in, it stays in until you bail it. i have the bow and stern covers so there's no place for a milk crate (common kayak fishing junk drawer) although i've seen guys rig the U14 up with a milk crate behind that model.

all in all i would def recommend the U12. i love mine and it's a great fishing kayak. i've got a bunch of kayak fishing and rigging articles on it on my old blog.

good to see some kayak fishing interest here! seems like WA is more of a pontoon/driftboat place. i feel like fly fishing for searun cuts would be a great application here since you can cover so much more water and access beaches that you might not be able to get to legally. Let me know if you want to give mine a try. I live up in Kenmore.

Chris Bellows

Your Preferred WFF Poster
i have zero experience with the pedal drive boats, but think one thing might be an issue when fly fishing. if your line gets tangled around the under the boat drive, how would you free up your line?
yeah, forgot to address the pedal drive. i have not used one and imagine that the pedals a re a nighmare for fly line. it is a huge advantage for keeping yourself in position though when fighting wind/current. i know a bunch of guys who did the light tackle thing on the chesapeake swore by their hobies. just not my cup of tea. i'd rather do it my way - paddling and with a fly rod.

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
Chris, I've seen a vid where an angler in a Hobie had a Springer wrap his line around his Mirage drive. He simply pulled his drive up from the well and untangled the line. His rod broke. Vid was a comedy of errors..

IMHO, a propellor drive might be a hindrance anywhere there is eel grass or kelp. Not once, but twice, a competitor in the Elk River Challenge (open class paddling event) attempted to do the estuarine course in his propellor driven yak. Both times he had to be towed back in when his prop got wound up with eel grass.

However, one can always pull up the drive and break out the paddle for cruising the shallows or eel grass flats. I have noticed that yak owners with pedal drive boats often have cheap paddles that aren't a joy to use. If I ever get a Hobie, I'll still have a top quality paddle for when I need it. Whatever you do, avoid falling for one of those cheap aluminum paddles just to save a few bucks. They really suck compared to a light and stiff carbon/kevlar/glass paddle. Aluminum shafts are much colder to grip on cold days, too.

I have an earlier model Ultimate 12 that has the pop-down skeg. I recently saw a later year model that didn't have the pop-down skeg. I think they quit making them with that feature. Too bad, and I think that discontinuing the pop-down skeg was a mistake. I use mine all the time whenever I want to track in a straight line (when heading upstream, for example, the deployed skeg allows one to quit paddling and fire off a cast while the bow remains oriented directly into the current and does not veer off to one side), and wouldn't like my U-12 as much as I do without it.

I have all three spray skirts, but usually only have the front bow skirt on. I bail with a poly 1/2 gal milk jug with the top cut off and handle remaining. Perfect fit for the bottom of the pontoon hulls. You can use two jugs and bail simultaneously with both hands! I've done that in a rainstorm. I also carry a big sponge and a small towel.

For waves or surf, and especially running rapids, forget it. The U-12 is not designed for that. I think of it as a flatwater low-profile hybrid canoe, best suited for slow moving rivers, tidal creeks, estuarine backwaters, and small lakes, coves, and protected inlets or bays. These are hard to bail and re-enter in high winds and large wind chop, so I always avoid launching into those conditions.

I have decent balance and I stand and cast in my U-12 if the surface is fairly calm. The big challenge is in not rocking the hull side-to-side and generating waves with your casting motion. That can spook every cutthroat in the pool or keep those risers on the lake moving away from you, just out of range!
I see you're on the East Side, so this might not be much help... But if you're ever over this way the Gig Harbor Fly Shop carries the Native Kayaks. They are specifically using the pedal drive models for fishing the saltwater and sound happy with their performance so far.

Brian White

Recovering Bugmeister
thanks all for the feedback. I am especially interested in the Gig Harbor fly shop info - I might need to do a road trip over there to visit

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
The Mirage drive is supposed to be more energy efficient than the Propel, but the Propel can be pedaled in reverse, while the Mirage only works going forward. I understand that Hobie redesigned the Mirage drive so that it easily can be pulled up, rotated 180 degrees and re-installed in reverse position while out on the water.

With either type of drive, a rudder is necessary for steering, so one hand usually will be occupied with the rudder control when one is under way.

That leaves you one hand free to set the hook. "Hands free" is only relevant when one is trolling, anyway. We fly fishers most often like to cast and strip, and often only troll from one spot to the next. So I don't consider having my hands occupied with paddling to be much of an inconvenience. I much prefer the simplicity of a paddle to a mechanical drive system. Also, those drives are expensive features that nearly doubles the price of a yak.

If I'm trolling, my fly rod is pointing back out over the stern, tip low to the water and a little off to one side. At nearly a straight angle with the line, the rod tip doesn't bend and absorb the energy of the strike. Drag is set where you want it to be when fighting the looser or tighter. I try to set the hook with a paddle stroke or if the fish hooks itself on the strike, I grab my fly rod before it gets yanked backwards over my thigh and under my upper arm and out of the boat. My reel usually hangs up on the strategically positioned rim of my net, and then the line starts ripping off the reel before I can grab the rod and set the hook on that 15" estuary cutt... Not being able to have my rod in my hand at all times when trolling hasn't been a problem for me.

I have some friends with shoulder issues. Torn rotator cuffs, etc. One who has been a paddler all his life just recently got a Hobie Outback so that he could still cover some distance in good time. He is happy with his choice, although he said he was still adapting to the change. One still must deploy the paddle for tight maneuvering.
My shoulders have more or less healed, and a more experienced paddler gave me some advice on improving my paddling form and stroke so that I don't put too much stress on my shoulders. Lately, they haven't been bothering me at all.

wadin' boot

Donny, you're out of your element...
I have a native 12 and like it for stillwater, really protected sound waters, and estuarine waters for SRC. No Mirage drive. It's good for stand up, though I find it is easy to get line wrapped around stuff, particularly the footrests, and when you're cold and wet the stand up is best avoided, as is standing up to play a big fish.

It fits a sub 80 pound child in addition, I customized seats there (with a child on board my risk tolerance gets way more conservative i.e. no wakes or solid wind). The kids hold the rod and snacks, I do the paddling (one day it will be the other way around, I hope). I'd love the skeg Jim talks of if I paddled far. Beware > 50 lb threshold, unless you like lifting and twisting something heavy and awkward over your head to get it on the roof rack...

I'm thinking about taking the footrests out and trying without the seat, more just a thermarest camp chair sort of deal. And a stand up paddle....

Chad Lewis

NEVER wonder what to do with your free time
I have the Native Watercraft U14. Been very happy with it from day 1. I thought about the U12, but after I looked at it I decided on the 14. Some differences between the 12 and 14- I like that it can be rigged for tandem ( the solo model is built so that it can't be a tandem, the tandem model can be either), and the extra room is nice when I'm packing it for a trip. And it's a fishing machine. I've never had a problem standing and fishing, and I often paddle standing when checking out different spots and sight fishing. Like Wadin' Boot, I'd like to check out a stand up paddle.

I've never paddled a 12, but the 14's gotta be more stable because of the extra size, and will track better because of the same. I think if you fell while standing it'd have to be your own fault, not because you were standing in a small boat. All other things being equal, it should be faster than a 12 over distance because of hull length. But with these kind of boats, that's not something you'd consider very much. Still, it's easy enough to paddle to make 5-10 mile days reasonable.

I have to say that the U12 is a great boat too. It just wasn't the one for me. Except for paddling tandem and the occasional long distance camping trip the U12 would be fine, and probably better in some ways. It weighs less. Tracking isn't as good (unless you have an older model with the skeg, like Jim's) but it'll be more maneuverable in tight spots. Maybe easier to anchor, and definitely will stay put better in strong wind with the anchor. For a fishing trip there's enough room for everything, but a few over on the Native board have wished for the extra room of a U14. Must be bait fishers with a live well or something...:D Overall, they're great boats for fishing. I looked for a long time, and put in a lot of research before buying mine. I guarantee that I looked at everything on the market at the time, and the Native was definitely the way to go.

I'll second Jim on the paddle. Spend the money and get a good one. The weight difference alone is worth it. Think about going out and swinging the paddle a few thousand times while doing a few miles. There's not a lot of effort to it, but with a heavy paddle that effort is more than doubled. Makes a big difference at the end of the day. I borrowed a carbon paddle once and that was basically it for me. Made the decision about what paddle material to get a no-brainer.

I don't know if Eastside, WA refers to the east side of WA or a city, but if you live within striking distance of the Tricities you're welcome to paddle mine and see what you think.
Hey guys,

I'm Blake from the Gig Harbor Fly Shop. I was excited to see this thread because I have been geeking out over my kayak recently! :)

I have the Native Mariner 12.5 Propel. I have only had mine a couple months and look forward to learning more and experiencing more of it. But I'll share what I've got so far. Zack from the shop also has one and hopefully he'll add to the thread as well.

Before going with Native we did quite a bit of research. So here's a couple of my thoughts in response to some questions and assumptions above:

The Hobie Mirage Drive is the most well known pedal powered kayak on the market but I think the Native Mariner has some advantages over it.
- Though the Hobie can hit a higher top speed than the Native, it is a lot more effort and will get your heart rate up quite a bit more than the Native will.
- For fishing out in the Pacific, like the guys down in San Diego, the Hobie is probably better, but for Puget Sound and lakes I think the Native has the advantage. Specifically the ability to go in reverse. You can flip around the Hobie Mirage drive for trolling backyards but you can't just go back and forth like you can in the Native. This is especially wonderful when you want to "hit the brakes". In the Native pedaling backwards puts the breaks on and is great so you don't cruise over a kelp bed, tide rip, etc. Gives you way more control of the kayak.
- And last, I'll just mention that the Native Mariner Propel is $600 cheaper than the Hobie Mirage Angler.

In response to it's stability, it's ridiculously stable. The "tunnel hull" is a catamaran style hull providing you with a 400 pound capacity and very stable casting platform. Additionally, having the pedal shaft through the boat and in the water stabilizes it a lot. I stand and cast from it in Puget Sound. When I get moved around from the wind and tide it's easy to just bend over and hand crank the pedals to move forward or backward.
When standing and casting I have found that with a integrated shooting head line, like the Airflo 40+, it can be maddening to control line. It gets tangled on the pedals, the rudder control, and everything else it can. I have found that the William Joseph collapsible stripping basket eliminates pretty much all of this frustration. It's also surprisingly comfortable to sit and cast. I just like standing cause of the visibility. If I was planning on sitting more of the time I would buy the accessory seat raiser that goes on the back of the seat. You just fold the seat down and sit on it. I think it's called the Captain's Perch or something like that.

There are a lot of accessory options with the Native boats. I have recently installed Scotty flush mount rod holders. And will be installing the anchor trolley system this week. Drilling your first hole in your kayak is scary!

If you are digging the propel drive in the Native and are thinking between the Ultimate or the Mariner I would say go with the Ultimate if you want more of a canoe style kayak for fishing stillwaters and go with the Mariner if you plan on any Puget Sound fishing.

Anyways, I hope that helped. Let me know if anyone has any questions. If you would like to try them out we have a Kayak demo day June 9th from 9am-12pm. We will have several of the Mariner Propel 12.5, Manta Ray 12, and Redfish 12 available for people to try out. The shop currently stocks the Mariner 12.5 Propel, Manta Ray 14, Manta Ray 12, and Redfish 12 and we also have special ordered Ultimates for customers as well.

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
I ended up cutting the "D-rings" off of my "rear" bow skirt, since they always grabbed at my fly line. I used to always have that second bow skirt on, and used it as a stripping apron when standing, but those dang "d-rings" always messed up the system. Cutting 'em off helped.

Yep, a stripping basket will eliminate that problem. I have been stripping my line into my rubber mesh net, which I have positioned between and a little to the rear of my footrests (handle forward, jammed under the thwart, base of hoop propped up on small soft cooler sitting just forward of the foot rests. Hoop is also supported by the inner top edges of the footrests. Catches the line OK when I'm standing and stripping in. When I'm sitting while retrieving, I have to lean forward and reach a bit to throw the stripped line into the hoop.

That net set-up is also part of my fly trolling system. If you look closely, you can see the orange top of my soft cooler. I rest my reel on that, with my rod pointing back under my arm. A solid strike may jerk the rod backwards, but the reel will always catch on the rim of the net.

My anchor trolly line is lawnmower pull-start cord. I chose it for this purpose because it has zero stretch. I bought it off a bulk roll in my local hardware store.

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
Hey Blake, thanks for the info on the demo days. I may head in there and try out a Mariner 12.5, even if its only to satisfy my curiosity. If I like it, I'll put my power boat on the market.
I agree that it would be the better choice for the Sound. It would work for calmer days on the ocean, too.

But if I sell the PB, I've also been oogling the Hobie Adventure Island "trimaran-yak."