When I first started looking for a fishing kayak, I wanted to go big or go home. Peddle drive, fish finder, and more storage than the trunk of a car were all necessities in my mind. But then I noticed the price. And the weight. Finally, the dismayed look on my parents’ faces convinced me to look elsewhere.
Luckily, I was at Kittery Trading Post’s kayak demo day, which afforded me the opportunity to paddle any boat I could desire. The kind people there steered me in the direction of the Pelican kayaks, which they claimed were the lightest on the market. For a 50+ pound watercraft, I didn’t believe them; but after looking at all the other sit-on-top kayaks, I realized they were right. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to get the others on our car!
The first of the Pelican kayaks I tried was the Strike 100NXT, which, much to my mom and dad’s disappointment (this model was far less expensive than the one I ended up with), I didn’t like very much because of the uncomfortable seat and difficulty standing. The next kayak I tried, however, was the one. The Pelican Catch 100 just felt right to paddle and stand in, and the seat felt like a luxury recliner. I immediately knew which boat I’d be going home with that day.
Back at my house, I couldn’t wait to try my new kayak out. The first thing I noticed, though, is that 58 pounds feels a lot heavier when walking more than 100 feet. The quarter mile walk to nearby Field Pond left my arms feeling like jelly, and that was with a partner!
Granted, I was quite young at the time, and I understand that a kayak cart would make the job far easier. The problem is, it is exceedingly difficult to find a cart that fits the wide tunnel-style hull of the Catch 100. I’ve tried everything from typical kayak carts to canoe carriers to certain scupper hole models, yet nothing seems to fit! I’ll keep looking, especially since I won’t have my parents to help me carry the boat forever.
Sadly, finding a fitting kayak cart isn’t the only difficulty when transporting the kayak; it can give even the best drivers anxiety on the road. When tied down flat on the roof without other boats, the kayak isn’t an issue and is fairly stress-free to carry. The toughest part about transporting it this way is getting it on the roof, especially tall ones, which undoubtedly isn’t a one-person job. However, when you’re carrying the kayak in addition to another one, or whenever you carry it vertically, the swaying can be nerve wracking.
I vividly remember the sheer terror and anxiety on my mother’s face as we drove back from a local reservoir on a fairly windy day. We couldn’t have been going more than 50 miles an hour, yet the kayak rocked back and forth like an out-of-control see-saw. It eventually got so bad that we had to pull over and adjust the straps, which sadly did little to help the shaking. Although it’s not the kayak’s fault, because of its design, carrying it vertically makes it liable to getting quite shaky.
Perhaps my favorite part about this kayak is its superb stability. The tunnel hull, typically found on certain models of jon boats, traps air within the center of its two planing hulls, which provides floatation and support. From the moment I set foot on this kayak, I felt confident that I would have a tough time flipping it. I consistently stand when fishing, often using it as a stand-up paddle board in clear water to stalk fish in the shallows. I’m even able to rock back-and-forth, giving boaters around me some worries, but leaving me feeling even more assured. To stand up, the standing strap and no-slip mats certainly help. I actually really enjoy these mats without even thinking about them, although they are slightly harder to clean than simple plastic.
Unfortunately, the largest upside to the kayak also has a fairly large downside: a huge reduction in speed. The Catch 100 doesn’t paddle like most other kayaks; it requires far more effort to get moving, and each stroke can feel a little clunky. Because of the wide hull and increased surface area in contact with the water, the boat is inherently going to move a little slower. This isn’t a huge issue for fishing in smaller bodies of water, but it can create some problems when traveling long distances on larger lakes, rivers, and even the ocean. That being said, I frequently use this kayak on Maine’s second largest lake, Sebago. While I don’t feel comfortable going on outrageously-long treks for fear of getting caught on the other side of the lake, I have gone on some fairly substantial journeys and done just fine. Personally, I’m willing to substitute a little bit of speed for added stability and comfort, but maybe others feel differently.
Speaking of comfort, I have never sat in a boat seat as comfortable as that in the Catch 100. Although there is no padding, I have sat on this seat for hours on end without so much as a minor ache. The mesh back is extremely breathable, preventing gross, sweaty backs on hot summer days. In addition, the seat can be put in two positions: one lower to the deck, more like a sit-in kayak, which allows for easier paddling. The other is higher off the deck, which makes casting and seeing fish easier. I usually keep my seat in the top position because I’m usually not paddling for long distances. When strapped in, I haven’t had any issues with the seat shifting or falling out. In fact, I am able to lean over it without fear of tipping when adjusting the anchor on the stern.
Earlier, I mentioned my wishes when I was first looking at kayaks. No, this boat doesn’t have a peddle drive, nor does it have a fish finder, but what it lacks in fancy technology it makes up for in storage. The bow features a mostly waterproof hatch, which I rarely use. This space has plenty of room, but the problem is that, while it gets narrower, it goes all the way to the stern. This makes it difficult to put dry bags or similar items in without them getting lost at the back of the kayak.
Moving on, the back side of the seat features a pouch large enough for plenty of smaller items. I used to store my soft plastics here, and I was able to fit over 20 bags of them with room to spare.
Finally, the stern has a large compartment covered with bungees perfect for a crate. I just added a milk crate to this space that holds my tackle boxes, anchor, and soft plastics.
If I really wanted to trick the crate out, I could add rod holders, but the boat already has plenty. Four flush-mount holders adorn the gunnels of the boat, two next to the seat facing forwards and two behind it facing backwards. When I’m fishing, I rarely keep rods in these tubes because they get in the way. The front-facing holders are designed for convenience when landing fish, which is obvious because they truly get in the way when paddling or casting. The back-facing rod holders work great when paddling, but I frequently snag my lures or flies on them when casting. Instead, I opt to lay my rods down the middle of the deck, which works well unless I am close to rocks or other structure that put my rods in harm’s way.
One feature that I rarely think about but that I use with each and every trip is the footrests, which have performed flawlessly. I like to keep my knees slightly bent, but I think it’s all personal preference. Honestly, I’m standing so much of the time, I barely put any thought into these.
Other less obvious features include the paddle bungees, which have made standing far easier and put my nerves at ease when I’m worried about my paddle floating away. Right in front of these bungees are two 4″ Scotty mounting tracks, which I’ve used in the past for a fly rod holder. Be aware that mounting accessories on these tracks requires a special adapter, something I was unaware of when I bought my first rod holder for the kayak. Third, four scupper holes line the deck from front to back, allowing for easy drainage of water. To avoid having water occasionally splash into the kayak through these holes, simply pop in the scupper hole plugs that come with the boat.
Next, I want to discuss a couple features I find a little unnecessary. First, while the mounted tape measure is nice, it’s extremely inconvenient to use. The average size of most of the fish I’m catching-around 12 to 18 inches-is completely covered by a footrest. I don’t have a problem using this ruler for smaller fish, but to be real, who cares about measuring their eight-inch bass?
Similarly, the water bottle slot in the middle of the deck is handy, but designed wrong. The slot is simply there to keep your bottle from rolling around, but since it keeps the drink sideways (unlike a traditional drink holder), it is impossible to store open cans or bottles. In addition, the bottle just sits in the filth that has collected at the bottom of the kayak making drinking it unappealing. I would have preferred a standing bottle holder that would make drinking easier and cleanlier.
To sum it up, this is an extremely comfortable and stable sit-on-top kayak that, while large compared to most average kayaks, is far smaller and lighter than most fishing models. Its basic design makes it stress free, yet includes just enough accessories to make your day on the water more enjoyable and convenient. There are certainly some features that aren’t optimal, but these are overshadowed by the boat’s impressive performance in both big and small waters.