It’s been approximately five years since I purchased my first fishing kayak, an Ocean Prowler Big Game. My number one priority had been to find a kayak that was, for me at least, the perfect fishing platform. I’ve never understood why people become so wrapped up in the speed of a kayak when looking for something that is to be primarily used as a fishing platform. The only exception is perhaps for the dedicated lure fisherman who wishes to cover a large amount of ground during a session. For me my primary interests were storage, rigging potential and stability. The latter was of particular importance as I envisaged that much of my fishing would take place at night and alone. As it happened that’s pretty much the direction that my kayak fishing has taken. I spent approximately six months carrying out extensive research before deciding that the Big Game fulfilled my requirements almost to a tee. Since purchasing my kayak I’ve tried out several other kayaks and the resultant experience has never left me in any doubt as to my original choice of kayak. To be honest, despite often having the yearning for a new kayak, there was nothing out there that could come close to replacing the Big Game as my ultimate fishing kayak. Some time ago I took an interest in Hobie kayaks, I found the idea of the Mirage Drive quite fascinating. The Adventure model initially appealed to me, though I really wanted maximum stability so I soon found myself looking at the Outback. An opportunity arose to purchase an almost new Outback with every conceivable extra at a good price, though as I’d never tried one I’d have been buying blind so I allowed the opportunity to pass me by. It was during a kayak fishing trip to Florida in August this year that I finally managed to try out an Outback in anger. That turned out to be quite an experience and my belief that the Big Game couldn’t be beaten as a fishing platform was shattered. The Mirage Drive is simply superb and highly effective. Having the ability to propel yourself along virtually hands free is quite something. For the lure fisherman in particular this really has to be experienced to fully appreciate it. In Florida I’d struggled to fish close to structure, the wind and tide pushing me into the structure, minimising my fishing time before I was forced to pick up a paddle to move away into a better fishing position. I looked on at the Hobie anglers with growing envy, they were happily fishing away, peddling occasionally to maintain or change their drift. Their fishing time remained uninterrupted, I was probably losing 30-50% of my fishing time paddling to stay clear of the structure. The stability of the Outback is simply superb, you can stand with ease and move around unhindered when accessing the rear tank well, front hatch, etc. It had plenty of rigging space and potential, plus the Mirage Drive (this example had a Turbo Fin upgrade) provided an impressive turn of speed for such a wide kayak. I was highly impressed with the kayak and it far surpassed my expectations. In my mind at least my Big Game had become redundant, to make that reality I needed get my hands on a Hobie Outback. To say I found myself in a very fortunate position the following month is a bit of an understatement. The HobieCat Centre in Poole offered to sponsor me and provide me with a Hobie Outback to fish from. In the space of a month I’d gone from owning what I considered to be the ultimate fishing kayak, to having those thoughts shattered only to end up having a Hobie Outback parked up in the garage… lucky guy! Here are the basic specifications of the Hobie Outback, I believe the one I have is the 2010 model. Length: 12' 1" Width: 33" Weight: 62 lbs. (Add 6.6 lbs. for pedalling mechanism) Capacity: 400 lbs. The first thing that caught my attention was the overall quality of the moulding, far better than any similar kayak that I’ve experienced to date. It’s a wide kayak, though its weight is about on par for a kayak of this size. The Mirage Drive is actually quite light and can be removed and fitted in seconds. It’s highly unlikely to be fitted whilst loading or unloading the kayak so this weight is purely present when the kayak is rigged. The weight capacity is excellent, fully dressed in a dry suit I weigh in at around 200lb so there’s clearly a lot of spare capacity!. Looking at the topside, the kayak is clearly aimed at the angler. It sports four moulded rod holders as well as recessed areas and drink holders around the cockpit area. The rudder controls are hand operated and adjacent to the seat. There are two large circular hatches, one situated directly forward of the seat whilst the other is in the rear tank well area just forward of the rudder. The forward hatch sports a removable tackle tray with lid, though this can be upgraded to a deeper ‘bucket’ type insert. Both hatches offer a positive twist and turn to lock mechanism which appears to be highly effective and is easy to use. The front hatch is of a generous size an easily permits good sized dry bags, etc to be stored with ease. A removable insert can be purchased as an optional extra and this would potentially be ideal for storing fish or as additional storage compartment. The front hatch is quickly and easily secured using a bungee. I recently carried out some capsize drills and all the hatches proved to be watertight with no problems of water ingress being experienced. This takes me onto the seat and what a great seat it is!. At a glance is looks rather thin, perhaps a little flimsy, though I was soon proved to be very wrong. The seat is secured to the kayak using two inserts that expand when tightened. The securing clips are covered by a Velcro flap with the seat in position. There are two sets of insert holes on the kayak providing further adjustment if required to suit the individual. The seat is positioned as required and tightened into position, the two front straps at secured to kayak strong points and the seat back is kept upright by securing a lightweight bungee cord. It really is simplicity itself. There’s no requirement to remove the seat for transportation or storage and the seatback can be folded forward and secured in the down position using an existing bungee cord. The seat back is self-inflating and the firmness can be quickly adjusted to suit the user. The seat base itself is a honeycomb affair is provides a decent cushion. As for the ride, well the seat sits up from the foot wells and the ride is comfortable and extremely dry. There’s also a small net just forward of the front hatch that’s ideal for storing pliers, disgorgers or other smaller items of tackle, the sort of stuff that that you need to be readily to hand. As mentioned earlier there are moulded recesses either side of the cockpit area. These are ideal for keeping tools and tackle to hand as required. Though I’d recommend that anything of value is kept leashed to the kayak at all times!. I intend to use the rear recesses for mounted some RAM rod tubes, though this will be covered at a later date. The rudder comes as a standard item, this is purely down to the kayak being designed with the Mirage Drive being the primary mode of propulsion. With a more conventional paddle a kayak can be steered using the paddle, however the Mirage Drive is purely a propulsion system so a rudder is required to provide directional control. The rudder setup itself is quite ingenious and a pleasure to use. There are two pull-operated toggles, one for lowering and one for raising the rudder. When lowered, the ‘down’ toggle is secured in the lowered position with a cleat to prevent inadvertent lifting of the rudder when underway. The steering control is left of the seat and is a simple rotating control. Turn it left and the kayak will steer left, turn right and the kayak turns right, what more could you ask for!. The rudder itself is highly responsive and the kayak can be make extremely tight turns when peddling under power. With the rudder in the stowed position the blade can be tucked and secured under the rear tankwell bungee cord for transportation. On either side of the kayak there is a paddle holder. It’s been well thought out with two mouldings on either side of the hull which permit the paddle to sit in position whilst a bungee cord is present to maintain hold it securely until required. It’s worth looking at the hull as this is responsible for providing the Outback with its outstanding stability. It’s very similar in design to a ‘semi cathedral’ hull as you’d encounter on certain fishing boats. There are scupper holes present in the seat area and rear tankwell, though you certainly cannot miss the large hole in the foot well area!. This is of course the mounting hole for the Mirage Drive, it also doubles up as a scupper hole. That takes me onto the Mirage Drive itself. As simple as it is the pedal driven flippers work extremely well. Without effort the boat can be pedalled at 3 to 4 mph. This pace can be maintained for long periods of time, even a light headwind had very little effect on the achievable speed. The pedals themselves can be quickly adjusted to suit an individual’s leg length. The kayak featured here sports the standard fins, though these can be upgraded to larger fins as required. I’ve now pedalled the Outback with both standard and Turbo fins fitted. I personally prefer the latter though they wouldn’t be for everyone. I’ll cover the fins and their differences in a later article. As you pedal the drive is converted into flipper movement, approximately 180? side to side. Ideally the full or majority of the pedal range is used to provide the most effective propulsion. However this requires approximately 18” of water, however it can still be used with good effect in shallower water by limiting the pedal travel (fluttering the pedals) and minimising the flapping of the flippers. I pedalled effectively in 6-8” of water using this method. Speed is reduced dramatically though forward progress is maintained. With a pedal pushed fully forward the flippers are positioned hard up against the kayak and the pedal drive has minimal effect of the draft of the kayak. If required the kayak can be paddled in shallow water and if deemed necessary the Mirage Drive can be removed in seconds and stored within the kayak. Sure, nothing is perfect!. Care has to be taken when venturing into shallow water to prevent damage to the fins, particularly the supporting masts. A two piece paddle comes as standard and is more than adequate for occasional use. Ok, it’s not a high end carbon fibre paddle, though it is ultimately only there as either a backup propulsion system or to be used as required. I’ll finish off by taking a look at the Hobie kayak trolley. It’s specifically designed for use with the Hobie and is attached by passing the posts through the rearmost scupper holes. There’s a small toggle and pin mounted and secured to the top of one of the trolley posts that can be used to lock the trolley in position if required. To fit the trolley the kayak is rolled onto its side and the trolley inserted. To remove it the kayak is lifted, the trolley falls clear and the kayak can then be swung to one side and lowered to the ground. The trolley can either be partially dismantled (wheels removed with a quick release pin) or stored fully assembled in the rear tankwell, the trolley being stored upside down in the same scupper holes as used previously. I didn’t notice the presence of a securing bungee, though this can easily be added and would be strongly recommended. I was a little concerned about the high sides of the Outback, would this design make re-entry excessively difficult?. I took the Outback afloat and threw myself out of the kayak. The kayak failed to flip so I flipped it over myself. Righting the kayak was a little more difficult to what I’m accustomed to, though not overly difficult. Re-entering the kayak proved to be easy enough, in fact I was surprised as the amount of secondary stability that was present considering the high primary stability and hull shape. It’s not a kayak that’s easy to capsize!, however, it’s always sensible to practice re-entry on a new kayak prior to taking it any distance from land. As much as I’ve already taken the Outback afloat, this is purely an initial review. I’ll provide a more detailed review in the coming weeks along with detailed articles and video clips on rigging, modifying and fishing from the Hobie Outback. For further information feel free to either drop me an email or contact the UK Hobie Centre direct where they’ll happily arrange a demonstration for you.