There was never any doubt I was going to be impressed with Hobie's new Pro Angler 12 before me ever laying eyes on one, simply by virtue of the universal benefit of hindsight, which Hobie were always going to use when developing a new Pro Angler fishing kayak. After a couple of years of heavy use in tournament fishing circuits around the world, coupled with all of the feedback from their dealers and user-base was bound to teach them a thing or two about how to make the Pro Angler better. After having quickly inspected it all I can say is, boy, have they ever (made it better, that is). I don't even need to get this thing on the water to know for sure that it is going to be one of the most popular fishing platforms in the world, pronto.
The PA12 is heavily influenced by the primary design features of the larger 14' model but comes with refinements yet to be implemented into the larger version. Some of these refinements are minor, others are dramatic, all are noteworthy. Overall, however, the thing that struck me as I unpacked this new kayak is that it heralds a new era in fishing kayak design. An era in-which 3rd-party device integration is now coming into effect in such a way that modification, experimentation and guesswork are being minimized. This is most obvious in the PA12 in the new molded Lowrance transducer scupper, the molded in brass inserts for anchor trolley port & starboard and the very clever centre tackle console which just so happens to fit the medium sized Plano waterproof boxes ideally. But that's not what you'll notice first when you behold the PA12. No... first you'll have to stop drooling over the new Vantage seat system. When I first looked at this thing all I could thing of was 'how to I fit one of these into an Adventure Island!'
Really, this thing is just incredible... probably the most inventive kayaking device I have seen since the Miragedrive. While it's effect in kayaking circles in general probably won't be so profound, in the kayak fishing scene - especially the tournament circuit - this will become the throne of thrones. Colour me impressed with the sheer adjustability of this thing (honestly, nothing else even holds a candle to it) and I really like the cushioned air-mesh they've used for seat and backrest. The Vantage seat is going to go a long way in not only providing a higher and notably drier ride than pretty much any other sit-on kayak out there, the ability to adjust every single angle of the seat and backrest is going to make it so much easier for people with bad backs, and or those who get stiff backs or backsides during a lengthy trip. Hobie really are onto something here.
I was also struck by the compact form factor of the boat, which was more noticeable to me than I was expecting. Much like it's 14' counterpart, it's still a girthy beast and still fairly heavy by kayak standards but it is most definitely easier to manage off the water. I dare say it's going to be a bit more maneuverable on the water also, which is really saying something when comparing to the original Pro Angler. Not just because of it's shorter waterline length but also because it now has dual steering controls - tiller to the left, knob to the right. The advantage of this may not be immediately obvious to the lamen, but to those experienced in reeling in big fish will know that the ability to make fine steering adjustments during the fight will appreciate the ability to do so either side of the boat.
To be honest I can't recall the last time Hobie took such an evolutionary jump forward in a new kayak design. It's a Pro Angler Jim... but not as we know it!
There really has been a lot of collective thought and effort going into this new boat and the end result is the consummate fishing platform. It's not often I am so completely impressed with a new kayak design but Hobie really have out-done themselves this time. I am really looking forward to getting into one of these and chasing some fish and I'm even more excited about seeing some of these features find their way into other models in the future. I would kill for a centre hatch like that on my beloved Adventure Island... and I'd declare war on a nation to be able to use one of those seats!
Hell to the yes!