The best pedal-powered kayak
may be the most versatile kayak on the market.
Hobie's Mirage Pro series not only offers the most accommodating, accessory-ready layout of any kayak we've found, but it was also the first — and in our opinion remains the best — in pedal systems for kayaks, borrowing from penguin anatomy to mimic their underwater wing flexes.
Hobie's Mirage Pro series is outfitted for just about everything, but it can be stripped down to accommodate even the simplest paddlers. It also has room for an electric motor mount where the propulsion pedal is located, or on the transom (back), which makes more sense to us because you can keep the pedals should you run out of battery charge. Fear not, paddling purists: you can always ditch all that stuff and use an old-fashioned paddle if you'd like.
The Mirage Pro Angler also includes a neatly folding rudder, plenty of fishing rod holders, storage, an ultra-comfortable seat, and a two-year limited warranty.
If you get your exercise elsewhere or want a speedier trip to your fishing grounds, it pairs easily with Torqeedo's Ultralight 403 electric motor, which mounts on the transom as an outboard, or the EVOLVE electric motor, though that seems to be phasing out, so we'll recommend you go with the Ultralight 403.
Still, while it's a nice option to have, the electric motor is going to be overkill for most. You could just as soon buy a small used fishing skiff for the price of this setup if a motorboat is ultimately what you're after. More to that point, we think Hobie's MirageDrive pedal system is fast enough as is. A simple pull tab shifts between forward and reverse, and steering controls on both port (left) and starboard (right) enables easy maneuvering.
The Mirage Pro Angler comes with Hobie's signature mesh Vantage Seating, which makes it the most comfortable kayak we've ever plopped ourselves into, and while the whole aluminum-framed seat is adjustable, the bottom folds up to make way for stand-up fishing, which we love for sight and fly fishing, or just stretching out.
The hull of the Hobie Mirage Pro comes with a built-in transducer mount and through-hull cable plugs (transducer not included), so sorting out an aftermarket fish finder or GPS is a cinch.
Hobie goes wild with storage, including horizontal rod storage for up to four rods and vertical for two. There's also a pair of aluminum rails — Hobie's signature "H-Rail" system — to which you can mount any number of things, including Hobie's "H-Bar" which works as a grab rail for standup fishing and getting in and out of the boat, and accepts a variety of accessory mounts. With all these technical specifications, these are heavy boats, and the smallest (12-foot) model weighs 105 pounds.
Perception's Pescador Pilot 12 comes in at an affordable price, and while we love the layout, the pedal drive is held in place by a pin and bracket that pop out with moderate force, which gets annoying. Perception has reportedly addressed this design flaw, and we're hoping that they have straightened it out, but we haven't gotten around to testing the updated version yet.
Whether you're looking to fish or not is largely beside the point with this kayak. If you want the best pedal-powered kayak on the market, we're convinced that the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 the one to get, but we remain hopeful for — and look forward to testing — a more affordable option that we can recommend with confidence. — Owen Burke
Pros: Sturdy pedal system, rudder and keel, highly customizable
Cons: Expensive, only comes with a short two-year warranty