The new-for-2018 Old Town Topwater PDL is a pedal-drive kayak designed for hands-free fishing using the same forward/reverse pedal-drive system as Old Town’s top-of-the-line Predator fishing kayak. The big difference is it’s shorter (10.5’) and lighter (76 pounds with the pedal drive removed). As a result, it can be transported on top of a car and can be loaded and unloaded solo (depending on the individual and the vehicle, of course). It has a catamaran-like “DoubleU Hull” that makes it stable enough for stand-up fishing but still nimble on the water.
I’ve spent the past two weeks test-fishing the kayak on inshore ocean waters around Cape Cod, fishing for false albacore, bluefish, and striped bass.
Every kayak hull is a compromise between speed and stability. Longer and skinnier kayaks are faster, shorter and wider kayaks are more stable. Based on it’s short, wide hull, I expected the Topwater PDL to be slow and sluggish. While not a sprinter, I was surprised by the cruising speed and the efficiency of the DoubleU Hull/PDL combination. In other words, I was able to cover some serious water without tiring out my legs. The seat is incredibly comfortable, and once I adjusted the position to my liking I was able to chase fish for hours without the knee or back pain I’ve experienced in some kayaks.
According to the Old Town website, the Topwater series is designed for lakes, ponds, and more moderate conditions than the Predator series. However, I found it handled most nearshore saltwater conditions quite well, including moderate chop and swell. I pushed it in rougher conditions (entering an inlet on a wind-against-tide situation) and efficiency did suffer as it lacks the v-hull that would cut into waves and aid in tracking. However, at no point did it feel unstable or overwhelmed.
The first thing I noticed when climbing into the Topwater was the height of the seat. The stability of the hull allows the angler to sit up high, lending a better vantage point for spotting fish and casting to them. Underseat tackle storage is perfect for an accessible Plano box, and the two flush mount rod holders behind the seat are out of the way but easy to reach. The PDL system’s instantaneous forward/reverse was a huge advantage when targeting surface-feeding albies that were only staying up for seconds.
Although the Topwater is light enough for car-topping, the short length actually made it a little more difficult to lift on and off the top of a tall SUV, as I couldn’t lean it against the roof of the truck and tilt it onto the rack. Still, it is the only pedal-operated, stand-up fishing kayak I’ve been able to cartop and solo-launch. It would be easy to transport in a pickup truck bed. Also, the dual-hull design was a bit more challenging to rack on a traditional, glide-pad rooftop kayak rack.
The Topwater PDL hits a sweet spot in the balance between stability and speed in a car-top kayak. If you are looking for hands-free operation in a serious fishing kayak that is stable enough for stand-up fishing but can be transported on a rooftop, I strongly suggest test-driving a Topwater PDL at a local dealer.