ICAST: The New Hybrids

ORLANDO -- The auto world isn't the only industry sporting hybrid vehicles in 2009.

The New Product Showcase floor and other exhibitors at ICAST 2009 are showcasing the kind of cross-fertilized, out-of-the-box thinking behind the new generation of fishing platforms — economical small waters craft that draw from multiple limbs of the boating family tree. Each leverages design and propulsion technologies in an innovative way.

The Hobie Pro Angler, which Bassmaster Editor James Hall piloted on his recent quest for eight species of black bass, is a case in point. The Hobie Cat Company took its Mirage Drive foot propulsion and Hobie Outback kayak design and tailored it to the fisherman, broadened its hull, and borrowed features from the modern bass boat to conceive the Pro Angler. Retailing for $2,199, the craft offers convenient mounting options for sonar, GPS and other electronics, room and tip tubes for up to six rods on the Pro Angler deck and a wide assortment of options for tackle and gear storage. Accessories include a livewell with three vertical rod holders. The horizontal stern bar is suited for custom electric motor mount.

Befitting the hybrid trend, electric motors factor into the thinking of many of the new hybrids and other new and improved small waters craft.

The Carolina Twin Troller X-10, featured at the Carolina Electric Boats booth, boasts three patent and a pending patent in its next generation electric bass boat. The 10-foot craft features the Twin Troller propulsion system — a pair of 36-pound-thrust MotorGuide inboard electric motors and a foot-control system that enables backward, forward, and even 360-degree rotation with remarkable ease. The patented molded polyethylene hull is virtually unsinkable, according to Frank Jones, company president.

Freedom Hawk Kayak's Freedom 12 is a 12-foot stand-up fishing kayak with "patented integral and retractable outriggers." Fly fishermen and bass fishermen spend a lot of time on their feet, and the Freedom 12 facilitates stand-up techniques like sightfishing, long casting and flipping. The retractable outriggers, which can be extended when the angler takes to his — or her — feet, provide stability during fishing. They retract into the streamlined kayak contour for efficient hydrodynamics when the angler is on the move. The New Product Showcase model included a MotorGuide Thruster 30-pound-thrust electric motor. The craft comes, too, with a push pole. Extremely low draft allows access to the skinniest waters.

Another electrically powered kayak is the Elec-Trek from Dragonfly Boatworks, LLC. It boasts a sleek Star Wars-style design for speed and efficiency. The low-profile electric motor is encased in the stern. The partially recessed propeller enables craft to penetrate ultra-skinny water. No-nonsense push-button latches enable access to hull storage chambers.

Shakespeare arrived at ICAST with six angler-fitted kayaks ranging from the 8-foot Angler 80 to the 14.5-foot Angler 145, an entry in the New Product Showcase competition.

The Viking ProFish 45 from Viking Kayak US LLC offers speed and efficiency with both paddle propulsion or a boost from the Torqeedo rear-mount electric motor, powered by an encased, compact battery located behind the kayaker's seat. Features include a side-mount vertical stake pole for silent and simple mooring in water up to 4 feet.

Panther Martin's Sea Eagle 285 Frameless Pontoon Fishing Boat is a compact craft you can take almost anywhere. Weighing only 42 pounds, the Sea Eagle sets up in four minutes and packs into a small bag; yet it can cover distances and handle larger water as well. The rear plate mount will handle up to a 3-horsepower outboard motor or electric.