The season of game changers and revolutionary fishing gadgets is upon us. Yep, ICast is here, and with it, the news and release of the newest and baddest “enchiladas” in the fishing world will flood social outlets and dominate conversations on the water.
I’m not being sarcastic as I have to admit that I’m a sucker for new gear, but sifting through all the new product teasers before the show, there is one that I’m particularly stoked about.
The new TOPWATER line of kayaks from our friends at Old Town.
Why my excitement? First of all, I had the opportunity to take the Topwater 106 and 120 out on the water, so my review and excitement is based on experience. Secondly, it’s a fresh, logical, angler-oriented line of kayaks that will fit all anglers no matter their angling specialty or preference without breaking the bank.
Lastly, the Topwater line offers the performance, comfort, features and quality from Old Town who has been designing and manufacturing kayaks in America for more than 100 years. Yes, 100 years.
Let’s talk about features and the paddling performance of the Topwater kayaks. Short and wide kayaks don’t paddle well, right? Wrong. At least not the Topwater 106. At 10 feet 6 inches, it’s the smallest of the siblings and I was genuinely surprised by how well it paddled.
The secret is the hull and its multi-chine design that provides premiere stability. The tracking on the other hand is improved by the pronounced keel/skeg that runs for about 2’ toward the rear of the hull, keeping the boat connected to the water and moving forward in a straight line. The Topwater 120 paddles as expected with the same ease but evidently offers improved stability and tracking given that it is a little under 2 feet longer.
The biggest takeaway from paddling the 106 and the 120 is how clean and spacious the deck of the boats were. If you fly fish, you need to seriously consider this kayak as there is nothing the fly line can get tangled with.
Here are some attributes that stood out on the Topwater when compared to other kayaks in the category:
- The drain plug is strategically located on the top of the bow (front of the kayak) so you can actually drain the water. It’s a small difference, but we struggled in the past draining water on others when the plug gets crushed when the kayak is stood up right.
- A large accessible front hatch is not found on most kayaks in this category, which is a big plus for the Topwater and those who need that space for short camping river trips or extra gear that needs to stay away and dry.
- A forward center scupper hole is found right below the front hatch which also serves as access for the wires to an included recessed molded transducer mount.
- Foot peg adjustment range is plenty and done one handed with ease.
- There are two flush mount tracks (composite fabrication) on the front of cockpit compatible with all major brands for numerous accessories including rod holders, fish finders and more.
“Let’s talk about features and the paddling performance of the Topwater kayaks. Short and wide kayaks don’t paddle well, right? Wrong.”
The deck is lined with a mat for traction and noise reduction that elegantly features the Old Town logo and a measuring ruler from 0-17 inches. Carrying over from its predecessors, the Predator line of kayaks, the Topwater has a recessed perpendicular molded in paddle keeper. This comes in very handy when needing to drop the paddle to pick up the rod and not have the paddle roll off your lap and into the water.
There is a flush mount rod holder on the right hand side of the boat which I have to say I initially thought was too close to the seat and would interfere with paddling, but that was not the case. I used this rod holder more than expected and it’s great for rigging or right after landing a fish; it’s right there when you need it.
There’s ample and logical storage under the seat for tackle and more. If that isn’t enough, on each side of the seat there’s a recessed area for a box of lures, cell phone, pliers and other accessories that need to be at reach, plus two cup holders.
I did say that comfort was a feature of this kayak and the seat is the foundation. The seat can be adjusted in a high or low position and is easily adjusted by using two straps on the back. I found myself very comfortable on the high position at all times, considering the 15 mph winds. The backrest is tall and adjustable and my back and legs were in great shape after many hours of paddling across the lake. Two more flush mount rod holders behind the seat compliment the fishing rod storage offering which can also be used for trolling as they angle the rods out.
The kayaks include a new “taco” style paddle keeper with an extra rubber clip that ensures your paddle will not float away. The rear tankwell is large and spacious with a recessed lip to accommodate a milk crate, backpack or small cooler. On this paddle test, I had the NRS Ambush bag, a large pelican case for a camera and a dry bag in the tank well of the 106 to better illustrate the capacity of the rear of the kayak.
Feature wise, there are no differences between the 106 and the 120 with the exception of the 120 being rudder compatible. The gain in length on the Topwater 120 is provided by extra space on the front and back of the kayak. The Topwater PDL will be offered in the 106 model with identical features on the deck of the boat plus the opening for the drive, the up, down and steering control of the rudder. Only the PDL versions of the 106 will be rudder compatible.
Who is this kayak for? For anyone who is looking for a quality fishing kayak. Whether you’re considering kayak fishing as a new venture, looking to add an alternative to your kayak fleet, or simply want the best for less, the Topwater line of kayaks will not let you down.
As mentioned above, the Topwater line of kayaks from Old Town is a fresh new take at an angling-oriented vessel designed from the ground up with maximum fishing applications at an affordable price.
Considering the history and reputation of Old Town, their quality and craftsmanship, and the performance of the Topwater kayak, $899 MSRP (106), $999 (120) and $1999 (PDL) make this new line of kayaks a serious contender to win the likes and respect of many novice and serious anglers as it did with me.