For some - especially beginners - it's not so much a question of whether or not they want a Hobie kayak... most customers we speak to already know they want a pedal-powered kayak. But not everyone knows which model will best suit their needs. It can be a bit daunting to be faced with so many models but the truth is that there are all these different models for a reason; it's all about horses for courses. One of the primary directives when buying a kayak is to purchase a kayak that will suit your intended usage scenario. So before even looking at any kayaks, the first point to set straight is what the kayak is going to be used for and then identify which ones will suit.
It's not as simple as just saying 'I want a kayak for fishing, therefore I want a fishing kayak'. Where and how the kayak is going to be used is actually more important. All of the Hobie kayaks can be customized for fishing (even the inflatables). What can't be customized (much) is the overall feel or capability of the boat. And getting a kayak that provides the right kind of ride is the most important issue to address. This is why a lot of dealers will encourage you to take a demo ride on a couple of models. If that option is available to you, it's well worth doing because taking a test ride will answer a lot of your questions. Beware, however, that a demo ride won't tell you everything and I think it's important for beginners to go into with the understanding that although they may be a bit concerned about tipping out at first, the vast majority soon become accustom to the experience of kayaking and at that point, stability usually isn't much of an issue. Besides... all of the Hobie kayaks are relatively stable, from the Sport through to the Pro Angler. That said if stability is high on your list of priorities, then there are definitely a few models that you might want to prioritize on your 'maybe' list.
If you're torn between the idea of getting a solo or tandem kayak, you're not alone - it's a common dilemma. Many people considering getting a tandem kayak think or know that for some of the time at least, they'll want to use it solo. Truth is most tandem kayaks (Hobie or otherwise) can be used solo. But it should also be noted that tandem kayaks are always best used with 2 passengers. For an optimal solo kayaking experience, a single-person kayak will always reign supreme. So even though most tandems will allow you to get out there on your own, you can't expect it to perform as well as a solo would. If you're faced with this dilemma, consider the fact that a few of the solo kayaks can actually be adapted to carry 2 passengers in a squeeze (Adventure, Outback and Pro Angler).
The solo or double dilemma can make for a tough decision. But typically, the best advice ends up being this: if you have the need to put 2 bums in seats, and you have the ability to manage 2 kayaks (transport may be an issue) and the budget to cover it, chances are you're better off with 2 kayaks instead. There are always exceptions to this rule, but generally speaking, a decision to go for 2 solo kayaks is less likely to lead to a premature sell-off on eBay. Thankfully, Hobie kayaks do hold their value well, so if you do end up making the wrong decision you can always turn to eBay, get most of your money back and start again. But ideally, you want to get it right the first time around. So let’s look at each model a little closer and hopefully at the end of this article you'll have a really good idea of the usage scenarios the various Hobie kayaks are well suited for. Before moving on to the Mirage kayaks, however, the standard paddle kayaks deserve a mention here as well.
The Lanai is Hobie's entry level kayak, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's any less quality than Hobie's most expensive. Like all hobie kayaks, the Lanai is roto-moulded from Canadian-bred super-linear 2 polyethylene and comes standard with a backrest seat, paddle, drink bottle and dry bag. The only thing it's short on is length. At a mere 9', the Lanai is a lightweight maneuverable kayak that tracks surprisingly well (short kayaks are notorious for poor tracking) due to its pronounced keel-line that runs from bow to stern.
Due to its 'California hull' soft-chine hull shape, the Lanai offers both high levels of primary and secondary stability, making it a great beginner’s kayak. Its length and weight make it an attractive option for those looking for a small, light and maneuverable kayak. It is, however, also one of the slowest kayaks in Hobie's fleet and is not a good choice for the ambitious kayaker. And although it could easily be fitted with a couple of rod holders, it hasn't been designed with fishing in mind, offering only limited storage and usable deck space.
The same could be said for the Maui, which is a bit longer, but not quite as wide as the Lanai. Another recreation kayak, the Maui is notably faster than the Lanai, but with more of a rounded bottom, doesn't offer the same sort of primary stability. On the flipside, it does have good secondary stability. A more experienced kayaker - especially one who paddles a bit further, and in a greater variety of environments - will likely prefer a Maui to a Lanai. The Maui also features a deep molded recess for scuba tank storage, so it holds appeal to divers for that reason. The Maui is a good all-rounder for aquatic recreation and probably the pick of Hobie's fleet for yakking in the surf.
The Quest is the next model in Hobie's paddle range and this is clearly the pick of the bunch for most fishing applications. At 13', it's got enough length to get moving, largely helped with a hydrodynamic bow that slices into chop effortlessly and it's flat-bottom soft-chine shape glides through the water smoothly. With plenty of deck space, storage space and numerous mounting options, the Quest is a highly capable kayak that is pretty much at home in almost any usage scenario. Unlike the Maui or Lanau, the Quest does have flush molded rod holders and more than enough room to store the big catch (either in the front hatch, or in the rear storage well behind the seat). For those kayak anglers that prefer the simplicity of a traditional kayak, the Quest is a great proposition.
Then there are the two tandem paddle kayaks - the Kona and the Odyssey, both of which share many features. Among them is the ability for a seat to be positioned in a centre position for solo use. So as far as tandem kayaks go, these ones actually fare pretty well for solo use. The former is more of a recreational kayak, the latter more of a touring design. The Kona is a bit shorter and wider, so although giving up a bit of speed, it makes up in primary stability. The Odyssey is the least stable of all Hobie tandem kayaks and is probably not a great choice for buddy kayak fishing because of it - especially if one or both buddies are relatively new to it all. Neither the Kona or Odyssey have molded-in rod holders, but both have numerous options for adding appendages.
It would be true to say that most punters with kayak fishing on their mind are more interested in the pedal-powered mirage kayaks and for this reason, the Outfitter and Oasis out-sell their paddle-only counterparts, despite being a lot more expensive. Of the two tandem mirage models, the Outfitter is easily the most popular for kayak fishing. It's easy to see why - it's wide and stable, has loads of utility space and makes for a very spacious and comfortable fishing and kayak experience. This kayak is very well suited for fishing in creeks, rivers, lakes and estuaries, though it should be noted that it isn't a great choice for fishing out wide in the ocean - especially if it's rough and choppy.
The Oasis hull (09 model onwards - not 08 and earlier) is far better suited to kayaking in rougher waters, being higher, drier, smoother and faster. It also has a better load carrying capacity and far more storage options, making it a much better choice for kayak camping expeditions. Although it doesn't have utility trays in the gunwales like the Outfitter, it is easier to paddle. And although the Outfitter has a higher degree of primary stability, the broader and softer chines of the Oasis give it excellent secondary stability. Don't be fooled into thinking you can't go fishing from an Oasis - you can. All that is required is a rod holder or two bolted onto the deck, into a position of your choosing. I think it's important to mention here that some dealers overlook the Oasis as a potential fishing kayak because it looks more like a touring model (the Outfitter is easier to sell). Some dealers don't even carry the Oasis, which is a shame, because it was vastly improved in the 09 series (and has always been a great yak). If you want a pedal-powered tandem and you like the idea of using the paddles, doing longer distances, going on a kayak camping trip, or simply prefer a smoother, faster ride, the Oasis will probably suit you better than the Outfitter.
Then again... you might just be better off with 2 solo kayaks instead. Perhaps because they are more expensive than traditional kayaks, one of the most commonly asked questions about the mirage kayaks is "what's the cheapest?". The short answer to that question is the Sport but the long answer might go a bit like 'that depends on whether or not you buy right the first time around'. My point here is that although the Sport is a couple hundred dollars or so cheaper than the next two models, it's not a good idea to select the sport simply because it is cheaper if it's not as suitable for your needs. The Sport is a great kayak for those who are short and light enough to fit it (max carrying capacity 104kg) and aren't intending to break any speed or distance records.
That said, for its size, the Sport is incredibly capable of putting in the miles on flat water. In rivers, lakes, protected bays and estuaries, the Sport performs surprisingly well. Thanks to its mere 9' length, it also turns on a dime. But it is not a great performer in choppy water, so it's not really a great choice for fishing in the open ocean. Stability is not the issue (far from it) but more so it's ability to traverse choppy water efficiently. It's just not long or hydrodynamic enough to cut the mustard when the going gets rough. The Sport is really a flat-water kayak only.
The Outback is the natural step-up from the Sport, very similar in shape and design, only longer, larger & heavier and has a lot more storage options. This kayak is very popular among anglers and it's easy to see why. A lot of people are attracted to the Outback for its fantastic stability, which makes sense. It also has plenty of utility space for installation of everything from rod holders to electronics and blessed with an abundance of room and weight carrying capacity, the Outback is well suited to larger users. This kayak is most at home in flat water conditions, but is fine for fishing out just beyond the breakers or around headlands on good days.
Whilst the Outback is certainly capable of reaching higher speeds than the sport - and admiral speeds by any fishing kayak's standards - it isn't as fast or as hydrodynamic as the Revolution and Adventure models. So it's not the best choice for fishing out wide - especially in windier conditions. Because it has a lot of freeboard, it is also more likely to be pushed around by higher winds and it would require more effort to paddle & pedal longer distances. Due to its hull shape, the Outback (Outfitter & Sport included) will bounce over chop and generate 'hull-slap' as the bow crashes over the waves. And while the Outback sure pedals nicely it's not a great paddling kayak - the included paddle is really more for back up, not primary propulsion.
But for those who like the idea of pedaling but can see themselves electing to use the paddle a fair bit, the Revolution is worth looking at. This kayak - modeled upon the success of the Quest - is Hobie's hybrid mirage drive kayak and has a lot going for it. To put it in a nutshell, the Revo is smooth, fast, stable, relatively lightweight, highly maneuverable and pretty well suited for a myriad of kayaking applications, including fishing off shore. It's also a great performer on creeks, rivers & estuaries. With a more hydrodynamic bow shape, it also pierces waves more so than bounces over them, making for a smoother ride when the water gets a bit lumpy.
The Revolution is the ideal kayak for anyone who finds themselves torn between the Outback and Adventure, bridging the gap in between nicely. It’s faster than the Outback but shorter, lighter and more maneuverable than the Adventure. Although primary stability isn't as solid as the Outback, the Revo's soft round chines give it excellent secondary stability - so potential buyers shouldn't be so quick to choose an Outback over a Revo based upon impressions of stability alone (many do).
It is common for potential buyers to get torn between the Outback and Revolution models, but the Revo is in fact much closer to the Adventure in terms of performance and capability. Capability is the key word when discussing the Adventure kayak, for this is surely Hobie's most capable kayak. Due to both its length and shape the Adventure is the fastest solo kayak in Hobie's fleet and is easily the most suited for use in open water. Its slim lines lend itself to paddling as much as pedaling and with a high degree of hydrodynamics, the Adventure slices through water nicely. It also handles following seas better than the Revo (the sloppier it is the more noticeable the difference). Whilst being slightly narrower in width than the Revo, the Adventure makes up for this with a lower user gravity centre and is thus quite stable and particularly so on the secondary scale.
Although the Adventure isn't quite as maneuverable as any of the other solo kayaks, don't be fooled into thinking it cannot be used in rivers and creeks because of it. The Adventure is not just a sea-kayak only and it can be turned easily - more so if the rudder is upgraded with a sailing rudder (highly recommended for almost any Hobie mirage kayak).
If you're looking at Hobie kayaks and are tossing up between an Adventure or Revolution, ask yourself if you can ever see yourself doing any kayak sailing. Because if the idea does grab you, bear in mind that the Adventure can be turned into an Adventure Island down the track (using an AI upgrade kit) and sailing one of these is a quantum leap forward from using a standard Hobie kayak sail kit. The potential upgrade path for the Adventure is higher. Because it is so capable and versatile, the Adventure truly is an aptly named kayak. If the term 'adventure' captures the experience you're looking for then yes, this very well may be the kayak for you.
This brings us to the Adventure Island, which incorporates the Adventure kayak hull. The AI is a trimaran, a sea kayak and an outrigger - 3 boats in one. This easily makes it the most versatile & modular boat in Hobie's fleet (that statement includes their catamarans) so it's easy to see why it is becoming so popular. For starters, everything just mentioned about the Adventure kayak applies - just leave the akas, amas and sail behind and you have a traditional kayak at your disposal.
But if you fit on one pair of akas and an ama, suddenly you have an outrigger yak that offers unsurpassed stability for fishing - ideal for fishing in any conditions. Alternatively the entire thing can be rigged with 2 amas and sail kit for trimaran sailing action. The furling mainsail system is very handy for trolling purposes and of course the overall sailing capability allows for impressive speeds, bringing islands and reefs (that are otherwise inaccessible by paddling/pedaling) into range. They are simply fantastic for fishing (although doing so with sail and both amas attached requires a bit of forethought) and once experienced & mastered it is hard to go back. The AI is the ultimate kayak fishing platform for off shore adventuring. There's simply nothing else in the same neighborhood.
Speaking of kayaks that have no equal, Hobie's Pro Angler is their newest addition to the fleet and has clearly been designed for serious anglers. I'm hesitant to refer to this craft as a kayak and instead prefer to call it a fishing platform. This thing has loads of features, many of them highly useful for tournament fishing applications. Indeed - the PA is quickly earning a reputation as the Hobie fishing kayak of choice for tournament use and for several reasons. First and foremost, this craft has storage nailed, in every department. Fish storage, tackle storage, rod storage and gear storage - the PA accommodates it all (it can carry up to pre-rigged 8 rods... 6 of them horizontally) and offers loads if usable deck space, so installation of optional extras is a breeze.
The PA is also incredibly stable and is partly why I like to refer to it as a platform - that stability makes the boat feel like a platform, allowing the user to stand up without fear of tipping it over. It is easily stable enough to stand up and sight cast, which can be both tactically advantageous and also refreshing as well. After all, it's good to be able to stand up and stretch the legs now and then. That's not to say that the seat isn't comfortable though - it's a throne by fishing kayak standards.
Despite its width and mass, the PA is surprisingly hydrodynamic, with a bow shape not unlike that of an aircraft carrier. For this reason it does push through choppy water surprisingly well and this, coupled with its stability make it a pretty comfortable ride, even when the water gets a bit sloppy. It does have a lot of freeboard, however, and can be heavily affected by the wind. Because of this, the PA isn't really a good choice for fishing out wide. Like the Outback, it is more restricted to calmer days and or shorter distances when fishing in the ocean.
Perhaps the most obvious downside to the PA is its bulk and weight. Whilst it isn't impossible to car-top this boat, it isn't exactly easy either. If you absolutely positively have to have a PA, then you might want to think about using a trailer as well. Rack & Roll offer what they call an RRLEG heavy-load support bar recommended for usage with their loading systems and below you can watch Scott Lovig demonstrating how to load a Pro Angler using his suction cup car-top loading system.