Friday, January 2, 2009

A Small Solution to a Big Problem

Captain Sergio Garcia was eager to give the Hobie a shot. In the water it went and in minutes he was being towed around by a tuna.

Hobie Mirage i9S Inflatable Bridges the Gap

I frequently spend the night in remote areas as I travel up and down the Baja peninsula in my Roadtrek, a practice which allows me to take advantage of the opportunities to fish on pristine, virtually unfished beaches. The satisfaction of catching quality fish from shore can be exhilarating, but many times the fish are frantically feeding just out of casting range. In the past, my options were to tow a small boat, carry a float tube device or maybe carry a kayak on top. While allowing me to bridge that gap from beach to offshore, these options are hardly worth the hassle as my goal is to be able to stop and quickly take advantage of a fishing opportunity.
Last July, at the world’s largest sportfishing trade show, the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades in La Vegas, better known as ICAST, Hobie Kayaks PR Director, Ingrid Niehaus, introduced me to their latest kayak, the 9’ Inflatable Hobie Mirage i-9S. Weighing only 53 pounds, the Hobie quickly inflates and deflates and comes standard with a rolling travel bag designed to be transported in cars, trucks, RV's, or boats. Its small dimensions makes it easy to store in condos or any other place where space is limited. The travel bag is within allowable dimensions for air travel with a slight surcharge for extra weight.

But more importantly, the Hobie MirageDrive is simple and easy to use. Your feet rest naturally on pedals similar to a bicycle. You use your leg muscles to pedal (or paddle), freeing your hands for casting. The pedal mechanism is connected to two underwater flippers, which are similar to penguin wings. The steering is controlled via the left side, and it has a fingertip-controlled twist and tow rudder system. The pedaling is quiet and creates no splash.

Let me be clear, I fish first and I wasn’t looking for a new fishing platform. The technical aspects of ‘kayaking’ are best left to experts like Paul Lebowitz,, WON Kayak Chronicles. My interest was not in kayaking, but in being able to take advantage of fishing opportunities which had eluded me in the past.

When I took delivery of my kayak last September, Vince Console, Fishing Product Manager, gave me a quick course in Inflatable Kayak 101. Out the Hobie popped from its travel bag and in just a few minutes, Vince had it inflated using the hand pump that was part of the package. After demonstrating the patented Mirage Drive, Vince had covered the basic features of the boat and it was deflated, packed and loaded into the Roadtrek.

On the first trip I made with the Hobie down Mex 1, I spotted a handful of baitballs with birds diving into the fray as I zipped down the hill overlooking Bahia de ConcepciĆ³n. I pulled off on a small beach and unloaded the Hobie. In minutes I was on the water, pedaling toward crashing fish with a flyrod in hand. The hands-free operation of the kayak allowed me to work the edges and it was full on fishing for a couple of hours. Yellowtail, roosterfish and small barracuda were all easy marks for my fly. I lost count of the number of fish I caught before I returned to the van.

The Hobie and I have made several trips since that first one. I become bolder (with maybe a hint of dependency) as I increase my skill and confidence.
I just returned from an offshore trip at Magdalena Bay and yep! I loaded up the Hobie on the boat heading for Thetis Bank and deep sea fishing. It wasn’t long before we were in a WFO tuna bite in flat calm seas. Captain Sergio Garcia was eager to give the Hobie a shot. In the water it went and in minutes he was being towed around by a tuna.

Most kayaks have a “show me what you’ve have” feel requiring some technical skills; the Hobie with the MirageDrive is more a “let me help you” kind of kayak…which was just what I was looking for!