BECAUSE my recent annual winter road trips have coincided with the Brisbane Boat Show, it’s been several years since I’ve been able to attend.
There was no clashing of calendars this year though, so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to visit the show. A lap around the show’s four halls in the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre revealed, no surprise, boats – a lot of boats. As I wasn’t shopping for a new boat, I was drawn to a few marine dealers’ stands with electronics on display. Having been a sonar user since my first canoe-mounted Fish ID unit in the mid-eighties, I enjoy tinkering with the latest depth sounding gadgetry. I was greatly impressed with the quality and features of entry-level units (compared to the Lego-like display of the 64 vertical pixel, grey display of the first-generation LCD sounders). In fact, I was so impressed with the offerings from Lowrance that I grabbed a combo colour sounder/GPS unit to upgrade the one on my kayak (for the princely sum of $99).
Having fished from canoes and kayaks since before that was a thing, I don’t need chartplotters, side scan or the other niceties of advanced units to find fish or fishing spots. Waypoints from previous outings is all I require from a GPS, and a good sonar display of raw data with enough resolution to pick up thermoclines and bait aggregations will keep me happily catching fish. With a new sounder for the kayak and a replacement EPIRB for one about to expire in the tinnie, I left the electronics stands to find myself at the most impressive display at the show: the Hobie stand.
As well as what appeared to be one of every Hobie kayak and stand-up paddleboard in the range, the stand featured a large indoor pool for ‘test drives’. Several fishing kayaks caught my eye, starting with the recently redesigned baby of the fleet, the 2.9m Sport. Weighing in at 28kg, the Sport is easy to get onto the roof racks of an off-road vehicle, even for us grey-haired fishos. Despite its small size, the Sport is a fully featured fishing platform with water-tight internal storage, moulded rod holders, adjustable seat with ergonomic backrest and of course, the brilliant Mirage pedal drive system.
Next to pique my interest was the newest addition to the line-up, the 3.6m Hobie Compass, designed to be the entry-level model of the range. Noticeably larger but only 3kg heavier than the Sport, the new Compass is a sleek kayak with lines reminiscent of the Revolution, producing a stable yet fast fishing platform. Like most of the range, the Compass includes a transducer cavity for ease of installation of one of the range of compact Lowrance sounders. Hobie manufactures a sounder installation kit, which includes a purpose-built battery box, rechargeable battery (with a charger), and all the peripheral hardware.
Being the entry-level model, the Compass is more affordable than the rest of the line-up of roto-moulded, sit-on-top kayaks. This may be the budget model, but it is a very functional fishing vessel that doesn’t lack in features.
Over at the test pool, yet another model caught my eye, the Inflatable 11, a flat-decked sit-on-top kayak with some of the unique Hobie features. What really interested me about the Inflatable 11 was its weight (just 16kg) and the ability to pack it into a carry bag only 91cm long. You could even get this one into the cargo hold on a commercial flight if you desired. The Inflatable 11 comes with front and rear deck storage, the very comfortable C Ti seat, twist and stow rudder and the brilliant new 180-degree mirage pedal drive system.
Oh, and then there was the new incarnation of the old favourite Outback, the huge Pro-Angler 17T, the Compass Duo, the sleek little Revolution 11 and oh, so many other great fishing and touring craft to drool over.