I have spent a bit of time rock climbing in Western North Carolina, and beaching in Eastern NC. I also attended Appalachian State University, in Boone, for 2 years. I love North Carolina; bbq, rivers, mountains, coasts and companies. So, I was psyched when the opportunity presented itself to pedal the new Native Watercraft Slayer Propel, a week or two after Astral sent me the Ronny Fisher PFD. It was a full on North Cackalackey party!
Clay Hardin, our Native Watercraft Rep, rolled into Farmville on Tuesday with the Slayer Propel. He dropped it off around 3pm and gave us a quick run through.
The lowdown: The comfy Native First Class seat does not have a HI/LOW option like the standard Slayer, but instead locks into a groove track with Bolt Knobs, that allow you to move the seat fore and aft. This adjustment lets you find your comfort zone with the pedal system. The seat is elevated enough, so that your hips line up more ergonomically with the Propel.
The demo Slayer had the seat organizer attached underneath the First Class chair, which was perfect for storing my fish grips and pliers. They were right there, ready for action. The Slayer still has accessory tracks lining almost the entire kayak, allowing for maximum customization. The handles were shifted off the track and made man-handling the boat easier. Clay gave me the instructions on raising and lowering the 1:10 ratio Propel while also pointing out the shorter crank arms. I was psyched to check out the forward and reverse abilities of this freshly designed system.
I immediately looked at Tom, our GM, and said, " I'm thinking about missing work tomorrow."
"Get photos, video footage and catch a dang fish," was his reply.
I went to work on Thursday morning to meet a Google Certified Pro Photographer, but I was itching to get on the road. I rolled out around 11am and rolled into the ARC-Hampton store about 2pm. After talking with Victor, the ARC-Hampton GM, I headed out, aiming to hit the salt around Hampton, before meeting Mark Lozier at Ocean's East Tackle in VA Beach.
I pushed for the bridge. The sky darkened and I paddled out casting around on occasion just to get the feel of the kayak. I paddled it with my Bending Branches Angler Pro paddle for awhile at the start, and was surprised at how well the boat responded without the propel system deployed. ( Just remember to line the rudder up straight when paddling.)
The rudder is non-retractable, moving side to side with the rudder control handle operating left to right as well (this is different than the Mariner). When I dropped the propel, I found the kayak to be very responsive, with the rudder working efficiently.
I ventured out to the lights of the HRBT for the first time. The Slayer felt so stable, I had no reservations about paddling out into a new area on a solo mission. (This is not recommended, at all! Â Please paddle safely and assume your own level of risk.)
I cast around, testing the kayak out around the pilings. Something bit half my PTL Swinging Hammer in half, but I scored no fish. Â I had to meet Mark soon, so I started pedaling back. I stopped short of the take out and cast across a cut that I'd noticed earlier. Boom! Something tagged my bait, and then shook it lose. I regrouped and cast again. It was game on.
In my short kayak fishing exp., I've caught a decent Speck in NC, and some good fish in FL, but I'd never fished salt in VA before this trip. (Crazy, I know!) I've spend most of my time on freshwater, fishing for bass. So, I was psyched about my first VA Redfish! I know it wasn't big by the VA standards, but it felt good to get the first one under my belt.
After snapping some shots, I released him, and loaded up for the drive to Ocean's East. Mark Lozier is a Native Watercraft Endorsed Guide who runs his own guide service, 1st Landing Kayak Fishing Services, and is the Asst. Manager at Ocean's East. If you've read this blog, you know that Mark has always been super welcoming to me as I've ventured into the kayak fishing world.
We met at the store, drove to his house, picked up his wife, Kris, and headed to Lynnhaven. We had a slow evening, about 3 hours total, but I had a chance to test the Slayer in some strong current. Holy Cow! It was ripping through there. I would cast out , my bait would hit the water, and be behind me in seconds. The Slayer Propel was awesome. Â I could sit out in the middle of the current and use the forward/reverse Propel to hold my position. The Slayer really shined. It was the reason Mark chose that area.
Mark took a spin in the Slayer, remarking on how comfortable the new propel system felt and how easy it was to stand in. Watching Mark whip around in the Slayer, you could tell he'd spent a lot of time on the water. It was a real pleasure to finally fish with him and Kris and I look forward to doing it again real soon. Good people doing good things.
After a solid parking lot hang, we parted ways and I crashed in Hampton for the evening. I awoke early and headed back to Farmville. Clay was picking the boat up at 11am. I stopped outside of town at 9:30am and slipped the Slayer into Sandy River Reservoir to get some daylight footage of the kayak maneuvering around. I cast a few times, but caught nothing, besides a beastly stick. ;)
I loaded up the Slayer, (at 75lbs w/o the seat- I can military press it), around 10:45am, and headed back to ARC-Farmville to return the boat to Clay. And while all the moving around probably cost me the chance to land a bunch of fish, I got to test the Slayer in 3 different bodies of water, I got to visit some good friends and I caught a personal angling first, a Virginia Redfish. I want more!
The negatives about the kayak: The rudder was not as responsive as I would have liked. There was nowhere to hold my paddle when I didn't need it. I ended up shoving it under the stern bungee, up against my Yak Attack WhitePak. That's it!
The Native Watercraft Slayer Propel surprised me a little bit. I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. This is a solid rig, for fishing or leisure. I found the kayak to be very stable. The rudder was adequately efficient. The propel system was FAST! I really like the flush mount on the right side of the seat. The reverse was fantastic! Not only did it operate like a brake when coming in hot, but the transition from forward to back was pretty seamless. Being able to hold position with a few backwards pedal strokes is nice. The seat is plush. The storage is huge, and the kayak paddles well without the Propel. I could also carry it around (a total of 20 yards at one point) and military press it onto the roof of my truck.
Here is some video action, an alternative version to the heavy metal one we put out earlier:
A lot of folks want to hear about comparisons. I'm not going to do it. I haven't pedaled any of the kayaks enough to offer that up publicly. I suspect like kayaks in general, everyone will have there preferences. I have mine. Next time we are having a beer together, if you're curious about my thoughts, ask me. Tom and Brian Vande Sande also pedaled the Slayer for a spell. So, come shop at Appomattox River Company, we'll give ya the full rundown.