The Hobie Outback comes fitted with two 8” ‘Twist & Seal’ hatches, however hatch bags are only available as an optional extra on the 6” hatches. Having a hatch that opens into the hull of the kayak is only really useful when it comes to rigging access or perhaps stuffing a small dry bag in there. If it’s to be really useable it needs some sort of container to allow gear to be stored and not to roll around the inside of the kayak.
The only real solution I could find was to insert a collapsible ground bait bowl into the hull. I originally tried to insert the large version (32cm) of the Daiwa Airity bowl into through the centre 8” hatch. I managed to break the re-enforcing hoop in the process, perhaps if I’d inserted it via the front hatch that might not have happened!. However, it turned out that the bowl tended to collapse and move about, as well as not sitting well on the semi-cathedral hull shape of the Outback.
I liked the idea of a large soft bag inside the hull, though it needed to be supported to be useable. I decided to remove the centre hatch to check out the possibilities. I was pleasantly surprised at the makeup of the hatch. The hatch cover is held in place with self-tapping screws (initially not a pleasing thought), though it transpired that these screws pass directly through the hull into a circular backing plate. This wasn’t expected and potentially made a solution far easier.
I removed the metal support hoop from the canvas bowl before making a small incision and removing the broken hoop. The same method could be used after cutting an intact hoop with a pair of wire cutters. The bowl was about 2” larger in diameter than the circular backing plate for the hatch. I removed some material (triangular cuts) from the top edge of the bowl by making it possible to ‘neatly’ fold the bowl edges over the backing plate. I used Evo-Stik 528 impact adhesive to glue the edges of the bowl onto the upper surface of the backing ring.
To neaten the job up and to provide an even sealing surface when re-fitting the bag, I added a ring of neoprene to the top of the bag.
Basically that was the job completed, however, I carry a hand operated bilge pump on the kayak. This raised the question of how would I pump water from the kayak when the centre hatch had a waterproof hatch bag fixed into place?. This was a concern so I decided to add mesh panels into the sides on the bag. I purchased some plastic mesh design to keep leaves out of rain gutters.
I removed a couple of pieces of the bowl using a sharp knife. The bowl is constructed with a plastic type outer material with a mesh inner layer. The plastic mesh was slipped in between these two layers and glued into place using contact adhesive. I found it best to do one edge at a time, a little time consuming, though it results in a neat finish. Should the kayak flood internally, the hatch bag will also flood. This still permits me to use a manual bilge pump through the centre 8” hatch. The vented panels will also permit air flow which will aid drying when the kayak is in storage.
The above photo shows two mesh panels at the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock positions, the finished item has four panels, with the other two at the 3 & 9 o’clock positions.
The bag assembly weighs very little and inserted through the front hatch and pushed back into position. It’s just a case of then screwing it back into place. That’s the job completed and the finished product cost around £10. It provides a huge amount of useable internal storage space, especially when you compare it to a standard manufacturers hatch bag.
The photograph above perhaps doesn’t do the bag justice. The hatch opening is 8”, the bag diameter internally is almost 13” and the bag depth is 8”... that’s over 20 litres (4.4 gallons, UK/5.3 gallons, USA).
As the Hobie Outback has a Mirage Drive fitted, the kayak is lacking a centre console. For years I used to keep my cutting board mounted on the centre console of the Big Game which meant it was always to hand. I really wanted a fixed cutting board on the Outback though it was a case of making something unobtrusive, close to hand and that could be removed when not needed. A bit of a tall order I guess, though after looking over the kayak I decided it was doable. There’s a length of GearTrac fitted on the right hand side of the kayak to allow the easy fitment and removal of a FF/GPS, camera, etc.
In the photo above the GearTrac is visible to the right, just ahead of the forward rod holder and rudder lowering control. I’d removed the cap covering the rod holder in order to provide a flat working surface.
I took a piece of nylon cutting board and cut it to shape to fit on the area between the GearTrac and the kayak lifting handle (visible to the far left in the above photo). A Mighty Mount was mounted onto the cutting board at the forward edge, this facilitated quick and easy fitment/removal to the GearTrac with the use of a T-bolt. To finish off the cutting board I mount a knife beneath the board, the knife being attach with a lanyard to prevent loss overboard.
As can be seen in the above photograph the chopping board covers the rudder lowering control. This isn’t a big deal at the chopping board can be fixed once anchored or once afloat and fishing. The rudder control can still be easily released with the cutting board in position if required. It can be fitted and removed in seconds and early trials proved very positive.
The Hobie Outback isn’t full rigged yet, I’m still awaiting for some gear from YakAttack to arrive along with a Combo FF/GPS unit from Lowrance. However, it was quite capable of fishing and not only was I itching to get afloat, the weather was also perfect!.
The plan was to fish Wednesday afternoon into the evening before sleeping in the car overnight and heading out very early for a morning session. I double checked the tides the day before and looking back I can clearly remember ticking the box to add an hour for BST!. I have no idea why I did it, though it explained why the tide was far higher than I expected when I arrived at the Blue Anchor in north Somerset. Ah well, I never said I was perfect!
Once I’d realised my mistake I was rigged up in double quick time and heading down the slipway, eager to launch. So eager in fact that I forgot to take photos of the newly rigged kayak. With the kayak off the trolley I was thinking to myself, ‘a short paddle to deeper water and I’ll drop in the Mirage Drive’. Looking at the kayak there was no paddle… it was still in the back of the car!. I’d worked up a little sweat after jogging to the car and back again, better than being cold I guess!.
Despite these minor hiccups I was soon afloat and heading out to sea. The small swell that was present caused the bow of the Outback to dig in a little, the concave hatch cover funnelling water into the foot well area. This was a little unexpected, not what I was used to, though the large Mirage Drive mounting hole disposed of the water in the blink of an eye.
After a brief chat to a fellow kayak angler a few hundred yards offshore I headed out to deeper water. As mentioned this was the first time I’d taken the Hobie afloat armed with fishing gear so it was very much an opportunity to find out what worked and what didn’t. The anchor was soon deployed, and with the trolley locked of I was ready to fish. A couple of folk had questioned the fitting of the anchor connection point (stainless ring) on the upper trolley line. Normally this would be placed on the lower line, though I was forced to place it in the upper line to get the anchor setup I wanted. As can be seen in the above photo it works just fine.
Baits for the day were a fillet of mackerel on one rod and a large whole unwashed squid on the other, both mounted onto running ledger 6/0 Pennel rigs with a short wire trace. Where to store my frozen bait was a slight issue. I managed to fit a small cooler bag into the centre 8” hatch though I didn’t consider ideal, I preferred having the small marine box behind me that I’ve used for the past few years, something that I’ll probably revert to.
In the above photograph you can see a small chopping board fitted next to the paddle. It’s something that I made last week and it can be fitted and removed in seconds, I’ll cover how it’s made and mounted in a later article. It was the first time that I’ve pedalled this kayak with the Turbo Fin upgrade and it really does make a big difference. As much as the Mirage Drive is very effective, it does deny you a centre console. Previously I’d used the centre console on the Big Game to position my bait box/cutting board. I trialled another setup which didn’t really work for me so I’ll try something else on my next outing. Trial and error, I’ll get there in the end.
The foot wells hold a little water, though nothing that’s going to make the fishing experience uncomfortable. The seating position is high and dry so you’re always sitting well clear of the water. The seat base has a slight tendency to slip back if you shuffle backwards, though this is easily pulled forward as required.
In the above photograph you can see a T-Bar and a set of lip grips on a leash. I also had a set of pliers and scissors mounted on the left hand side in one of the moulded trays. It’s just a case of fitting accessories here and there and see how the setup works. I reckon it’ll take 3-4 trips to get the kayak setup exactly how I want it.
The first half hour was slow, though a tip eventually nodded over and I was hooked into a lively Conger Eel. It turned out to be quite small, though in the flooding tide it gave a decent enough account of itself. The sport continued and I managed a total of six eels before the water slackened, indicating high water was approaching fast.
The photograph above was of the first eel, taken before the light started to fade fast. It was only a few pounds, though they increased in size, the best fish being around 17lb. At times it can be unclear as to what size eel you’re hooked up to. Some eels come up quite easily and don’t decide to fight to higher in the water, though the majority tend to be lively from the word go. The target species had been Cod, though I was lacking Lugworm so my chances were greatly reduced in my eyes. However, catching conger for a few hours provides some great entertainment!
As the tide slackened the Conger disappeared and smaller fish started hitting the baits. Thankfully the Dogfish weren’t there in great numbers with only a couple of small fish coming to the kayak.
As the tide turned onto the ebb the fishing picked up once more. I hooked into a couple more Conger eels and I managed to bag two small Thornback rays. No big fish, though it was steady sport and it’s always better than blanking!. That said, the weather was excellent for this time of year and it was quite simply a pleasure being out there.
For a first trial fish on the Hobie Outback it went pretty well. There’s a few things that I wasn’t happy with and that I need to change. I’d inserted a large collapsible ground bait bowl into the centre 8” hatch for storage purposes. However, the bag tended to collapse and move about making it far from ideal. I’ve plans to place a fixed storage back in that position, though it needs to be large and will need a little thought. I used the Hobie livewell for dry storage, though it wasn’t high enough to permit larger items such as a flask to be placed in there. I made my own dry box some time ago and it’s far better suited to the job. I need to look at where I’m going to store frozen bait, again, a little thought will be needed to come up with a suitable solution.
I’ve still got to wire up the kayak and provide connection points for a FF/GPS and navigation lights. Hopefully this will all be completed by the end of this month and I’ll be fully up and running once more.