The Hobie “Mirage” Outback Fish Kayak has been out for quite some time now, but I could never find a decent review. So after putting it through the paces for the last year here is my review of the Hobie Mirage Hank Parker Outback Fish kayak (2008 model).
I remember, back in the day, sitting on my couch one cold Sunday morning, I watched Hank Parker skim across a lake and fish in this weird sit-on-top (SOT) kayak and he was PEDDLING the kayak like a bicycle. Being an avid cyclist as well, I was captivated by this thing and said to myself, “I have to have one!” So I did a little research via the internet. I found the “Hank Parker” kayak and my eyes popped out of my skull when I saw the SRP (suggested retail price), I think it was about $1,299 back then. At that time I already owned a bass boat and a 10’ sit-in kayak that I fished from it with relative success…the Hobie was a cool kayak but I didn’t need one that bad.
Fast forward to 2008, burnt out from fishing local bass tournaments where it just seemed like I was giving local guides my money every month. I decided simplify my fishing and sell the bass boat once and for all. I headed straight to my local Hobie dealer, Action Watersports in Auburndale Florida (www.actionwatersports.net). I knew what I wanted when walked in the door, the Hobie Mirage Hank Parker Outback Fish Kayak. The price had increased to $1,499 (cough) which is still very expensive for a kayak. Is it worth the price? The short answer is YES. Why? Read on and I’ll explain.
The Mirage “Fish” version of the Hobie kayaks is not much different than the “regular” version of Hobie’s Mirage kayaks. Rather the “Fish” versions come in more subtle “fishy” colors, like moss green, bone, and burnt orange and are specifically designed for fishing. Oh yea, and Hank’s “signature” is embossed on each side of his Outback version.
Here are the vital specs of the Hobie Mirage HP Outback:
- Length: 12’1” / 3.68m
- Width: 33” / 0.84m
- Mirage Drive Weight: 6.6lbs / 3kg
- Hull Weight: 62lbs / 28.12kg
- Capacity: 400lbs / 181kg
The Mirage drive is the heart of Mirage version of Hobie kayaks, and the reason why these kayaks are so expensive. The Mirage drive is the ingeniously engineered and efficient propulsion system that allows you to pedal the kayak like a bike using the large thigh and buttock muscles saving your arms and shoulders (for fishing). The Mirage drive is a separate unit that is inserted into the kayak hull and locks into place with two turn-knobs. Your feet rest on the bicycle style pedals and are held in place with adjustable straps (very similar to an exercise bike). If you want to go “old school” and paddle, a molded insert is included to plug into the Mirage drive slot.
But why would anyone want to use the paddles? There is no way I could paddle as fast or travel as far if it were not for the Mirage drive, even at a casual pace. I’ve never gauged the average speed of my kayak, but it’s pretty safe to say that its way faster than I’ll ever paddle. If you desire even more speed, Hobie sells larger performance fins to achieve “ludicrous speed”. One more note on the Mirage drive, and probably the most important; at full extension the mirage drive fins extend approximately 15” from the bottom of the kayak. However, in the neutral position they tuck up nicely to the hull of the kayak. So, if you find yourself in shallow water you can rest the fins in the neutral position and peddle with shorter strokes.
The layout of the HP Outback is well thought out and includes spacious water-tight fore, aft, and center in-hull storage compartments. The molded design of the cockpit area also includes four rod holders, two 2 cup holders, carrying handles, and convenient trays on either side of the occupant. Behind the occupant the Outback is equipped with a large deck with bungee cords for storage. The rear storage deck will easily hold a “milk crate”, or in my case a medium sized tackle bag and a cooler, plus my anchoring system and whatever accessories I’m carrying with me on a particular day.
The Hobie HP Outback seat is standard as far as SOT kayaks are concerned. It’s a padded seat and seat back with adjustable support straps. One cool feature is a detachable case on the seat back that will hold a wallet and keys and a small camera. The downside of the seat is the lack of lumbar support and a thicker pad for the butt. I’m not even sure if there is a SOT kayak seat that will adequately support the lower back so I’m probably being nit-picky. However, I’m pretty sure the technology for padding the rump has been around for a long time. In response, Hobie now sells and after market seat cushion for all Mirage kayaks. For forty bucks the “i-Comfort” seat pad is an inflatable seat cushion that lets the user control the amount of cushiness with an air valve. The i-Comfort is very a comfortable seat pad and is a perfect upgrade for the Mirage series kayaks.
On the water the Hobie HP Outback is very intuitive to operate. The peddling motion of the Mirage drive is not your typical bicycle circular motion, it’s a back and forth motion. You do not need Arnold’s “pumped-up” thighs to propel the Outback, it’s a very fluid almost effortless motion. Notice I said “almost”. As with any physical activity, peddling the Outback does require the use of the large thigh and buttock muscles. The Mirage drive pedals are adjustable to accommodate different leg lengths. My advice is to set pedals so that there is a slight bend in your knee at the end of the pedal stroke. This will prevent sore knees and thigh muscles.
Steering the Outback is done with the rudder steering lever located on the left side of the kayak. Right for right and left for left…there is no confusion here. The turning radius is pretty good for such a wide kayak. The trick to turning tight turns is to “pedal-out” of the turn. However, very tight situations will require the use of the paddles. With a 33 inch width the Outback is as stable as kayaks come. I can “roam” around on the kayak on my knees, take a nature break, and even stand up on without any problems. However, for safety reasons I choose not to stand, especially if I’m fishing by myself.
The Outback is suitable for most rivers and lakes. However, if you are specifically looking for rapids, the Outback is probably not for you. ALL kayaks are eventually going to get scuffed and scraped on the bottom, but don’t let that deter you from considering the Outback, this thing is built like a tank. The Mirage drive is engineered and built to withstand abuse, but like anything else, if it gets hit hard enough it might get damaged. As mentioned earlier, the full extension of the Mirage drive is approximately 15-inches (underneath the kayak, of course), which can be a problem in shallow water situations. When you do experience shallow water/rapids, you can pedal with shorter strokes. In the extremely shallow situations you would pull-up the Mirage Drive unit and rudder (a handle on the right side) and use the kayak paddles. I lay the Mirage unit on the bow while I paddle through the shallow water and easily place it back in the slot when it gets deeper. It’s probably not a bad idea to tether the Mirage Drive to the kayak so it will not fall over board when pulled up.
In paddling situations the Outback is not the most nimble kayak, but it’s manageable. Certain situations are easier than others. For example, using the paddles on a river going downstream is easier and much different than paddling across an open windy lake or saltwater flat. Only an unlikely failure of the Mirage Drive unit (it’s engineered and built withstand abuse) would cause the necessity for using the paddles for extended periods of time.
The act of fishing from the Outback is not much different than any other SOT kayak, but there some distinct advantages. Because the Outback is propelled with your feet, this leaves your hands free for fishing. The majority of my fishing is done on Florida rivers where current is always different on a day-to-day basis and always plays a role in kayak maneuvering. First, the Mirage drive lets me easily travel long distances upstream. The Mirage drive lets me hold the position in the current with my left hand on the steering lever (for adjustments depending on the current) and my right hand ready to cast.
I’ve been fishing from the Outback for over a year now, and I love the versatility if offers. From lakes to rivers to saltwater flats, all I need to do is load it in my truck and take off. No more towing for me. If you are in the market for a fishing kayak you can’t go wrong with the Hobie Mirage Hank Parker Outback Fish or any another Mirage line of Hobie Kayaks (the Revolution is popular with saltwater fishermen). Yes, they are very expensive, I won’t deny that. The Mirage drive is definitely worth the expense, but use common sense in shallow water situations. You’ll travel farther faster with less effort leaving your shoulders and arms fresh for fishing. So if you are the adventurous type who likes to explore off-the-beaten-path rivers and lakes and want an extremely fishable kayak “out of the box”, the Hank Parker Outback Fish is the perfect choice.
- Mirage Drive!
- Plenty of Storage.
- Ready to fish “Out of the Box”.
- Hands are free to fish.
- Built like a Tank.
- It’s not cheap.
- Seat needs more cushion and lumbar support.
- Mirage Drive vulnerable in shallow water.
- Sluggish handling when paddling.