First off, I just want to reiterate that in our sport there is never going to be a “perfect” yak or boat. To cover every scenario you would probably need 2 or 3. However, when money is limited and we cannot buy 2 or 3, then it is best to find the one that is the most versatile to fish the rivers we like to fish. The Ultimate 12 is a decent boat for certain situations and a good boat for others. For kayak fishing in rivers it is critical that people understand it is not a boat for beginners. It is an intermediate and advanced boat for people who understand currents and how to paddle in swift water. If you are using this boat only on calm water, then it is a viable option for beginners. Without paddling experience, it is likely your boat may get swamped with water and could be dangerous. Now, on to the Native Watercraft Ultimate 12.
Positives of a U12 vs. a sit-on-top kayak for kayak fishing rivers
1. The Ultimate 12 is very stable and most people after just a couple trips can learn to stand in them and fish. For some, like my friend Ron, it may be the first trip. Most SOT kayaks you cannot stand in because even though most all SOT kayaks are wide enough on the bottom for standing, few actually offer a place on the inside that is equal to the actual width on the bottom if that makes sense. The U12 is not really a kayak and is more a mini canoe made out of a kayak material. What this does is allow your actual foot width to pretty much equal to as wide as the boat is – in this case 30 inches – giving you maximum opportunity for stability and stand ability.
2. The seat is absolutely the most comfortable thing ever, especially when I put it up higher as seen in the picture so that your knees are at a 90 degree angle like your in a regular chair. I know if I were in the older and in a higher tax bracket there probably isn’t a better boat as far as comfort. And, there is a tray right under it where you can throw your pliers, fishing glue, hooks, lures or anything you want handy. I never could find a good place to put all that stuff in my SOT so I bought a tool belt and cut it apart to fit in my SOT but I still had to lean way over to reach it. This tray is a much better system for those often used items.
3. It is not only stable but pretty fast once it gets going. It takes a few strokes to really get it going but once the momentum starts it goes fast and doesn’t want to slow down.
4. The polythene material is very durable and it is thicker than a SOT kayak so it should not break down and get a hole in the bottom for a long long time, whereas we have seen SOT kayaks get holes within a year, especially around scupper plugs which the U12 does not have.
5. It is lighter than any of the kayaks on the market in the 12 foot range. It weighs 48lbs. This is easy on the back and bones at put ins and take outs.
6. Due to it being a mini canoe, it allows you to utilize every bit of space in the boat and be able to access whatever you put there, unlike a SOT which has space for some things and then the rest have to go into a hatch that you can only access when getting out. And, not much can go in those hatches and a lot of space inside a SOT ends up being wasted – not on the U12. I take more than I usually do on my trips in the U12. I am still going to streamline things more for weight sake but it is good to know I can put it all in there if I want to.
7. It is a very dry ride whereas a SOT kayak (depending on what brand) is either semi wet, wet or very wet. This boat is very dry, which is nice. And, occasionally water will get in but never where you are sitting in it like some SOT kayaks.
Negatives vs. a SOT kayak
1. It is not self bailing so if you do happen to lean over or hit something in the water wrong and water starts filling in, you may just end up on the river bottom! You must be smart about where you are and know your limits in this boat. It can run rapids just fine as long as you know what you are doing and hit your line. I also have the spray skirt addition and that helps some to keep water out.
2. Since it sits so low in the water and has a tunnel hull it is not the easiest boat to turn to make those quick, technical moves you often need on a river. When in doubt, portage in this boat. But, I would think that there are not too many warm-water rivers in the southeast where you would come into a portage situation with this boat. I know I am still going to run all the rivers I normally did in my SOT with this boat. But, keep in mind that I am a bit more experienced in kayaking skill than many that are getting into this sport. For the average guy who who hasn’t been kayaking for 10 years and learned to whitewater kayak on the Ocoee River while in college, I would portage if there is any doubt. Or, you can buy their spray skirts that go on very easily if you need to get into some rougher water.
3. There are not any little places to clip things with a D ring. Most SOT kayaks have little eyelets to clip things. I found it frustrating not having places to accessorize and had to get very creative. However, the solution is simple, install them yourself and where you want because I believe you can buy them.
4. Once the boat gets going and you stand up while it is still moving, it will naturally start turning one way or the other and keep going that way depending on if your weight is more on the right or left foot. However, after some time you can get adjusted to this and use the right and left foot to actually sorta steer it back to where you want it to go.
5. Being higher off the water makes it more susceptible to the wind which can be bad if it is really gusting out there.
6. The angler package is great for lake, pond and inshore fisherman but no company has ever addressed specific issues for the bass fisherman and it is the most popular sport fish in the world – go figure. The anchor trolley does not extend to the back so it is no good for a drag chain because if you don’t have your drag chain coming off the direct back of your boat you will be in a world of trouble if you ever get hung up in swift current because it will want to pull your boat a little sideways in the and that will flip you. However, the trolley is good for something – making a small anchor chain or ball to drop from the front for those rare situations you do want to face upstream while fishing. Like maybe if you only have a half day and are doing a paddle up on your local flow – just paddle until you get to a good spot and then drop the anchor chain or ball and fish the spot. Then, pull it up and head up to the next hole. The rod holder options are nice but again for a river we can’t have rods up in the air due to overhanging limbs, and even if it wasn’t a river it is tough having rods in the air because you can hit them in your back-cast and break them. Bass fisherman need their rods loose so they can be picked up immediately if they see a fish busting bait or something and because in a matter of 20 casts a bass fisherman may need to make casts with each of their rods (I keep 4 out) depending on what the situation calls for. Having to put rods in rod holders and back out and back in for over a thousand casts in a day is too much work. The Ultimate 12 does have ample room for having the rods loose for quick access so that is a good thing.
7. It is not as easy to get in and out compared to a SOT. However, if you can put the seat up higher where it rests on the top of the boat like I do then it is easier.
8. If you cannot put the seat up in the higher spot (and I am sure everyone can with some simple modifications) then your paddle strokes are forced to be flatter and are more likely to hit the sides of the boat and equate to less powerful strokes. This can be annoying and it was liberating for me to get that seat into that higher position because I no longer felt constricted and inside something.
9. After fishing in the boat for over a year I gave it up because of one main factor that you will not realize until well down the road. Standing in this boat is hard on your knees and ligaments in your legs. The reason being is that the tunnel hull forces your feet to stand in the tunnel part making them always face forward. When standing and twisting and turning while fighting a fish or trying to make that certain it causes the ligaments to take the brunt. After a year or more I finally realized my knees were hurting due to this boat and the way it forces your feet to stay in one position and not twist any. For that reason I dropped it one level on my rating. If you do not stand as much this may not be an issue for you.
Specs: (For Polythene version) Length: 12’1 Width: 30 inches Weight: 55lbs Weight Capacity: 350lbs Price:
Conclusion: As I stated in the opening, I don’t think there will ever be a perfect boat for every river fishing situation but this one is a decent boat for many applications. If you are a beginner at kayak fishing and paddling, this may be a tough boat to handle if you plan to fish water with shoals and rapids. If you are only fishing rivers without rapids, this may be a useful boat for you. Beware of this boat if you plan to stand a lot out of it because it can be hard on your knees when you twist and turn since the feet are forced to stay in a straight position.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
It definitely worked for me while I did use it, starting from trip number one with an 8lb river largemouth!