Alex Hickson has been a long term fan of Native Watercraft and has trialed almost all their different models. He recently upgraded from his Mariner 10 to a Slayer Propel 13. Not only was this an increase in size for Alex but a generational step up as his Mariner 10 was some years old. Native Watercraft are continually modifying and upgrading their kayaks so they just keep getting better and better.
By Alex Hickson
Commissioning a new kayak has both exciting and daunting prospects attached. Apart from drilling holes in shiny new polyethylene or fibreglass, never an easy undertaking, the anticipation and expectations for the finished product can ultimately lead to false hopes unless you do your research and planning.
My first impression when I picked up the Slayer was how much physically bigger a 13 foot vessel is compared to my previous 10 footers! This was a serious piece of plastic and there would be no simple throwing of this one in the tray of the Patrol. Fortunately the boys at the trucking depot lifted it onto the ladder bars with a forklift to allow for a quick departure, and off I went.
It’s fair to say it did sit on saw horses in the shed for quite a few weeks as I mused over its set up – read: desperately saved money! I reviewed sounders and cruised forums looking at other ‘yak fishers set ups, this not only enlightened me but offered more than one option for a particular fit out, be it a sounder transducer set up or rod and tackle storage systems. Both commercial and homemade alternatives can often be quickly found on these brilliant information hubs.
The Slayer hosts a rail system that makes setting up very flexible and significantly reduces the hole drilling! This modular set up encourages versatility and allows equipment to be moved into the perfect position if you don’t get it quite right the first time. I chose RAM ball mounts for all my rail mounted accessories such as sounder, RAM cup holder, still camera and video. My sounder choice was once again biased on internet reviews and price. It quickly became obvious new sounders quickly become old sounders, similar to phones and tablets. With this is mind I went for a runout model with good discount, a new product warranty, a wide range of reviews due to its time in the market and all the main features I wanted including touch screen and a market leading GPS, coastal mapping and the choice of sonar or down imaging. The chosen sounder was a Garmin echoMAP 70dv. The transducer set up is an in-hull puddle mount. A 17ah sealed battery sits in a foam mount aft of the front scupper moulding. Both battery and transducer are accessed through the purpose built hatch just forward of the propel drive. For rod storage I’ve got two tilting Eco tube mounts that are mounted behind the seat that are generally used for storage and two ball mounted RAM tubes for trolling and general use. I like the versatility of the RAM tubes, their infinite adjustment makes them very adaptable. While I wouldn’t use them for trolling outfits over say 6kg, if drags are set accordingly on lighter outfits they have proved quite capable of doing the job. I have also employed a short length of 100kg parracord tied off between the RAM tube and a stainless steel saddle that is bolted through the deck for added security. This won’t let the RAM tubes tilt back and rods slip out on the strike.
Depending on the duration of the trip I either have a 20 litre poly’ ice box or a 40ltr Shakespeare seat box bungeed down in the cargo well behind the seat. I use the Native Watercraft seat backpack to contain various tackle such as packets of soft plastics, leader spools and small tackle-boxes, plus there is a space for a water bladder. The Native Watercraft under-seat organiser is a real winner, holding all manner of accessories such as lip grips, pliers, scissors plus there are two neoprene pouches for two medium or four small Plano style tackle boxes to be held up off the deck and out of the way.
Sea trials: First trip for the Slayer was to a windswept Wyangala dam. The kayak coped well with the wind chop although I did find myself pulling the bungs a couple of times due to water splash draining directly into the cockpit off the front deck. I have since built a full covered front deck. This alleviated the splash problem and has given me a dry front well for more storage. After steering a flat tailed ten footer across a bay you will understand the term tracking when it comes to kayaks. I’m happy to say that the Slayer 13 tracks beautifully, in-fact a little too good. The short factory supplied rudder really isn’t sufficient and I immediately up graded to a Boone Dox retrofit model that improved this deficiency noticeably. Once again, looking on the ‘yak forums this was a common out of the box upgrade for the Slayer 13 and something that also showed to be quite synonymous with other brands as well.
Haulage: Carrying the Slayer 13 has really changed the ball game. I use a box trailer with gull-wing style lids. This keeps the kayak low for easier loading and unloading plus supports the kayak right along each sponson. A set of “H” bars can be added to the trailer if I take both the Slayer and Mariner away on a trip. It’s versatile and spacious.
Fishability: The Slayer’s on water performance is very pleasing. The new seating is a step up in comfort from the previous Mariner seat. The more elevated and rigid seat not only makes for even more comfortable pedalling but allows the angler to access a standing position easier than before. The stability of the Slayer 13 is more than adequate and allows you to stand, lean forward or turn around to access equipment. Standing and casting is a doddle in suitable conditions, although you will find yourself sitting down most of the time as the seating is exemplary.
In the wash up: The Slayer has been on a few outings now and I’m extremely pleased with the layout and general versatility of the overall set up. The Slayers size and weight have given it the typical off water burdens of many modern plastic kayaks but once on the water I do feel safer with more boat underneath me, especially in more open water be it salt or freshwater. With increased size and weight the stability is increased and the Slayer 13 shines in this area. Tracking and speed are both very good and with 5kmh being a very easy all-day cruise speed. The Boon Dox rudder upgrade has enabled some tight water work but in reality if I’m going to be in heavy timber I’d prefer to have my bum in the Mariner 10. I really miss the Slayer seat when I’m in the Mariner for any length of time, it’s that good! The Slayers seating coupled with the Native Watercraft under seat organiser and backpack make for a very tidy cockpit area. Add the efficient and reliable Propel drive and you have a true ‘day boat’ that can be pedalled all day and cope quite easily with large inland dams and similarly big open estuaries and harbours.