Canoe/kayak hybrids generally please almost no one. Not because of what they are, but because of what they are not.
Not a canoe. Not a kayak. But a cross-pollination sprinkled with features from each design that often fails to satisfy the one-size-fits-all crowd.
The new Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman might be the exception.
The recently introduced Solo Sportsman, which was specifically designed for and is being marketed to fishermen and hunters, is the latest paddle-powered craft from the venerable Maine-based Old Town Canoe Co.
The Solo Sportsman is very similar to Old Town’s popular Discovery 119 canoe save a few distinguishing characteristics.
“Both Discovery 119 models are great options for sportsmen – both are light and nimble, making them easy to transport and paddle,” said Old Town marketing manager Ryan Lilly. “The traditional Discovery 119 features a canoe seat and you paddle it with a canoe paddle. But taking feedback from customers and, as anglers and hunters ourselves, we found an opportunity to take one of our most cherished canoe chassis and modify it in a way that would maximize the function and performance for hunting and fishing.”
The result is a highly manageable, delightfully lightweight (56 pounds) boat that is really more canoe than kayak but with enough double blade-friendly features that it handles much like a kayak while being chock-full of goodies specifically for sportsmen.
Most impressive is the kayak-style seat. It’s nicely padded for daylong comfort with an easily adjustable back that offers some lumbar support. The seat base is 19 1/2 inches wide, 16 inches deep and positioned about 4 inches from the bottom of the boat. For paddlers who suffer from occasional lower-back stiffness, it may be surprisingly comfortable.
I recently spent a few hours paddling the Solo Sportsman around a large embayment on Lake Barkley, the 57,824-acre Corps of Engineers impoundment on the lower Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee.
At 11 feet, 7 inches long with a 32 1/2-inch beam, the Solo Sportsman is stable enough to provide an excellent casting and shooting platform while proving easy to paddle and a joy to handle. I did not attempt to stand in the boat and would not recommend doing so while shooting.
The boat, which is keeled, tracks well when powered with a double-bladed kayak paddle.
Seat placement, which is slightly rear of center, is superb. The front edge of the seat is 5 feet, 6 inches from the bow point and the seat back is 4 feet, 8 inches from the stern point. The seat position is stationary.
Easily adjustable foot braces aid with stability and help with back and leg comfort. The boat was roomy and comfortable for a 6-foot-2, 220-pound paddler. I had room to spare in the cockpit and about 7 inches of freeboard amidships.
Initial and secondary stability were good. Designers added two side storage panels atop the gunnels flanking the seat. These are about 4 inches by 15 inches and include padded arm/elbow rests (a surprisingly nice addition) and a pair of small storage slots that will hold a couple of shotgun shells or an extra crankbait or two. While handy, these panels are mounted on the gunnels and, while not an obstacle, do prevent the boat from sliding smoothly onto a roof rack. The forward thwart includes a track for mounting a camera, rod holder or another accessory. The rear thwart, located directly behind the seat, has two recessed rod holders. Both thwarts and rear rod holders are flush mounted.
The Solo Sportsman hull is the three-layer polyethylene construction featured on all Old Town Discovery-series boats. Durable but not indestructible.
The boat is available in three colors (camo, green and photic) and has an MSRP of $899.99. I like it.
Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman
Length: 11 feet, 7 inches.
Width: 32 1/2 inches.
Depth: 12 1/2 inches.
Bow height: 18 inches.
Capacity: 354 pounds.
Weight: 56 pounds.
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