Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Frontier 12 Review by Bill Laminack

For the past three weeks, I have been using a NuCanoe Frontier 12. While I cannot say that it was love at first sight, I can now say that I am in love with this boat. The manufacturer calls it a Kayak hybrid, but I am not sure what the mixture is. Maybe kayak mixed with awesome. Yeah, I know it doesn’t have sexy curves and eye catching lines. No. Not at all. It looks cumbersome, slow and clunky. All of this is deceiving. It is only on the first paddle will you find out what is going on with this boat.

I passed by the NuCanoe in Sunjammer’s showroom many times until I got serious about fly fishing. Even then I didn’t pay it much attention. Only after a friend who also got serious about fly fishing started mulling over paddling options that were best suited for this did the NuCanoe come to my attention. I saw a video online of Joe Mahler and Drew Chicone fly fishing out of a Frontier 12. Yes, both of them in the boat. One standing and the other paddling. Now they had my attention.

My friend was in the market for a new kayak and was looking at Diablo’s and was very close to buying one. I suggested that we demo a NuCanoe. We took it out on the first trip. Will, got in the Frontier and pushed off from shore and stood up, and just started giggling. Up to this point he had never stood in any kayak. He had just popped up and started paddling. There was a little swell, and he just kept paddling, standing up for about half a mile. Every once in a while he was would bend over and grab his rod and make a couple of casts and each time there was a new set of giggles. He had discovered a new world of fishing. Standing up in a kayak and sight fishing. All he could talk about was how easy it was to stand up and fish. Mind you we didn’t have the grab bar accessory (Frontier Casting Bar). He didn’t need it. As he paddled sitting down he was telling me how easy it was to paddle. I was fishing in a Native Slayer 12 that day and he had no trouble keeping up with me. Needless to say, my curiosity was peaked! Will was impressed enough that he went and bought one the next week.

NuCanoe Frontier 12 fly fishing
The following week end it was my turn to try it out. Having his new NuCanoe tricked out with all of the accessories Will decided to really give it a serious try. We paddled about 6 miles in open bay with stout 15 to 20 mph wind. We fished most of the day getting beat down by the wind, and still enjoyed the day. The demo that I had didn’t have anything but the basic bench type seats and they had no backs, similar to a canoe type of seat. Paddling this way was not quite comfortable, but still doable. With the seats in this manner, I found that getting on my knees and paddling in a more leaning forward type of posture, I was able to deal with the nasty conditions quite well. I wouldn’t recommend this though. You’ll want a nice comfy NuCanoe seat. This day we encountered 1.5′ chop and enough wind to get some spray. I didn’t see much difference here from any of the other kayaks that I had fished from. Heavy winds in any kayak is not a lot of fun and is work.

My next trip was after I picked up a 7″ pedestal seat from Sunjammers. I figured that raising the seat this high would create uncomfortable instability. Heck just raising a seat 3 inches in other kayaks does dramatic things to the stability. Not in this boat! The stability is just awesome. It feels like a 12′ Jonboat in it’s stability. There is very firm initial stability and the secondary stability was rock solid. I am totally impressed with this aspect. It allowed me to stand and fly fish all day in comfort.

We started off fly fishing on the salt water flats looking for trout and redfish and found that the Frontier 12 poles very well. It is reasonably quiet and very easy to maneuver with just a 8′ stake out pole. Later in the day we took it to the flooded river swamps and fished among the flooded cyprus forests for bass and bluegill. Man it really shines in a bass fishing environment. It is easy to keep in position and move around in tight quarters. Again very stable for standing to fish in comfort. This to me is essential for bass fishing.

I have in my reviews in the past tried to compare each kayak to others that I have had experience with. In this case, this is much tougher to do. Why? There is not much else out there that I am aware of, much less been in long enough to properly compare it to. I have spent a day on a Diablo. And I have spent a while in a Hobie Pro Angler. The stability of the NuCanoe is much greater than the Diablo, which is also a very stable kayak, but really the better comparison is to the Pro Angler. I would say that the stability and comfort level is much closer. Now sure there are a lot of amenities on Pro Angler than the NuCanoe, having Skiff style rod tubes etc, but The Nu Canoe has a VAST array of options on add ons that make each one a Custom set up. The Frontier 12 is about 40-50lbs lighter than a PA, and there is a substantial difference in price as well. Of course a NuCanoe doesn’t have Hobie’s awesome Mirage Drive, but to be honest, I wouldn’t want it on this kayak type as the set of features that I am looking for make it perfect for fly fishing. The stability, ease of maneuvering and flexibility of options, are the ones that make this set up ideal for me.

Needless to say, I really like the NuCanoe Frontier 12, but there was a few things that I would change if possible. First, the deck seems a bit softer than I would have expected. Now, I weigh 245lb. This could be due to how much I am putting on it, but I think that I would have preferred it to be more stiff and solid feeling. This isn’t really a problem per se, but rather a preference. The next issue is also with the deck. It has sort of channels cut in that are designed to make water flow to the two scuppers behind the seat. These are right where you will be standing, and I found them uncomfortable to stand on bare foot. I will at times fish bare foot and I had to shift around every once in a while to keep my tender little size 13s from getting sore. When I wore wading shoes, this was not an issue. The third issue was that I would have liked a little better drainage in the cockpit of the boat. It never presented a problem in the scenarios that I presented it with, but I could see a Surf Launch and taking a wave into the cockpit taking a good bit of time to drain. This is could be better in my opinion. I don’t see this stopping me from taking it offshore however.As it is now even rain water will collect in parts of the kayak instead of draining nicely. None of these “issues” are deal breakers for me.

In conclusion, I believe that with it’s amazing stability and ease of paddling and poling, it looks like I have found my next paddling purchase.


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Anonymous said...

I am not having the same experience as you. I started out liking the NuCanoe with the casting bar because I have had both my hips replaced and like to stand and fish. after a couple of months I have stopped using it because of the following: it moves like a pig, have a kayak same length and I know you cant compare the two due to width, BUT if a decent breeze kicks up this NuCanoe is a pig to maneuver. there is not near enough drainage...the scuppers are only good enough to keep it from sinking...not for draining and keeping it dry. I put a 30 lb outboard on it for occasional outings...a two gallon gas tank and even when I get my self midship or further it wants take on water over the stern (but hey I know it is supposed to be a kayak not a skiff, but I want more range...paddling too far away can be dangerous if the wind kicks up. I am on the intracoastal on FL west coast. THE worst problem is the hull swelling in the sun. I see that the company says not to keep in direct sun but it is 14 ft boat, not light weight, I live on the water...WTHeck it doesn't effect my other kayaks. I am into this thing for over $2500 with the Lil Lift I put on the dock and all the misc crap I thought would make it a great little fishing machine...but my 12' Tarpon is catching all the fish...and I am so ready to unload the NoCando.