Friday, July 12, 2013

Gear Review: Emotion Mojo Angler Kayak

Where to begin with this review.  My attempt to purchase this boat in 2012 was a fiasco.  It was on sale online at Cabela's, and the kayaks are made right here in the USA.  Sounds great so far, right?  Fast forward six weeks and no one knew where my boat might be, or if that particular boat had even existed.   Fast forward another week, and an additionally discounted Mojo Angler was almost literally dropped out of a drop-freighter's truck, and left with a busted up stern.  But there it sat, in the parking lot for my office.   My new boat.  Not without some signs of hasty assembly, though:

Ouch! Drill much?

In the last several months, I've paddled this boat in several different conditions, and also caught some fish from it.  I think I've finally figured out what I think about this boat - I kinda like it.

It's a moderately heavy boat, at 12.5' and 55 pounds, and it's difficult to drag.  Handles on the side make for very effective carrying for short distances on level terrain, but impossible for stepping over logs, etc on the way to the water's edge.  You, my friend, are going to need a kayak cart.  Not sure if this is true for all 12' fishing 'yaks but it's worth mentioning here.

Paddling/tracking:  Other paddlers have complained online that the Mojo is tippy, but I have a feeling they might be entry level boaters.  Anyone used to being in a canoe or kayak is likely to feel pretty stable in this boat.  In fact, its relatively wide profile (popular now with kayak anglers) tends to slow it down in the water a bit, which can either be a small blessing or an annoyance, depending on whether you are trying to move or stay put on a spot.   Now, when you lean to one side, the boat does move.  But it stops - to actually tip it, you'd need to keep leaning farther.

The boat tracks fairly well in open water, but it does sit quite a bit out of the water compared to specialized "open water speed" kayaks.  I'd say the tracking is comparable to other 12-13' sit-on-top fishing kayaks (I've paddled at least four other brands in the 12-14.5' length). It is definitely not a race boat, and you are not going anywhere fast.  However, on my most recent trip, I enjoyed the fact that so much of the boat was above the water, as I somehow sliced through a 15 acre patch of Water Lotus.

 And it does track well enough, and sit high enough, that often your momentum carries you farther than you really wanted to go (i.e. into the big clump of brush you're trying to fish, and are now batting away from your face, as the boat careens full speed into it.    But again, this is common for yaks, canoes, and even mini-skiffs of this size.  No big deal once you know that's how the boat behaves.     Grade: B

Well-designed flush-mount rod holders
Fishing and Fishing Features:  The Emotion Mojo by itself has very minor adaptations for kayak fishing, including a squared-out rear compartment that just so happens to fit milk/kayak crates.  The front hatch is pretty useless for my type of fishing...more on that below.   However, the "Mojo Angler" package, which I purchased, includes two flush-mount rod holders and a third Scotty rod holder which fits conveniently in the adjustable/removable center console - which happens to be my favorite feature of the boat.

Casting is extremely easy from the Mojo Angler, and would be even easier if I purchased a real seat pad and got another inch or two of elevation.  I haven't tried fly fishing from the boat yet, but that's coming soon.   Effective trolling would have to be from the center console rod holder, since the two flush mounts are outside of the paddler's peripheral vision.  I've tried to troll several times and can't see any part of the rod from my seat without fully turning my head.  On the plus side, it means the rod holders are out of the way of the average 'yakker's paddling motion, which obviously is the reason for this placement.

Retrieving fish is....exciting.  Because so little of the kayak sits in the water, any fish over about three pounds will cause the boat to take a little spin in one direction or the other.  Be mindful, don't be surprised, you're not going to tip over unless you lean.  Again, this is typical for most if not all similar size boats. Grade: B+

That's your extra rod or paddle holder.  Yup. 
Storage.  There are a few cargo slings around the boat, which are handy though only about 80% secure; I wish there was a hard plastic or aluminum paddle holder, rather than just ditching the paddle in the netting.  I'll probably install one (eventually).   The front hatch is connected to the entire hull of the boat, and is basically unreachable from the kayak seat.  The Emotion Mojo is not stable enough to lay forward and retrieve items from the hatch.  You'll have to beach the boat (or dismount) to get anything out of there.   The hatch lid is a clear, very rigid plastic that I am 100% sure I will break.  It was not a good choice for this boat, which should have used some type of rubber, gasketed hatch cover.

One helpful hint I read is to create a sprayfoam wall slightly aft of hatch, thus creating a "live well."     Only downside to that would be the inability to drain water out of any other leaks aft of your new "live well wall."

The rear compartment, as mentioned above, is super handy, perfect sized, and well within reach.  I have never felt like the boat was at risk of tipping while I turned around to reach for gear in the rear compartment. It fits a milk crate perfectly (an intentional design element).

The Mojo Angler also features a removable, adjustable center console (shown above) that fits a drybox (included, the yellow box above), drink and a standard GPS/smartphone holder (although not sure how it would stay put).  I love this, it's perfect.  It seems like you could easily place the GPS receiver or a fishfinder on the console and run the transmitter through the nearby scupperhole, making for a temporary install (always a plus for us traveling anglers).  This is a brilliant design and not one I've seen on any other boat.
Grade: A-. 

Comfort:  The Mojo Angler comes equipped with a cushioned seatback, which is nice, but a pre-molded "butt cheek" seat in the plastic boat, which is horrendous.  I've been working on a better seating arrangement, and trying to coordinate it with a seat for my young son right in front of me.  If you have such a product, please contact me.

I wish this seat had been designed to hold a seat cushion, my lower back literally goes numb after a straight 80-90 minutes of paddling. The foot pegs are highly adjustable and are a well-sourced component for this boat.  It's even fairly comfortable to throw my legs over the boat and cool off my dawgs.  Grade: C+. 

Summary:  If you are looking for a kayak that's set up for fishing "off the rack," and your projected budget is in the $600-900 class of kayaks, give the Mojo Angler a try - it has more positive attributes (and not all of the shortcomings) than other similarly priced boats.  The craftsmanship was really all over the place.  Parts of the boat seemed to have been expertly assembled, while other parts appear to have been drilled in by my three year old son.  If you can afford to go up to $1,100, I'd instead recommend the Wilderness Systems Tarpon (which I've paddled many times) over the Mojo Angler.  Overall Grade:  B/B-. 

Note: for any fishing kayak, I highly recommend that you purchase from a company with a local store, dealer or outlet.  That way, you can inspect the boat when it's delivered locally and refuse it if it's all dinged up, as mine was.  If you have the boat shipped directly to you, it puts you in a bad position to have to refuse it as the contracted driver is impatiently waiting for your inspection to end, and then you'll (at minimum) have to pay the shipping cost anyway.   Go see the boat of your dreams in person before it shows up at your house!


cofisher said...

Nice review Kirk. I wish I was in the market for a kayak. I'd fit right in with kids! Looks like fun.

Kirk Mantay said...

It's fun for sure! Quite a workout too. But I'm an old fogey for getting one..."the kids" have already moved onto standup paddleboards! And those suckers are even more expensive and even less useful!

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