Gearing Up: 2004 Summer Boat Guide

Smooth Rides

Field & Stream Online Editors

1. River Ridge Custom Canoes
A River Ridge might be the best sporting canoe you ever own. The company makes only 14 of these 13-footers every month, to order. Each one is a wonderfully stable 39-inch-wide casting platform, built with a square stern extension to hang a motor on. It comes with two paddles, retractable cup holders, movable double-tiered tackle boxes, comfortable removable swivel seats, and midship rod holders that can also stow shotguns. Options include an add-on blind for duck hunting ($330) and a cypress floor rack ($230) to keep gear and feet dry._ $1,800¿¿¿$2,200 plus shipping; $150 for camo paint job; 507-288-2750; www.riverridgecustomcanoes.com_

2. Wenonah Prospector
Wenonah's new 15-foot Prospector looks like a classic lake canoe (it's based on a 94-year-old design), but up close it's totally modern: light, durable, and quiet. With a Royalex body-tough layers of vinyl sandwiched over foam-it weighs only 59 pounds. That's pretty light for a 15-footer, making it easily portable for two people. But the angler (or duck hunter) who likes to sneak out solo can heft the Prospector over short distances and paddle it smoothly. The craft is quite agile and stable and has plenty of room for fishing tackle, guns, and gear. $950; 507-454-5430; www.wenonah.com

3. Perception Bimini 15.0
The Bimini is a standard-bearer for sit-on-top fishing kayaks, though Perception now has plans for a successor (see sidebar, opposite). At 15 feet long and 28 inches wide, this is plenty of boat for bigger waters. But it's a stable, maneuverable craft that can ship up to 450 pounds through the shallows. Bow and stern storage and a molded center compartment offer room for gear. The deck is rigged to take rod holders, a paddle clip, and an anchor. _$750 (without fishing accessories); 800-595-2925; www.perceptionkayaks.com _

4. Hobie Mirage Sport
Hobie's newest kayak, the Sport, is pedaled, not paddled, allowing hands-free control while casting. Hobie's MirageDrive propulsion system-using drive fins set closely to the hull bottom-is stealthy, near silent, and splash-free. You can even pedal into shallow water. The Sport is meant for younger anglers, or adults looking for a very light rig. It's great for freshwater fishing, with molded-in rod holders, a large storage compartment that can serve as a cooler or bait tank, and an optional anchor system. $1,200; 760-758-9100; www.hobiecat.com