As a kayak fishing instructor and guide, it’s important to me that my craft handle a significant number of tasks. Until I switched into the Mahi Mahi from Vanhunks, I never really had a kayak that did it all.
This kayak is only 11 feet long and 34” wide, so it handles well in tight spots as I like to get in close whether I’m fishing in swampy backwater with trees and exposed roots or I’m negotiating a saltwater mangrove tunnel where the snook are hiding out. When I have clients in a group, I need to move between and around them, so this eleven-foot kayak maneuvers easily as I assist them while they fish or need pictures of their catch! Another advantage of the Mahi Mahi’s length is my ability to carry and transport this kayak unassisted. Weight is the other factor that sets this kayak apart from the competition, as it only weighs in at seventy pounds unloaded or 79 Lbs loaded, with the seat and fin/drive system so depending on where I launch which can sometimes be a windy rock strewn path, unloading and transporting can be fairly simple. There is a wheel system with multiple wheel options that you can choose from that fits in the scupper holes that will allow you to fully load all your gear ahead of time, either in the bed of your truck or trailer or in the parking lot, and simply roll your kayak to the water. As a competition angler, this is a huge advantage to me as I like to preload all my gear ahead of time, so I’m not trying to outfit everything at the launch only to realize I’ve forgotten something I need.
Vanhunks has engineered this innovation through the hull port that allows you to choose either their fin drive or propeller drive propulsion system interchangeably with a number of their boats. Of course, you can order any of these kayaks that have the foot-powered drive system as a paddle-only kayak, and it will come with a solid block filler so that if you decide to switch later, it’s a simple plug and play changeover. For me, this new Fin drive is a game-changer as it allows me to continually hold and use my rod and reel as I move in and around a location looking for fish. With a paddle only, you must put your rod down, move to the next spot and then stow your paddle so you can start to fish. As I’m peddling, driving my kayak forward, I can fish the whole time, fan casting out ahead of me, searching for that next strike. This is the very reason most tournament anglers are using a foot-driven propulsion system so that their baits are always in the water or while they are moving from spot to spot; they can use either troll baits and lures or re/rig their gear for the next location. I prefer the fin drive myself as I fish in some very shallow habitats and when it gets really skinny, I simply push the peddles opposite from each other, and they lay flat up under my kayak in a recessed area. The next huge advantage of the fin or prop style drive is the ability to maintain position in the wind without setting an anchor down. When it’s windy, I get myself in the right spot and simply continue to use light peddle strokes and rudder position so that I’m not getting blown past or away from the fish.
Another innovation that this boat has is the ability to not only adjust the fin-drive peddles according to your height but the raised, nylon cushioned, seat also moves back and forth, giving you just the right amount of adjustability. Even though I’m 6’4” and my wife is 4’10”, we both have the same kayak.
All peddle drive kayaks come with a rudder system, and the Mahi Mahi has an in-line rudder that doesn’t need to be deployed. One advantage of this for me is that if I’m in shallow water I don’t need to be worried about dragging my rudder through anything or breaking it off as it’s right in line and protected by the keel. While your maneuvering this kayak the hand control for the rudder is conveniently located on the rail next to your hand and the boat turns super easy while your moving forward. When your fishing in windy conditions and want to drift across an area you can use the rudder to maintain a good casting position by simply moving the rudder one way or the other and with experience this is really helpful. If you choose to order the Mahi Mahi as a paddle craft only, the rudder is controlled by adjustable foot pegs with steering control so you can paddle and steer at the same time.
I can’t really say enough about the storage that this kayak has as I tend to carry a lot of gear whether I’m guiding, fishing a tournament or simply fishing for fun. The bow has a well with drainage and a wire port so that if your running electronics the battery fits right down inside and out of the way. Also if your running a fish finder unit there is a through the hull port for your transducer that sits in a basket that’s flush with the bottom of the hull so it won’t get hung up on anything. Directly in front of the raised mesh seat is a screw in cover for the dry hatch for small items like keys or phone and on either side of the kayak rails there are cutouts with bungees for additional storage or tackle boxes including a cup holder. The rear storage area is wide and has two sections. In the main area I carry a milk crate with a live well and aerator that has four extra rod holders zip tied to the sides, and there is still room for a small cooler directly behind the seat, plus you can store the wheels upside down in the scupper holes. Behind the milk crate is another section where I keep a whole extra fishing tackle bag and my float bag under the included bungee tie-downs.
The Mahi Mahi has a tri-hull design making it super stable. I like to sight fish when I’m in shallow water as well as when I’m leading clients around so the stability of this hull design allows me to stand and use the Mahi Mahi like a SUP (stand up paddleboard) using my paddle for propulsion or my stick-it pin anchor for polling across flats. When I’m in open water conditions like you find offshore or large open water lakes, the sharp bow cuts through waves nicely, spaying water away from the bow and not over it. There are additional scupper holes that drain fast if you find yourself in rough conditions, and the seat is elevated off the deck, so it’s a fairly dry ride.
The Mahi Mahi is a dedicated fishing platform with additional features not available in other kayaks. Of course, it has two included flush-mounted rod holders behind the seat and preinstalled flush-mounted accessory rails on both sides in the front and the back for extra rod holder attachments, electronics, camera booms, or flag/light installations. This kayak has a pontoon-style outrigger system if big offshore trips are your thing or your planning a long trip and need extra stability for gear. There are two additional dry hatches, one in each float, and the mounting sleeves are preinstalled so you simply screw the hardware in place and go. Another pre-planned feature of the Mahi Mahi is the bolt-on transom bracket that’s available for a rear-mounted trolling motor. The mounting screw bosses are already installed, so there is no need for retrofitting. Simply bolt on the kit and mount your trolling motor.
All in all, the Mahi Mahi is a fully dedicated fishing kayak, full of well-thought-out design features that will allow you to maximize your time on the water chasing that next elusive trophy fish. Although designed for fishing, it can also be used simply as a recreational boat. The price alone is enough to consider this peddle drive kayak but with all the extra features, the Mahi Mahi from Vanhunks is an exceptional value!
Vanhunk Pro Staff Member