NuCanoe & Frontier Comparison
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
by Ken Ziomek
As a member of Team NuCanoe, I frequently get questions from prospective buyers asking my opinion of the NuCanoe and various rigging options. With the arrival of the Frontier, I’ve started receiving requests to compare the two models and to comment as to whether the Frontier is worth the higher price tag.
Let me start out by saying that you can’t go wrong with either model. Both are, by far, a much better purchase decision for a fisherman than any S.O.T. kayak. In fact, I don’t even put NuCanoes into the same category as kayaks. I fished from a S.O.T. kayak for six years and thought it was great. It was, until my aging back made it very difficult to stand if I was fishing longer than an hour. I thought my days on the small lakes and ponds near my home were over until I saw an ad for NuCanoe in Kayak Angler magazine.
I consider NuCanoe to be a small fishing boat, not a cramped, uncomfortable kayak. If you want to be a kayaker that goes out on outings with other kayakers and you want to look like them and keep up with them on the water, then you should buy a kayak. However, if you are a fisherman who wants more of a fishing boat than a kayak, go with the NuCanoe. I find it hard to believe that anyone who tests a S.O.T and then a NuCanoe would ever select the kayak over a NuCanoe for fishing. Also, please remember that if you take a 15 minute test ride in a kayak, it’s not the same as having to sit in that one position for multiple hours while you fish.
So much for the free commercial for NuCanoe, now let me offer my viewpoint on which model to purchase. I look at the original NuCanoe the same way as I would look at the basic model offered by any fishing boat manufacturer. When you purchase the basic model, you get everything that you need to get out on the water, fish comfortably, and have the flexibility of customizing your boat.
Photos and videos of my 12 foot NuCanoe with my elevated swivel seats, trolling and storage rod holders, carpeting, and Side Imaging depth finder can be found on the NuCanoe web site. I firmly believe that anyone purchasing the original NuCanoe will not regret their buying decision. I love my NuCanoe. I’ve caught well over a thousand bass from my NuCanoe in the last two years.
I look at the Frontier as an upgraded model with added features, which do not necessarily translate into more fish in the boat. The important thing to remember is that both models provide the same basic fishing function, which is the ability to comfortably fish from a lightweight portable fishing boat. Unless you need some of the added features of the Frontier or you have the extra money and prefer the looks of the Frontier, the original NuCanoe may be all you need.
Now let’s look at the Frontier, which I see as the enhanced model in the NuCanoe line, and review the differences and my assessment of them.
Both models weigh the same at 77 pounds. Because I always use trolley wheels, weight has not been a factor with either boat.
The beam of the Frontier is one inch narrower. It’s not a big thing to me because both models fit into the bed of my Ford Ranger.
The Frontier has a weight capacity that is 125 pounds greater than the original model. The 525 pound capacity of the NuCanoe was adequate for me and any of my fishing partners.
The hull design of the Frontier allows fishing in a minimum of 3 inches of water compared to 4 inches for the NuCanoe. The limitation of four inches of water has never created any problems for me.
With respect to seating, the Frontier swivel seats are higher than swivel seats mounted in the NuCanoe. The Frontier also offers the option of a quick snap-in bracket for mounting and removing the seats. I like this feature and find it useful. I suspect it could be adapted to work on the NuCanoe.
With respect to seat height, neither model was high enough to address my back problems so I built a more elevated mount for my swivel seat on both models.
The Frontier’s 70 inch Freedom Track allows unlimited options for seat position, rod holders, and electronic apparatus mounting. The NuCanoe has limited mounting positions with six threaded inserts. I find the 70 inch Freedom Track very useful for varying my seat position based on whether I’m fishing alone or with a partner.
The deck area of the Frontier is 20 inches wide compared to 12 inches for the NuCanoe. The added space is very useful when shifting your feet for comfort or when standing.
I like the hull design of the Frontier. Coupled with the 20 inch deck width, it provides greater stability and allows easier standing. The hull design also allows the Frontier to track on a straighter path. Straighter tracking is important when using my Side Imaging depth finder as it provides better reception for a clearer portrayal of the lake bottom.
Storage is clearly better on the Frontier. The front hatch, when opened, provides access to a small storage pouch. Removing this storage pouch provides space for rods and other large items in the inside hull. Access to the inside hull also allows reinforcement with large washers of rod holders mounted in the indented spaces of the Mount Docks. Enclosed storage is available for the NuCanoe by adding the optional Sport Box.
A Modular Multi-Mount for mounting electronics is available for the NuCanoe, however I am not aware of a similar accessory for the Frontier at this time. A Slide Mount, which I believe is designed for marine electronics is scheduled for availability in April, 2012. I re-used my Modular Multi-Mount on my Frontier by adding Starboard marine lumber extensions at each end to match Freedom Track spacing.
The Frontier has two scupper holes in the hull while the NuCanoe does not have this feature. For my fishing needs, I see no reason for them while I am out on the water and I use the scupper plugs that come with the boat. I do use them however when I’m cleaning my boat because it’s a lot easier to pull the plugs than to turn the Frontier over when it’s full of water.
The NuCanoe and Frontier hulls are both molded from polyethylene. The NuCanoe has a “pebble grain” finish while the Frontier’s hull is smooth. I believe the smooth finish provides two advantages. First, the smooth finish allows the Frontier to move through the water with a slightly greater efficiency. Next, if you like to adorn your fishing boat with stickers and decals advertising your favorite tackle and lures, they will adhere better to a smooth finish.
The handles at the front and back of the Frontier are more comfortable for pulling the boat on trolley wheels to and from the water’s edge than the handles on the NuCanoe.
The Frontier comes with two paddle/rod holders and a zigzag cleat while these are optional items on the NuCanoe.
I’m certain that many of you are wondering why, if I loved my NuCanoe, did I choose the Frontier? Which of the added features of the Frontier caused me to upgrade?
Most of the people that I take fishing are retired and they come with the normal ailments of retired folk, such as bad knees, bad backs, bad hips, and reduced mobility. The Frontier swivel seats are higher and I was able to elevate them to even a higher position to provide more comfort for both me and my fishing partner.
I appreciate the wider deck area because it allows us “old folk” to more easily enter and exit the Frontier. One of my fishing partners must have his right leg extended in front of him because of knee pain. The 70 inch Freedom Track allows me endless adjustments for seat positioning.
Finally, the added stability of the Frontier makes it easier to stand up while fishing to relieve aching muscles. The rest of the added features are nice but, by themselves, they certainly would not have caused me to move from my NuCanoe to the Frontier.
If you don’t have the extra cash, can you get along with the NuCanoe? Of course you can. As I indicated earlier, I’ve caught over 1000 bass from my NuCanoe over the last two years, so I was able to do more than just “get by” with my NuCanoe.
Feel free to contact Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org
So You Think You Want to Start Paddling?
Kayak and Canoe Paddling
Many people would very much like to start paddling but simply don’t know where to begin. Others jump right in without first having all of the information. All too often, they later discover they would be interested in a completely different genre of paddling. This discovery, unfortunately, takes place later rather than sooner and after much has already been invested in equipment and accessories. In both cases, these individuals don’t initially know how to decide which type of paddling is right for them.
It is for all of these reasons that it is wise to adequately research the different types of canoeing and kayaking in order to make the right decisions about which equipment to buy, where to paddle, and who to paddle with. The following questions and associated resources offer a guide to help you figure out exactly which type of paddling is right for you.
Understand Why You Want to Paddle
The decision to start paddling is often driven by a variety of factors unique to each individual. For some, it is a way to spend time with friends who already paddle. For others, it is a way to connect with nature or it is a means of exercise. These are others still who would love to take up paddling due to all of the romantic caricatures that are that are portrayed regarding the health and environmental benefits the sport affords the participant. For some reason, you are thinking about and researching paddling. Why? The answer to this question will help form your decision as to what type of paddling you will be doing. Here are a number of different reasons why people may want to paddle:
- to be with friends
- because it looks fun
- to get exercise
- to be closer to nature
- for adventure
- for relaxation
- to aid other activities
What Type of Paddling Do You Want to Do? Where Will You Paddle?
These two questions are closely associated with each other. You may very well want to whitewater kayak, but if you live in South Florida, that is going to be a little difficult. This may seem surprising but many people don’t consider this question. This is unfortunate since the answer will affect what type of equipment and training a person will need, as well as how much access the individual will have to the places they want to paddle. Where do you think you will want to paddle? Included here is a brief list of the different types of paddling that a person can do:
- hybrid (cross between canoe and kayak)
- solo canoe
- recreation kayak
- sea kayak
- tandem kayak
- sit-on-top kayak
- whitewater kayak
- whitewater canoe
There are many factors that go into figuring out which type of paddling is right for each person. Included here was just a brief look at some of those factors as a way to get people thinking before they buy any equipment. Asking yourself these kinds of questions is a good start to making sure you are making the right decision. At this point, you should go to an outfitter or sporting goods store and speak with people who are knowledgeable in the type of paddling you will be doing.
Here’s one final tip. It’s never a bad idea to start out with used equipment as long as it is in good shape. This way you can make sure you bought the right stuff, you will usually be able to sell it for almost what you paid for it, and then you can buy more advanced gear when you are ready for it.
Choosing a Kayak
Are you confused about which kayak you should purchase? If you’ve never used a kayak before, you may not be sure which one you will need. Keep reading and we’ll try to break down the basic differences and help you make an educated purchase.
There are two basic types of kayaks. There are the Sit On Tops (SOT) and Sit In Kayaks (SIK). Each type has models that fish well. Before we discuss the merits and differences of each type, let’s first discuss kayaks for fishing in general.
What makes a kayak a good fishing kayak?
Fishermen often have needs that may be different than someone who is out strictly to paddle. Some of the basic features that fishermen prefer in a kayak are stability, storage, and enough flat surfaces to bolt on fishing extras such as rod holders and depth finders. Performance and maneuverability, while important to many, may not be the primary factors in choosing your first fishing kayak.
Start your decision process by answering some basic questions which will help you narrow down the kayak models that are most appropriate for you.
First consider you.
What are your height, weight, inseam measurements, and general condition? If you’re a big or very tall man, there are certain kayaks that will suit you better. In fact, this will make your decision easier because finding the right kayak will be more a matter of finding one that handles your size and weight more than anything else. Look for kayaks with lots of leg-room and a weight capacity that will handle you and your gear.
If you’re a small to average sized person getting a kayak that’s big, heavy and has a 600- pound capacity probably isn’t your best choice. But if you’re going to fish in the ocean, a very small kayak wouldn’t be the best choice, either. As you’ll see, choosing a kayak can be a compromise of sorts. As you read on, consider the different factors and consider them while making your choice.
What vehicle are you going to use to transport your kayak?
If you’re using the bed of a pickup truck, a bigger, heavier kayak isn’t a problem. If you have a large SUV, like a 4WD Suburban, you should be conscious of the kayak’s weight because it will take some extra effort to get the kayak on and off of the roof of such a vehicle. The bottom line is that if your kayak is easy for you to load and unload you will use it more often.
Where do you plan on using the kayak?
Is it strictly going to be used in fresh water? If so, where? Lakes, ponds, small rivers, and creeks? Will you be fishing large, open bodies of water? Do you plan on using it in saltwater? Do you plan on fishing in the ocean and launching through the surf? How are you planning on getting the kayak to the water? Can you simply drive it to the water and launch or do you plan on going into more remote areas where you can’t use a vehicle for the final leg? All these factors are important when choosing a kayak.
What fishing methods do you like to use?
Do you only use one style? Do you use artificials, fish with bait, or both? If you’re going to use bait, do you want to use live baitfish or dead bait? Do you need room for a live-well? Do you plan on anchoring and chumming? Do you fly fish? The type of gear you plan on attaching and taking along is going to affect your decision. The way you fish can affect which kayaks are going to better suit your needs.
What type of fisherman are you?
Are you strictly a catch and release fisherman, do you like to take the occasional meal home or are you regularly taking fish home? Where are you going to store your catch? Is there room in the kayak you have selected?
Which style of kayak is right for you?
Sit inside(SI) kayaks are the traditional type of kayaks. When most people think about kayaks this is the type that usually comes to mind. They are similar to canoes in that you sit inside on the hull of the kayak. SI’s offer more initial protection from the elements, however, in rougher conditions they can fill with water without the proper accessories. In adverse conditions, they’re usually outfitted with a spray-skirt. A skirt is a covering that goes around you and the opening in the kayak that prevents water from entering. When a skirt is used, you may inadvertently limit access to the items that are inside of the kayak, but if you’re a bare bones type fisherman this may suit you just fine.
Sit Inside Kayak
Sit on top kayaks are a newer breed of kayak. They resemble a modified surfboard of sorts and you sit on them rather than in them. SOT’s have what are known as scupper holes, which allow water to drain from the cockpit. This way when water washes over the kayak, the cockpit may briefly flood but it will quickly drain eliminating the need to pump out any water. This is especially beneficial in placed like the surf zone.
Both styles of kayaks are useful to fisherman and within each style there are models that will suit you better than others. Let’s get back to some of those earlier questions and see why they’re important in helping you choose which of these types of kayak will be best for you.
Fishermen do something in a kayak that most people don’t; they fish. Therefore having a relatively stable platform can be very important, especially to a person who is new to the sport and new to kayaks.
When kayakers discuss stability, they talk about two types; Initial and Secondary. Initial stability is the side to side wobble that you feel when you sit in a kayak. Secondary stability is when the kayak is nearing the point of flipping and how much forgiveness it has before you actually flip. Many recreational kayaks that are used for fishing have tremendous initial stability but have a very abrupt secondary. When they reach their secondary limit, you’re literally dumped. Conversely there are kayaks that wobble like mad but are very forgiving when they come to the dump point. Most recreational fishing kayaks have a good compromise of both initial and secondary stability.
Since you sit on or near the floor of a sit in kayak (SIK), they tend to seem more stable. In sit on top kayaks (SOT), you sit on the kayak and since it has a double hull you also sit higher. This higher sitting position can initially make a SOT seem less stable. If you have a SOT and a SIK that are the same length and width, the SIK will probably be more stable. Because of this, SOT designers tend to make their kayaks wider. So no matter which style you choose, there will be a model that you will feel comfortable in.
Initial stability can seem more important to beginners and secondary stability more important to seasoned kayakers. It makes sense. The beginner hasn’t developed a sense of balance yet. It’s a lot like learning how to ride a bicycle. When you start out it’s new so you think about it more. After a short while, it becomes second nature and you don’t think about it at all.
Generally the longer and narrower a kayak, the faster it is. SIK’s are usually faster, however, there are fast SOTs too. Speed is only important if you need it. If the majority of your fishing is close to shore or in small protected areas, then you probably won’t need a long fast kayak. However, if you’re fishing a big reservoir, bay, sound, or in the open ocean, the ability to cover distance may be very important to you. An equally sized SIK will usually be faster because it is narrower than a SOT of the same length.
If you’re going to fish in small creeks or narrow estuaries, you’ll probably want a kayak that is easy to maneuver. A long fast touring kayak will be more difficult to use in these situations and might take away from your overall fishing experience. A shorter SOT or SIK will suit you better in these types of environments. On big waters making a sharp turn usually isn’t crucial so a longer kayak is not a problem.
One of the joys of kayak fishing is converting a simple recreational kayak into a very effective and compact fishing vessel. This is done by adding fishing accessories. How much you add depends largely on your fishing style and your philosophy on gear. Some fishermen just take a rod and a few lures along and others like to bring lots of gear along. No matter what your preference, simply adding one rod holder will greatly increase the fishability of your kayak. Lots of flat surfaces are nice for mounting accessories.
Fishermen tend to take a lot of gear with them. Organizing this gear requires that the kayak you choose has adequate storage. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it’s nice to have a few different places to put your stuff.
SOT kayaks have a double hull which means there is a lot of potential storage below the deck. Depending on your needs this may be very important to you. Maybe you plan on camping or making long journeys in your kayak. This large relatively dry storage area may appeal to you. If you plan on launching your kayak through the surf, this space will allow you to stow rods below deck which will keep them safe while you pass through the surf zone.
Many SIK have hatches that offer access to sealed-off compartments in the hull. Many of the SIKs used by fishermen also have large open cockpits that make it easier to get at gear you may have stored around you. Milk crates and other plastic containers can also be used for external storage. They fit into the tank wells of may SOT kayaks and can also be lashed onto the deck of SIKs as well.
Kayak fishing takes place in many different environments, from large bays, sounds, and even the open ocean, but many of us fish some very small waters, too. A small shallow river can be very easily fished with a short, lightweight kayak. Such a kayak will be easier to negotiate around obstacles such as logs, log jams, rocks, waterfalls and spillways, fast water, and rocky shallows. There will be times when you need to carry or drag your kayak around, over, or through these places. In these types of situations, a smaller, lighter kayak is the better choice.
Kayaks for Big and Tall
Cobra Fish and
Dive Cobra Marauder
Kayaks for Small Water
Feel Free Nomad
Feel Free Move
Kayaks for Medium to Larger Waters
Feel Free Moken
Malibu Pro Explore
Five Goals for Every Paddler
Setting Paddling Goals
Goal setting is the number one way to achieve what you want most. Why is it then that most of the goals we set are work related or financially motivated? We should be setting goals in every area that we consider important in our lives. That goes double for paddling. Well, maybe that’s a bit overboard (ha!). But why not set paddling goals? The New Year is a great time to do this but really there is no bad time to start developing the habits and routines of goal setting. Here is a list of goals that every paddler should have at all times regardless of their paddling level or number of years on the water.
- Learn a New Canoe or Kayak Technique
It is very tempting, in all areas of life, to develop a certain level of proficiency and then become comfortable and even complacent in what we know. We rest on our laurels rather than strive for continuous improvement. Our canoe and kayak paddling prowess is no exception to this. We often learn just enough to do what we need in a boat and that’s it. Why not set a goal to learn a new paddling technique? It can be a maneuver, a stroke, a trick, or even a safety precaution. But don’t merely set a goal to learn whatever it is. Become determined to master it!
- Canoe or Kayak in a New Location
One of the biggest draws to paddling is that it places us in parts of our neighborhood, state, country, and world that most people never get to see. Why is it then that after a while we get into a routine of paddling the same rivers, lakes, and shorelines? Step outside the box. Identify that one place you’ve always wanted to paddle but never have. Now set a goal to do it!
- Take a Paddling Lesson
It’s funny how many things our pride and egos prevents us from doing. We think we know it all and that someone else can’t possibly help us improve. Or we think things like lessons are for beginners only. The fact is that there are canoe and kayak lessons available for every level from the first time boater to competition level paddler. Determine where you fit in the spectrum and sign up for a lesson to take your paddling to the next level.
- Try Something New
There are almost as many types of paddling and places to paddle as there are paddlers. Well, that may be a little exaggerated, but the point is obvious. We participate in an extremely versatile and diverse family of sports. Every paddler has that one type of paddling they’ve been dying to try. For some it is they want to crossover from canoeing to kayaking or vice versa. Others want to go from whitewater kayaking to sea kayaking. Or maybe it’s just a type of trip they’ve have been wanting to take such as an overnight expedition style trip. Whatever it is, we all have that one thing that we’ve wanted to try. I’m going to make this as simple as I can.
- Number of Days on the Water
This is really a mater of bragging rights. We all like to sit around the camp fire or in the pub and tell each other how many days on the water we had the past year or so far for the current year. It’s a pride think, really. Setting a goal for this will not only give you something to strive for, it will also force you to get out onto the water on days where you would normally be too lazy to do so. And let’s face it, there is really no such thing as a bad day on the water.
May you achieve all of your paddling goals this year!
So, you’ve purchased a kayak. Congratulations!
Choosing a Paddle
The next item on your list is likely to be a paddle. But how do you choose? There’s no such thing as a perfect paddle. It’s different for everyone. The paddle is an extension of your arms in much the same way the kayak is an extension of your body, and you want the right one. While paddle choice is largely a matter of personal preference, length, weight, material and blade shape are all variables that will affect your decision.
Choosing the right kayak paddle is often an overlooked task for beginners. All too often, the choice becomes one by default. We spend a lot of time looking at kayaks, sitting in them, and adjusting the fit. We buy the helmet based on feel, and let’s not kid ourselves, by what looks cool. But then it comes to selecting a paddle. And what do we do? We just buy the paddle that the salesman gives us. Or we just buy the cheapest one they have.
Rarely, do we ever worry about size, weight, construction, materials, feather, or blade symmetry. Admittedly, some of those things really don’t matter to a beginner and won’t benefit the paddling they do starting off. But I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a new kayaker come home with a paddle that is simply too long for them. Whether you will be buying your first paddle or you are considering an upgrade, this information will outline all of the features you may want to consider.
- Paddle length – Paddle length varies based on the type of kayaking you will do, your height, and the type of kayak you paddle.
- Paddle shaft – The shaft is the part of the paddle that you place your hands on. Most people don’t realize that there is actually a lot that goes into designing a paddle shaft.
- Shaft type – Straight or Bent Shaft. Straight shafts are more common, lighter, and cheaper. Bent Shaft paddles put less stress on your joints, promote proper stroke alignment, and are more comfortable.
- Shaft size – Most people don’t know that there are different shaft diameters. As hand size increases so does the thickness of the needed paddle shaft. The choice here is primarily on comfort.
- Paddle blade – The blade is the part of the paddle that enters the water and propels the boat. Similar to the paddle shaft, the design features related to the paddle are important.
- Blade shape – Symmetrical or Asymmetrical. An Asymmetrical shape provides for a smooth entry into the water. A symmetrically shaped blade is able to be paddled with either hand since the blades are exactly the same on both sides.
- Feather – The feather of a paddle refers to the angle that each blade is offset from each other. The feather of one blade to another is usually measured in 15 degree increments with the most common being a 45 degree feather.
- Construction – Blade and Shaft materials. There are many materials that paddles are made from such as aluminum, plastic, and carbon.
Kayaking – Meet, Learn, Develop
The two main obstacles to every paddler’s advancement is the shortage of boating buddies as well as the lack of skill development. It certainly is more enjoyable to paddle with others but this is not the only impetus propelling one’s search for a paddling companion. Kayaking and canoeing in groups is a simple matter of safety as well as the best way to improve one’s skills. Every whitewater kayaker knows the disappointment of finding out that the local river is at optimal conditions only to remember there is no one to go with.
Regardless of the level at which you canoe or kayak, this list of 5 suggestions will help you not only find new paddling friends, it will also help you further hone your skills.
Go to Canoe and Kayak Festivals and Expos
Going to canoe and kayak festivals are by far the most exciting way to grow in this sport. These events offer a great venue to meet other boaters, try out new equipment, take a free lesson, find great deals on gear, and even watch the pros doing what we love best. Paddling festivals occur all over the county and at different times of the year. It is conceivable that a person could actually fill up his or her paddling calendar just by traveling from event to event.
Join a Local Canoe and Kayak Club
Almost everywhere there is water you will find a local paddling club. Paddling clubs are great for the simple reason that they are made up of regular people who are looking for a way to connect with others who share their passion. Joining a club usually provides members with two main things. First, there will always be someone you can learn from. Second, you can usually find someone who paddles at the same ability as you which always makes things more enjoyable.
Join the American Canoe Association and the American Whitewater Association
The American Canoe Association (ACA) is the foremost authority on canoeing and kayaking in this country. American Whitewater advocates for boaters rights and river conservation. There are a few reasons to join these associations. Each membership comes with a publication on the latest news and events around the country with regard to paddling. They also post the latest standards, tips, and information that every paddler should make sure they know. Finally, since these associations are non profit organizations, your membership serves as a donation to the causes of the sport you love so much.
Try Out Other People’s Canoe and Kayak Gear
The most useful way for you to understand how the equipment you use affects your paddling is to try out all types of boats, paddles, gloves, and whatever else you can get your hands on. I always recommend trying out the boat before you buy it. Many shops will charge you for the right to demo one of their kayaks. Every time you are on the water is an opportunity for you to try out other people’s kayaks and canoes. Most boaters will welcome the chance to swap boats with you while in an eddy or at your favorite surf spot. Your best bet and first round of boat swaps should be among you and your friends.
Take a Canoe or Kayak Paddling Lesson
The best way to improve your paddling skills is to take a lesson. Its one thing to learn a sport informally through the help of others and it is a completely different thing to learn the proper technique that will advance your skills to the next level. This tip goes for paddlers of all levels. If you are just starting out, take a beginner’s lesson. If you are an intermediate, take a more advanced class. Even if you consider yourself an expert, why not become a certified instructor? With each lesson you take your level of ability will increase by leaps and bounds.