Feelfree Moken 12.5
There are loads of good reviews on paddling/angling forums in the USA about the Moken 12.5 so we felt it was time to put a UK and Irish perspective online. Same old face and two new faces feature in this review: Duffer has had his say (because we can't get rid of him) and Steve who manages Norfolk Canoes. That makes this review 42% Irish, 33% English and 25% Cornish – you have been warned!
Duffer and Steve cover a spectrum of kayak fishing with Steve happy to fish fresh or salt water whilst Duffer now fishes salt water only. So here's the craic – we get paid to paddle and fish, which we love, then we have to write loads of words.
This is Steve's take and an overview:
As a keen paddler and also angler, I relish the opportunity to combine both passions and get out there on a boat and worry some fish. Life gets even better when there is something new to take out and put to the test and recently I got to grips with the Moken 12.5 from Feelfree. Like all the Mokens, the 12.5 is based on the wonderful trimaran-style hull, much like the Moken 10 and 12 but with a good number of upgrades and modification to bring it bang up to date. The original Moken 10 was well known as the most stable thing on the water and I was hoping that the 12.5 would be at least the same if not better. I think the 12.5 has been designed more towards freshwater fishing.
The first time I took one out was on a chilly but calm day and I was looking for some pike action. At first glance the Moken 12.5 really looks the business. With its roomy cockpit, large rear storage area, centre console hatch and front compartment, you can certainly load it up safe in the knowledge that your gear will be close to hand and more importantly still be there at the end of the day thanks to that stable hull. A large oval hatch with three locking toggles and a great seal means that you can fit in plenty of gear into a dry bag and stow it properly. The hatch between your knees does not open into the hull but to a split compartment that is great for keeping food and drink or a small amount of tackle close to hand. Personally I found it a perfect fit for my soup flask – an important consideration as paddling makes me hungry. The build quality of the Moken 12.5 is as we would expect - bomb proof. The drawback with a well made kayak that has a large surface area is weight. Every square inch of plastic weighs a bit, so with moulded in-side handles, rear handles etc. etc., the kayak gains a few pounds. More significant still is that stability comes from hull design and surface area and the Moken 12.5 is as stable as a box of stable things – so add a couple more pounds. All the technical kayaks weigh more than simple kayaks and the weight works with you once on the water.
Car topping a 12.5 takes a bit of grunt but them so do the Tarpons and Ocean Kayaks. Duffer, being our elder statesman has it cracked when fishing solo – he uses a dinghy trailer and can be heard mutter "dinghy trailer or hernia – you pays your money yer makes yer choice". Same trailer he used for his Hobie Outback – older yes, and wiser, possibly not!
The moulded-in side and bow handles double up as security devises as you can loop a chain or cable through both. I know Duffer uses the side handle to raft up (go alongside and tie off with the Erk), and he has some anchor trolly system he uses with the side handle.
The Moken 12.5 comes with a King Fisher seat. This is a very supportive and well padded seat that I found to be surprisingly comfortable over the hours I was out. Originally I though the back may be a little too high and a bit uncomfortable as it comes up between the shoulder blades, but with a PFD on this was certainly not the case. Take a few moments to adjust it properly so all the straps share the load. The rear storage tank has the usual bungee cords over it, and the clips that fit into the Uni Track system allow the bungees to be easily adjusted. The forward Uni Track rails allow the nerd in you to fit any number rod holder and support bars. The Uni-Track base plate will for the best part accommodate any make of attachment that Scotty or RAM produce.
The usual Feelfree angler features are there as well: paddle parks, rear facing flush rod holders, sliding foot rests and even a second smaller hatch just behind the seat that's a good place to put a battery should you have a fish finder fitted. As with all other Mokens, the 12.5 comes with the wheel-in-the-keel. This does make life somewhat easier not having to worry about a trolley and best of all I found that launching at the slipway was the simplest thing out there - just get the nose into the water, sit down, a little bum shuffle and the wheel trundles the boat down the slip and off into the water. Childs play. On the water the Moken is the epitome of good behaviour. Never mind the first class stability, that's a given, but combined with the high capacity you feel really high up above the water. No sitting in a puddle for me.
The Moken is a cruiser not a racing snake (If you need to go fast get a Scupper pro). In fact the Moken cruised like my old 4.3 and tracked like it was on rails with very little wake. All this I found ideal for trolling a couple of lures behind me. Against the current you feel inclined to be aggressive with the paddle strokes to make any headway, but this will do you no good at all. Simply carry on with steady strokes and consistent power and the 12.5 will get you where you want even against the flow.
As I think this kayak was designed for use on lakes, canals, slow rivers, estuaries, and calmer coastal waters, I would rate the hull as perfect. Anglers in the US are fishing inshore and offshore with good results. If I needed more forward speed I would probably go for the Moken 14. As the name suggests I work and play out of Norfolk Canoes in Norwich and we have the Norfolk Broads with its calm waters and gently flowing rivers on our doorstep. My inshore fishing is off the Norfolk coast and we usually fish in light Westerlys so again the 12.5 is ideal.
I can be a fidgety paddler/angler and I like to move around and try different things. I especially like the challenge of sticking a plug or spinner into the little channels and under overhangs or right next to a feature I know must be hiding something big. Now on most fishing kayaks you are permanently seated, unless you have balance that would make a tight rope walker green with envy. The standing platform on the Moken 12.5 in front of the seat works for me and it was a pretty simple job to get upright and flicking a spinner out. The tri-hull design keeps the boat nice and flat on the water with minimal rocking and you have a real feeling of confidence even when casting a good distance. I spoke to Duffer on this matter and he's not for standing but for inland fishing this could be the way forward. For predator fishing up the creeks with all the overhanging trees, this was great. Although I did feel that if I'd hooked a big Broads pike, I would still have retreated to the seat pretty quick. Overall the Moken 12.5 delivered everything I could have asked for on the water from a freshwater fishing kayak. It was smooth, stable, comfortable and best of all, it caught fish.
Here endeth this English story.
Duffer now contributes a bit of Irish and a lot of Cornish.
What to add to what Steve has written is a good question. I made it no secret that I liked the Moken 10 whilst fishing in the slop at the base of the cliffs off West Cork. So far I have only fished the Moken 12.5 off Cornwall and in the Tamar River. Either the fish are getting cleverer or I'm growing more stupid because I ain't catching much between gales with huge flows of fresh water coming down the rivers. I like fishing at night and I like the Moken 12.5 a lot.
Last trip just before Christmas 2013 still produced no Codling but there was a nice dollop of Whiting about. This video clip is of the launch.
Not all pin Whiting either – I kept three because to get the hook out I needed to start at the tail end of the fish, otherwise they would have gone back. Brother and Sister in Law scoffed the lot with a coriander sauce. I sat there in the dark watching the lights flashing on the gritters as they spread salt on the roads. The air temperature was again about freezing. Get your head examined Duffer springs to mind!
My shoe size is a 10 but this image is of my size 12 boots. Why size 12 – two pairs of thermal socks plus the dry socks on my PS220 and my toes are toasty warm. The cold starts at my feet so if I keep them warm I can fish away. To keep out of harm's way I tied off on an empty boat mooring and looked about. Took this little video of what the Tamar looks like at night whilst kayak fishing. This video clip is of the Tamar at night.
The 12.5 feels as solid as a rock on the water and as Steve says, she cruises in style. He stole my thunder writing about my using a dinghy trailer. Well at 62 I ain't van topping anything single handed, let alone a Moken 12.5. I am being bombarded by images of the Yanks fishing Mokens and have added a few to this review. My gut feeling is the UK and Ireland are about to embark on more inland catch-and-release fishing. If I'm correct then the Moken 12.5 is the beauty to go and catch a beast. I will stick to my estuary fishing for Codling and GHBs in the summer and still be as happy as a pig in spite of the sciatica.
Duffer & Steve
The Canoe Shops Group Ltd.
Feelfree Moken 12.5:
- Standing pad (calm water only)
- Wheel in the keel
- Oval hinge hatch
- King Fisher Seat
- 2 x Fishing rod holder size
- Stand up leash
- Uni Track System
- Centre storage hatch
- Drinks bottle holder
- Front and side grab handles
- Foot rests
- Rear Tank well with bungee straps
- Rear hatch
- Drain bung
Length:12' 8" (385 cm)
Width: 32" (82 cm)
Weight: 72 lbs (30 kg)
Capacity: 419 lbs (190 kg)