It’s been a busy summer, trying out one of Old Town’s premier fishing machines, the Predator XL Minn Kota, in saltwater tributaries off the Potomac River, plus packing some travel rods and reels to multiple destinations, including Florida, Tennessee, Saskatchewan and Ireland. Some excellent new fishing shoes are also coming.

Old Town Predator XL Minn Kota kayak

Old Town Predator XL Minn Kota
Photo Credit: Manufacturer
Old Town Predator XL Minn Kota

Old Town won "best boat in show" honors a couple of years ago at the American Sportfishing Association’s annual trade show with the boat above, a kayak (of sorts) equipped with a console sporting a 45-pound, variable-thrust trolling motor.

Setting up the boat was easy, and once in the water, it’s a ball to operate and fish from.

Old Town’s new pedal-driven version won similar accolades this year, but when you’re potentially traveling a couple of miles on an extremely hot day, simply engaging the trolling motor’s propeller and steering easily with the foot-controlled rudder system pedals sure makes things easy.

Many military installations have ponds or small lakes as well as navigable creeks and small rivers. Access is often restricted to vessels either paddled or powered by electric motors. The Predator XL is ideal for those types of scenarios.

The single-seat boat is 13 feet, 2 inches long and 36 inches wide at the widest point. Stand-up fishing is very doable, and a stand-up assist strap helps you gain leverage to get up. Stability is outstanding. I love the comfortable seat. Too many of the older kayaks had seats that didn’t seem the best designed for anyone approaching 6 feet and 200 pounds.

As I said, once in the water, it's awesome. Getting it to the water, though, could involve a couple of trips depending on your distance. The unloaded boat weighs 92 pounds. A good carrier accessory lets you strap the boat down and roll it to the water. The console weighs 25.5 pounds. Then there's the 12-volt battery. You'll want a full-size, deep-cycle marine cell to give you enough juice for hours of operation. You can also tow, or carry in a larger boat, the kayak to distant areas where access may be difficult but the fishing is great — and then launch and fish that skinnier water.

I love the console placement and the fact that the unit flips up easily to clear any weeds or if you're going through shallow water that may have rocks. I estimate the boat only draws about 16 inches of water; obviously, you have to be mindful of water depth and the weed situation beneath the boat. Always keep a backup paddle on board. Other features include scupper holes, six removable mounting plates, rod tip holders and retainer bungees, storage hatches, a battery box and a molded paddle rest.

A recommended option is a separate Exo-Ridge Paddle Console ($99.99) that swaps out for the trolling motor unit should you just want to paddle the boat.

The suggested retail for the boat and Minn Kota console is $2,999.

Fenwick Methods Travel Rod

Photo Credit: Ken Perrotte

This Fenwick spinning rod had me wondering how I ever lived without one, given my travel schedule. I had a Model MET68XF, which assembles into a 6-foot, 8-inch rod. What's great about it is it comes in five sections and the rod can be configured for two different actions: medium or medium-light action and fast or extra-fast. Plus, the extra sections mean a break of one section doesn't completely put you out of business. The sections join tightly.

I found the rod very cast-friendly. In fact, I compared it side-by-side with a fishing partner's 7-foot, single-piece spinning rod. Throwing the same bait as far as I could, I only managed a few extra yards' distance with the single-piece rod — meaning not too bad at all for a three-sectioned travel rod. All the parts fit easily into a hard travel tube. The tube, about 31 inches long, fit inside my large suitcase. Highly recommended. $149.

Pflueger Supreme XT Reel

Photo Credit: Manufacturer

This Pflueger spinning reel ($99) was an excellent match for the travel rod. I used a 30X model, ideal for small- to medium-sized fish. For bigger fish and stronger line diameters, two larger models are available. This is touted as the only magnesium spinning reel in the marketplace at this price point. A braid-ready spool lets you forget adding a backing. It has a 6.2:1 gear ratio for fast retrieve and 10 bearings with instant anti-reverse. The drag was excellent, and if you get a good hookset and work the drag well, you can land some impressive fish on very light line.

Military Times outdoors writer Ken Perrotte in Canada with the Cabela's Tourney Trail IM8 Spinning Rod and Pro Guide Spinning Reel.

Photo Credit: Chad Shearer

We used this gear in Saskatchewan to catch big, pre-spawn northern pike. We threw beefy lures, such as Bomber's Herky Jerky Jr., all day long and worked in some 40-inch fish. The bigger pike loved those big lures. Old standby Dardevle spoons did well also. This moderately fast-action, medium-power rod ($69.99) was a 7-foot, 2-piece made from light graphite blanks. The guides were stainless steel frame with titanium-oxide ring inserts.

Paired with the $49 Pro Guide reel, it made for a very affordable combo. The reel used had a 5.3:1 ratio and nine stainless steel bearings. The microclick front drag adjustment worked well when a couple of big pike decided to make some powerful runs near the boat. We also paired Cabela's Prodigy Spinning Reels ($99) with the rods. These were seven stainless steel bearing models with lightweight carbon frames. This reel's multidisc drag system also performed like a champ with bigger fish.

B'n'M Crappie Spincast Rod

Photo Credit: Ken Perrotte

This 5.5-foot, two-piece, medium-light-action, graphite rod is another great travel companion. This little rod has substantial backbone for playing bigger fish with a sensitive tip for detecting bites and setting the hook. The handle is made from Portuguese cork. It has alloy guides. And it costs just $24!

B'n'M Pro Staff Spinning Reel

Photo Credit: Ken Perrotte

B'n'M Pro Staff Spinning Reel
In a bit of a model mismatch, we paired it with the Pro-Staff reel ($39.99), but the small spinning reel on the spincast-style rod worked fine. Designed for panfish performance, it has five bearings and a 5.1:1 gear ratio. It takes line up to 8 pounds. It's nice for close-in, shallow-water fishing, and the price makes it great when you're looking at multireel sets during trolling or spider rigging type of fishing.

A reel that would work nicely with the spincast rod is the West Point Trigger Reel ($24.99), an ultralight, closed-face spinning reel weighing just 5.5 ounces and having a 4.7:1 gear ratio. This rod and reel combo makes a great kid's setup.

Simms Challenger Boat Shoes

Photo Credit: Ken Perrotte

When this year's ICAST trade show ended, Montana-based fishing apparel company Simms gave me a pair of new Challenger Boat Shoes to try. Available this fall for $119, this shoe builds on the success of the company's Currents Shoe, released last year. Both use Simms' Right Angle Footbed technology. Rigid, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) reinforcements at the base of the heel and the outside of the foot near the arch help your foot stay securely positioned, and your weight evenly distributed, during rough swells. Anyone who's worn footgear without adequate support while trying to do prolonged, stand-up fishing in choppy water knows how it not only affects your feet but also back and shoulders.

The shoe's sole is flat, which makes working trolling motors easier, but it also has a unique tread design that well grips the boat's surface. It's non-marking, too, which should please many skippers looking to protect their boats' gelcoat finishes. Small, screened drainage ports, well integrated into the tread design, allow water to drain. The upper material is a breathable, fast-drying, tight mesh. I intentionally soaked my feet a couple of times in Florida and Tennessee just to try the drainage and drying abilities and loved the results.

The lacing system is simple, with no metal parts to corrode. These are some superb boat shoes.

Ken Perrotte is a Military Times outdoors writer.