Pescador Pilot 12.0 Review – 3 Years In

Kayak fishing on calm lake

My Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0 is now three years old and to celebrate I would like to share my thoughts on the kayak and give it a bit of a review. Perception introduced the Pescador Pilot 12.0 in July 2016 it has been relatively unchanged since. The Pilot has all the features I wanted when I upgraded to a pedal drive and I have been happy with my purchase so far. I bought the Pilot second hand off a friend after he used it for a year, it was in very good shape when I bought it and has held up well to my style of abuse.

My previous kayak was a 2015 Ocean Kayak Trident 13. It was an excellent kayak, not just for a first boat but season after season I appreciated a lot of its features. In my opinion the only thing it lacked was the ability to stand and cast. I wouldn’t have sold it if my friend didn’t offer up a great deal on a gently used pedal drive kayak.

Things I like:

I love the pedal drive. The ability to control the boat with your feet while keeping your hands free is an absolute game changer. With the drive I am able to troll with the rod in my hands, travel from spot to spot while eating a snack or playing with the fish finder, control the boat in the wind and hold a spot without the use of an anchor. It really feels like cheating.

I can now stand and cast. It is great to be able to sight fish from the kayak using both a spinning rod or a fly rod. The few feet gained from sitting to standing allows you to see much further out and into the water.

The kayak is very stable. It gives me a lot of confidence on big lakes when I am able to move around the kayak from front to back or to stand up and turn around if necessary.

The ride is dry compared to my last kayak. On my previous kayak the seat was integrated into the hull. So when the hull got wet my butt got wet. On the Pilot the seat is a few inches off the deck, so when some water comes through the scuppers or I end up spilling my drink it doesn’t all end up on my seat. Also since I am not using the paddle as often I don’t get the drips on my lap.

I like the built in gear tracks. I thought there might have been an issue with strength  because they are made of plastic but they have held up great. Last summer I was floating down the North Saskatchewan River with my rod in the rod holder and snagged my jig head on the bottom. The rod doubled over and because of the current the boat whipped around and almost flipped. Luckily I was able to get the rod out of the holder before I went for a swim. The rod holder and gear track it was mounted to showed no sign of weakness.

Gear tracks still look great!

The seat is very breathable. This is a very nice feature most of the year but it can be chilly when the weather is cold.

The extended range afforded by pedaling is awesome. I can go much farther and much faster than paddling allowed before. And if my legs do get tired I can always paddle for a bit as well.

The transducer mounting location is great for my side imaging sonar. There is no interference from the pedal drive or noise from the hull interfering with the side imaging signal, which was an issue on my previous kayak.

The drive itself is quiet. There is virtually no turbulence thanks to the rubber flaps on the bottom.

Things I don’t like:

The drive is a pain to retract. In order to pull up the drive you have to pull some pins, line up the propeller so its vertical, push it up with one hand and slide the pin in with the other. Which is fine when the water is clear enough you can see the prop, but when the water is dirty and your prop is misaligned with the crank arms it becomes a game of retract the prop before you run aground. The pins that have to be pulled and pushed when raising or lowering the drive are greasy and it gets all over your hands, if they are not greased the pin squeaks when you pedal and gets old real quick.

Pedal Drive pin assembly.

I cannot get comfortable in the seat. If I sit up straight my butt rests on the bar at the back, if I lean back on the backrest I put too much pressure on the straps when pedaling and they start to tear and slip through the buckle. In an attempt to stop the slipping I roughed up the buckles with a file but that only delays the backrest leaning all the way back.

I call this seat angle “Max-Relax”. Not a great angle for pedaling though!

There is no dry storage. I like to be able to keep some things dry like a change of clothes or my lunch when I am out on the kayak. The only hatch is the small one in the back and that is pretty much only for rudder maintenance. Its big enough for my hand to fit in but not much else.

The rod holders behind the seat are terrible. I don’t use them and don’t plan to.

Points to note:

There are some things I’ve learned to be aware of when using my Pescador Pilot.

Keep the weight balanced left to right otherwise the kayak will be tilted to one side as you pedal around. This is not a big deal but can make you lean to one side all day.

Point the rudder so it is in line with the cables when raising or lowering it. This makes it much easier to pull up and down because you need quite a bit of leverage to do it when the ropes are not aligned.

Align the rudder with the cables to make it easier to raise and lower.

Water does get into the hull so it’s a good idea to open the hatch when you get home. The water most likely gets in through the hole the rudder is mounted to when waves splash over the top, but it also gets in when you forget the put the plug back in.

The hole where the rudder is mounted is also where water can leak into the hull.

When the drive is retracted the pedals block access to one of the boxes. I usually align the pedals so the box that is blocked is the one I keep things I don’t regularly need, such as my throw bag and bailing bucket.

The shaft that holds the drive in will rotate as you pedal, if you keep the wire for the cotter pin through the split ring it will wind the wire up and pull the cotter pin from the other shaft.

Maintenance:

Maintenance on the kayak has been pretty minimal. I covered it in detail in a previous post and you can find here: https://www.stringtheoryangling.ca/pescador-pilot-12-0-drive-issue-and-maintenance/

Things that have worn after 3 years:

There are a few things that are wearing out slowly and will likely need to be replaced in the next year or two:

The straps on the seat are starting to break, the mounting holes on the straps are stretching out and tearing from the force I put on the backrest. In addition to that the buckles do not want to hold the backrest in place. I attempted a simple fix by roughing up the buckle with a file to hold the straps better. It helps but doesn’t prevent the backrest from sliding back to the max-relax position.

The holes in the straps are starting to stretch and tear after 3 years of use.
I roughed up the buckle with a file to keep the strap from slipping.

To prevent the metal seat from wearing a hole in the hull I put a piece of pipe insulation on the bar that contacts the plastic.

Pipe insulation on seat bar keeps it from wearing on the hull.

The seat is starting to show signs of sun damage. I keep the kayak indoors when not in use and if the seat gets wet I don’t allow it to dry in the sun. I am sure when the time comes to replace the fabric I will be able to get a new seat from Perception so I’m not too worried about it.

The paddle bungee cord has stretched out and lost some of its elasticity. I plan on adding a paddle clip to this location anyway as the bungee strap doesn’t hold the paddle very rigidly.

Conclusion

I outlined a lot of things to be wary of in this post but keep in mind each kayak will have its own quirks you will have to deal with, it’s not a one size fits all situation. One of the benefits of fishing from a kayak in general is that everything you need is within arms reach, which is not usually the case in a boat. There is also no limit to what you can do to make your kayak your own. There are so many accessories available from great manufacturers and DIY’ers, with more coming out each year. Overall I have been very happy with my Pescador Pilot 12.0, it is a real angling battleship!


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