Bob Special vs Morningstar vs Kingfisher

Looking for a canoe that is very fishing friendly with rock solid stability (inital) I will be using the canoe both solo and tandem (about 50/50) mostly small rocky streams with the occasional small lake. Has anyone had any experiance with at least two of these canoes? The only one I have paddled is the Kingfisher and really liked it from a stability standpoint (however not the best solo craft I have ever paddled). Also I would be interested in opinions on the various layups from each manufacture the ones I would be considering are the Blue Steel (Bob Special) Black Gold (Morningstar) and the Kevlar Flexcore (Kingfisher) Anyway any insight would be much appreciated.



Can be paddled solo or tandem. Has 3 seats.


Stewie, I don’t have anything specific to offer about the models but you mentioned small rocky streams and kevlar in the same idea and I know I wouldn’t do it. Kevlar and rocks don’t usually play well together.


soloable tandems

– Last Updated: Aug-18-08 9:20 AM EST –

The three best short class tandems of all time are Bell's NorthStar, Swift's Kipiwa and Mad River's Malecite.

Bell's tumblehome makes it the most readily soloable of the three. It's narrowness, 34.5", makes it a better tandem to solo than the MorningStar at 36" wide.

Swift's infusion laminate with CobraSox rails make it the lightest of the three.

While Bell's Black/Gold is, maybe, the best commercial laminate available, all three top end laminates have foam cored bottoms, which are contra-indicated for rocky rivers.

For a boat that's focus will be fishing, not paddling, maybe a RX MorningStar?

Can’t resist…
Vermont Canoe Encore, 16’2’. Paddles like a cross between the Malecite and the Explorer. Our Kevlar layup is bomber. No foam core to worry about. About 51lbs. With our kneeling thwart (standard in our Encore), it makes a great switch hitter.

Check out the following links which are pictures taken on the Mad River last week fishing.


What was the other Vermont Mad River that you mentioned reviving a month or so back?

The Independence…
Jacob is in the lay-up room right now building the mold.

Osprey 155
I went thru similar evaluation for sporting canoe to use for same purposes. Check out the Old Town Osprey 155 in royalex. I just got the 14’ version and it’s very stable, yet still quite manueverable. I wanted a 155 but couldn’t find one nearby.

I thought you inferred something about reproducing another one also. I must have misunderstood.

The 18’ Horizon
…My bad. Yes, we will be building the mold for the 18’Kevlar Horizon in October.



– Last Updated: Aug-18-08 6:00 PM EST –

Here’s my take on your question: I’ve paddled all the boats you ask about, though not necessarily in the lay ups you contemplate. Of the three, I’ve spent the least time in the Kingfisher, having paddled a Royalex one on two different occasions, once solo and once tandem. In both cases it was gentle lake paddling, calm water w/little wind. I’ve paddled a White Gold Morningstar on one long multi-day trip down the St. Croix River in N.W, Wisconsin; we paddled tandem and were lightly loaded (another canoe took most of the load.) I own a Blue Steel Bob Special, an early pre-production model w/a shoe keel. I’ve paddled it a couple of hundred times, mostly (80%) as a solo, in many different circumstances.

As you have experienced yourself, the Wenonah Kingfisher has great primary stability; to sit (or stand) and fish (or use it as a photo platform, which is the main job of the one I paddled), it would be hard to beat. However, it just isn’t very fun to paddle; it borders on slow and is a little ponderous.

The Bell Morningstar is a very nice boat, fun to be in and surprisingly happy in moving water, at least partially due to nice secondary stability (like most Bell boats of that type.) However, it doesn’t have the primary stability to make it a very good fishing boat. If you are going to paddle a Morningstar solo you’ll need to add a kneeling thwart or move the thwart that is right behind the bow seat (unless you’re going to paddle Canadian Style, of course.) I hear a new version of this boat with greater primary stability may be introduced soon.

I like the Bob Special a lot, so note my bias right out front! It does a lot of things very well and is happy as both a tandem and a solo. For fishing, I think it is a great little boat, with good primary stability and lots of secondary. If you sit rather than kneel when paddling, you might find (as I recently learned) that lengthening the seat hangers (thus lowering the effective center of gravity) will give you immediate returns in additional stability. However, this boat is, almost more than any I’ve paddled, dependent on good trim for top performance. I use a 40-liter dry bag filled about 75% both solo (paddling from the bow seat “backwards”) and tandem to bring the bow level or even slightly bow down. This improves tracking and maneuverability, bringing them both to really outstanding levels. I think the most surprising aspect of the Bob (other than its ability to adapt to so many situations) is its very good speed; it just isn’t the slug that you’d think when looking at it!

As to lay up, I’ve spent a great deal of time w/all three: each that you mentioned is really very, very good. The Kevlar Flexcore from Wenonah flexes and slides wonderfully over rocks, in a way that their much stiffer Ultra Light lay up just won’t.

Bell’s Black Gold is tough and light and, without a gelcoat, doesn’t show scratches too badly at all. It is very stiff.

Nova Craft’s Blue Steel is, in my opinion, probably the strongest of all of them, exhibiting a little of the flex of the KevFlex (due to its use of Spectra cloth) and certainly seems the full equal of Black Gold in overall toughness. However, natural Blue Steel has a clear gelcoat; the scratches you’re going to get will be much more obvious on a Blue Steel boat than on the others, simply because they are white on a dark blue background. My Bob has plenty of “campaign ribbons.”

While heavier, all three of these boats do come in a Royalex lay up (and the Bob's is a Royalite), certainly better when the rocks get sharper.

Have fun with which ever you choose. For more opinions, you’ll find lots of good reviews on P-net for all of them. Paddle on!

That’s funny, S-glass out, Kevlar inside
is a bread-and-butter construction for whitewater racing boats. I guess they never hit any rocks. But I have three “Kevlar” canoes, use them on rocky rivers all the time, and I don’t have any problems.

I tried both the Morningstar and the Northstar when I was looking for a large solo/small tandem and agree completely with Charlie. The Northstar is much easier to solo, and I am very happy with it.

It is a lot of boat to handle in the wind, and I am looking for a dedicated solo, still.

Great. Thanks Rob. NM