Native Ultimate 12

The Native Ultimate is one of those new hybrid canoe/kayak creations aimed at fisher folk. Saturday, a group of us paddled 15 miles on down the Navasota River, a pretty little river in the blackland farm belt of Texas near College Station (home of Texas A&M). For the trip, I paddled my friend Randy’s Ultimate 12. While we didn’t do any fishing, mainly explored for an upcoming overnight trip and future fishing trips, I did get some good butt time in the Ultimate. Randy paddled his Heritage Featherlite 9.5 and Elaine, our other companion, paddled her Malibu Mini-X. All three performed well, though both shorter boats were better when it came to going over submerged logs and rocks. Here are my observations on the Ultimate, I post them here rather than in the review section because the boat is marketed to the kayak fishing market:

“I spent about 10 hours today in Randy’s 12 ft Ultimate. It paddles great, doesn’t take much to get it up to speed, turns well after you get a few minutes in the boat, and is extremely stable. I own a solo canoe. In the summer, its may paddlecraft of choice, so I’ve a lot of time in small canoe type craft. The Ultimate compares well to solo canoes. Its a bit wider than mine and doesn’t have any tumblehome at the gunnels. But paddles almost as well with a double bladed paddle.

If I fished lakes, bays, and rivers with few stretches of fast water, it would definitely have a place in my stable. My only criticism is on rivers with a lot of fast water, rocks, and logs/structure that is shallow. If the Ultimate high centers on rocks or other obstructions, its difficult to get it off high center. The two options are to move forward or aft. Moving sideways doesn’t appear to do the job.

Its a fine craft and tracks very true even without using the skeg. With the skeg down, it sticks like glue. In the right place, this boat performs about as well as anything out there. The wind did not get high enough to cause any problems, though it did gust to about 15 from time to time. That type of wind had no affect on the craft. I suspect that a 20 mph hour wind would be no problem, though if it comes from the side and you don’t have the skeg down, it may force you off course a bit, but no worse than most other 12 foot boats.”

As an addendum, the Ultimate can be called a kayak or a canoe, but, make no mistake, the dang thing is a canoe. It looks like and paddles like a canoe. If it makes one feel better because kayaks have taken over the market place, call it a kayak.

One other thing I didn’t care for,
the tunnel intruding into the boat floor. While the Ultimate is relatively easy to get in and out of, I prefer the non-obtrusive floor of a canoe. You have to watch foot placement a bit, at least until you are used to it, getting in and out of the Ultimate.

Also, Big D, don’t think this a a good boat for your rocky rivers and, with the low freeboard, not sure how it will handle real white water. As long as it doesn’t hang on rocks, it should do fine up to Class II and you can buy spray skirts for both bow and stern, so those may help.

My impression in seeing them and reading
about them, is that any water moving by more than the power of a fish-fart is not what they were designed for. Nice, comfortable, stable fishing/recreation boats for sure, but not to be used going down river unless it happens to be a lake with a river feeding and exiting.


Wrong impression
It will do fine in fast water if there’s enough depth to avoid getting high centered. Its not my choice for above Class I, again with enough clearance, but it will do just fine. Above that, and the low free board also becomes a problem. The spray skirt helps there. Its not, by any stretch of the imagination, a white water boat, but will work well most places most of us fish. The boat can be a problem if it broaches in fast water, but don’t panic and you can get it straightened out.

But, I’d rather paddle my Wenonah Sandpiper in rivers. After enjoying that seat in the Ultimate, I gotta look for something else for my canoe. That Sitbacker is a pain in the ass and back.

I don’t know if I agree.
Turn those boat sideways against even a modest current and they’re going to swamp pretty quickly, where a traditional canoe or a kayak might have a better chance for balancing with a traditional hull. I’ve been pinned sideways in an 11’ rounded yak in current slow enough that I could probably walk through it alone, but in which the surface area of a boat suddenly makes the situation very different.

I’ve seen the 14’ used tandem and solo, and although I recognize it’s different than the 12’, it was not easily turned. I can see the 12’ being EASIER to turn, but I don’t know if it would be as maneuverable in a decent current as I’d like when avoiding shallow rocks and obstacles. Again, I’m not talking class-1 or 2, just moving water.

Since you have seat time, and I don’t, I will defer to you opinion. But I still wouldn’t get in one in much of a river at all myself.


Took through some pretty fast water
Saturday. Mostly would be class I at the fastest, but enough to give you a bit of a kick. Until I got used to it, I did get turned sideways a couple of times. It wasn’t pleasant, but the craft is rock solid. The 12 manuevers easily, not as easy as my 13.5 ft solo canoe, primarily due to the tunnel hull. Its not much wider at the water line, but the tunnel gives the hull a flatter effect. It would not be my first choice, but its doable with the boat. If its a deep, fast river, no rapids, it’ll glide along. But, I’d rather be in my solo or my OT Loon.

You’re still missing my point though.
It has a quick point of no return IF you get sideways for even a second up against a rock or log or a stick. Pin it for even a second and it’s swamped because of the low profile. Being pinned on a strainer can be really a dangerous place to get swamped and flipped. A kayak or traditional-hulled canoe has some ability to get off a pin like that.


Hopefully, I was clear its not that kind
of boat. No, its not a white water boat. Yes, it can take some white water situations. And, yes, one has to use judgment in those situations. What the Ultimate is is a very good fishing boat with limitations. But, many open boats and big cockpit rec boats are going to have problems in just those situations without a spray skirt and flotation bags, especially if the paddler has little experience. As I said in my review, its a good lake, bay and river boat with some light fast water.

I took water over the bow and over the side in my Scanoe this past weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever paddled something with as much freeboard as that sluggish old Scanoe, but we still took some splashes. This was on a class 2 section of the New River in pretty low water. I’d hate to see what would happen with something that has low freeboard and no scuppers. Oh wait, I already know…

  • Big D

No, its not for your kind of rivers
I’d not want it on anything even close to that without the spray skirts and flotation bags. I may have a trip on a similar river to the one I paddled last weekend, another exploratory type trip. I’m going to take my Sandpiper next time. It will be interesting to see how they compare. The one thing I forgot to try, and for which the Ultimate is supposed to be good, is standing in it. That is supposed to be its forte and, if it is that stable, a dream for fly fishermen and sight casters on flat water.

Planning to replace Scanoe
I’m thinking about an Old Town Predator squareback canoe to replace my Scanoe. It’s for the same purposes. The difference being that the Predator has all the features I’ve added to my Scanoe (center seat, oarlocks, anchor & line) designed into it. Plus a new one hasn’t been rear-ended and had the bulkheads knocked out and the built-in flotation come loose. I may even put a 2.5hp or 3hp gasoline engine on it for “paddling” upriver. I like my Scanoe because I can seat one, two, or three in it, I can row it or paddle it, and I can stand comfortably and site cast even on moving water. I can even anchor it in relative safety (as safely as you can anchor a canoe in current anyway) and pick a ledge apart. The Predator should be able to do about the same thing.

  • Big D

Wow! 113 pounds.
'Hope you’re planning to trailer that thing. I’d also consider buying stock in Wheaties, and making close friends w/ a chiropractor . . . .


Got a trailer already.
The Scanoe it’s replacing is 110lbs.

Plus, I just bought another pickup and will be getting a bed extender for it. No need to cartop. Most I’d have to lift one end is a few feet even if the trailer is at the other end of the shuttle. I may be getting older and more feeble, but I’m not quite so feeble that I can’t lift 55lbs (1/2 the weight of the canoe) to a height of 3 ft and then slide the rest of the thing into the bed. Piece of cake. I’ve also already got a cart for those launches where I can’t back the truck/trailer right to the water.

The sacrifices we make for fishing…

If I want lightweight, I’ll paddle my Dagger Approach. For standing and sightfishing, I want big and ultra-high initial stability.

  • Big D

thanks for your input on the Native, I just purchased one and plan on fishing in it. I have added pole holders, etc along with a fish finder and am really enjoying being back on the water.

I am concerned about your mention about getting "hung up on the various obstacles but I think as long as I am staying in fishing areas and paying attention I hope I don’t find out. It sure is a stable boat. I was out on the lake with 15 mph winds and the boat was very stable. Native is doing away with the skeg next year and I am glad mine has one as I definitly notice the difference when it is up or down.

Anything else I should watch out for would be great!

I am heading back out today to find the big one…


My friend had problems with the skeg
Apparently, the cable system is all plastic and, when hot, the inside piece gets soft and won’t push the skeg down as its supposed to do. Native will repair the skeg cable once, but refused to do it again. After negotiation, which took a great deal of time, the dealer agreed to take the Native back. He now has an Old Town Predator K140 (basically, the Twin Otter set up for solo hunting and fishing). He likes it better than the Ultimate.

That’s one tough canoe
It should do the job and more. I suspect its more responsive under oar or paddle (if you have to paddle it) than the Scanoe. It should turn better too.