Old Town Predator PDL Review
by Henry Kronk
Pedal drive kayaks have been around for decades, but it seems like they didn't actually become cool until just a few years ago. A ton of kayak makers have stepped into the 21st century with their own pedal drive model and the market has grown turbulent.
The Old Town Predator PDL is a newcomer to the field. It allows you to fully channel your carnivore spirit and take down fish or fowl with ease. The pedal drive motor is silent as a panther's step and, with no paddle flashing in the sun, you'll avoid spooking some pretty darn cunning prey.
Taking into account price, technology, and a host of other factors, we have given the Predator much more than a passing grade. Read on and find out why.
See Review Table of Contents
Predator PDL Features
Old Town is a brand that really prioritizes traditional design. Their Tripper canoe is downright iconic. That said, they've slapped a thick layer of innovation on their Predator PDL.
The Pedal Drive
The main headline with any pedal drive kayak is, well, the pedal drive. Old Town's version is seriously impressive and should be considered one of the best in the game.
To begin, the Old Town Predator PDL drive adheres to pretty much every industry standard. It's a propeller drive that can go both forward and backward. Propeller drives have a few advantages compared to the Hobie Mirage-style drive:
- It doesn't stick down so far in the water, allowing easier and less-disruptive passage.
- It has a much smaller profile, making passage through dispersed reeds possible.
- You can go backward and forward simply by switching pedal direction. (The Hobie drive now allows forward and backward motion, but you need to operate a shift cable system, which can be tricky if you've got something fierce on the line.)
But Old Town's PDL drive goes above and beyond these basic standards. For one, it easily raises and lowers depending on where you're pedaling your vessel. When entering shallow waters, it very simply raises, locks into place, and lowers when required.
Part of the drive also includes a fairly watertight storage box. This might seem like a strange addition to some, but the fact is, it's a genius innovation. Most pedal drives (possibly ALL of them), do not have this feature, and if you drop them in the lake, they will sink. That can turn a great day into an expensive one. The Predator drive, however, is easily retrieved.
Every fisherperson has his or her own style, brings his or her own gear, and can get very particular about his or her own set up. With this in mind, the Predator is one of the most customizable fishing kayaks out there. No, it does not have any gear tracks, but they can easily be added in 4 spots without drilling into your hull. If gear tracks aren't your thing, there are 6 spots where you can mount whatever you need, like fancy sonar devices, rod holders, harmonica holders, and GoPro holders.
This feature is pretty average in terms of kayaks. You've got the central watertight box on the pedal drive, a sealed bow compartment and an open stern area latticed by bungies to keep everything tied down. You should not haul a bull moose home in this kayak. That said, it's can hold up to 500 lbs.—more than just about any pedal drive kayak, including more expensive models.
The Predator has one, and you won't have to do any fancy electrical work to get it working proper.
It comes with a solid frame and is covered by strong fabric. You can adjust it almost infinitely based on height, preference, and the kind of ab workout you want to go for.
Paddle with Molded Rest
We never recommend setting out into the bush on a pedal drive kayak without a paddle. You might literally find yourself up shit creek … The paddle Old Town gives you gets the job done in a pinch and fits easily in a molded holder on one side when you're pedaling it up.
Rudder and Rudder Control
This piece is fairly standard. It works like just about every other pedal drive rudder. You can haul it in or set it down with one lever and steer with another.
Predator PDL Review
If you pick up a pedal drive kayak in the world of set MSRP, you're going to be paying almost half the cost for the pedal drive system and the kayak body that holds it. You're going to want to make sure the pedal drive you get is worth the cheese. The Old Town Predator PDL is no exception.
When it comes to efficiency, YouTuber riprockxv9 elaborates: "The gears are 12 revolutions of the propeller for every one revolution that you do with your feet. The transmission, it's, like …. Riding a bicycle. And this isn't something I normally do. I just go fishing every day … You can just barely move your feet and you're moving right along, and it's just as quiet as a church mouse."
The Old Town Predator PDL passes that litmus test. It's efficient, produced by an established canoe and kayak brand that doesn't want to sacrifice its reputation, it goes in and out easily, and it FLOATS. This pedal drive system goes above and beyond the competition. In terms of price, the Predator falls firmly in the mid-range, but it's also a couple bucks above some of the relevant competition. We believe it's worth it to spend an extra one- or two-hundred for this pedal drive.
Going beyond the main show, let's take a look at the specs. One very important feature that tends to make a big difference in fishing kayaks is the width. Many vessels stretch about 33" at their widest. The Predator, however, measures 36" in width. That might not sound like a lot, but it really adds volume. More volume means a higher weight capacity and much more stability. Just ask YouTuber Island Hooking. Again, this kayak will float even if it's got 500 lbs. loaded on top.
One downside is that the kayak itself weighs a lot. Without any of your gear in there, it clocks in at 117 lbs. You're going to need a cart to lug this thing around.
Regarding the customizable mounts, some fisherpeople get annoyed. Many of us want tracks built in and we don't want to have to do any installation projects or pay some outfitter too much to do them for us. But on the same token, unless you're working with some niche gear, you won't have to drill into the hull of your Predator.
In all likelihood, you don't need to mount more than a couple things on your kayak and it doesn't matter if they slide backward and forward or not. If we had to pick the Predator's worst feature, it would be these fixed mounts, but even those are far better than a couple other comparable options.
Predator PDL Pros and Cons
Our therapists keep telling us to be less judgmental, but when it comes to outdoor gear, sometimes you need to break it down.
- Awesome and really floatable pedal drive that goes forward and backwards
- Very customizable with 6 potential mounts
- Solid storage, including a box connected to the pedal drive, a bow hatch and an open stern compartment
- Incredible balance
- Great weight capacity
- It's a little heavy
- It's a little pricey (but worth it)
- It doesn't have gear tracks (if that's your thing)
Other Products in the Line
Old Town's Predator line marks the best of what it has to offer in terms of fishing kayaks. Only the Predator Minn Kota can claim a higher spot than the Predator PDL; it has a small motor where the pedal drive sits on the PDL.
Other than that, Old Town offers several other great paddle fishing kayaks, many of which are very affordable considering their quality, features and construction.
When it comes to other brands, we'll square the Predator PDL against the Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 13.
The Slayer costs about $400 less in official MSRP and shares many great characteristics of the Predator. It, too, has a small profile propeller drive that easily goes forward and backwards. The Slayer wins when it comes to gear tracks and a bigger rear storage area, but it's also less stable and can carry less weight. It measures 34" at its widest.
See our Native Slayer Propel 13 Review.
The Bottom Line
Many fisherpeople looking to save on their vessel pass the Old Town Predator PDL by when they see the price. That is fair enough, but if you ever can find a local dealer who will knock the sale down from the MSRP, we recommend jumping while you can.
No, it's not the best kayak out there, but it's close, and it costs just a little more than the general mid-range crowd. This kayak is made by a trusted brand, features some great technology, and is a downright good value.