"The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope." John Buchan

Monday, June 17, 2013

Prowling the waters... - May 18th

This year (early April) marks a few things for me.  My 15th wedding anniversary, I've made 40 laps around the sun, as well as 15 years at my current job.  So in some odd way I found myself in the perfect storm for float tube buying.  Between b-day $, learning you can "cash out" on work gifts for service and some side line consulting work that came up just at the right time I found myself with too many pants with holes burnt through the pockets and I saw that action was required to remedy the situation... ;)  

I have been, as I do all to often, pondering and planning future purchases long before I should even consider the option let alone the possibility...  To be clear I have not been in any dire situation from a failure on my current float tube (North Forks/Scadden Freestyle H3) that I bought used a few years back.  In fact it has done beautifully since I got it and will continue to serve well for a long time yet.  So what was my reason for this change?  Well I do very much consider that the social aspects of going fishing to be essentially equal to the fun of fishing itself.  So I wanted to have a second rig to take a friend along on trips.  I had been pondering the possibility of a new tube for some time and was well aware of a few options that appealed to me.  I knew I wanted a float tube or frameless pontoon.  I'm very much done with frames at this time due to past experiences....  

I had narrowed my choices down to the Outcast Prowler, Outcast Super Fat Cat, North Forks Outlaw Escape, or the rumored North Forks Outlaw Predator.  All of these, in my opinion, represent fine upper end choices even considering that the MSRP pricing on these ranges quite a bit from $439 through about $999.00 (or more?)...  Honestly before the small amount of info about the North Forks Predator got out I was just focused on the Outcast products as the direction my next purchase would go.  I specifically went to the Sportmans Expo this spring to see the NFO booth and see this new Predator in person.  

I was so hopeful that with it NOT having oars, weighing even less then the Escape and rumors suggesting it might be a hair cheaper the the escape that I might have a new "luxury model" craft to pine for...  Well that trip and follow up emails to NFO pretty much dashed all of those hopes.  The Predator model as I had seen early info on the web about was canceled and instead a modified version was being worked on.  The new model is longer (closer to 8' vs 6'), has oars and is NOT going to be anywhere near the speculated price I had seen posted about the Predator.  Since I'm looking for a float tube the extra length, added cost of oars, more then 2x the cost that was rumored....  well it all left me pretty disappointed as I felt this portion of the market, the float tube portion, NFO as missing out on.  All of the changes made to the Predator make sense when you listen/read the posts people made about the Escape and it's use with oars.  I just wish there ended up with 2 options.  Now before I let this whole section get the better of me (more then it already has) this brings me to the final point that helped me finally pick my craft of choice.  This point is warranty..  One brand offers 5 years on the crafts I'm interested in and the other lifetime.  This point alone nearly cost me a bottle of antacids over the past month or two. ;)  Well let me sum it up on how I, my opinion again, concluded things.  When you buy things that are cutting edge and innovative you sometimes buy into things that don't work out or last (last not in terms of durability but in terms of a model being manufactured).  So when one company offers boats with 5 year warranty (and great track record from the many owners out there that these craft can last that long and longer when taken care of) and the other offers lifetime warranty (again with good track records from customers) but having demonstrated a higher turn over rate for models being created/changed and then some being retired I am not convinced that I can count on a lifetime warranty when down the road the model I might buy might go away.  So I simply declared that the warranty between the two brands was effectively equal as far as I'm concerned.  Everyone gets to have an opinion and I clearly have mine... ;)  Summary points:  NFO is more $ for the models I'm looking at and offers some extra features for usage cases I'm not trying to buy for.  So in the end budget and my intended usage finds's Outcast as the better value/choice.

So now that I had the brand portion of the selection handled I started assaulting the "info" email address at Outcast and a few retail outlets about little details such as pocket and seat dimensions, accessories, and some questions based on some on-line reviews I had read I finally made my choice and ordered.  I wanted the Prowler over the SFC because hey it's the top of the line, well I liked the features it has as well... ;)   I think the only grump I can make about the order process is in regards to MAP (minimum advertised price)...  I don't want to grump about it but I feel I need to be fair since I gave NFO some grief above.  I am not a business major nor do I claim to understand all aspects of the process of making and selling a product especially in this on-line age we are in now.  However I do like the idea of competition and MAP seems to take away some of the ability for a retailer to compete.  I was able to find one vendor that sweetened the deal with free shipping (a few did this part, or there were a few local shops) and a budget of free accessories based on how much your craft cost.  This worked out well for me but to be honest I was hoping to either find a local shop to buy from or to be able to buy from Cabela's (no longer carries the prowler) so I could use my points!  So in the end I bought online from out of state and got a better deal.

Anyway.... This post got away from me but I'll let it see the light of day still.  It's time for the few pics I have that show the PVC setup I've made as well and we can then call this complete.

As a kind of P.S. I wanted to add a few observations after having been out now on this tube 2 times.  First is that my PVC setup worked out pretty darn well.  I need to adjust it so that it leans out a bit more then it does but that is a simple enough fix.  There are 2 big benefits though that I did not know to look forward to.

First is that I get leg cramps often near the end of a fishing trip as kick back to the vehicles.  I have learned how to feel them coming on and how to work around them without it impacting my ability to get back safely. Mostly that is how far I bend my knees to bring my heal under me as I kick vs going into a flutter kick of sorts to minimize the bending of the knee.  On the new tube I have had a significant lower amount of cramps or near cramps.  It leaves me wondering if it is the seat or how the seat is shaped up front.  Instead of a flat seat platform like my H3 has or Jason's SFC has, the front edge of the Prowler balloon's up a bit near the front so that you sit in a pocket of sorts and as you kick it feels more gentle on the back of your thigh as you press into you kick vs the more firm edge I had on the H3.

Second is related, due to the seat, but different.  On my H3 I've had no issues being in the seat all day long, aside from being aware of possible leg cramps I mentioned above.  However the moment I stand up at the end of the day or as I have to slide my butt back in my seat using the pockets as arm rests to re position I end up with the area of my tail bone aching something fierce for a time.  It does not feel like the issue is with the tailbone, but more the muscles in that area ache and I'm not sure I've ever felt this doing anything else.  It's not the end of the world but it is annoying.  Well with how regular this issue has been I've been shocked at these first 2 trips on the Prowler as I've had NONE of this at all.  So right now I'm feeling like the comfort level of the Prowler is getting really high marks!