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Watercraft Review


Fishing from the affordable, durable, and portable  Innova Solar inflatable Kayak
 

Date: 10/1/03
Tackle type: Watercraft
Manufacturer: Innova Kayak
Reviewer: JIP






Total Score: 8.33

Introduction: Kayak fishing offers anglers a new and exciting way to reach low pressure areas and target a variety of fish. Innova introduces the Solar, an inflatable kayak that's not just rated for river running but also designed to be a serious fish hunting solution for anglers on the go.

 

Innova Solar Kayak Specifications

Material 1200 denier Nitrylon™
Color Red
Length 9'11"
Width 30"
Average diameter of side chambers 8"
Packed dimensions 8" X 12" X 18"
Weight 24 lbs
Capacity 220 lbs (1 person max)
Chambers 3 main + 2
Max. operational pressure 3 PSI
River rating Class I
Features Backrest, foot brace, carrying handles front and rear, tracking fin, dry bag/backpack, gear hold downs, sponge, repair kit
Warranty 1 year
MSRP $469

 
About Innova: Innova inflatable kayaks have actually been in production for decades but under the parent company which is located in the Czech Republic. The North America branch was founded in 1992 by Tim Rosenhan and 3 friends, and their goal was to import a durable and affordable recreational watercraft for the average consumer, while offering quality that would satisfy even the most hardcore outdoorsmen.  Today the Innova kayaks have traveled to many bodies of water throughout the world and is continuing to gain popularity.

 

The impressive Innova Solar has a hydrodynamic design that makes a great watercraft for kayak fishing

 

Impressions: "Wow, it packs so small" was our first impression of the Solar kayak. Coming straight out of the box, this single-person kayak packs neatly into a small backpack that also acts as a dry bag. Its dimensions are only 8" X 12" X 18" and when dry the Solar weighs only 24 pounds.

 

Upon further inspection and initial inflation, the Kayak comes in few pieces but figuring out the pieces of the puzzle didn't even involve the help of the user's guide. As a safety precaution and to make sure the inflatable kayak wouldn't get damaged during the set up process, we did go back through the instructions just in case anything was missing, always a good practice the first time you set up a new watercraft. After the Solar has been fully inflated, it had now transformed into a sleek looking kayak that's roomy enough for most adults.

 

Nitrylon™ Fabric: Nitrylon™ is a lamination of nitrile synthetic rubber and natural rubber over a 1,200 denier fabric. This makes the overall fabric puncture and abrasion resistant, and is stronger, easier to patch, performs better in cold weather, and more durable than PVC.

    

Kayak Accessories Added

Aquabound 4-part paddles Bravo 1 foot pump
303 UV Protectant  

   

Real World Tests: Even though the Solar was originally built for the recreational sport of kayaking, we saw it as another versatile and portable personal watercraft which anglers could use for fishing in lakes and protected bays. We tested it in both the salt and freshwater targeting multiple species of fish, and really put this inflatable in direct contact with harsh surfaces, just like those an angler would encounter in the field.

 

The stern and bow has adequate space for an angler to secure tackle underneath the elastic cording

 

The Design: The Class I Innova inflatable Solar kayak was designed for the serious outdoorsman. Having 3 main chambers is very important not only to hold up a person or balance out the kayak, it's also a safety feature just in case one or more chambers are punctured. In addition to the main air chambers, 2 more small bladders are included and serve as a backrest and a foot brace while you're kayaking. Even though the kayak is designed with a slim interior space, it still allows some decent storage liberty where fisherman can bring along a tackle box, net, and backpack.

 

At the bow and stern of the Solar there are carrying handles which help make carrying the boat over rocks and along trails much easier. Even though this kayak is a one person deal, having handles on both ends will serve as a easy way to get a hold of your kayak for landing or tie downs.  Another useful feature is the hold down netting that's also at both ends so that anglers can secure tackle bags and other gear they bring along for their fishing expedition.

 

Installing the fin is quick and easy, but makes a huge difference on the water, tracking straighter and decreases the loss of energy from each stroke of the paddle

  

Maneuverability: Experienced or not, kayaking in the Solar isn't difficult at all. That's because this compact low-profile design allows easy movement in proceeding forward and turning. So how does the Solar track on the water? Innova includes an aluminum tracking fin that effortlessly installs at the bottom of the kayak prior to inflation and helps the watercraft track much straighter. We also tested the kayak without the tracking fin and it is noticeably more difficult to keep the boat straight as each stroke of the paddle caused the Solar go side to side.  The fins are there for a reason and should be used each and everytime.

 

With the Solar moving in a straight line, we take a look at how it does in terms of energy used to maneuver in both calm and rough water. During our field tests we encountered both mirror-like calmness and choppy waters during windy periods. With the narrow kayak design the Solar is able to cut its way through some of the rougher water conditions without much exertion. Since the width of the Solar is pretty slim, it also made paddling easier not having to reach over towards each side as in wider frames. With the right paddles and the correct strokes, the Solar kayak is quite energy efficient.

 

The Solar allows you to sneak through narrow cover hitting some of the finer fishing holes

 

The benefit of a small personal watercraft used for fishing is the ability to go almost anywhere and that's exactly the case with the Innova Solar. This kayak can move about in shallow waters less than 1 feet deep, sneak into swamp-like areas where larger fishing boats dream of reaching, and allow you to quietly get into casting range of easily spooked fish.

  

Stability: While cutting through water is easy with most kayaks, stability is usually sacrificed to some extent. Stability is crucial because fishermen are constantly moving around while tossing a lures or placing bait. The Solar was designed to be a recreational vessel and is relatively stable, but stability may be an issue for anglers not yet used to kayak fishing. During the many trips on various lakes and even in marinas, not once did we ever roll over with normal use. Just keep these thoughts in mind when you fish from any kayak. Always wear a life vest, secure all tackle and gear either in the dry bag under the netting or clipping it to the hold down netting, and do not lean over, as you would in larger boats. You can edge over and land your fish or tilt side to side, but do so carefully, and never try to stand up....this isn't a bass boat. The stability will not affect your ability to cast, nor will casting motions cause you to fall overboard. With some precautions and practice, fishing from the Solar will be absolutely safe.

 

After reaching that untouched water with the inflatable Solar kayak, it's up to you to catch the fish

  

Durability: When people hear the word inflatable boats, the question of durability comes up right away. Will the material last? How abrasion resistant is it? Will fishing hooks penetrate the watercraft? How well does it hold up to the sun's UV rays?

 

Months of testing was performed in various conditions and the kayak is capable of taking a good amount of beating. To protect the Solar from the sun's harmful rays we applied the 303 UV protectant that's sold separately through Innova. By adding a layer of coating it protects the fabric from sun damage that can result in color fading, drying, cracking, and more.

 

With proper care, the 1,200 denier Nitrylon™ fabric will provide many years of service. The material is low-stretch and abrasion resistant.  While making my way through brush and other obstacles in the water, the material stood up to the sharp branches well. While landing on rocky shores that have sharp jagged rocks, the material on the bottom did receive scuff marks. But that's completely normal and will not degrade the strength of the material. Scuff marks are common with all inflatables and are not an issue as long as the base material remains intact. To continue onward with our durability tests we ran different types of rigs over the sides of the kayak.  When the Solar kayak is fully inflated the hooks would slide right over the material without snagging nor puncturing the chambers.

 

Non-slip material has been added onto the Innova kayak that has multiple functions including comfort.  Also, on the right, the adjustable foot rest provides the perfect fit for anglers of different height

 

Comfort: The overall comfort level of the Solar inflatable kayak is quite good. When inflated properly the kayak is firm and it doesn't exhibit much sagging. The backrest provides excellent lower back support while the foot brace allows you to rest your legs without sliding forward, and the best thing is that the foot rest is adjustable allowing anglers of different heights to use the 10 foot kayak comfortably. The Solar provides a firm fit and has a non-slip fabric for the back and elbows.  The only down side we found is that there aren't any bail holes for the water to drain out. No matter how good of a kayaker you are, you will likely get some water inside the watercraft. Innova does provide a bailing sponge to extract the water, or you can upgrade from the Solar to their higher model Safari which is great even in any rough fishing conditions.

 

The 24lb Solar comes with its own backpack/drybag.  That's light enough to carry anywhere and small enough to fit in any automobile

  

Portability: Like a float tube, the Innova Solar is easily portable from one location to another. As explained above, when not inflated the kayak packs small into the drybag/backpack. At 24 pounds any adult or teenager can carry it from the car to the shore. When inflated the Solar remains simple to transport from one fishing spot to the next by foot.  While testing the Solar, I was able to walk with the kayak in one hand with the paddle in the other while hiking short trails to reach the prime fishing holes. I also made use of the elastic hold down nettings to hold the foot pump, my two rods, a few tackle boxes, camera, lunch, and a few more necessities, all attached to the Solar and carried with only one arm.
  
Ratings:

Innova Solar Kayak Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Well built using durable material that's long lasting combined with good overall fabrication of the kayak 9
Performance Cuts through the water like a hard-shell kayak, easy to maneuver even in tight places, but with kayak-like stability 8
Price If you compare the price vs. performance and quality, the Solar is good 8
Features A simple kayak that has some decent features, but for anglers they might like to add on D-rings to attach additional accessories 8
Design (Ergonomics) Good rigid design for an inflatable kayak and comfortable - Back and foot rests add to this comfort level.  Also the weight and the backpack provides an easy way to carry the Solar 8
Application Great for fishing in freshwater and protected saltwater locations.  Also, if you're not fishing, you can go kayaking 9

Total Score

8.33


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Hydrodynamic design L No bail ports
J Compact and easily portable! L Kayak-like stability
J Quality craftsmanship  
J FUN!  


Conclusion: While big motor boats aren't in everyone's budget, there are always alternatives to getting on the water. Smaller personal watercrafts give you the ability to fish almost anywhere. While hard-shell kayaks are great for fishing in all types of water, they are not the most easy to transport especially when traveling long distances. Weighing in at only 24 lbs, the Solar is lightweight and can be carried just about anywhere, fit in any car, or even transported by plane, and can be used in a wide variety of water conditions. It handles great on the water, smoothly slipping through narrow passages to reach the most secluded fishing holes.  While portable and lightwieght the Solar does offer the same level of durability and performance found on many more expensive kayaks on the market. This inflatable packs small but outputs grand performance that will get the job done when you're looking for something that's portable, durable, and affordable to fish from. 



 

 

 

 

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