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Watercraft Review

Is the Native Watercraft "Ultimate 12" Fishing Kayak as Good as the Name it Bears?


Date: 11/20/13
Tackle type: Watercraft
Manufacturer: Native
Reviewer: Jennifly

Total Score: 8.25 - GREAT

Kayak fishing is quickly becoming one of the most popular angling forms out there. The advantages of kayak fishing are numerous. Since kayaks have the ability to float in mere inches of water, you can access waters that most boats just can't get to. Less access means a greater opportunity to catch fish since these areas see less pressure from boaters. Stealth is also an important component of kayak fishing. Fishing from a kayak gives you the ability to get to the fish without spooking them especially in shallows where fish are more sensitive to noise. Paddling quietly can give you the chance of sneaking right up on fish. Not only is the fishing better but it allows you to be on more of an intimate level with nature. Native Watercraft kayaks embody all these important features when choosing a kayak. There are decades of boat-building knowledge behind Native Watercraft, and a passion for paddling's history and its future. They have a long standing reputation for creating some serious kayak fishing platforms. The Ultimate 12 is no exception and is a best selling model among kayak anglers. Native also makes a 14.5 and 16' version of the Ultimate but the 12 consistently continues to be their best seller. In this review, we explore the newest upgrades in materials and techniques to the Ultimate 12 that have been getting much attention and praise by anglers and the industry alike.


Native Watercraft Ultimate 12 Specifications






55 lbs

Depth at Beam


Height at Bow


Maximum Capacity

350 lbs

Bow Hatch Length/Width


Stern Hatch Length/Width



Roto-molded plastic


lime, sand orange, lizard lick, copperhead, blue lagoon, gator bait


$799.00 - $1049


Impressions: Being a kayak guide for several years, I've had the opportunity to paddle numerous brands but I keep coming back to the Ultimate 12. Not quite a canoe or a kayak, the Ultimate 12 looks more like a little fishing boat. It's a cross between a solo canoe and a sit-on-top kayak. I've paddled it in all types of water from lazy rivers and backwaters to exposed flats and the open ocean. In evaluating any kayak for seaworthiness I look for the following criteria: construction, stability, handling, comfort, and user friendly outfitting. The Ultimate delivers on all fronts.

The Ultimate 12 is a cross between a solo canoe and a sit-on-top kayak

 The boat itself is made of a roto-molded plastic more specifically a vacuum bagged vinyl ester resin. It is far lighter and thinner than those made by some of the leading manufacturers in the industry such as Hobie and Wilderness Systems. Composite Elite versions of the 12' and 14' Ultimate models are available as well. The roto-molded version is extremely light and has a very slick clean finish much like fiberglass. The only downside to this is that the boat does tend to scratch easily especially if you drag it over rocks or oyster bars or fish where there is a lot of heavy cover or structure. It's so light I can pick it up and tote it with one hand or even throw it onto my shoulder when I carry it down to the launch site. The seat weighs 5 lbs and can be taken in or out in about 30 seconds. The boat is so light there is not any real reason to remove it other than for hauling it upside down on a roof rack.

The roto-molded plastic of the Ultimate 12 is extremely light and can be easily carried.

This is one of the most comfortable kayaks on the market today. Native continues to raise the bar on comfort and are always a step ahead of the evolving needs of todays paddlers. Features include a removable First Class seat that offers incredible back support and a unique elevated dry ride. The seat is constructed of a HiFlow 3D suspension mesh stretched over an aluminum frame. The mesh is a specially treated solar screen fabric that will never damage or fade so it will most likely never need replacing. It's very cool to sit in since the mesh ventilates and moves with you.  You can recline the seat to suit your comfort and activity and remove the seat to lighten your boat when loading. I sit in mine for at least 8 hours when I take it fishing and sometimes never get out until I get back to the launch. Other boats I usually have to get out and stretch throughout the day. With the Ultimate, I hop right out effortlessly at the end of the day without any aches or pains to my lower back. Speaking of saving your back, the Ultimate12 weighs in at a fairly light 55 pounds with the seat.

The First Class seat offers comfortable support for your rear end and lower back.

Another feature that makes this boat so comfortable are the Easy Foot rests which are ergonomically designed to match your feet when naturally relaxed. They provide a sustantial surface area for you to find your ideal position no matter what your height. Finding your ideal position is achieved with use of a push/pull system that's easily within reach. Pull on the ends and the foot rests adjust smoothly and effortlessly along the track. Easy Foot comes in two sizes but both are equally comfortable and simple to adjust while seated.

The foot braces are adjustable so you can bear down and paddle more efficiently.

I can easily fit two tackle bags up front in my Ultimate as well as a few rods. There is also plenty of space behind the seat even after putting in my cooler, life jacket, and drybag. There are bungees fore and aft to secure your belongings, but they aren't the sturdy criss cross style bungees you commonly see in the rear hatches of many sit on top style kayaks.

The Ultimate has plenty of room for gear with it's spacious, open deck layout.

 One challenge that faces most kayak anglers is the difficulty in reaching things we need. Grabbing a tackle box from directly behind us and then putting it back in position can be a task especially for those of us that experience discomfort when having to twist your body to reach something. The Ultimate solves this problem by allowing the seat to slide forward as far as you need to go. Just grab the sides, pull yourself forward, and grab your tackle box or bag.  Another challenge we face is that there is no good place to put smaller items like lures, sunscreen, pliers, scissors, cameras, etc. The Ultimate offers molded-in trays to store smaller items with the seat flipped up.

There's plenty of room to keep those little things that you need all the time within reach.

 The Ultimate 12 makes use of an exclusive accessory attachment system called the Adapt-A-Track allowing you to fully customize your boat. It gives you the ability to add additional work surfaces, rod holders, and even depth finders. The groove track system allows you to easily slide components on and  off. Purchase of the Groove Adapter Slugs kit is necessary in order to make use of this feature. Groove Adapters can be added to your favorite gear so it mounts and adjusts quickly and easily on the Groove Track Accessory system. Accessories can be locked down anywhere along the rail system, loosened and moved easily along the track. You can attach and easily remove spray skirts, bags, bottle holders, and more. There's an impressive amount of optional accessory items made exclusively for the Ultimate.

Next Section: Time to get this kayak into the water









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