All too often, we find manufacturers performing the least amount of change to a product and then positioning it in a different market and calling it a revolutionary new design -- regardless of whether or not the product truly meets the functional needs of the end user.
We are reminded of a story that someone told us long ago from his days in the military. Apparently, the kitchen would take the leftover hamburger patties from lunch, bread them, deep fry them and call it chicken fried steak for dinner. Just because it has a new coating and name doesn't make it so. Thankfully, such lame design methods are not the case with Liquidlogic's Manta Ray, a fishing-specific sit-on-top kayak.
Liquidlogic gained quick market acceptance by designing boats for very specific needs. Cutting-edge playboats, large volume kayaks designed for huge water and self-support trips and creekers. Liquidlogic then turned its design expertise on rec boats -- all with a traditional decked boat format.
The Manta Ray is Liquidlogic's first trip into the sit-on-top world, and the company did it with a boat designed from the ground-up with fishing in mind. Measuring 12 feet long and 31 inches wide, you would think that the Manta Ray would be a pig on the water. Compared to more svelte touring boats it certainly is, but nothing like its dimensions would predict. An asymmetrical hull design maintains some degree of hull efficiency, and allows a reasonably vertical forward stroke when compared to other boats of similar dimensions.
While the Manta Ray's dimensions will never warm the hearts of performance paddlers, they are perfectly suited to the boat's intended purpose -- fishing. Our tester used the Manta Ray while fishing both protected and exposed water -- flat water and areas rippin' with tidal currents and stacked waves. The hull inspires confidence and allows the user to concentrate on fishing, not staying upright. Liquidlogic wisely made the hull a little deeper and repositioned the skupper holes to keep the user drier.
The folks at Liquidlogic clearly set out to design a boat with purpose, instead of just sticking a few rod holders into an existing boat -- which would have been like turning old hamburger into even worse chicken fried steak. Our tester found that the boat's ample and intelligent rod holders kept tools of the trade close at hand. Storage was mondo and could easily accommodate a long weekend self-support trip. The rear cargo area was designed to hold either a milk crate or five gallon bucket. Our tester opted for a large drybag, which fit perfectly in the allotted space. A large hatch forward held more gear -- although our tester never found cause to use it. A rear accessory hatch, located just aft of the paddler, kept smaller items dry but readily accessible. If the water is moving, but the fish are not, Liquidlogic has incorporated an anchor trolley system that allows the paddler to make anchor adjustments to any point along the hull while staying seated. In short, the Manta Ray comes out of the box with all of the features that you would expect to pay extra for, and spend an afternoon rigging.
It is obvious that in addition to its fishing features, the Liquidlogic team also understands paddling. With a company full of hard-core paddlers, it's hard not to. Real footbraces are a welcome addition when so many recreational based sit-on-tops rely on cheesy molded-in humps that they hope consumers will believe are footbraces. Small bungie retainers keep the boat's carry handles nicely stowed so that they are out of the way of paddling and fishing, and the Manta Ray's super cushy seat and backrest invites hours upon hours of casting, or just floating and being Huck Finn for a day.
Our hats go off to Liquidlogic. Instead of bowing to market pressures for homogenous designs that try to please everyone, they have done an outstanding job of focusing on one market segment, and creating their wet dream.
SNEWS® Rating: 5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection).
Suggested Retail: $725
For more information:www.liquidlogickayaks.com; 828-698-5778