Testing Old Town’s Sportsman 106 PDL on the river
(Photo/Zach Burton)

Old Town Sportsman PDL 106 Review: A Fly Angler’s Dream

Kayak fishing is thought of as a sit-and-cast game. The Old Town PDL 106 challenges that perception.

Sit, paddle, cast, reel. Repeat. This is often the recipe we tend to think of when it comes to kayak fishing. The Old Town Sportsman PDL 106 is here to change that perception with the ability to stand with confidence and execute a solid fly cast.

Many kayak manufacturers today make the claim of stability, but it only takes a moment to read a few reviews that dispel those promises. I put in some serious time bird-dogging a kayak that I felt might live up to the claim — and I found it.

I put this thing to the test on lakes around Minnesota and even paddled upstream on the Mississippi to some hard-to-access stretches of river. Over several months, the PDL 106 and I fished every piece of water I could find.

In short: The Old Town Sportsman PDL 106 is a highly maneuverable fishing kayak with the stability and feel of a much larger vessel. With thoughtful features and seemingly limitless options for add-ons, this kayak can be outfitted for anything from a quick pre-work fishing excursion to an all-day adventure exploring a new body of water. Better yet, the stability and comfort make it a great choice for both sport fishing and fly fishing, depending on your preference.

Old Town’s Sportsman PDL 106: Review

Sportsman 106 PDL

Specs

  • Style: Sit-on-top
  • Propulsion: Pedal (with backup paddle)
  • Material: Single-layer polyethylene
  • Weight capacity: 450 lbs.
  • Usable weight capacity: 353 lbs.
  • Assembled boat weight: 107 lbs.
  • Length: 10’6″
  • Width: 36″

The Old Town Story

Old Town Canoe is one of the oldest and largest kayak and canoe manufacturers in the United States. With a history that dates back to 1898, Old Town has been making tough canoes and kayaks from, you guessed it, Old Town, Maine.

The company continues to prioritize design and manufacturing in the U.S. Today, Old Town offers dozens of different kayaks and canoes for nearly any adventure on the water.

Who Is the Sportsman PDL 106 For?

Testing Old Town’s Sportsman 106 PDL
(Photo/Zach Burton)

Made to withstand everything from offshore saltwater adventures to inland lakes and rivers, the Sportsman PDL 106 is made for everyone from newcomers to professional anglers. The stable platform and user-friendly features combine with the brand’s award-winning PDL (pedal) drive for hands-free fishing and maneuverability on the fly.

What You Should Know

Stable Enough to Fly Fish?

I’ll be honest that I was skeptical of the claims that Old Town and other users had made about the Sportsman PDL 106’s stability. I’ve watched the YouTube videos and read the reviews — but there’s no way it actually holds up to that.

The idea of standing in a kayak feels wrong to me, let alone trying to fly fish out of one. There is too much movement and chaos to make this actually feel safe, let alone comfortable. Right?

Wrong. At nearly 3 feet wide, this kayak is one of the widest available, and its stability has blown me away. The DoubleU Hull glides well through the water while offering rock-solid stability when standing to fish. I have fished both standing while fly fishing and while casting spinning setups — on both lakes and moving currents on the Mississippi with ease.

I have yet to feel even the slightest bit wobbly. Even standing on the rails resulted in total stability and a near-inability to flip. My own balance let me down before I could get the kayak to actually flip.

The unshakable foundation of this kayak has completely reshaped how I view kayak fishing. I didn’t actually believe you could comfortably fly fish out of a kayak standing up — and here I am eating crow.

bass_fishing_fish_lift
(Photo/Zach Burton)

PDL Power

The PDL Drive system is a major selling point for this kayak. You can “drive” the kayak using your feet only — including both forward and reverse — with a propeller that runs right under the kayak.

The PDL Drive has a patented, easy-docking system that makes it simple to launch and land with the kayak, and you can quickly pull the system out of the water if you get into shallow water. There is a mount on the side of the kayak that securely stows a paddle for when you get in the super-shallow water and don’t want to use the PDL Drive.

I’ve found the system very easy to use, and pedaling felt exactly like riding a bike. If you are cruising on relatively flat water, you can cruise at a nice clip without too much effort. When pedaling against the current on the Mississippi, I found it a little more stout to keep a steady pace upriver but still doable.

The system is simple and efficient, making it easy to simultaneously fish while on the move through hot spots. I found myself slowly pedaling around islands on the river and different structures while throwing crankbaits with success.

What’s more? The PDL Drive is covered by the industry’s “first-in-class” 5-year warranty.

Comfort + Storage

Old Town’s Sportsman 106 PDL
(Photo/Zach Burton)

I’ve found the kayak to be very comfortable, even after hours of pedaling up and down rivers in Minnesota. Old Town added an ElementAir seat that is covered in mesh to provide ventilation and drainage to keep you dry. It’s mounted to a shuttle track, so you can easily adjust the reach to the PDL Drive.

You can also adjust the lumbar support and how upright the seat sits, so when you’re cruising to your next fishing spot, you can lean back. When you get there and want to fish seated, you can quickly adjust to sit more upright.

There are thoughtful design elements like one forward-facing and two rear-facing flush-mounted rod holders, so your gear is there when you need it and out of the way when you don’t. This also allows for trolling, meaning you can fish while on the move.

Rod and tackle management is simplified with a tank well in the stern, as well as storage under the seat. There are also small pockets below the accessory racks for other essentials that you aren’t worried about getting a little wet.

Finally, there is dry storage available in the sealed bow hatch so you can keep your wallet, phone, and any other important items safe and out of the way.

When you’re in the honey hole ready to stand and fish, the floor has a nonslip EVA foam deck for traction (even when wet) and comfort if you choose to stand for long periods of time.

Oh, and don’t forget the cup holder. Everybody loves a well-placed cup holder.

Malone-Bed-Extender-Old-Town-Kayak
(Photo/Zach Burton)

Transportation

Old Town boasts that the Sportsman PDL 106 is “a performance kayak that’s easy to maneuver and light enough to car top.” At 77 pounds (without the PDL Drive) and just over 10 feet long, it is possible for one person to load onto the top of a car for transport. And things get even easier if you are loading into a truck bed or onto a small trailer.

I have been putting mine in my Nissan Frontier truck bed with relative ease. I was concerned that my 5.5-foot truck bed would be a dealbreaker. But thanks to the Axis Truck Bed Extender from Malone Auto Racks, I can transport the kayak in my truck bed with confidence.

I lift the back of the kayak up onto the roller on the bed extender and push it right up into my truck bed. Two ratchet straps to hold things in place, and we are rolling. I love that I don’t have to have a trailer or find a second person to help me load it on the roof of a vehicle.

There are several handles and grab points on the kayak that make it easier to lift and load, as well as carry a short distance to put into the lake, river, etc.

Optional Features

Old Town’s Sportsman 106 PDL features

Old Town offers a plethora of add-ons for the kayak to make it work with your style of fishing and adventure. The kayak has built-in accessory racks and plates that allow for quick and easy installation of rod holders, cameras, and other tools for being on the water. In addition, there is a universal transducer mount that is recessed to protect it from damage.

Finally, there are built-in mounts on the side of the kayak for the paddle — keeping it fully out of your way but readily available when you get in the super-shallow water.

It is also worth mentioning that there is a 12-foot model in the Sportsman PDL 120 if you want a little more space, speed, and improved tracking in the water.

Drawbacks

With a stable design and a litany of quality features come a few drawbacks. Firstly, the Sportsman PDL 106 isn’t exactly light. At 107 pounds loaded (including the PDL system), it can be a little daunting to transport yourself. I load it solo into the bed of my pickup, but it takes a little grit.

It is a bit awkward moving something that large and heavy alone. It is doable, but you should know that you won’t want to have to carry this kayak very far to a launch without some sort of cart. Additionally, with a higher weight comes a loss of speed on the water. While this isn’t something that matters to me, it is worth noting.

The kayak is expensive. At $2,200, you are making a significant investment. While I believe the kayak is worth the price, you need to decide for yourself if you will put in enough hours during a fishing season to justify the cost. With that in mind, you can count on the “buy once, cry once,” as these kayaks will last forever.

Old Town’s Sportsman PDL 106: Final Thoughts

The stability, versatility, and portability of the Sportsman PDL 106 are what make it a must-have for me. While transport can be a little cumbersome at first, I feel like I can fish nearly any body of water I can drive to without hesitation.

The ultra-stable design brings me peace of mind, whether I am throwing big lures on a spinning rig or hitting the top water bite with dry flies. The Old Town’s Sportsman PDL 106 has made me a believer in kayak fishing.

Next up, waterfowl hunting from a kayak.

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Zach Burton
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Zach has shaped his life and work around outdoors, adventure, and being as active outside as possible. He’s devoted to activities and experiences that push him mentally and physically and is a firm believer that there is 'no such thing as bad weather.' If he’s not riding his bike or planning his next adventure, you can find Zach at the gym, fly fishing, hunting with his dog Stella, skate skiing, or climbing.