Evolution 465 By Stealth - Review by Craig McSween of Adventure Outlet
Manufacturers Goals: The Evolution models have not been designed to replace the existing successful Supalite & BFS models, but rather complement the range. The three Evolution models have been designed for speed, without compromising stability. Faster means less effort and higher lure speeds, a little more technical in the surf, but a whole lot quicker.
Capacity: 120kg (paddler)
As one of the few fibreglass fishing kayaks on the market, the Stealth kayaks look great! The glossy finish of a composite kayak, solid pin stripe that joins the hull and deck, and range of colour options including fades on the deck makes the Stealth kayaks stand out in the crowd.
The Evolution range consists of 3 models, the 465 (tested in this review) and a 495, measuring 5m, and a smaller model known as the Evo 430. All have been designed with speed in mind, featuring a sharp bow designed to cut through the water as it is paddled. Previous models in the Stealth range have had much more rocker and volume in the bow that have made them particularly good for launching in and out through the surf. The Evolution range allows paddlers to maintain a faster cruising speed which is not only great for covering more distance to your fishing spots but also for trawling lures at greater speeds which is advantageous for some lures and fish species.
The key feature of all Stealth kayaks is the large centre hatch. Being positioned between your knees it is very easy to access. A lot of other kayaks have large hatches at the bow, capable of storing rods & large fish, but are quite difficult to access while on the water. The Stealth hatch is huge allowing you to easily stow fish 20kg + and as the storage space extends all the way to the bow, a 6ft 6in rod can be stowed fully rigged. Either side of this storage space are sealed compartments that build in buoyancy and structural integrity. This makes the Stealth kayaks very safe as an offshore craft. Even with the hatches open the craft can’t be filled with water…….it won’t sink!
The build quality of the model tested looked very good. A few blemishes in the finish of the deck may be picked up by a fibreglasser but the average fisherman will find the aesthetics of the Evo 465 appealing. I’d have liked a composite fishing kayak to come in at a lighter weight, but it is easy to see, and feel, that these craft are built to handle the rigors that a fisherman and the ocean may deal out.
Another unique feature on the Stealth is its keel and rudder. The rudder is located under the hull, about 20cm from the stern and is protected by a keel that is quite pronounced at the rear. The positioning of the rudder means that it will maintain contact with the water even in rough conditions. The more traditional rudder, mounted overhanging the end of the kayak, can lose contact with the water when the stern is rising up and down in swell/surf. I would recommend that all Stealth owners maintain their steering cables in good condition and be mindful that if a steering cable broke while at sea it would be very difficult to paddle the kayak. Where other rudders can be retracted if not needed or experience mechanical failure, the Stealth rudder cannot.
Other features of the Evo 465 include 5 carry handles, 2 rear flush rod holders, 8in hatch to rear storage compartment, bait cutting pad on hatch lid, recessed rear well and adjustable foot straps and leg length. Comfort I found the moulded in seat quite comfortable, even without a seat pad & backrest. The Evo 465 has attachment points for a seat and rod leash as standard kit. I also found the foot well area very comfortable with the footrests offering great support while paddling.
Another great thing about the Stealth is the lack of clutter on the deck. The large centre hatch means everything can be stowed, keeping gear on deck to a minimum. This is important when fishing offshore particularly getting in and out through surf and in rough conditions. It is also advantageous for the day when you get that big hook up and try to land a big fish in a rather small work space. The centre hatch has a tackle tray that slides towards the bow to allow full access to the storage compartment and also slides towards the paddler making it the perfect location for lures, pliers, scissors, knife, floats, etc.
The angle of the rear rod holders is good, positioning your rod tip well out to the side (as opposed to pointing straight back). This makes it much easier to keep an eye on your rod and notice any strikes or pick up when a lure has been fouled up on weed. It is difficult to access the rear hatch from a standard seated position but if you move to a ‘side saddle’ position the hatch is easily reached.
Stability, Manoeuvrability, Tracking & Speed
At 66cm wide some would fear that stability had been compromised in the quest for speed……the Evo 465 is still a very stable kayak! The flat hull and very low seat position, which lowers the centre of gravity, ensures this solid stability. The speed and tracking of the 465 are exceptional. It really gets along well and is quite effortless to maintain a good cruising speed. From a stationary position I found it quite manoeuvrable by using the forward half of a sweep stroke to pull the bow around. Once the kayak was up and moving, and the bow cutting through the water, this paddle stroke became less effective. At speed, the rudder controls and turns the Evo easily but does deliver a rather large turning circle.
In the Surf and Cruising
I tried the 465 in the surf a number of times and drew different conclusions each time. The sharp entry at the bow allows the Evo to cut through the waves where Stealth’s earlier models tend to lift up over the waves. This provides a rather wet ride even in the smaller stuff but I did find the speed of the craft allowed me to punch through some pretty large breaking waves. On the first few waves to the beach I lazily allowed the kayak to broach sideways in the surf. I found the hull quite unforgiving in this position and found myself taking an unexpected swim! It seems the combination of the pronounced keel and flat section through the hull makes the Evo difficult to keep upright in this broached position.
On following runs I decided to get a little more lined up on the wave and found that it would surf quite well. It is important on the 465 to try to stay a little ahead of the wave when it starts to break. This involves paddling hard down the face of the wave before the angle of the wave face gets too steep. If your still on the face when the wave starts to pitch your about to bury the nose of your 465, and take a swim! I found it important to have good speed when catching a wave and to get on it well before it was ready to break/spill/dump. As the Evo 465 has speed at its disposal, the other option is to follow the back of a wave through the surf zone. If done correctly it is possible to paddle through the surf zone without actually catching a wave. This is a pretty good option especially if you are loaded up with expensive fishing gear and your catch.
On one of my early spills in the surf I found that my foot got stuck in the foot straps. I mentioned this to the guys from Stealth and they did say it is recommended to loosen or even undo the Velcro footstraps when landing in the surf to avoid the possibility of this happening.
Although Stealth are renowned for building kayaks for offshore fishing I think the Evo range brings some great versatility to the Stealth product. The Evo 465 is definitely capable of doing the offshore work that the Superlite & BFS are renowned for but are a little trickier when returning through the surf zone. They do have the advantage of speed and less hull slap when paddling in open water. I think the 465 is excellent for semi-protected waters such as Morton Bay where there is only ever small surf and bigger distances to travel to the fishing spots. I think even fresh water fisherman would appreciate the speed and glide of the 465 for fishing the dams and that occasional paddle home against a head wind. The large centre hatch on the Stealth range is definitely a winner.
The Evolution 465 retails for $2300. (Stealth also makes a model called the Splash which has the same hull as the Evo 465 without the centre hatch and some of the deck fit out. It weighs in at a lightweight 17kg)
This review was conducted by Craig McSween, Level 2 Sea Kayak Instructor with Australian Canoeing. For feedback on this review you can contact me at Adventure Outlet (Kayaking & Outdoor Store) in Southport on (07)55712929 or firstname.lastname@example.org