The Hobie Compass as a Fly Fishing Vessel

The best bit of fishing gear I've ever acquired is a die-hard, reliable, skilled fishing buddy. The second best thing is my Hobie Compass 180. (My fishing buddy has a matching one, so that's about as perfect as it gets!) This article will be specifically about the single person Compass equipped with a MirageDrive 180 with Kickup fins. That is, it has Forward and Reverse gears operated by pull tab, and in forward, the fins will fold up and back if they impact an object under the surface, making them less likely to get damaged.
I've fished from this platform quite a bit for two years on both lakes and salt, without a trace of buyer's remorse.

While I fished from a small paddle kayak for many years, the Hobie adds whole new dimensions. In addition to the most obvious advantage over a traditional kayak - having at least one hand free to hold the rod for quick strikes - there are also these:

☑️ Speed and distance with much less effort
☑️ High stability for safety and confidence in rougher conditions
☑️ Tons of easily reachable onboard cargo space
☑️ Simple and handy installation for sonar
☑️ Ability to easily cruise backwards when trolling
☑️ Ability to control the boat while fighting a fish
☑️ Comfortable and raised seating, making spotting and casting easier

Some of the subjects that come up when chatting about the Hobie are addressed below. (And if you show up at a popular boat ramp with one, you will get questions about it!)

Why the Compass?

The Outback and Pro Angler do have more features and attachment points, and the PA has more weight capacity. If you do a lot of gear fishing with tons of extra equipment, or are a very large human requiring >400lbs of you + gear on board, you might want to look at those models.
Other specs are pretty close though, and personally, I like the uncluttered deck of the Compass for fly fishing. The much lower price point also helps!


Yes, they're pricey; The Compass is ~$2600. Still, that's about $800 and $1700 less than the comparably sized Outback or Pro Angler, respectively.
In addition to the kayak, the other major cash outlays will likely be transportation equipment, and a sonar setup.

Trailer or cartop?

Admittedly, I'm a fifty-something, 5'3" woman, and I'm not easily cartopping anything. That said, for transport, I highly recommend spending another chunk of change on a trailer, and a Hobie plug-in kayak cart. I've seen guys cartop Hobies, but they're heavy. About 70lbs hull alone, and 90 fully rigged. In my experience, if it's a PITA to take it out, you won't use it as much. And if you drop it on your spiffy truck and damage both the truck and the boat...the trailer will seem like a bargain!

My Compass is always stored on the trailer, with all the gear in a big bin. I tighten the straps, throw the bin, wheels, and paddle in the van, hook the trailer up & go. At the lake, it takes 10 min to put everything on the hull and launch it directly into the water from the ramp.
No ramp? Pop the wheel cart bars up thru the scupper holes, roll it off the trailer and down to the water, tip it to the side and pull them back off. You can either drop the wheels back through the scupper holes from the top to stow onboard, or walk them back to the car.
To take out, just back the trailer in up to about the hubs, line the kayak up, lift the tip up a few inches between the bunks, and the whole thing slides easily back onto the trailer with just a tug. Back on the road in 10.

While it's true that the trailer limits you to places where there is space to park a small trailer, the ease of launch/load means I can - and do - fish 3 or 4 lakes in the course of a day, or head out to fish my local for an hour. I would never do that if I had to cartop it!

Which trailer?

There are quite a few out there, but after much research I went with the Malone Microsport low bed double bunk trailer (~$2400), which has these advantages for me:
☑️ It can hold two kayaks if I'm going with a buddy, or one kayak plus an adapted Yakima box on the other side for solo camping trips
☑️ The tires are rated to 75mph for highway travel
☑️ The 22" bunk height makes launching & loading easy from either the wheels or the water, with minimal lifting
☑️ Bunks - as opposed to crossbars or saddles - distribute the weight along a greater contact area, so it's safe to store the kayak on the trailer without warping the hull
☑️ Very light weight; several times on backroads with no where to U-turn, I've simply unhooked it, Y-turned the van around, and hand maneuvered it back in place to be on my way in minutes
☑️ It's held up well to many miles on some very rough gravel roads


Because the Hobies have a large hole through the deck where the Mirage drive drops in, it's a simple thing to use a bike cable and padlock to secure the hull to the trailer. The cable adds another layer of security in case of strap failure on the road, also.


Does your line get caught on the pedals?
Not really. There's ample room on the deck between you and the pedals. I do get it caught on my feet if I wear shoes with straps/laces. Bare feet or smooth boots solve that issue.
What about catching line on the drive flippers under the boat?
Occasionally, if I'm not paying attention to line while drifting. It's very easy, though, to pull the drive up and untangle it. Same with weeds.
The only time you're screwed snagwise is when your fly catches the 3 inches of rope on the front or rear handle. Which it will, because fly fishing.

Can you stand up in it?
I've seen people stand in a Compass. Having failed miserably at SUPing, I myself keep my butt in the seat. I can sit sideways on the deck with my legs hanging over the side without even coming close to tipping it over, though. And a few times where the bank was sudden or too steep/mucky to step in or out, I've floated the kayak with the nose on the bank and just walked on from the front. It's pretty darn stable!

The hull is "Lowrance Ready", but what if I have a different fish finder?
I have a Garmin Striker. There are a few adapters available via Etsy or ebay, or you can DIY it pretty easily with bits from the hardware store and YouTube videos. If you go with the 3D printed mounting plate, be careful of parking your kayak on top of rocks. Ask me how I know. 😖
For mine, after securing the transducer in the mounting recess in the bottom of the boat, I ran the transducer cable up onto the deck through the central scupper hole. I keep the LiPO4 battery in a softsided, zippered, mostly waterproof lunch box that fits under the seat, and just run the wires about a foot along the side of the deck to the mounted finder. You can buy a kit to drill holes for running cables and mounting the battery inside the hull, but I find having the battery portable more convenient for charging and theft prevention.

How do you carry extra rods?
I use the in-hull rod holders, and these inexpensive and easy-to-DIY racks. They hold extra, fully rigged, halved rods, completely out of the way.


This is simply a dowel with a U-shaped, vinyl coated storage hook screwed in the end. Pipe insulation goes around the dowel, sized for a snug fit in the rod holder holes. Twisty wires secure the rod handles. Plastic conduit straps screwed to the top of the hull at stern provide a place to secure the ferrule end of the halved rods. Long rods will extend a bit past the stern, so be careful near docks and when launching. I have two, one on each side.

What are You Wearing?
In summer, whatever I want. Be aware that your shins will take the full brunt of the sun, however. Long wading pants, leggings, or sunscreen recommended!
For colder days, I've settled on knee high Muck boots with whatever else is appropriate for the weather. I seldom need to step more than calf deep to launch, load, or board, and it saves wear and tear on the waders. The Muck boots are smooth, so line doesn't catch on them as it would on wading boots. In addition, water beads off the boots, so with thick socks your feet stay warmer (not encased in a cold wet boot) and your car floor mats don't get flooded when hopping in and out at the boat ramp. There's also the comfort factor of no waders, and not having to deal with them when you have to answer the call of nature.

And a pfd, always. Duh!

Is it worth the $$?
In the couple years I've had the Compass, I've probably fished twice as many days per year as before I got it, feel much more stable and secure on the water, and caught way more fish.
To me, that's priceless!