I was recently asked by the Canoe Shops Group to write a review of the RTM Abaco 4.20 for their fishing kayak review website. I have been paddling and kayak fishing from an Abaco 4.20 for almost 2 years now and have fished from it in all sorts of conditions around the Cornish coastline. I feel i can give a comprehensive review on the pros and cons of this kayak. Despite being sponsored by RTM, I hope you will find this a fair and balanced review and I have highlighted the reasons why i like this kayak, as well as the areas that could be improved on in future designs. This review is not based solely on my experiences but also includes the comments from those who have paddled my Abaco along with others who also own and fish from one.
Introducing the RTM Abaco 4.20
Most kayak fisherman have come from a fishing background having never paddled before – they look for a kayak loaded with features for fishing and one that is a stable platform on the water. The paddling performance of the kayak is a secondary priority. The kayak is a means to take them to the fish and an ‘Anglers Fishing Kayak’ usually fits the bill. Some kayak fishermen have come from a paddling background but wish to have a go at catching fish whilst they are on the water. They may be a sea kayaker, or whitewater paddler who are used to paddling performance kayaks. In this case, they will look for a kayak that performs well on the water with the fishing features being a secondary priority. This type of kayak fisherman will look for a fast, often narrow and light hull with a few basic features for fishing. As the Abaco is loaded with features and is a stable-platform on the water, it is more of an ‘Anglers Fishing Kayak’. There are plenty of ‘Anglers Fishing Kayaks’ on the market and in terms of specifications, features and price the Abaco 4.20 sits neatly amongst the other top-end fishing kayaks such as the Ocean Kayak Trident Ultra 4.3, Wilderness Systems Thresher 140, Jackson Cuda 14 and Viking Profish Reload.
Before we talk performance lets start with the features that make this a 'Premium’ fishing kayak.
- 1x Deck/rail mount adjustable rod holder
- 2x Flush mount rod holders
- 1x Drain plug
- 2x Accessory slide tracks
- 2x Large lure boxes and 2 Small lure boxes
- 2x Paddle keepers
- 2x Recessed storage areas
- 2x Rubber storage pockets
- 4x Carry handles
- 4x Scupper holes
- Large front hatch with gear bucket
- Central hatch with built in rod tube
- Large rear tank well with bungees
- Adjustable foot rests
- A Buoyancy foam block kit
- Deck line
- Transducer scupper
- Moulded-in ruler to measure fish
Plenty of features, but are they all useful?
The large centre hatch is very useful. What I really like about this hatch is that the inside compartment is fully sealed from the rest of the hull so no flooding the kayak if you tip the kayak over and the hatch isn’t closed. It also means you can put stuff in there without the fear of losing it somewhere in the hull! My hatch is usually home to my phone (in an Aquapac), a small tackle box and a small tub of weights. It makes a handy place to store baits out of direct sunlight too. There is also one more neat feature.... it contains a rod tube! This is really handy for surf launches and landings when it is possible you could flip the kayak. With the rods safely stowed in the rod tube they won’t get damaged should the kayak end up the wrong way in the surf zone! The rod tube will take a 7ft 2-piece rod with equal section length. There is also a small area you could store a fish finder battery too although mine is currently living in the hull.
The tough polycarbonate hatch lid is also useful for bolting accessories to. I have bolted my fish finder to mine. It would be nice to see some nuts moulded into the lid in positions that allow for Ram, Scotty and Railblaza bases to be installed without the need to drill into the lid. Drilling does however allow for more freedom of positioning when mounting your accessories over predisposed bolt positions. One possible gripe is that the centre hatch seal could be made from a soft rubber instead of the hard rubber that is present thus making a more waterproof seal. However, with the hatch compartment fully sealed from the rest of the hull this is not too much of an issue and rarely does any water make it inside. The hatch also sits fairly low in the foot-well, so is not obstructive to the legs.
Behind the seat is another recessed area with elastic retainer, designed to take two lure boxes that also come with the kayak (no lures inside, Booooo!). I’ve been using this area to store my bait. It is also the perfect size for a Flambeau 14" dry box. This opens up into the huge rear tank well with bungees. It is the perfect width to fit a collapsible storage crate with loads more room to spare behind. You could really load this kayak up if you wanted a few days away. RTM also sell a removable rear cooler/ice case to fit the tank well (retails at £120) for keeping your catch cool. I was going to get one and covert it into a live bait-well but never got round to it. Two scupper holes stop water pooling in the tank-well. If you wanted to bung the scupper holes, scupper plugs are supplied with the Abaco.... a nice touch although i've never used mine. There are also a few moulded-in brass inserts along the top edges of the tank-well, two are designed to take stabilisers/outriggers (retail at £165) - no use to me and to be honest you would have to put some serious weight on this kayak to warrant them.
On the Water
On Dry Land
Anyhow back to the weight, you will need a trolley if you are solo launching. Car topping isn’t the easiest on your own (easy with two people!) but I have done it numerous times without too much trouble. I lack in upper body strength so lifting the Abaco fully above my head is a no-go. I use a beach towel laid either on the boot or across the side of my car, put the bow up on that and slide the Abaco up onto the roof bars pushing from the stern. Once up I flip it over by standing on the door ledge and grabbing the side handles. It will depend on your car how easy this method is but there is usually a way to do it without having to lift the whole weight of the kayak above your head.
Fishing on the Abaco
Fishing side-saddle is reasonably comfortable. You can straddle the kayak to if you need to increase stability when snagged or increase deck space when dealing with a big fish. It holds steady at anchor in swell and chop. I have found that in short interval messy chop waves tend to crash continually over the stern which gets annoying, shuttle the anchor trolley to the bow and it will ride the waves fine and keep you drier.
A fishfinder can be installed easily using the in-hull method which I am currently using for my Raymarine Dragonfly 5-Pro, with both transducer and battery located inside the hull. I have the head unit mounted on the centre hatch. The through-scupper method is also an option if your transducer fits into the transducer scupper and I used this method when I had a Lowrance Elite-4x on the Abaco with the battery box kept onboard in the small recess at the front of the foot well. You could equally keep the battery inside the centre hatch. It would be nice to see future designs incorporate a larger/longer transducer scupper to better fit the newer, larger chirp transducers. A transducer could also be arm-mounted using a Ram transducer arm attached to the slide rails. It would be nice to see a removable fish finder pod introduced in future designs - perhaps in the place of the small recess at the of the footwell.
So is it a good fishing kayak?
Other than those couple of niggles this is a very capable fishing kayak that performs well in the majority of conditions it’s likely to be paddled in and fished from whilst kayak fishing in the UK. It would suit both beginners and experienced kayak anglers alike. It is stable, has plenty of useful features, it paddles well for an 'Anglers Fishing Kayak', it has plenty of storage space and price-wise sits comfortably amongst similar top-end fishing kayaks, perhaps even cheaper if the 'Hi-Luxe’ version with rudder is compared against others once a rudder is added to them. After nearly two years of use and abuse (battle scars to prove, those rocks are as hard as they look!) and with 40+ launches it is still going strong without any issues. The Abaco has brought me some of my biggest kayak fish and guess what....I love it!
RTM Abaco 4.20 Range Overview
- Luxe - without rudder - retails at £1050
- Hi-Luxe - with rudder - retails at £1150
- Orange/Black, Grey Storm, Marble and Coffee