In the tempest of new fishing kayaks hitting the water, it’s hard to make waves with a fresh boat. Especially a company that’s been around for 120 years. But last year, Old Town released the Topwater line to compete with lower-priced competition. This year, they blew the other guys out of the water.

Old Town Topwater 120 PDL Specs
Activity: Fishing, Hunting
Style: Sit-on-Top
Number of Paddlers: 1
Propulsion: Pedal
Material: Single Layer Polyethylene
Seat Type: Element Air Seating
Weight Capacity: 500 lb | 226.8 kg
Length: 12′ | 3.7 m
Width: 36 in | 91.4 cm
Price: $2149 USD

When we fished the Old Town Topwater 120 last summer, our team anticipated Old Town would release a pedal version. The super-stable Double U hull and smart outfitting were perfect for stand-up backwater fishing and the price was perfect for any budget.

So, we weren’t surprised when Old Town released the Topwater 106 PDL. At only 10-feet, six-inches, we were surprised by the pocket pedal boat’s ride and handling. The Double U hull lent itself perfectly to a pedal drive. And the tried and true PDL lived up to its strong and silent reputation. The little Topwater PDL made us hungry for a hotly anticipated 12-foot version. While we were impressed with the Topwater 106’s performance, the team agreed we needed more room for stuff.

Shazam! This spring, the Kayak Angler crew picked up word of a new Topwater PDL in the works and the result exceeds expectations.

The same smart features available on the other Topwater models added to the proven PDL system gives the 120 PDL more to love.

Topwater’s super-stable Double U hull improves stability and keeps the boat traveling straight. Steering is handled with a low-profile knob that is easy to index and a large, responsive rudder. One of our favorite features is the extra-long lever to retract the rudder. Instead of fighting with lines and bungees, the lever lifts the rudder without complaint.

Old Town Topwater 120 PDL Fishing Kayak Review
Overview of the Old Town Topwater 120 PDL Fishing Kayak | Photo: Courtesy Old Town

A lightweight fishing kayak

The boat comes in at a prize-winning 87 pounds and the drive weighs just under 20 making the Topwater 120 PDL one of the lightest pedal boats on the water.

The topside of the 120 shares our favorite Topwater touches. The padded deck is easy for stand-up fishing. A large bow hatch seals for dry storage. Gear tracks on the gunnels are positioned to keep rod holders and fish finder display within reach and out of the path of the action.

Topwater makes it easy to install the fish finder and power cables with a transducer scupper and mounting system.

Two flushmount rod holders behind the seat are angled for trolling. My favorite is the flushmount rod holder beside the captain’s chair. I use it a hundred times a day to hold my rod for rigging or unhooking fish.

Old Town carried over the Elementair Seat which is light and strong, even if it lacks extra padding or supports. I like how the back is angled to accept a PFD with plenty of room in the 21-inch-wide seat.

Old Town PDL pedal fishing kayak

The star of the show is Old Town’s PDL drive. Engineers and pro-staff worked for years to develop the original PDL drive. The extra effort paid dividends with is a system that hasn’t needed improvement since. The pedal system is sealed and maintenance free, as capable in salt water as fresh. The PDL is so reliable, Old Town backs it with a five-year warranty.

I prize the fit and finish on the PDL. The system wedges solidly in the kayak with virtually no flex to transfer maximum power from the pedals to the propeller. Even if the system is larger than other power plants, the solid connection with the hull is worth the trade. When the pedals are inserted in the deck well, the base has a small hatch to double as dry storage.

Probably the Topwater feature that will appeal to the widest range of anglers is the price. At $2149 dollars, the Topwater 120 PDL brings Old Town quality at a great value.

walking out of the store with a solid pedal kayak for just over $2000 feels like highway robbery

I was so stoked about one of our favorite pedal boats growing up, I reached out to marketing manager Ryan Lilly. “Based on consumer feedback, we saw an opportunity to bring a lighter, compact, easy to maneuver and transport kayak to the market,” he explains. The Topwater line has been one of the best-selling in Old Town’s 120-year history. “That’s saying something,” Lilly crows.

Lilly gives credit to the guys behind the scenes. “Our product engineers are some of the best in the business and they delivered some of their best work with the Topwater series.” He points out the Topwater 120 PDL paddles as well as it pedals. “It cuts through the water with confidence and ease,” he adds.

We asked Lilly for the secret to building a feature-filled boat at a reasonable price. “There is a race to the bottom,” he admits, pointing to companies sacrificing quality and features to sell a less expensive kayak. “We are not interested in chasing cheap,” he insists, explaining Topwater’s ideal owner is looking for quality for their money.

Still, walking out of the store with a solid pedal kayak for just over $2000 feels like highway robbery. This boat is a great fit on any inshore or back water expedition with the capability to cover distance and survive moderate seas. It’s the grab-and-go boat you use more than your big, heavy tournament ride. The Topwater 120 PDL will keep friends and family smiling; I’m getting one for my mother-in-law. With smart features and a great price, the Topwater 120 PDL will fit anywhere.

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