Sometimes the best way to get into fishing is to find the most reasonable and logical way. Many people do not have enough money to buy a nice boat to go fishing, and many people do not have enough money to buy a nice kayak such as those from Jackson Kayak. When I decided that I really wanted to start fishing where many people could not, I came to conclusion that a canoe or a kayak would be the best option. I obviously like the functionality and great construction of Jackson Kayaks, but at the time I could not afford one. I had to look for something that was under $500 and gave me a lot of options. I eventually found what I was looking for, and looking at my decision now, I am very glad I decided to purchase the Old Town Sportsman Canoe.
The Old Town Sportsman Canoe cannot be found on Old Town's website because it is considered to be somewhat of a promotional canoe, which means it is sold at only certain retailers with slight changes at each dealer. The canoe base model is called the Rouge River, but as I stated, each store may have a different name for the canoe with slightly different options, such as color. One thing that does not change about the canoe is the basic dimensions. The Old Town Sportsman Canoe specifications are below:
Length: 13' 10"
Capacity: 750 lbs.
Weight: 80 lbs. (varies from model to model)
To allow for my fishing footage, I placed a GoPro flat surface adhesive mount at the bow of the canoe to shoot forwards and backwards. I can even shoot left and right with the use of a 3-way pivot mount. The picture to the left was shot using the GoPro Hero 3 with the camera facing to the stern of the canoe using the flat surface adhesive mount I mounted.
For other shooting options with a GoPro, I place a pole into the rear rod holders. Below to the right is a photo of the rod holders. They are the two circles at the very back of the boat and approximately a foot in front of the rear rod holder. You should understand that these are not very good rod holders, but more so they need to be fitted with an accessory that allows you to use a rod holder such as a Scotty Rod Holder or a similar company. I do have one fishing rod that fits into the hole, but that is because it is a skinny rod. Most rods will not fit into these holders. I am able to place a smaller pole for my GoPro to allow for elevated camera angle shots.
As far as versatility goes, I would give this canoe a 8 or 9 overall. For one, I was able to get the canoe for $399 at Dick's Sporting Goods which is rather cheap for a canoe. To see if this canoe is right for your, lets discuss what I like and dislike about the canoe.
I think that the overall build of the canoe is pretty strong. At first, I felt the polyethylene plastic and realized that it was extremely thin, but after a few years of use, it still has no leaks or severe damage other than scratches on the bottom of the boat. I will give my word that I have taken this canoe in terrible spots too. What I mean by this is dragged it over gravel, hit many rocks and logs in the water, and hit many other objects. I will say that the hull is very thin and flexible in its design, so I would not risk ramming big logs in fast water or such. The reason it is flexible is because it is so thin. If it were stiff, when you hit a rock or something it would cause a dent or severe crack to be placed in the canoe, but since it is flexible it just bounces off of things. The downfall to this is that if you do hit something sharp and with a good amount of force your in trouble. I have hit sharp objects pretty hard and it has had no problems, but I would be careful and take care of the boat as it is not a tank, but rather an armored vehicle. Overall I like the hull, because if it were a fancier material the cost would go up drastically.
As you can see, the seats on the Sportsman Canoe are just plain molded seats. There is nothing special or cool that I can really say about the seats, except that they are seats and they are extremely durable. On the front and rear seat there are little divots on the right and left of the seat to allow for placement of pliers, lures, and any other thing that is small and you don't want sliding around.
The seats aren't very comfortable, but they do serve their purpose. You can buy stadium seats and place them on the original seats to add comfort, or you can even drill in the seats and place a swivel mount with a nice bass boat seat. I chose not to do that because I wanted less in my way. I tend to move around the canoe and get in and out a lot, so I came to believe that added seats would cause the canoe to lose some of its versatility. Leg room in the back seat is plentiful, and room for standing is also plentiful. If you like to stand and fish, you certainly can do this in the Sportsman Canoe. At 42" wide it is very stable and does not wobble much.
The hull design is considered to be slightly arched, as it is not a flat bottom, but it is not a really curved hull either. This design gives the middle ground of everything. The best way to describe the hull design is in chairs. If you have a regular four legged chair, you can lean to a certain point, but if you pass this point you are going to fall backwards. The same is with a flat bottom canoe. is extremely stable, but if you lean past that point of no return, you better have on your PFD's. Now, if you have a rocking chair you have wobble, but there is not really that point of all of a sudden flipping. This is like the Sportsman Canoe, or any canoe with a slightly arched canoe hull. I would say that the Sportsman Canoe is more flat bottom than it is slightly arched, but the way it is constructed is perfect for versatility. So, the canoe is very stable but their is some wobble so that you can go down smaller rapids and movement in water. I really like this design, because it is stable for fishing, but also good for going down some rougher water which a flat bottom canoe could not.
The handles on the Old Town Canoe are quite good. They aren't anything special, but they are molded in with a slight arch to allow for comfort. The bottom of the handle is also serrated or textured to give good grip and traction.
The center compartment on the Sportsman is something that I thought that I would really like, but I have some slightly different opinions now. Lets start off with the dry center hatch compartment.
As you can see the center hatch screws into the center compartment and comes off the same way. Attached to the lid is a bungee cord so you don't lose your lid while on the water. This area works quite well, and stays rather dry. The main problem with this hatch though is actually the way temperature affects it. There is a rubber o-ring that surrounds the circumference of the circle to allow for waterproofing. With increase in temperature the ring becomes enlarged allowing for the ring to pop off of the lip, and when the temperature is cold, the ring shrinks, with once again allowing for either a tight fit or popping off. For the most part this is a good spot to put stuff like keys and wallets, but it is not one hundred percent waterproof.
The center hatch is considered to be a cooler, and yes it does work as that function but not like a simple Igloo cooler or for sure a Yeti Cooler. The lid is insulated and I could not tell you if the surrounding are of the center hatch is insulated, but I do not that it is insulated by air without a doubt. The lid is easy to open and close whether you are at the front of the canoe or the back, but problems do arise if you have three people, because the third person is sitting on the hatch. I can fit about twelve 12 oz. cans quite easily or a couple of 32 oz. Gatorades. I do suggest that you put ice in the hatch if you are using it as a cooler, but you do not have to. The hatch also works well for just putting extra gear or snacks and such as well.
The cup holders and paddle holder work just fine. They aren't fancy, but more so durable and functional which is what I want in cup holders. There are three cup holders that can hold 12 oz. cans, 20 oz. bottles, and some 32 oz. drinks depending on the design of the cup. The paddle holder works well, but only for paddles under five foot, otherwise it does not fit inside the canoe. The paddle holder is actually designed to hold a shotgun according to the manual that came with the boat, as it describes this area as a shotgun holder. This would be good if you go duck hunting and such.
Overall the Old Town Sportsman Canoe is a great investment for someone who wants some time on the water for whatever reason it may be. At $399 and occasional $349 with a mail in rebate, the Old Town Sportsman Canoe is a great steal. Just remember this is not a showpiece, but rather a armored car who will take you through countless journeys if you treat it right. I would certainly recommend this boat for anybody who wants to take kids out, friends out, or any other reason. This boat is certainly every bit you buy it for.
If you would like to see a video with the canoe in action, watch the video below as I fish on the Old Town Sportsman Canoe in the San Saba River during late winter.