Native Watercraft Slayer Review
Not long ago anglers wishing to expand their “bank boundaries” were fairly content purchasing a basic recreational kayak and modifying it to suit their specific fishing needs. In the late 1980’s, for me, that meant adding a simple bungee cord as a rod holder to the deck of my Perception Corsica S, a whitewater kayak. A few calendar cycles later and the number of options available to the beginner and advanced kayak angler can be overwhelming. Manufacturers have stepped up convenience, comfort and functionary features, many of which increase gear organization ease while affording all-day comfort.
In late 2006, Native Watercraft broke out as a new manufacturer raising the bar in ergonomic seating comfort with their 1st Class Seat, an aluminum framed, fully suspended, durable and long lasting Textelene® Solar Screen fabric. Fast-forward to the Fall of 2011 and the "automatic for the people" input initiative was born, seeking opinions from their retailers, guides, pro-staff and customers on what the next Native sit-on-top should possess. The consensus was to keep the 1st Class seat, merge some of the features of the proven Ultimate design into a sit on top platform. The result went beyond initial expectations with an adjustable low or high position 1st Class seat on a hull with standup capabilities, endless no-drill mount options with Groove tracks running nearly the whole length of the hull, a sturdy flat floor, fixed, non-flexible grab handles that enhance the lift control of the kayak, a center console hatch for battery storage and or transducer install access and a flexible bow storage area that could be left open or enclosed with an optional hard hatch cover and additional scupper plugs. Available in 12’ and 14.5’ lengths, anglers can choose which length best suits the size and type of water it will be used in most frequently.
• Seat - No doubt I’ve said it a million times, if it isn’t comfortable I’m just not going to use it. No worries of breaking the 1st Class seat tradition by putting smiles on people’s faces, the seat is just plain comfortable. The selectable seat height position offers a nice touch for an added sight advantage and ease of going from a seated to a standing position. If you’re nimble enough you can raise the seat to the high position while on the water with a little practice. This is aided by a bungee retaining system, which helps guide the seat backwards as you lift and shift it slightly backwards. The seat feels solidly attached to the hull in either position, virtually locked in place by the feet and height position slots. Nylon end caps cover the frame feet where it touches the hull, protecting it from scratches or gouging as well as adding a sound dampening effect. When wanting to cover distance I preferred the low seat position. It just felt more ergonomic with my familiar paddling position. The high position was definitely a bonus when picking around shallow cover and when going from a seated position to standing. For less nimble folks a stand assist strap could be attached to the bow carry handle. At either position the familiar 1st Class seat was a welcomed asset (no pun intended).
• Groove tracks - Native’s drill-less mount system, abound along the gunnels giving you near limitless options on where to place gear. There’s even a short track on the center console hatch. Bow and stern wells have adjustable bungee tie-downs. Pullout strength of the Groove tracks attached to the hull average between 1,000-1,200 lbs.
• Tackle tray holders - Conveniently located to each side of the seat are molded-in slots with bungee keepers for tackle trays, making quick access to bait changes a breeze.
• Bow cooler/fish bags - Native’s Medium and Ultimate 12 fish bags pull double duty by fitting nicely in the Slayer 14 and 12 bow areas.
• Bow Cover - The optional bow cover is available for the 12 and 14. It’s constructed of thermoformed ABS plastic and fits over the lip of the bow area and is held in place with bungee cord. The hatch cover can be raised to access bow items by lifting it and stretching the bungee without removing the cord.
• Grab handles - Fixed, hard, but cushioned grab handles at all the usual locations. Grab handles don’t usually get much recognition or atttention but the difference between fixed and flexible is worth mentioning here because they do a great job of increasing lift control of the kayak, giving a sense that you’re not lifting the full weight. The center grab handles are formed by the Groove tracks. The bow handle is perpendicular to the hull, which most will find allows a more natural and easier grip position when pulling the kayak while on a cart. There’s enough of a recession below the grab handles to eliminate the days of bashed and pinched knuckles. The bow and stern handles are attached with security screws, making them the perfect location to attach a security cable lock.
• Optional Rudder - The rudder kit will be available as an option-only accessory. A single bolt attaches the rudder onto a molded-in nut. The rudder bracket also mates over two raised bumps, which are molded into the hull, for lateral stability. The kit will come with everything needed to attach and convert the footrests for proper operation. I'm of the opinion that with proper paddling technique a rudder isn't necessary, however, when drifting and fishing at the same time a rudder offers some hands free directional control. (Not tested)
• Center console hatch - The hatch is attached via bolt and molded in nut, giving you in-hull access for mounting shoot-thru transducers and a place to conceal the extra wiring. I would thru-hull port the power cables to the bow area either in a bag or dry box. This way you won’t have to regularly open the hatch to place the battery inside. Being that the cover is square it can be oriented with the Groove track in any direction, top, bottom or sides.
• Rod Rests - Two rod rests are formed, one on either side of the center console hatch and are raised high enough so when a rod is laying down it won’t contact the optional hard bow cover or fish bag.
• Tag Along Wheel - If the distance you have to transport the kayak is more than you’d want to carry it, and the ground is firm, the tag along wheel will help you save energy for while you’re on the water. The bracket is fairly sturdy stainless steel and the wheel is solid, hard plastic. I have mixed emotions over this feature. It can be pretty loud when rolled over pavement and if the kayak is loaded unevenly with gear it wants to list to one side or the other when pulled. On the water, the wheel can create noise from water movement unless the attachment bolt is tightened snugly. If you’re floating rivers with swift current or with any drops it’s advisable to remove the wheel to prevent potential hang-ups or damage to the hull attachment nuts.
• Open Floor Plan - If you’re a fan of loft living spaces you’ll likely love the cockpit on the Slayer. For people 6’ and under you’ll have a flat deck from your seat to your feet. Two cushioned stations for tackle trays or boxes, one with a bungee cord and a tray or box bungee strap and cup holder line the middle.
With any hull there will always be a “designed for” target and purpose. The Slayer is no exception. After gathering input, Native created a SOT that is as close as possible to emulating the Ultimate series. Why the Ultimate? The Ultimate is one of the best selling hybrid kayaks available. People love it for its openness, comfort and stability; however, one thing it doesn’t do is self-bail. Thus the Slayer.
• Multi-chined Hull - The Slayer has both hard and soft or multi-chines. The benefit is stability when leaned as well as added rigidity and tracking ease.
• Scuppers - These big mama scuppers not only are capable of draining vast amounts of water in the blink of an eye, they also add incredible strength to the hull floor, particularly a good thing for when standing on a hull.
• Stability - There’s no industry standard stability gauge and opinions will vary according to each individual's own perception, including my own. Compared to the Ultimate I’d say stability is slightly less. Given that your feet are above the waterline and not below it as in the Ultimate this stands to reason. I found the most stabile position when standing on the Slayer was to lean slightly to one side or the other. This locked in stability whereas if you try to stand perfectly flat and even the hull tended to hunt for stability. Like most balance required tasks, experience and familiarity go a long way to good execution.
• Speed - Having a hull that’s stable enough to stand on requires some compromise. To gain stability requires width. Width produces drag. Drag slows you down or requires additional energy to maintain speed, which is a drag. Despite the Slayer 14.5's 30" width I found it performed well cruising around lakes. Though it's not as fast as a Manta Ray the Slayer isn't so wide that you feel like you’re paddling a barge. I definitely wouldn't complain about having to paddle a Slayer multiple miles in a day’s trip.
• Hull Noise - Often kayak anglers want to know how quiet the hull is or the amount of hull slap. On calm water I normally have the cockpit scuppers plugged so there was no sound issue. I did find on calm, flat water the bow and stern scuppers can create noise depending on how fast you're traveling. Plugging them removed the noise. On disturbed or riffled water scupper noise isn't noticeable. Hull noise or slap was nearly nonexistent and a welcomed feature. A realistic test and example was paddling into a 15 mph headwind coming across a mile and a half of open water, creating 8-10" rolling riffles with an occasional white cap. There was no hull pounding whatsoever and the bow shape does very well deflecting waves.
Key Point Comparison/Who’s it for?
• The 14.5 has better hull speed and stability, over the 12, making it the best choice for larger paddlers (250 lbs. +), those traveling three or four miles at a time, or larger, open waters.
• The maneuverability of the 14.5 in tighter quarters is quite acceptable, even more so than an Ultimate 14.5 due to the flatter bottom.
• Hull speed of the 14.5 felt slightly less than the Ultimate 14.5 and definitely slower than a Manta Ray of the same length.
• Paddling in the low seat position was very comfortable with a natural reach to the water. Paddling in the high seat position for shorter distances was not bad at all, though you’re likely to want a longer paddle length. Adding roughly 10 cm should be good for most.
• Stability, or lack thereof was never an issue. We even conducted a capsize test and in order to flip the kayak we had to hang onto one side grab handle in order to pull it over, otherwise we would just fall out, the Slayer remaining upright.
• In my mind the 12 is the perfect moving water, creek or river kayak or trips of shorter distance.
• Plenty of capacity for most kayak fisherman and gear.
• Though slightly less stable than the 14.5 the 12 is no slouch.
• The bow of the 12 is a little more blunt than the 14.5 so it’s less hydrodynamic when trying to go fast.
• Good seating position and size for youth. Even in the low seat position youth shouldn’t have any trouble clearing the gunnels when paddling, unlike the deeper seats of the Ultimate and Manta Ray.
The Slayer is an offering that rounds out Native's lineup, offering a capable stand up SOT with an appreciable open cockpit, fantastic seat and outfitting features that are flexible and near limitless. There's a good balance between stand up stability and hull speed and the outfitting and gear storage options are outstanding. No longer do you have to settle for a “I think I can make this work” mentality. The Slayer is flat out, built to fish.
Test Paddler 6' 200 lbs
Slayer 12' • 31" wide • Capacity 400 lbs * Weight 70 lbs
Slayer 14.5 • 30" wide • Capacity 450 lbs * Weight 75 lbs
Review by: Philip Ruckart, operator of KayakFishingNC.com