Feelfree Moken 12.5 V2 (2020 Model) Review

First of all, apologies to my regular readers for my significant lack of writings lately.  Being a dad, husband, volunteer EMT, kayak fishing guide, kayak sales business owner, and custom open water/ice rod builder has been quite time consuming.  I truly miss my writing and plan to pick it back up more regularly this year.  I figured no better time to start than when I fell back in love with the sport of kayak fishing.  This happened after going back to where I started the sport I love with a plastic boat, a couple rods, a paddle, and a couple tackle trays.

Don't get me wrong, I love all of my kayaks.  My Feelfree Dorado is a fishing machine.  Perfect for anything except narrow rivers with fast current.  My Feelfree Lures are perfect for almost anything (a tad slow for really big water but Overdrive pedal system fixes that).  But this season I found myself borrowing my wife's original Feelfree Moken 12.5 kayak and her Bending Branches Angler Pro Plus.  It was something about the lighter weight, the simplicity of the boat/paddle combo, and the speed I could get out of the time-tested hull design.  One thing kept me from making it my main boat.  The seat - I found it very comfortable for a strap-in seat.  However, I have chronic back issues and my knees are bad from years of soccer/snowboarding/skateboarding in my youth.  I could only go a couple hours and had difficulty standing from the deck.

Fast forward to just before iCast 2019 when rumblings of an updated Moken 12.5 started making their way around the Interwebs and social medias.  I felt like Ralphie from a Christmas story and my message to Santa of "I want a Feelfree Moken 12.5 with a comfortable seat, standing deck, and sonar pod without compromising tracking and paddle-ability!" got through just before he said "You are crazy, no such thing can happen!" and kicked me in the face as I went down the slide of disappointment.....  My wish was coming true.  The beautifully capable paddling hull of the Moken 12.5 with an aging fat guy friendly seat and standing deck.  Plus the bonus of the Feelfree sonar pod so I can toss my sonar on it if desired......  Pinch me.

Jump to iCast 2019.  I had a refresh complex on the various pages covering kayaks at iCast.  I was drooling over my keyboard at work like my dogs drool over a steak........  It was everything I hoped.  Pod, standing deck, adjustable stadium seat, Beavertail rudder, wheel in the keel, same hull, not a lot more weight.  I immediately emailed the guys at Feelfree HQ to get "dibs" on one.

Jumping to the day it finally arrived with a load of customer boats.  Just like Ralphie anticipating his Red Rider BB Gun, I ran out of the house to meet the freight driver.  I eagerly pulled the customer kayaks off the truck and inspected the labels to find the one I anticipated.  Then, I found it.  It was the right size and length.  My wife smirked like Ralphie's dad, knowing I had been waiting for this.  I pulled out my pocket knife and had it torn open in record time.  IT.  WAS.  BEAUTIFUL! (but it wasn't Italian and I wouldn't shoot my eye out with it.

So.....here it is.....my comprehensive review of the new Feelfree Moken 12.5 V2.  I have been sitting on this review for a while so I could get significant time on the water with it so you can see my impressions progress:

Initial Impressions:  

Hull: I laid it side-by side with the old Moken 12.5 upside down.  The hulls are indeed the same (except for the hole for the sonar pod on the new one). 
Deck:  Love the simplicity of the deck.  It is open and flat for standing.  But instead of a large standing platform it has two deck mats for standing spots.  This makes the deck a easier to clean while still being comfortable/quiet. 

Seat:  I was reluctant in accepting a non-Gravity Seat in this boat.  But a dry run on dry land and I was satisfied.  The placement of the curve on the back is great lumbar support and it is a bolted together, light, fully removable seat that can be used on the boat or on the beach/shore.

Storage:  Having a short-bed truck I love in-hull storage for rods.  And I have always LOVED the Moken in-hull storage with front and rear hatches for accessing any goodies that slide around during transport.  This was still in the new Moken.  Perfect!

The new Moken adds the Sonar Pod.  I really did enjoy the big water-tight console in the old 12.5 but didn't like how it impeded with the deck.  I know many people liked that cockpit feeling, but I prefer an open deck for standing/line management space.

Also in the storage category, the new Moken adds two rod tip protectors.  Given I take my wife's old model Moken 12.5 on rivers, I absolutely love this concept.  I limit myself to two rods on rivers.  Now I can carry another 1-2 and not have to worry about them sticking up as I float in current around obstacles/brush.  But I'm not sure about the straps that it comes with based on my rough trial-run with my typical 6.5' to 7' bass/pike rods....more to come on this.

So on paper it is 11 lbs. more than the old version.  I expected more weight with a bigger, flat deck designed for standing.  But the boat doesn't feel 85 lbs by any stretch.  Maybe it is the narrow hull.....maybe it is my use of the Lure 13.5, Tandem, and Dorado as my main boats the last couple years......  I haven't weighed it.....but it feels more like a Lure 11.5 weight-wise when maneuvering it on shore......  But lets be honest - if I were worried about weight I'd drink less beer and eat more salads......  I still have no issues roof topping it with my EZ Recreational Rack.

First Time Out:
Unfortunately, unlike Ralphie, I was unable to use my new toy immediately.  Life got in the way.  My first time out ended up being on a guided kayak fishing trip on the backwaters of the Mississippi with a great client/customer.  I was hesitant in doing this because it was an all-day trip (typically 8-10 hours) and there was a forecast of HEAVY wind.  With my back issues, I knew I wouldn't be standing much due to wind and was concerned about comfort.  Here are my first-time-out impressions:
Comfort:  It isn't a Lure or Dorado with a Gravity Seat.  But with chronic back issues - I had no problems floating this thing in the furthest-back high position all day (I didn't try the forward high or middle-low positions).  I am 5' 11" and 220 lbs.  It felt comfortable.  The forward-high position would have likely been too tight (but a solid option if I needed to change my weight distribution if the conditions/load warranted it).  The middle-low position would have likely given my knees a problem.  But it is a great option for high-wind/heavy chop position to lower the center of gravity if needed.  I have no complaints about this seat at all.  I was even able to fit a few 3700 trays under the seat for quick access.

Stability:  The new seat positions do change stability VERY slightly.  Obviously, the two high positions will make the boat feel slightly less stable.  You are using the same hull with a higher center of gravity.  But the low position is close to the old seat/center of gravity.

I didn't stand sideways on the rail to relieve myself like I can on the Lure or Dorado.  I am well-balanced and am sure I could have managed.  But I tend to ease into getting used to new kayaks and opted for the typical carnival-style aim-and-hit-the-scupper-holes method.  This said, I was able to stand-and-paddle without issue.  I was able to stand and cast, sight-fish, etc.  It certainly doesn't have the initial/secondary stability of a Lure or Dorado, but if you have reasonably good balance standing isn't a big issue.  I did notice one thing, especially when standing, which leads me to the deck.

I am 5'11 and about 220 lbs.  My deck is bone dry on the Lure 13.5, Tandem, and Dorado (mostly).  But on the Lure 11.5 I do need scupper plugs in the front-most scuppers to keep water out.  I typically only use scuppers in the 11.5 when the water is really cold (below 60) and it is worst when standing.  It is the same in the Moken 12.5.  My feet don't get wet because I'm on the standing pads.  But water does come in, so I do have the Feelfree scupper plugs inserted and open to reduce the amount of water that comes in.  Not a deal-breaker by any means, but I will have scuppers plugged when I use it in the winter months.

I was otherwise completely happy with the deck.  It stayed otherwise dry.  It has tall ridges to help drain the deck and keep any gear on it dry.  It is also wide-open for storage/standing.  And, like the old Moken, the two cup holders just behind the seat are functional!  (Though you do lose a bottle holder and a cup holder from the old Moken console).
Storage:  As a guide, I typically used the Lure Tandem or Dorado so I could carry a cooler with bottled water/lunches for my clients plus a few tackle trays with spare tackle for them.  I never took the old Moken 12.5 guiding because of my back issues, but also the space.  The 12.5 V2 fixes my comfort and space concerns.  I am able to easily fit a cooler in the back tankwell, a couple spare rods in the hull, my searchbait rods in the flush mount rod holders, and extra tackle under and behind the seat.  I was impressed with the storage on this boat!

One storage feature made me go "Hmmmmm".....(the rod tip protectors and straps that come on the new Moken stock).  I love the concept.  I would have saved myself some rod tips, lures, and energy with these on my river floats in the past.  So on the water I placed my main rod (a custom built 6' 6" spinnerbait casting rod) in the rod tip and strap.  The placement of the strap is too far forward (my opinion) for a rod over 5' or 5' 6" long.  The butt of my rod was hanging low and nearly touching the water.  But I was still able to use the rod tip protectors and just seat the butt of my rod under/next to my seat without using the straps without worry.  The factory straps would probably be fine, but since I use longer rods I prefer things to be closer to the deck.

Other than foregoing the factory straps and placing the butt next to/under the seat, this was an easy fix.  The strap is the same one found on the Feelfree Overdrive case.  I had some extras laying around (I'm a dealer and about 25% of customers want to keep these shipping cases).  I simply installed another set of straps further back closer to the seat.  This works perfect for rods over 6'!  And I still use the factory ones for securing my stakeout pole or attaching other accessories.  By no means is this a deal-breaker - I have customers asking for the tip protector setup custom installed on their Lures and other kayaks.  It was just personal preference for me.  And as a dealer, I am installing the secondary straps free-of-charge for any customers using longer rods.


Paddle-ability:  As expected, this boat paddles like a dream.  The old Moken 12.5 was fast and tracked amazing.  The new one does the same.  I haven't confirmed this via GPS speed tracking, but I feel like the new one is a TAD slower (slightly heavier boat and sonar pod opening may cause additional drag).  But I have not officially tested this, nor do I care because it still paddles with ease.  Using a Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon I can paddle it at about 3.5 MPH (GPS tracked) and get to 5 MPH if I'm pushing it.  Well within my expectations for a fishing kayak I can stand in.

Gizmos:  I say I want to get to my roots of kayak fishing by simplifying things.  But lets be real, I love my 7" touchscreen Garmin 73SV sonar.  Naturally, I want to mount it in this kayak.  And I can do it with ease, just the same as I did in my Lure with the sonar pod.  I toss an Energized Outdoors 30ah lithium in the pod that can run for days.  Like the Lure, the sonar pod is recessed in the hull.  You can drag the boat down the road without damaging the transducer.  But it does impede with side imaging.  Not a deal-breaker for me, but you will need to shim the transducer down to get side imaging to be effective.

With the open hull/hatch I can also run wiring, etc. as I did in my Lure 11.5/13.5.  I am able to run my sonar, solar panel, and Garmin VIRB (action camera) on this boat without effort.
Significant Water Time and 9 Months Later....I've had the kayak for 9 months now, and I have used it on everything from swampy backwaters, moving rivers, big lakes, rolling whitecaps, frigid winter water, etc.  Here are my follow-ups on this platform.

Do I still like it as much as I did when I first got it?

Absolutely, it is my primary boat.  I still love the paddling speed/tracking/simplicity of it.

Can the Overdrive Pedals be used in it?
Naturally, I needed to try this.  I removed my Dorado/Lure pedals and dropped them in the Moken 12.5v2.  They fit!  I didn't want to do a full conversion so I redneck engineered a rope to hold them into the hull for a trial run. Unfortunately, the seat doesn't go far enough back to be able to pedal them.  My knees were in my chest and knees bowed out.  Also, I didn't get more speed out of the pedals than paddling.  This said.....

This boat was never intended to be a pedal drive boat.  It was made to paddle well, which it absolutely does.  It would take significant modifications/redneck engineering to make it work with pedals, but it would impact the balance of the boat and stability (moving the seat up higher on the rails and somehow bolting it down near the rear tankwell.

I got this kayak to paddle and reduce complexity.  I never expected to pedal it.  But I was naturally curious.

What Issues Have Come Up?
None.  The boat has been solid.  No cracks, breaks, or anything of the sort.  The kayak lives on the roof of my truck (it was garaged in the winter between outings).

What have I changed/added to the boat?
A few things:
Rod holder straps:  I mentioned adding these when I first got it, but wanted to re-iterate it again.  I use longer rods so I added rubber straps further back (you could move the factory ones back if you want but I like to strap my stakeout/net in those).

Scupper plugs: As mentioned before, due to my weight a bit of water comes in the front scupper holes for me.  Not much, and the holes in the Moken are recessed so it mostly just holds in that area.  I found putting in the Feelfree scupper plugs with the tops open (so water can still drain out) is perfect.  It allows drainage should I get water on the deck but lets little-to-no water in.  I actually cut the covers off the set I put in and just leave the bottom part in.  Works great and kept dry even in cold water.

Anchor trolley: I'm not big on deep water anchoring or trolleys, but glad I put it on the Moken.  With the Dorado/Lure I had pedals and could hold my position easier in light currents/wind.  Going back to the paddle makes that more challenging at times.  So I use the trolley for that.  I also use it to run my drag chain on rivers (allowing me to drag it at the back and float at an angle to the shore or float backwards at an angle).  I also use it for my fish grips/net when holding a fish for a tournament photo, etc.
YakGadget QuickStop:  I install these by default on all of my boats now.  I fish shallow mostly and use it all the time.  It is inexpensive, simple, sold.  I use it to hold spots to work an area, or drop it quick when I have a fish on the line when in a tight spot to avoid getting tangled in other obstacles

Front and rear Railblaza Starport mounts: These are for my Garmin VIRB action camera, or I can attach the Railblaza lights if I choose to do so.

USB and power switch on sonar pod:  I run a USB extension to power my Garmin VIRB.  I got the electronic components from Ice Hole Power https://www.iceholepower.com/ - great products, prices, and extremely fast shipping.


Front hatch bungee:  Some pad eyes and bungee gave me a spot to strap on my hand bilge, attach a bag, etc.  A simple mod that is quite handy.

I hope this review helps those looking into the Moken 12.5v2.  It is a solid boat that is a welcome upgrade from the old model.  A Swiss Army Knife of kayaks!  

You can buy the Moken directly from Feelfree here: