By Tom Schlichter
“I guess you could say I’m hooked on inflatable watercraft when it comes to fishing and boating,” says Darren Lowe, 50 of Bunker Hill, WV. I have three different Sea Eagle models already and each one has a purpose.”
No kidding. Lowe owns a Sea Eagle 375fc FoldCat™ pontoon boat, 380x Explorer Kayak, plus a 14sr Sport Runabout that his wife got him for Father’s Day last year. According to Lowe, different scenarios determine his choice of vessel for the day.
“I was raised on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi so it wasn’t until I had a family and began selling raw materials to the chemical industry that I began to dabble in freshwater fishing,” he explains. “By then, my sales territory included Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, a stretch that offers some stellar sweet water fun with smallmouth bass. Once I started catching bronzebacks on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers with my son I instantly fell in love with river fishing. The only problem was that traditional hard shell kayaks left me feeling cramped after a long day on the water.”
Lowe began searching for something more comfortable. He wanted a vessel he could take along as he traveled his sales route – one that wouldn’t look like a big yellow banana on top of his car when he pulled up for a business meeting. Since his background was in polymer chemistry, it made sense he would be intrigued by the possibilities of polymer-based based inflatables.
“On the recommendation of a friend,” continues Lowe, “I went with the Sea Eagle 375fc FoldCat™ pontoon boat for my first choice. I liked that it could accommodate two people comfortably, which made it perfect for fishing with my son or taking out clients that also enjoy fishing. I also liked that it could fold up, pack into two bags, and fit in my car. Because of my familiarity with the polymers used in its construction, I figured it would also be pretty rugged – and it is.”
As time went on, however, most of Lowe’s friends and fishing clients eventually purchased their own boats and kayaks. Finding himself fishing alone more frequently prompted him to pick up the 380x Explorer Kayak in 2016.
“I bought the Pro Motor package and then added the fishing seat so I could have the best of both worlds in terms of comfort and mobility,” states Lowe. “I love the raised seat because it lets me see deeper into the water and allows 360° rotation so I can cast in any direction. Most importantly, though, it’s really comfortable and I can take it anywhere in the back of my car because it packs down into a single bag plus the seat. It’s also fast and easy to inflate. I can park my car and be on the water in 15 minutes.”
Before he ever had a kayak, Lowe got around on his favorite waters in a 16-foot bass boat so he still had some affinity for runabouts. That’s why his wife, Martha, surprised him with a Sea Eagle 14sr Sport Runabout last spring.
“Can you believe that?” asks Lowe with a chuckle. “What a terrific gift!” Lowe doesn’t use that one as a break down vessel, of course. Instead, he made a trailer for it and uses it for taking his grandkids fishing and tubing. “Rough water, skinny water, and anything in between,” he says, “the 14sr is up to the challenge. I have a 25-hp outboard on the back so I get plenty of range. I also have the swivel seat for comfort and fishability.”
When he first received the 14sr Lowe wasn’t sure if he should pick up the optional plastic floorboard kit or stick with the inflatable one that came standard. Being that his grandkids range from seven months to seven years-old, however, he’s decided the inflatable floor is perfect for the moment.
“It’s kid friendly,” he says, “so no big deal if anyone falls down or bounces around a little bit.”