Old Town Topwater 120 PDL Review

Bottom Line:

The Old Town Topwater 120 PDL is something of a game-changer! Experts love the intuitive pedal controls, and it’s marked as one of the steadiest boats in its class, making it a great value purchase for the serious angler.

This kayak will reach impressive speeds and impresses reviewers with is array of customization and storage features. It only really falls down on seating comfort, but this appears easy to switch out and upgrade if you wish.



based on 4 reviews

Performance Ratings:

  • Handling
  • Stability
  • Comfort
  • Onboard Storage
  • Portability


BrandOld Town
Size (length x width)12' x 36"
Weight116 lbs
Capacity500 lbs
MaterialPolyethylene (single layer)

Comparison to Similar Kayaks:

Old Town Topwater 120 PDL Pelican Sentinel 100X Angler Old Town Topwater 120 Hobie Mirage Outback Vibe Sea Ghost 130
Expert Rating
Size12' x 36"9'5" x 30"12' x 33.5"12'9" x 34"13' x 33"
Weight116 lbs44 lbs82 lbs85 lbs75 lbs
Onboard Storage8.

Old Town Topwater 120 PDL Review

Reasons to Buy:
  • Fantastic drainage system
  • Won't tip no matter how hard you try
  • Ample hatch and in-kayak storage
  • Lots of customization potential
  • Very easy to handle and accelerate
Reasons Not to Buy:
  • The default seat isn't the comfiest
  • There's only one seat height

Performance of the Old Town Topwater 120 PDL

Experts all agree that the 120 PDL is an angler’s dream – it’s packed with intuitive storage such as deep hatches, recessed rod areas, and anchor and wiring holds should you need them. Most reviewers also love the central dry pocket built into the PDL itself – it’s ideal for keeping sensitive items in and away from the water.

Old Town is always a reliable name when it comes to waterproofing, too, and the innovative hatches onboard here more than lock out water splashing across the stern.

Paddlers love the ease of access to rods via the holding systems and the sheer space you’ll get from the interior kayak. It’s worth noting that taller paddlers will benefit most in this regard, but there’s still lots of storage under the seat and even toward the end of the boat. Paddlers should also look under the boar – there’s tons of room to set up a large transducer if you wish!

The PDL drive is, of course, the biggest selling point of this kayak; it’s as easy to use as riding a bike. The drive unit itself locks and unlocks whenever you need it to, and even has a safety function where it will pop out cleanly if the kayak hits the floor.

You really won’t have to do much to maintain the PDL – it should withstand plenty of use over time.

Convenience is absolutely key here, as you benefit from not only pedal power but also ease of access to a tension knob should you wish to tighten the rudder up for easier handling.

For everyday anglers, this kayak is likely to handle fairly well. It doesn’t seem to need much power or exertion and will move smoothly through most waters. It doesn’t appear to have the best turning radius, but this is a small trade-off, given the sheer convenience of the pedal propulsion. You can even get a good amount of power and handling just by paddling – but some reviewers claim that you only ever need one pedal to get this kayak up to good acceleration.

The Old Town Topwater PDL is also one of the best sit on top kayaks out there in terms of stability. It’s one of the most steadfast fishing kayaks of its class, which is great news for any anglers heading out in rough weather or onto choppier waters. It seems really easy to stand up in and adjust your position, and what’s more, 11 different scupper holes will take care of water ingress and prevent sogginess en route.

The 120 PDL scores highly on innovation but less so on seating comfort. Some critics even chose to upgrade with new seating outright, as the default fitting causes pain and fatigue after a few uses. That said, reviewers claim it’s easy enough to adjust, even though you do only get the one height setting.

The handles onboard the 120 PDL reportedly make it fairly easy to lift and attach to vehicles, as well as to hoist up into storage. That said, given the weight of the boat, including PDL, it’s going to be worth investing in a trolley or adding a skid plate.

Another key point that makes the Topwater PDL one of the best sit on top kayaks in its category is the high capacity. The 120 PDL can take up to 500 lbs at base weight, which is a serious improvement on older Topwater kayaks, and is certainly competitive with boats of similar prices.

The Topwater 120 PDL will appeal to any fisherpeople or kayakers looking to ease off on the paddles and who are looking for flawless stability combined with immense customization and storage potential.

Expert Reviews of the Old Town Topwater 120 PDL

8.0Austin KayakThis is a sizable step up from the 106 in the same line - you get tons more capacity. It's a great fishing boat loaded with features and I think it's fantastic value for less than $2k. This is a kayak that's absolutely built with fishing convenience in mind.Read more
7.4Chris CanningI really love the setup of this kayak. It's speedy, it's steady, and I think it's a great boat if you want to buy rather than rent. I've used it for around three months, and it's still a super-relevant, reliable, stable pedal-drive kayak.Read more
7.9The Florida Bass PaddlerI moved from the 120 basic to the PDL version - and despite the fact I'm new to bicycle-style kayaking, I like this boat a lot. It's one of the most stable kayaks I've ever ridden, and there are stacks of great spots for upgrading and accessorizing. It's for kayakers who really want a fishing boat they can kit out to the maximum.Read more
7.9Aliex FolgueiraThis boat is amazing value - it's got stacks of space, and the max capacity for a kayak this size is really impressive. It's a great buy for the retail price, and while you may get some water in the boat sometimes, it'll drain back out again almost straight away.Read more

Handling of the Old Town Topwater 120 PDL

Expert Rating: 7.6

8.5Austin KayakThe long hull and high capacity allow this boat to track pretty well. Beyond these, the PDL drive makes the boat perform just like a bicycle - it's really easy to just sit back, pedal and control.Read more
7.5Chris CanningThe PDL drive here is the top of its class, even years after its first release. It's a flawless mover both forward and reverse, but just be wary of a little stiffness when you first start pushing it. That said, it really does pick up speed fast. It doesn't have the best turning radius in its line, but it's certainly not the worst.Read more
7.0The Florida Bass PaddlerThe drive system onboard is very smooth and really doesn't need much exertion. It feels nice and tight, and it's easy enough for me to adjust and lock into place if needed. That said, a system like this isn't always easy to help get your kayak out of sticky spots such as reeds. It paddles wonderfully on its own, though you may need to engage the rudder in places. It tracks well and water does get into the boat occasionally, but on the whole, it's a nice ride without the PDL. The turning radius isn't bad at all regardless of the boat's length.Read more
7.5Aliex FolgueiraThe long blade on the back of the boat is great for quick turns - and there's lots of easy ways for you to manage the rudder while riding. It'll hit speeds of more than five miles per hour when I push it! Reverse is nice and responsive, too. Even with a paddle and no drive, it's a light, powerful ride (though it works best with the pedals).Read more

Stability of the Old Town Topwater 120 PDL

Expert Rating: 8.9

8.0Austin KayakThe extra weight capacity upgraded from the 106 means the 120 PDL is instantly more stable to handle. It holds firm and steady on calm waters.Read more
9.5Chris CanningI've never even come close to flipping this kayak! It gives me amazing confidence in various waters, and I can even lean around and it'll still keep me afloat. I fish in super-nasty weather sometimes (which can be the best times for fishing) - but this kayak cuts through water and keeps level in all kinds of conditions.Read more
9.5The Florida Bass PaddlerThis is an amazingly stable boat. I've stood up on it in all directions, and it never dared to tip. This stability really adds to the comfort - I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a new fishing ride. The boat's seat is only single-position, but it's still easy to stand up from a sitting position (and even turn around!).Read more
8.5Aliex FolgueiraThe huge number of scupper holes onboard means this boat drains water really quickly (which is great, because water will get inside sometimes). It's got tons of stability thanks to the hull shape, too.Read more

Comfort of the Old Town Topwater 120 PDL

Expert Rating: 6.5

7.5Austin KayakThere's no cables around for you to tangle with thanks to the top-line PDL onboard. The rudder control is also pretty easy to access and lock. I like the fact the seat's nice and simple to move backwards and forwards, and that the cockpit is fairly compact. It's customizable for different rider heights, too.Read more
6.5Chris CanningThe pedals onboard are really comfortable for most foot sizes. Water will come up into this kayak occasionally, but the boat's designed to drain it straight back out again. The seat is comfortable and well-designed (it'll dry quickly), and the boat itself is roomy, but shorter riders may not get to use the vessel to its full advantage! What's more, there's no upper or lower seating adjustment.Read more
6.0The Florida Bass PaddlerThis is a comfortable ride - it's really convenient and comfy to fish out of. For a PDL boat, there's also tons of space in the cockpit - this isn't always a given, and it was definitely one of the bigger selling points for me. The seat's easy to adjust when I need more room, though the chair provided wasn't the best for my tastes - it was fairly painful after a few trips, so I upgraded to a more ergonomic model.Read more
6.0Aliex FolgueiraI love the smart scupper system around the PDL - it'll let water out, but won't let it back in! The seat's nice and simple to move back and even out of the way - though it could be more comfortable.Read more

Onboard Storage of the Old Town Topwater 120 PDL

Expert Rating: 8.4

8.0Austin KayakThis is a great kayak if you're interested in Old Town lines and want more capacity over the 106. There's around 50 lbs extra to play with, and it's noticeable. The extra two feet you get from kayak to kayak here arrives in the shape of a great front hatch, as well as tons of rear space for a crate if you need it. I like the customization potential onboard here, too - there's lots of opportunities for you to upgrade. I'd always recommend you use the side paddle holder here, too, just in case you need one for backup in shallow water.Read more
7.5Chris CanningThe front hatch is a one-hand open which is an Old Town specialty - it's really spacious and easy to get into, which is a bit overkill, but it really does the job well if you're looking for dry storage options. There's even a small dry storage section in the PDL! After giving this boat a real dunking, it seriously didn't let any water in. Side pockets are super-handy, and it's easy to stack up rod holders on the racks. I use the rear storage for all kinds of camera equipment. You can end up cutting off deck space if you're a shorter rider.Read more
9.0The Florida Bass PaddlerI love the fact I can keep my personal items (keys, wallet, etc.) in a dry nook in the PDL drive itself. It's super safe as it's connected to the boat. The hatch upfront is also designed so water will splash and drain straight off - it's a great feature. Otherwise, I'm able to bring crates, coolers and more onboard here - there's tons of space. It's amazingly easy to install and set up accessories.Read more
9.0Aliex FolgueiraThe tank well towards the rear of the kayak is enormous! It's really easy to store a cooler and a milk crate onboard if you want to. The rod and paddle holders are designed well and are easy to get to. It's also handy to get access to the inside of the boat via the rear-seat hatch. Old Town is great with waterproof seals, and they don't disappoint here, either. Check out the pockets and the tracks for extra storage and customization, too - as well as under the seat! The fact it can hold 500 lbs is a real game-changer.Read more

Portability of the Old Town Topwater 120 PDL

Expert Rating: 7.3

6.0Chris CanningI'm not a huge fan of the front carrying handle, as it's not the best option for lifting the kayak in and out of vehicles. That said, I've had no major issues carrying the boat as-is - it's sturdy and won't bend.Read more
8.5Aliex FolgueiraI don't have any negative comments about this kayak's portability outright, but I'd definitely recommend using a cart or trolley to get it to and from the water if you can. The side handles, however, are great - they're superb for tying to your vehicle if you need to.Read more