Getting the Retrieval Decoy ready for the water is incredibly easy and painless thanks to how complete the model is out-of-the-box. The Retrieval Decoy includes just about everything you need to hit the water; you'll simply need to add the 4AA batteries for the transmitter. Speaking of the transmitter, Pro Boat didn't skimp out here as the Retrieval Decoy includes genuine Spektrum™ 2.4GHz Marine Technology. With Spektrum Marine tech inside the hull, you never need to worry about interference, frequency control or any other issues that using a 27MHz or 75MHz system might have. Pretty slick.
The two main steps you'll need to get the Retrieval Decoy ready to get on the water are relatively painless. You just need to thread the antenna through the antenna tube and charge then mount the included battery pack. Charging will take about 2-hours with the included battery charger, but Pro Boat has a 12VDC charger (PRB1203) that can plug into your full-size vehicle's power outlet for charging out at the lake or, potentially, off of a full-size boat's battery too.
Before I hit the water, I gave the Decoy a few final looks on the bench. I was impressed with the way the propulsion system mimics those found on full-size jet skis and wave runners. Basically, there's an intake on the underside of the hull that draws water in and an impeller to push it out the exhaust tube to propel the model forward. It's nice that Pro Boat has provided a neat system to protect the intake from being fouled (no pun intended) by leaves, weeds or other debris that might be in the water. I was very pleased to see this extra level of protection that will surely make the model last longer and reduce wear and tear on driveline components.
I'm going to get this out of the way early: the Retrieval Decoy does not have blistering speed, it just doesn't. If you're looking for a speed boat, that's not where the Retrieval Decoy's wheelhouse is. The Retrieval Decoy is rather methodical at what it does, and there's a reason behind this. I've owned pet ducks in the past and watched them swim. If the real thing doesn't move at more than a few miles per hour, why would you expect a model version to be any different?
While it's not blistering fast, the Retrieval Decoy is quite maneuverable. I was pleasantly surprised at just how well this little model handled on the water. The turning radiuses were relatively tight and, while the water was fairly calm, the few waves that I did encounter didn't provide much of a challenge to the Decoy. I ran a number of battery packs through the Decoy, both with and without the small gaff (or as my daughter calls it, the "baby duck") and the overall driving experience was very positive.
If there's one thing that the Retrieval Decoy really excels at, and it should come as no surprise, it's retrieving. While I didn't have any boating troubles when I had the Retrieval Decoy with me, I still wanted to test out how well it would work when pulling in a disabled boat. Just for testing sake, I drove a Pro Boat Impulse™ 26 Deep-V out to the middle of the lake and let it sit. I picked up the transmitter for the Retrieval Decoy and headed out to tow my "wounded" craft back to shore. I had to make several passes around the Impulse before I successfully hooked it with the gaff around the stern and drive section. During my initial passes I wound up going wider than I needed to or misjudged where the Impulse would be located in relation to the gaff as I passed. What I found worked the best was to circle my desired target and allow the gaff to hook a larger area on the aft end of the boat. This worked amazingly well time after time.
Once I had my prey hooked, I then needed to tow it to shore. I was surprised that the Retrieval Decoy managed this very well. The hull would dip to the left or right depending on how I hooked the boat I was towing, but other than that minor change in the attitude in the water, the Retrieval Decoy measured up quite well and is a very good tow boat. While I don't hunt personally, my oldest brother is a major outdoorsman and hunter and I can see something like this becoming very useful to him when towing his decoys out and into position, bringing the decoys back to shore, or to give his dog a rest and bring in a downed waterfowl.
There are few vehicles that I have had as hard of a time classifying as the Pro Boat Retrieval Decoy. What is it exactly? Is it a boat? A tug? A bird? What is this thing? Well, after spending some time with it, I've come to understand it a little better and how it fits into RC. It's the perfect model for anyone to get their feet wet in the world of RC thanks to its slower speed and overall ease of use. It's also ideal for those who have a taste for something different. After all, you really can't get much different than an RC Duck, can you? Also, it's perfect for anyone who enjoys RC boating and may occasionally push things past the envelope and wind up with a disabled boat. I was wildly impressed with how well the Retrieval Decoy worked as a tug to pull a boat back to shore. Finally, if you are a hunter, particularly one who hunts waterfowl, this is right up your alley. Beyond being a fun model on the water, it's a stunning model of a duck that you would be proud to have on display in your man-cave. When it comes to something truly different and unique, the duck stops here.