Category Archives: Gear Reviews
For 2015 I’ve opted to paddle the new Jackson Coosa HD, one of Jackson’s newest fishing kayak models along with the Kraken. As much as I enjoyed the Jackson Kilroy that I borrowed from Wildcat Creek Outfitters (WCO) last fall, I was curious about the Coosa HD due to all of the hype it was getting and had to get a look at it for myself. While working the WCO booth at the Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel show I was able to not only see the HD, but also spend some time in the cockpit before the doors opened that Saturday morning. To say I was impressed is a huge understatement and I knew the HD would be my choice of kayak for the 2015 season. Since ordering and receiving my HD in the new GI Jackson color (pictures from the show are of an HD in the Dorado color), I’ve spent some time on the water with it, but we’ll get to that in a bit. First, let me walk you through what I feel is one of the most versatile fishing kayaks on the market, the Jackson Kayak Coosa HD.
A Drew Gregory signature kayak, the HD was designed with Drew’s input. However, the designers at Jackson had a large hand in making Drew’s ideas come to life and they knocked it out of the ballpark on this one. The idea behind the HD was to upgrade the old style Coosa, a strong seller in the Jackson line up and a great river kayak. The design team had the idea of offering a model that was a bit more versatile for those of us who fish more open water such as lakes or inshore saltwater flats, as well as rivers. They also wanted a kayak that was rich with features and the HD is exactly that.
Starting at the front (or bow for you boat lovers), the first thing that your eye will catch is the large front hatch. This thing is so big that you can easily carry several days worth of gear on a multiple night camping/fishing trip (such as a trip down the Devil’s River in Texas…hint, hint, hint guys). With a nice seal around the hatch and bungee to hold the hinged lid down tight, no doubt all of your gear will stay nice and dry. Although I haven’t tested it for myself, I’m sure you could fit your rods down there too if need be.
You’ll also quickly notice that all of the bungee enclosures are equipped with these great JK pull tabs. They might look like a simple feature, but man are they ever nice for hooking and unhooking bungee cords!
Next up, if you look on both sides of the front hatch, are the rod tip covers. Designed to protect your rod tips from catching on obstructions, these things saved my fly rod on my very first trip out in the HD.
Looking at the entire cockpit area, you’ll notice Jackson provided the cushioning on the floor of the cockpit area. This stuff is great for both comfort and silencing noise. You can also see on the inside of the cockpit and to the right, the sheath for the included Splizzors by Buck Knives. These things are awesome! They work as everything from pliers to braided line cutters, and from a bottle opener to split shot crimps. Look them up at http://www.buckknives.com. The Splizzors themselves are not in this pic due to the safety of having them on the display kayak at the show, but you can see how they easily mount inside the HD’s cockpit with simple thumbscrews, keeping them easily within reach when you need them. Of course, as you can see in this picture and like all Jackson fishing kayaks, rod holders are included. There’s plenty of gear track on the HD to position your rod holders and other accessories right where you want them. Last but not least and something I’ve already used numerous times, is the stand assist strap. Gotta have it for those times when you need to get up out of the seat and do some fly fishing!
But what about that fancy center console you ask? Let’s take a look at that. The first thing you’ll notice about the center console is that it has a handy center compartment for storing smaller items such as your cell phone, keys, etc. When unlatching the center console’s bungee and lifting up, you’ll see that it easily folds up to provide access to an area molded in the floor of the HD specifically for your fish finder battery and a dedicated scupper hole for a transducer, not to mention a spot for the included Jackson Nalgene water bottle. See what I mean? These guys thought of it all! Well, it gets better. If you look at the underside of the center console, you’ll notice a spooling station for keeping leader material handy and at the ready. Pretty handy huh! To top it all off, and those of you who fly fish will like this, the entire center console is completely removable with a couple of thumbscrews to provide you with a more open deck. I’ve fly fished a few times from the HD and haven’t found the center console to be much of an issue, but I definitely will take it out on future trips I’m sure.
On the front and back of the HD are the standard handles for carrying the kayak, but on the left and right side of this model you’ll see that they added some material for padding. This makes carrying the HD’s 79 pounds (without the seat) a tad more comfortable. Also in the below picture, you’ll see one of the bungee straps that are on both sides of the HD to hold your fishing rods in place while the tips are in the rod tip protectors.
This brings us to what has become my absolute favorite feature of the HD, the seat. Jackson’s new Elite Seat 3.0 provides the comfort one would expect from a Jackson fishing kayak, and then some. Included with the seat is an inflatable Therm-A-Rest lumbar support that maximizes comfort and lets you adjust the seat to your personal preference. I feel most kayak anglers underestimate the importance of a comfortable seat by failing to recognize that the more comfortable you are, the longer you’ll stay in the kayak and on the water. Of course the longer you’re in your kayak and on the water, the better your chances of catching fish are. Underneath the Elite Seat 3.0, you’ll see storage pockets for the two included waterproof Plano 3640 tackle boxes. We all know you can never have too many 3640’s for your favorite lures! The tackle boxes can also, if you wish, be stored under the seat on the floor or upright in the molded in pockets on both sides of the seat. On the back of the Elite Seat 3.0 you’ll notice the familiar mesh storage pocket which comes in pretty handy for storing more tackle trays, rain gear, or other items you want to easily access while on the water.
Of course the HD’s seat can easily be put in either a high or low position like the older model Jackson seats, and I find the high position to be my favorite thanks to the HD’s amazing stability (more on that in a bit). However, all of the Elite Seat’s features that I’ve mentioned previously are not the reasoning it has become my favorite feature of this model. Rather it’s the versatility and option to move the seat forward and aft to adjust the trim of the HD that really trips my trigger. If fishing a river, you can put the seat all the way back to loosen up the front of the hull for easier handling and maneuverability. Yet, if you’re going to do like I did the other day and paddle for hours on end while trolling for crappie or simply have a lot of water to cover to get to your favorite spot, you can put the seat more forward for easier paddling. Personally I’ve found my favorite spot is with the seat in the middle of the trim settings and in the high position. This is, for a guy my size anyway, a nice balance between handling and speed on just about any body of water.
Moving back, we’ll find two (one on each side, just slightly behind the seat) flush mount rod holders. With these and the rod stagers (bungees and rod tip protectors) along the sides of the HD, you can easily carry four rods if you so wish without any problems at all. My Sage 8 weight fly rod is a bit long, but it still rides easily in one of the rod stagers while my baitcasting and spinning rods ride in these flush mounts.
The tank well of the HD is the perfect size for a standard milk crate, Jackson J Krate, Orion cooler, or the many other options out there for us kayak anglers. My favorite feature of the tank well are the new turn knobs on the gear track, making it easy to adjust the tank well bungee easily instead of having to mess with getting a screwdriver. Super easy and convenient, even while on the water.
On the left side of the tank well (as you sit in the seat of the HD), is where the included YakAttack Boom Stick cameral pole sits. Super adjustable, the Boom Stick is a welcome feature for those of us who video our fishing trips and want a camera mount with more than just one angle option.
Moving to the stern of the Coosa HD, we come to the rear hatch. Once again, plenty of space for getting inside the hull of the HD and storing lots of extra gear, while at the same time keeping it all dry with the bungee secured, hinged lid.
Last but not least, I love the way the stern of the HD is molded. Remember when I said the design team thought of everything? Check this out. The crew at Jackson shaped the stern to both be drag chain ready for those of you who use one and capable of accepting a Micro Power Pole without the need of modification for those of you who want to go that route. Pretty dang sweet, huh!
So that’s a look at the 2015 Jackson Coosa HD. Now that you’re familiar with this feature rich model from my favorite kayak manufacturer, you’re probably wondering how does the HD perform right? The HD paddles pretty similar to the Kilroy with the Kilroy being maybe slightly faster due to it weighing considerably less than the HD. However, the HD is plenty fast for me and paddles easily enough that four hours of trolling for crappie didn’t wear me out whatsoever. It’s not going to paddle as fast as the new Kraken of course, but what it lacks in speed it definitely makes up for in stability. The Coosa HD is, to me anyway, right in between the Jackson Big Rig and the Kilroy on the stability chart. I’ve heard the HD referred to as a little Big Rig and I think that’s a very fair comparison. I’m 45 years old, 250 pounds and a bit “top heavy” if ya know what I mean, yet I feel perfectly comfortable standing in the HD and casting a fly rod. I can’t say that about too many kayaks on the market today. Whether your sight casting to redfish on a saltwater flat or fly fishing for northern pike on a Canadian lake, if you want a stable kayak then this is one for you to check out. However, don’t take my word for it. Do yourself a favor and get to your nearest Jackson dealer (see http://www.jacksonkayak.com to find yours) to test paddle the new Coosa HD. If you’re close to Indiana, be sure to visit the guys at Wildcat Creek Outfitters just north of Indianapolis. They’ll treat you right and answer any questions you might have about the HD or any of the Jackson fishing model line up.
As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org Until next time, safe paddling and tight lines!
Since my first year kayak fishing, some gear has come and gone. I’ve owned/sold four kayaks over the past few years, changed personal floatation devices twice, upgraded my rod/reel collection, broken at least three pairs of sunglasses, bought a dozen different hats, grown my collection of fat boy sized performance shirts and purchased or lost more lures than I care to count. However, through it all, one piece of gear has stayed with me throughout that time. Until recently that is.
With my desire to purchase a new Jackson Kayak Coosa HD, I needed/wanted to sell my current kayak. I found a buyer when my daughter Katelyn bought it for her boyfriend Dakota. I gave them a good deal, but wanted to do more since I love my kids and Dakota is one of those rare boyfriends that a father actually approves of. Knowing he needed a paddle for his new ride and knowing that I would be purchasing a Bending Branches Angler Pro paddle this spring, I reluctantly included my beloved Aqua Bound Manta Ray carbon paddle with the purchase. I know this sounds silly, but saying goodbye to the kayak was no sweat. Saying goodbye to that Manta Ray, however, just about broke my heart. You see, that paddle and I have been through a lot together the past three or four years, and I felt like I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. Weird, huh.
Together, my AquaBound Manta Ray and I have fished all over northeastern Indiana, fished a tournament in southern Michigan, explored some inland lakes in the upper peninsula and chased saltwater species in Florida. The Manta Ray laid loyally in the floor of my kayak as I caught bass, trout, crappie, redfish, bluegill, catfish, rock bass, northern pike and maybe a couple more species I can’t recall.
This paddle, with it’s sleek all black finish, has seen much abuse. The paddle blades have dulled just a little bit, received the occasional facelift by the addition of decals, and they have a few battle scars from our adventures. I’ve used the Manta Ray to push off of rocks, stumps, oyster bars, barnacle covered bridge pilings, piers, sandbars, boat launches and other kayaks. I’ve used it as a push pole, a lure retriever, an axe (that was a rough day) and a stake out pole. It’s lifted more fish into the boat than I can remember and untangled my line from lily pad stems on just about every trip into my favorite fishing hole. It’s startled dolphins swimming beside my kayak and frightened carp in the shallows. Ah yes, good times for sure.
I’ve asked a lot of my paddle over the past few years and it’s delivered without question on every occasion. Never once did it fail me, no matter how much abuse I put it through and I have no doubt it will serve Dakota for many, many years to come. I’m sure Dakota and I will share many fishing adventures together in the near future. I’ll be using my new Bending Branches Angler Pro, which will no doubt take the same abuse as the old Manta Ray. However, I’m sure I’ll look over and smile the first time that Dakota uses the Manta Ray to retrieve his crankbait from a maple tree overhanging the river. Especially if it’s my crankbait he’s using.
Indeed, that AquaBound Manta Ray paddle served me well. I am truly going to miss it.
A week ago I found myself browsing through the fishing section of our local big chain sporting good store. As I came to the section of fishing tools, I spotted the braided line scissors, clippers, etc. I’m in need of something that will cut braied line and I soon spotted the Rapala EZ Stow Line Scissor. At a little over five bucks, I figured I would give them a try. The retractable design and size made these appear perfect for storing in the pocket on my PFD. Well, by the price alone, I should have known better.
I got these home and having just bought two new reels and braided line for them, I put the EZ Stow to the test right away. Guess what…I’m still in the market for a GOOD tool to cut braided line. The EZ Stow didn’t cut the braid without a little “sawing” action on my behalf and it barely cut the heavy fluorocarbon line I tied on as a leader. I was disappointed but of course, what do you expect for five dollars? The design of the EZ Stow is nice and the lanyard that comes with it is good quality. I’m sure I’ll use the lanyard on a different tool or something, but the EZ Stow itself will probably end up in the junk drawer.
If you’re looking for a tool to cut braided line with, stay away from the EZ Stow! Well, at least that’s my opinion.
I get asked a lot about my kayak and with so many people in our area new to the sport, I thought I would take you readers on a little walkthrough of my Slayer 14.5 by Native Watercraft. The Native Slayer was created as a sit on top version of their popular Ultimate series sit inside kayaks. Native Watercraft asked their customers what kind of features they would want in a sit on top fishing kayak, the customers responded, Native listened and the Slayer was born. Having been on the market for a year or so now, the Slayer is offered in 12′ and 14.5′ paddle versions as well as their very popular Slayer Propel 13 peddle kayak. Hitting the market this year, as I’ve written in a past post, is the Slayer Propel 10, which once again I think will make a great river fishing kayak. A lot of the features I’m going to discuss below on the Slayer 14.5 are the same on the other models, so keep that in mind if you’re shopping for a shorter kayak. Let’s get started with the front of the boat, shall we?
The first thing you’ll notice about the bow of the Native is the handle placement. The designers at Native really did a nice job with creating the handles on this kayak. I’ve owned kayaks with poor handle placement and/or bungee cord style handles in the past and trust me, a good handle is important when loading/unloading your kayak or especially when portaging around obstacles in a river.
Moving back we find one of the reasons I opted to buy the Slayer, the open front hatch. I’ve found that I use the open front hatch a LOT more than I ever did the enclosed hull storage style compartment that was on my last kayak. It’s easily accessible and I’ve tossed everything in there from extra clothing on those cooler mornings to a cooler holding lunch for all day trips. I’ve even put the scuppers in, filled the compartment with some lake water and kept a few fish for dinner in there when I’ve forgotten the fish cooler at home. Speaking of fish coolers, Native makes a soft sided cooler bag that fits perfectly in this front hatch as well as an optional cover if you want to enclose it. You’ll notice on both sides of the front hatch, as well as most of the Slayer, are gear tracks for adding accessories like rod holders, camera mounts, etc.
Next we come to the part of the kayak where you spend your time, the cockpit. Once again Native did a great job with the design here, leaving the cockpit area open for those of us who fly fish from our kayaks. There is very little here for fly line to catch on and the open area makes standing to fish much more comfortable. Non slip padding, a molded in cup holder, bungee for a tackle box or tray and yet more gear track make the Slayer’s cockpit perfect for long days on the water. Of course, no fishing kayak is complete without a YakAngler decal (sold at http://www.yakangler.com).
A nice feature for those of you who use a depth/fish finder is the electronics console. The console cover is easily removed with thumbscrews unveiling open access to the inside of the hull for running your wires and storing your battery. Gear track on the console cover makes mounting your electronics super easy.
Finally, we come to the feature that is at the top of my favorite feature list and one whose importance is often overlooked by rookies to the sport, the seat. Having owned a Native Ultimate 14.5 before, I knew Native’s seats were comfy but they did an even better job with the Slayer’s seat. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be comfortable all day. An angler who isn’t comfortable is going to quit fishing long before someone who is comfy, and you can’t catch fish if you’re not on the water fishing. It’s just that simple. The longest I’ve spent in my Slayer without getting out is 10 hours. That’s a long time! Having a comfy seat, stability to stand to stretch my legs and of course biting fish made the day fly by without my wanting to quit. The Slayer’s seat has a high and low position and lots of adjustment via the straps. I wasn’t too sure how stable I would feel with the seat in the high position, as my last kayak was very tippy when the seat was up, but the Slayer is just as stable in the high position as it is the low. The day I spent on the river with the WCO Kayak Fishing Team, I spent half of the float with the seat up and really enjoyed it.
Behind the seat is a neat little water tight compartment for holding your keys, cell phone, extra lures or in my case the scupper plugs that I’m not using at the time. The compartment tray or bucket comes out easily allowing easy access to various points should you need to run wiring or drill holes for accessory mounting.
The rear tankwell is, as you can see, very spacious and perfect for your crate and gear. Plenty of included bungee cord keeps things in place and within easy reach. Native added molded in areas for a bucket or crate and the area is big enough should I ever decide to take my Labrador retriever duck hunting from this kayak. With a 450 pound max capacity on the Slayer 14.5, that shouldn’t be a problem if I can keep knothead from jumping out for a swim.
One final feature to discuss is the wheel on the stern of the Slayer. It doesn’t look like much, but I can’t say enough how handy that wheel has been when I’m pulling the kayak out of the garage, pulling it down to a boat ramp, walking it out onto a pier or in one case dragging it from the water’s edge across a grass park and to the parking lot. While the wheel isn’t much help and actually is kind of a hindrance in soft sand, here in Indiana I can’t imagine not having it. If I ever fish where I’ll have to launch from a beach or something, the wheel easily removes with two screws.
There ya go, a look at the Native Slayer 14.5. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at indianayakfish at outlook dot com and I’ll help best I can. For more info, on the Native Slayer and other Native kayaks, check out http://www.nativewatercraft.com If you’re interested in purchasing a kayak or in the area and want to test paddle one, be sure to give the guys at http://www.wildcatcreekoutfitters.com in Zionsville, Indiana a call. The guys there are great to deal with and will treat you right.
The crew at Native Watercraft simply amaze me with their never ending interest in creating kayaks for all situations. Their upcoming ten foot version of their popular Slayer Propel peddle kayak seems to be a future contender for best river kayak on the market in my opinion. While I won’t get to test drive one until my local dealer (www.wildcatcreekoutfitters.com) gets one in stock, I’m anxiously awaiting some time in the cockpit of this new addition to the Native lineup. Word from Native is the Propel 10 will be even more stable than the already super stable current Slayer models, more maneuverable than the standard Propel in the 13′ 2″ version, and a lot lighter in weight. With estimated weight coming in somewhere around 69 pounds, it will most likely be the lightest peddle angling kayak on the market. Can you imagine how easily a kayak like this would be to toss into your pick up truck and head to the river for an afternoon of fishing?!? I like it!
In common with it’s big brother the Propel 13, the Propel 10 will also have the Peddle drive system that can be peddled in reverse and the super comfortable first class seat. One most noticeable difference in design between the two kayaks is the front hull storage. In the Propel 13 the hull is open, like the standard (non-peddle) Slayer 12 and 14.5. However, the Propel 10 will have a hatch cover that opens up to inside hull storage instead. This was done for design reasons and should provide some nice dry storage for those long days on the river. The Propel 10 will have, like it’s big brother, lots of gear track throughout its length. My Slayer 14.5 has a lot of gear track as well and I can’t stress enough how nice it is to mount accessories where I want them, whenever I want them. If you’re going to do any videoing, this is nice for changing the angles of your video.
In closing, without even seeing the Propel 10 in person yet, I have no doubt this kayak is going to be a popular addition to the Native Watercraft family of kayaks. It just appears to offer way too much in such a small package not to be!