By Eric Jackson
All of the Jackson Kayak options are amazing choices for fishing, each with their sweet spot, but each with lots of versatility as well. Coosa is awesome on rivers and small bodies of water, but does well on open water also, it just isn’t as fast as the Cudas. Cuda 14 is an amazing open water boat, but fishes the small bodies of water well and I even take it on the rivers when that is what I have. The Cuda 12, the most versatile of the single boats is the boat I used most this year, as it maneuvers well, paddles fast, and is easy to manage. The Big Tuna was my boat of choice all fall as I was doing lots of fishing with my son-in-law Nick and my daughter Emily. Taking out one boat was easier than two and the time in the boat together makes it a great bonding tool.
So, what is all of the excitement about the Big Rig? Do we need this boat? Let me describe my situation first, so you understand where I am coming from before I answer that. I am 5’6” tall, 165 pounds. I am a 4 time world champion in Freestyle kayaking and have incredible balance and boat control in any kayak. I am perhaps, the person least likely to “need” a more stable kayak to fish from. However, I really enjoy the casting part of fishing. I throw hard and fast, and try to nail every cast, pounding the banks, skipping my lures under brush, and moving from one angle to the next fast, usually standing up. I often go for “one more shot” before drifting past a hole in the brush, often in an off angle position, before throwing back in front of my again. Now, I can better explain what the sudden excitement for the Big Rig is!
The Big Rig is the boat for this type of fishing. It has a very large standing platform that allows you to turn your feet sideways and throw behind you. The stability isn’t just noticeable, it is night and day over any boat we have made before, including the Big Tuna. It is 37” wide- 1.5” wider than the big Tuna, and 5” wider than the Coosa! This is a rock for a standing and paddling platform that inspires confidence from the moment you first push off of the bank, to every stroke, to every cast, to every hook setting moment and fish landing moment. Not everyone is a professional whitewater kayaker that paddles 25” wide kayaks on class 5 whitewater, over waterfalls, and in places where tipping over could mean serious injury or death. Some of you are new to kayaking in general, or are getting older, not as nimble and want to fish and paddle confidently. Look no further, the Big Rig is that boat. But this is just the start… it is a new model for us, and we put everything we learned from our other models into this boat, plus many new features that make it more fishable, more fun, and an impressive piece of equipment.
The hull of the Big Rig is the perfect combination of speed and maneuverability. The fear many had was that it was going to be a barge to paddle, the results are a smooth paddling, plenty fast, predictable gliding, and easy to turn kayak. It is, for me, the most fun hull we have on any fishing kayak. The first few strokes takes more energy to get it up to speed than the smaller boats, like the Cuda 12, for example, but it maintains that speed just as easily after you get it going. The bow parts the water cleanly and the it is super quiet when cruising. When you take your paddle out and glide, and cast while gliding, you have a nice window of time where it glides straight and smooth and you can hit the banks. It also doesn’t seem to want to stop gliding for a long time, so if you are heading towards the banks, you’ll have to back paddle eventually or you’ll run up on the fish. It doesn’t glide to a stop going straight, but instead it will “spin out” one way or another, but predictably. What I mean by this is that if you take your paddle out of the water and you start gliding, if you are turning slightly to the right, it will glide for 30-50 feet mostly straight but slowly start turning more and more to the right until it stops. This is a great thing once you get the feel for it. I tend to get off shore about 100 feet and take 3-4 strokes at an angle of 30 degrees towards the shore but make sure the boat is turning away from shore slightly (bow is pointing towards the shore, but rotating away from shore as I glide). I can then glide for some time, and my boat gets closer to shore, but eventually is parallel to the shore but only 20-30 feet away from it, and then ultimately the bow starts to angle away from shore as the boat slowly comes to a stop. I get lots of casts while standing up this way without needing any strokes. Of course if there is a strong wind, that will overpower you and you will need to use the paddle to control the boat position more. Now we have the boat and how it is set up…
The set-up of the Big Rig is, again, very versatile. For my fishing, using multiple rods, they stage up perfectly in front of you. I tend to put all of my rods (usually 3-4) in front of me for quick access. There are two “rod troughs” on the Big Rig with rod tip protectors.. I put the two rods I use the least in them, even though they are quickly accessible. The troughs keep the rods out of your way for paddling, casting, and standing. This is, perhaps, one of the most impressive new built in features of the Big Rig. The other two rods I put on the floor in front of me, with the rods on the “rod stagers” on the front hatch. These are easily grabbed sitting or standing and there is plenty of room in front of your feet for the butt of the rod and the reel. Much more room than any other boat we have made. When I am fishing sitting down, I put the rod butts in the holder that is built into the seat, keeping them off the floor and closer to you. Since you are using a more forward part of the boat when standing, I don’t use this feature while standing as it puts the reels at your ankles.
The tackle storage is like the other boats, with your boxes fitting right under the seat. However, due to the wider deck, there is room and a designed space for two tackle boxes that sit vertically for quick access on either side of your seat. This is where you put the tackle you’ll want at your finger tips.
There is another feature, which is quite handy for stand up paddling. A “casting bar”. This is basically a guard rail type of feature that can be put up or down depending on if you want to use it. When it is up you can lay your paddle on in the “X” of the bars, or your rod in that X, which means you don’t have to get up and down to switch between the paddle and rod. I found that using the rod holder on the Yak-Attack slider track in front of my feet for the rod was the best solution for maintaining a standing position while fishing and also paddling. Paddle went on casting bar and rod in rod holder. Two pins are all that are needed to put it up and down and it can be done easily while out on the water.
The Big Rig is also accessory ready and some sweet integrations were made for the new Raymarine Dragonfly and the Power Pole Micro. The transducer fits into our scupper that was designed to receive it perfectly and the Yak-Attack tracks on front left/right, and center allow you to choose where you put the unit based on your preference. The Stern of the Big Rig has a flat section and molded in brass inserts that allow you to mount the Micro Power Pole system quickly and easily with no hole drilling! This makes this boat the best choice for fishing the flats as well as it was designed for standing up and a power pole. Yak-Attack and Ram accessories come standard with two rocket launchers, 5 Yak-Attack slider tracks, one Ram 2007 rod holder, and another 8 locations with molded inserts for attaching Ram Balls, or GoPro Cameras.
The Hatches on the Big Rig are back to the Coosa style hatches, which I really like, because they are bigger access points, making it easier to get rods in and out of the boat, as well as camping gear.
I have my Big Rig now and intend to put it to good use! This will be my boat of choice for 2014 fishing in most situations. I will still use the Big Tuna to fish tandem, and I think I’ll be back in the Coosa for the really hard to access places where having a lightweight, small boat to drag through the woods, up and down steep banks, etc. is very important.
Life is good in the fishing world!
Look for the Big Tuna walkthrough video and promo video coming next week. We just finished some good Large Mouth Bass fishing down in Florida, where I fished as a kid. I am 90% confident that I found the phosphate pit that I fished as a kid. It was hidden in the 70’s when I lived there and is now part of a lodge that I did some of my best fishing with my dad back then in our Grumman canoe. It was a long hike in, through a cattle field, into dense woods where we brought a gun with bird shot as rattle snakes were an issue. Now there is a lodge there, called “Green Swamp Lodge” and there are three main lakes to fish. Still tons of snakes, alligators, but easy access from their driveway or docks. I dropped my GoPro in the water in 4 feet of water and decided not to get it, however, as there were three visible Gators, and one cotton mouth all in the little bay I where I dropped it. I was so close to jumping in on our third day, frustrated that I was leaving my new Hero 3+ in the water and not getting it. At one point, I scouted the bay, didn’t seen any gators or snakes and was seriously thinking… I can do this… but I changed my mind and decided if I had three people surrounding me to scare the gators away for sure, I could do it… at that moment when I paddled away, two gators I didn’t see went into the water from the deep grass only 30 feet from where the camera was… “good bye camera” I said.
Did I mention that I caught a ton of bass? plenty of 1.5-2 pounders, but mostly 2-4 pounders and some pushing 5… awesome…