We're just a few weeks away from the start of "kayak demo days", those free events hosted by dealers where folks can test paddle various boats, including popular fishing models. Each Spring, we see a lot of new boats that were revealed at ICAST or Outdoor Retailer and just making it off the production line. For 2018, it seems that manufacturers have recognized the need for lighter boats that offer more a bit more speed. And we're also thrilled that nearly all these new boats have more open cockpit area. It this the demise of those damn "rod pods" and long center hatches? We can only hope!
Among the 2018 crop, we picked 7 kayaks that we think will be winners. All offer a good combination of light weight, speed, tracking, stability and at a price point that's easy on the pocket.
Bonafide SS127. Length 12'7", width 33.5", weight 75 lbs, MSRP $1599. It's been many years since one kayak got so much publicity prior to it's release. But Bonafide is a new company started by YakAngler founder Luther Cifers, and like everything Mr. Kayak does, it went through extensive design and testing. The SS127 has great stability without much of a sacrifice to speed or tracking. The HiRise seat system adjusts to high or low. It also has a great layout that allows for easy access to storage while leaving an open standing area.
Jackson Cruise FD. Length 12'3", width 31.5", weight 68 lbs, MSRP $2399. Jackson's new Flex Drive pedal power has been added to the popular Cruise series. The Cruise FD shares the open cockpit and slightly narrower profile of it's sibling. For anglers whose priority is speed and open water tracking, but with just enough stability to occasionally stand and cast (in calm water), then this boat fills the niche at a good price point for a pedal drive.
Jackson Liska. Length 12'1", width 34", weight 84 lbs, MSRP $1349. The Liska is an updated version of Jackson's Cuda series. It's a bit wider and more stable, with more angler features. But most noticeable is the replacement of the long center tray with a shorter center hatch that allows a more spacious and open "standing area". More evidence that those once-popular "rod pods" were the nuisance many of us said they were.