I need help in selecting a kayak

-- Last Updated: Apr-23-11 12:08 AM EST --

I am ready to buy my first boat. I have a local kayak dealer that has emphasized that I need a boat that is made for what I am going to do 90% of the time because if I buy a boat that is too much of a compromise and tries to cover too many bases that I will not be happy regardless of where I am. Since I live in San Antonio, I have access to the Gualadupe River, Comal River, San Marcos River, and Colorado River. I also have access to Canyon Lake, Calaveras Lake, and Medina Lake. Port Aransas is about 2.5 miles away. I want to be able to fish for red fish in the Texas coastal waters. The waters on the bays don't have a lot of waves, but you can almost always count on a pretty good wind. Being more realistic, since the rivers are right in my back yard, I suppose that is where I will be the most. I would like a boat that will handle the rivers, lakes, and coatal waters, but he doesn't think that is possible.

I was comparing several boats, to include WS Tarpon, WS Ride, Native Ultimate, Native Manta Ray, and the Jackson Coosa. I test paddled the WS Tarpon 14, Ride 135, and Manta Ray 12 today on a small gentle stretch of the San Marcos River.

Manta Ray 12: The dealer told me that the Manta Ray 12 is a "river boat". It is manuverable, and made to be at home on the river. He said that it would be OK for the lakes and bay, but wouldn't be the best in that environment. The wind wouldn't blow it around too much on the bay or lakes, but this is not the environment that the Manta Ray was made for. He is actually trying to steer me towards the Manta Ray on the grounds that it is the best of the choices mentioned for rivers, and serviceable for the coastal water ways if I want to go there a few times a year, which is probably the most that I will make that trip. I have to say that out of the three boats that I paddeled, the Manta Ray was easily the most comfortable. It was also the most manuverable, but the hardest to paddle in a straight line. That wasn't that big of a deal for where I was, but if I did take it to the coast or a big lake and needed to cover a couple of miles, it might be a bigger deal. I could stand up and paddle the Manta Ray, though not as easy as the Ride. I don't know if standing up would be a viable option in this boat. How much do I give up buy buying a boat that I cannot stand and fish from?

Coosa: He said that the Coosa is a great river boat but not much else. The wind would blow it around too much for lakes and the bay. He steered me away from this boat a on the grounds that I want to do more than just river fish and the Manta Ray would leave me more options. I didn't test drive it.

WS Tarpon 14: He said that the Tarpon is great on lakes and the bay, but it is not the best river boat. It is not as manuverable. He said if I was going to go to the coast a lot, the Tarpon would be the best choice because it is the fastest and the least affected by the wind, but since I live so close to the rivers and will be on the rivers more often, to go with the Manta Ray. I liked the Tarpon, but it was not as comfortable as the Manta Ray. I didn't have that much of a problem manuvering it. If I spent more time on the lakes and the bay it very well might be the better option on the grounds that I could cover more distance with less effort with it. I would definitely give up the option to stand and fish if I bought a Tarpon, but how big of a deal is that?

Ultimate: He didn't even want me to paddle the Ultimate, and said that he didn't think I would be happy with it. I didn't even take it for a spin. Out of the people who are happy with them, where do you paddle them, and under what kinds of conditions? Are they good on the river? What about the coast? Mind you, I am not talking about crashing through the surf and going out into the open ocean, but staying where the red fish are in the inland water ways. The dealer told me that the videos of Jimbo Meador standing and poling the Ultimate were shot on an ideal day and that you wouldn't be able to do that most of the time because the wind would blow you around too much. He also said that they are very slow so if you have to go any distance you will work a lot to fish a little. Do you Ultimate users agree?

WS Ride: I liked it OK. I could stand and paddle, but it seemed like it would take a lot of energy to stand and fish because of the effort to constantly balance myself. Maybe I would get used to it and it would get much easier. The main attraction to the Ride is the fact that I want to option to stand and fish and this is the only boat other than the Ultimate that would leave that option available to me. How big of a deal do you experienced kayak fisherman think this is? The dealer wasn't too gung ho about the Ride. He said that it wouldn't come in first place for the river or the bay. He liked the Manta Ray since it would better for the rivers and that is most likely where I will be more often than not.

Well, this was a pretty long post and asked a lot of questions. I would greatly appreciate the perspective of the experienced kayak fisherman.

I’ve been kayak fishing for 11 years, working for a dealer for 6, and pro for 5.

The Coosa is definitley a freshwater kayak because it’s big and heavy and more suited for calmer waters than coastal areas subject to wind and wake.

I’ve paddled everything you mentioned, even helped out Liquidlogic when they were making the Manta Ray. It’s a great paddling boat and the 12 is very maneuverable. You’re not going to use this for a stand and fish platform. You won’t stand in the MR14 or the Tarpon 140. If you’re going to stand you want the Ultimate 12 or a Commander 120.

The biggest dilemma for you should just be length. 14 feet if you spend most your time in the bays and 12 feet if you’re going to be in moving rivers or lakes. You’ll be able to use them in both areas but you’ll find the longer length helps fight the winds and the shorter length will help you move around more narrow waters.

If he’s steering people away from Ultimates he’s losing lot’s of business. That’s about all you see here in North Carolina.

In your experience, how well do the Ultimates work in open lakes and bays? Either the 12 or the 14.5?

As for size, how much gear do you plan to take with you? If you’re keeping it simple then stick with the 12 footer. If you want to take more gear or go on a camping trip then go with the 14. It’s really going to be a minuscule difference as far as performance. It’s really going to come down to you paddling both of them.

You might also want to check out the Commander 120/140 from Wilderness. I’ve spoken with people who have owned a Commander and Ultimate and they say the Commander tracks better and drafts in shallower water.

You have multiple seating options in the Commander with the Phase 3 and the Captain’s Seat (which allows you to sit level with the top of the kayak).

And if you fly fish or want to sight fish, both the Commander and Ultimate are a breeze to stand in.

I had the Commander 120 last year and really liked it. It was hard to get rid of it but other opportunities came up.

Jackson Daytripper Elite 12 Hybrid
Another hybrid you might want to look at is the often overlooked and shadowed because of the new Jackson Coosa is the Jackson Daytripper 12 elite. It is a hybrid and has tons and tons of room to carry gear, very comfortable seat that can be taken out and used if your camping, and to me is great to fish out of. It is very stable and you can stand in it.

When I was testing the Daytripper and two other yaks when I tried the Temptation and Mojo the guy who took me out to test the yaks took the Daytripper out and was standing up and poled up the river. He said it was one of his favorite yaks because it was so versatile.



Ultimate 12
Have had myt Ultimate 12 for three years and have paddled it on rivers and lakes. Light, easy to manuever, great stability, and room enough for a weeklong camping river jaunt. Two of my friends have bought Ultimates after paddling mine.

Cleep in windy Kansas