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Written By: Headwaters Fishing Team, November 5, 2013
What I experienced today was akin to courting a girl for months and upon meeting her family - oh my goodness; hot for sister! Big sister that is - and in the Jackson family she's known as the Big Tuna!
As you would expect, the Big Tuna is wider and heavier (87 lbs (minimum carrying weight), 102 lbs (max) - however, true to Jackson form its an easy paddle in the water. Before I get to that - rewind; lets begin in the parking lot. Taking the Big Tuna off the truck was no more difficult to loading and unloading the Cuda 14. The rear of the kayak has 2 handles, the front has 1. Given the wider hull, it didn't tip to one side or the other. Slide on, slide off. Once on the ground we began loading her down with crab gear.
Since this would be a solo paddle - the seat was moved forward to the center; yet, it is still slightly to the rear. In this position, the seat partially covers the bait/live well. The well is hinged in the middle and can be opened from either side - so, it was still easily accessible for stowing gear.
I put a sweatshirt in there in case the weather turned and more layering were needed. If the seat were all the way to the rear, there is no storage area behind the seat other than under the hatch cover. With the seat moved to the center there is a nice size (...and deep) tank well. Two buoys with rope were stowed here with room to spare. I use the collapsible ProMar traps and placed them forward on the boat - bait cages were secured just forward of the seat and secured with factory bungees which run the length of the boat. This is when my blood started pumping with excitement.
Last crab season I was fighting with buoys being tangled in bungee straps and balancing my traps on the front hatch of my previous kayak. On the Big Tuna, the depth of the tank well and width of the kayak accommodated all gear effortlessly. It felt as though I was missing something and there was definitely room for more.
Loaded and mated up to the Wheeleez (great fit), we pulled the Big Tuna to waters edge and prepared for the launch. The water was tame. Low swells, not much chop when we launched. Still, I couldn't help but take note of a few things to be excited about.
The expansive flat deck was free of clutter - no worries about snagging up when jumping in. After pulling the boat into the surf - I hopped in without any tipping. The stability was incredible - expected from a 36" flat hull - but refreshing nonetheless.
In no time - I in the Big Tuna and Shilo in her Cuda 14 were far from shore. In the beginning, I spoke to the boat's weight - my Cuda is heavy in the water also - but what I've come to learn about Jackson, despite the weight, is they are an easy paddle in the water. Tracking was looser than in the Cuda; however, it seems reasonable that a boat loaded to half its capacity (575lbs) is going to be higher in the water and looser.
If this were going to be a kayak for all occasions I would opt for a rudder install - but what I came to learn about the Big Tuna - this is a crabbing machine! The short paddle to where pots were going to be dropped was easily manageable.
When prepping the pots, it seemed as though I were on a barge. Large flat deck, stable, easy to turn around and retrieve gear. The seats in the Jacksons are one of the main attractions for many and in the Big Tuna the results are the same. Very comfortable, great back support and your hiney is off the deck - no wet butt! The deck in itself is also to be appreciated.
It has a textured surface and stays dry. The only water top side was in the beverage and seat indentations. And the only water that got in the kayak was from water dripping off the crab traps. The deck is wide and room is abundant. Combine that with the comfort of the seat and you forget you are on a kayak.
Call it a crabbing machine - call it a party boat - kick back, relax and ride the waves! Below is a side by side with Shilo's Cuda 14 so you can see the differences in the topside lay out and get an idea of how much room is provided for your paddling pleasure.
Maneuverability and speed were also impressive. Again, given the boat is at half capacity and sitting higher in the water that is probably to be expected. While stationary, you can turn the Big Tuna with 3 quick paddles on either side and you will have turned 180 degrees. Speed, just as quick as the Cuda 14 - albeit, I was racing a girl so take that into account.
And then there was the beach landing -- I have not mastered this art and concede that today’s water conditions were tame -- but, one would think I were the Captain of the Sea when coming ashore in a Jackson. Pick your wave, ride it in and you are beached! As the water recedes, there is no tipping and springing out of the seat is much easier since elevated off the deck.
It’s easy to read and share the excitement of a new kayak with someone. However, when it comes down to it - we all want to know how it compares to similar boats. This is my second tandem, the first being an OK Malibu XL. The difference is night - and - day! In other threads I have compared my Cuda 14 to my OK T13. There's a lot to like about both boats and in several categories I gave the advantage to OK.
However, in the battle of the two-seaters, it’s a different experience. Although the Malibu is capable in its own right - the Big Tuna edges it out in every aspect.
At the end of the day, I had but one regret. I was missing some gear I've never considered while crabbing before. An anchor, a pillow, and a blanket. You can literally take a nap while OTW in a Big Tuna.
For more information about kayaks and kayak fishing visit the Headwaters Kayak website at http://www.headwaterskayak.com.
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