Brooks Beatty 04/01/2013 | Posted in Fishing, Saltwater, Saltwater Fishing, Whitewater
If I could choose any place in the United States to give a brand new kayak a test run, the Florida Keys, without question would be one of my top choices. It’s hard to beat the warm sun, insanely clear water, unbelievable fishing, gorgeous surroundings, all accompanied with the laid-back island vibe. I’m already back there in my mind. I was fortunate enough to be in the lower keys for my first trip in the Jackson Kayak Cruise.
I set out on an adventure from Charlotte, NC with Drew Gregory, along with fishing team members Randy Morrow, Ethan Funk, Chris Funk and his lovely bride Angie. Randy is an outstanding flats fishing guide and knows the ins and outs of catching these spooky critters. Ethan is one of youth fishing team members, and Chris, his dad is also a fishing team member and great photographer. I still can’t decide if Chris would rather catch a fish or photograph someone else catching one. Either way, the Funky bunch (Ethan, Chris, and Angie Funk) are always welcome on any of my trips. We all spent several days together fishing the flats and mangroves of the lower Florida Keys; and together we battled sore throats, a mean chest cough, 20-30 knot winds, pop up showers, and other unfavorable conditions for sight fishing. On a positive note we were armed with some of the best fishing crafts to handle these curve balls. We alternated fishing from different vessels that included a Cuda 14, Cuda 12, Big Tuna, SUPerFISHal, and a Cruise. I already knew how the first 3 handled and it was near impossible to get Drew off the SUP, so I was very eager to test out the new Cruise, a very versatile crossover kayak. Out of the wrapper it is a Recreational boat, but with a few simple add ons it can be a serious fishing machine.
This boat is very easy and enjoyable to paddle. It is stable, comfortable, has solid speed, and maneuverability. To start with the boat has very clean look, which conveys it’s sporty and sexy appearance. The deck layout favors a minimalistic approach, covering the necessities for a day on the water without the bells and whistles found on fishing kayaks. Throughout the kayak, there are the same molded-in inserts that you see on the Whitewater and Fishing lines from Jackson. So with a few ram balls and rod holders you are sitting in a fishing ready machine, then just slap on your GoPro and you’re ready make the next goose attack video. That really is the beauty of this kayak, you can break it down to a bare bones system that anyone can paddle, or with a few quick add on accessories it has enough features for the avid angler. It offers a bow storage hatch to pack in whatever you need to keep out of the elements and very large open rear tankwell that lets you keep tons of stuff close at hand.
This adaptable kayak also sits comfortably since Jackson uses the innovative hi/lo elite seat, giving you the option of sitting up for comfort and better visibility, or low for speed and staying out of the wind. Either way is truly comfortable with the curved back shape of the seat, and the ability to adjust the angle for varied ranges of support. In the high position, you can store tackle under the seat like all the other Jackson fishing kayaks. To speak on the stability, I did get one solid day to fish without the gusty winds. I felt super stable and stood almost the whole day, as I was poling the flats with my paddle and rarely sat down to paddle. Never once, did I feel like I was going to fall out. I would easily say it felt like standing in the Cuda 12. I really noticed the maneuverability around the mangroves and tight spaces. I was pleasantly surprised with how easily it could turn around, and would say the looseness of the Cruise as well as the speed falls somewhere between the Coosa and the Cuda 12. As I paddled back to the ramp along side my fishing amigos in a Cuda 12 and a Big Tuna, I was able to keep up with them very nicely.
On top of all this, the Cruise has a very attractive price point, coming in right at $899. This kayak is great for multiple use applications. It can be used decked out with fishing accessories, and within minutes it can be cleaned off and worry free for your ten year old who is capable of breaking anything. Maybe it’s not the terrorizing ten year old, but it’s your wife that doesn’t like all those rod holders and gadgets that get in her way when she’s on the water, another perfect fit. This kayak really can adapt to any situation.