Let me start off with an introduction. My name is Jeremy Chavez and I am a passionate, i.e. obsessed, kayak fisherman. I reside in southeast Texas. On average I spend 100+ days a year on the water. Most of my fishing is on the coast where battling the elements (wind and tides) is part of the game.
Over the years I’ve paddled nearly every make and model kayak on the market. Some have suited my needs as a kayak fisherman and others not so much. The reasons why become obvious after observing my fishing style, fishing destinations, and body type. All three are very important considerations when choosing the right boat to paddle. I spend most of my time chasing redfish, so naturally I’m a marsh-rat. My domain consists of mud, oysters, and skinny water. I spent two full days in the marsh fishing out the newly remodeled Wilderness Systems Ride 135 a couple of weeks ago and these are my thoughts.
Hull and Layout
What initially intrigued me about this kayak were the design changes from the previous model. The Ride has always been a stable boat and this model is no different. The pontoon-style hull provides excellent stability when seated or standing. I have an average build (5’10” and 190lbs) and have fairly good balance and it was extremely easy and comfortable to stand and fish out of the Ride.
The Ride’s max beam is 31” which aids in its stability. The width is also a slight hindrance when paddling, especially for a guy that has grown accustomed to paddling a Tarpon 160. I would recommend a 240cm paddle when paddling this boat. My 230cm paddle was too short and would occasionally bump the sides, which was an annoyance. A minor change in paddling stroke helped alleviate this issue significantly.
The redesigned hull incorporates a hard side chine which helps the boat track straight even in a stiff wind. One disadvantage of high sides is they catch a lot of wind, which is more noticeable when drifting versus paddling since the boat tracks straight once in motion. The boat was also completely dry with no standing water in the cockpit.
The Freedom Elite seating system with Phase 3 padding and adjustability is extremely comfortable and very easy to adjust on the fly. It’s one of the most comfortable kayak seats I’ve had the pleasure to sit in. You really come to appreciate the comfort of the Ride’s seat after you leave the seat at home and are forced to sit on bare plastic. Take my word for it. The seat has a track built into the boat that allows it to be slid forward and backward. The middle strap located near the center hatch allows the seat to be slid and locked to the desired position.
Another added design feature that I like is the rear keel guard. As mentioned previously I regularly fish harsh, oyster-ridden environments and the keel of my paddle-craft bears the blunt of that abuse. The replaceable keel guard is an awesome design feature that will keep my kayak out of the repair room at my local kayak shop.
Like its predecessor there is plenty of the storage in the new Ride. The tankwell is huge. I was able to fit a standard milk crate, a large Pelican dry box, a SealLine dry bag, and a small soft-sided cooler and still had room to spare. When seated the seat has to be positioned far enough forward to reach the foot pegs so there is additional storage room behind the seat. Good place to store objects that need to be accessed quickly. The cockpit is also massive with plenty of leg room, which is nice for taller paddlers. The Ride also has interior storage accessed by two hatches: a medium-sized hatch located in the center and a large hatch at the bow.
Paddling and Handling
Despite its length and width the Ride handles quite well. The new Ride handles much like the past model, but does track noticeably straighter. The model I tried didn’t have a rudder; it could definitely use a rudder for maneuverability and control. The Ride has a decent glide after you stop your paddle stroke. It doesn’t glide as well as a Tarpon but I didn’t expect it to. One thing to keep in mind if you frequently fish extremely shallow is the draft on this kayak is about twice that of a kayak with a rounder hull. Due to the pontoon hull the ride needs about 6” of water to float.
The new Ride will excel with a person of the right body type. It’s not for a small person. It’s heavy for its size, weighing in at 85 lbs. It’s not the easiest kayak to maneuver while transporting to and from the water. Keep in mind the seat needs to positioned in the middle of the boat while paddling otherwise the weight distribution causes the bow to rise and creates plenty of hull slap because of the shape of the hull. There’s tons of storage space on this kayak, so it will be a good kayak for someone planning on taking a bunch of gear or doing overnight camping trips often. This kayak is also a great option if you want to able to stand and fish comfortably.
Jeremy Chavez is a blogger and kayak fishing addict. You can read his musings and view his photography and cinematography work at his blog www.castingtales.com.