A continuation of our featured KATS sponsor blogs that we will add to in the coming weeks. We appreciate all the support our sponsors have provided us over the series!
We are lucky to have Wilderness Systems as one of our Platinum Sponsors for KATS 2012! Wilderness Systems is a customer favorite when it comes to kayaks. With innovative designs tuned for performance, premium outfitting and stunning quality, Wilderness Systems has made kayaks specific to every paddler’s journey. Some of their models include the Commander, the Ride, and the Tsunami. For this tournament, they have donated a Tarpon 120 which will be awarded to the KATS Angler of the Year. Thanks for your support Wilderness Systems!
Click here to view our full line up of sponsors or here for more information about KATS.
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.
Note: Thanks to ACK customer and kayak angler Paul Davis, President – Palmetto Kayak Fishing, for a great product review and allowing us to republish and share with our readers.
The redesigned 2012 Wilderness Systems Ride 135 delivers a remarkable fishing platform in a well thought out package. Mine came in on Tuesday from Austin Canoe & Kayak and I spent the afternoon rigging it up for fishing. I added a few basic items like an anchor trolley, Scotty mount rod holders, fish finder, custom transducer arm and some homemade Slidetrax accessory plates. Rigging a new kayak from the ground up is one of my favorite hobbies and each time I seem to find a better way to do a few things.
The center hatch was damaged during shipping, but Austin Canoe & Kayak took care of it immediately. Thirty minutes after the call, I had a FedEx tracking number and the new hatch was on its way. The sense of urgency that that the ACK customer service reps took with this issue was impeccable. Accidents happen – it’s all about how a company responds to a problem. I’ll be the first to say that ACK embodies true customer service.
Other companies/industries in our weak economy should definitely take note. In the meantime, I “borrowed” the center hatch from my girlfriend’s Tarpon 140 and replaced my broken unit with it until the new one is delivered.
On Wednesday I loaded up the Ride and took it out to a local pond for the first test paddle. I was amazed – literally amazed by how well this kayak performed. I’m 6’8”, 240lbs and not only is the 2012 Ride 135 incredibly comfortable, there is room to spare. It is dry, gets up to speed quite easily and tracks well. For its large stature, it is surprisingly easy to paddle and control. So well in fact, that I don’t think it should be categorized as just another “big guy’s kayak”. I have no doubt that my much smaller girlfriend could paddle this yak with ease. In addition, the fly fishing crowd is probably going to appreciate a lot of the styling cues that this yak has to offer.
Granted, the new Ride 135 is a little on the heavy side but so are the majority of other fishing kayaks in this class. When loading the kayak on the roof rack or carting it down to the water using my Bulletproof DIY Cart, I don’t notice any significant weight difference from that of my previous big man’s fishing kayak that the Ride 135 is replacing.
The seating system coupled with the floor layout is genius. In other kayaks I have owned, I run into a common problem – there never seems to be enough legroom for me from the seat to the foot pegs. I have historically had to modify the design of the foot pegs to make my legs more comfortable, but the Ride’s configuration worked perfectly right out of the box.
The amount of flat floor space on the deck of the new Ride 135 just begs the kayak angler to stand up and fish. Combine this feature with the super stable pontoon-style hull design and a whole new standard in fishing kayaks is born. Even with the wind blowing at a good clip, I wasn’t even remotely concerned about stability while standing for the first time. Transitioning from a standing position back into the seat – a topic that is rarely discussed yet is equally as important- was effortless.
Another nice touch is the sliding seat system. The robust seat is very comfortable and has multiple adjustment points that allow for a tailored fit. Back support is also more than sufficient. Changing the position of the seat works much like a manually adjustable seat in a car and is surprisingly smooth. This arrangement allows the paddler to adjust his weight over the deck of the kayak, giving the user control over how the yak sits in the water. I tend to carry quite a bit of gear in my kayak crate so having this option will be a welcomed change when I am out fishing. It is also worthy to note that the seat can be removed completely which opens up a lot of doors for custom configurations. Given the stability of this kayak, an aftermarket “high seat” would be very feasible.
So in a nutshell, I couldn’t be more pleased with the new 2012 Ride 135. A lot more details and how-to rigging ideas coming soon!