Whenever I hit the water the primary objective is always to have a safe, fun experience doing something that I enjoy. However, if I am paddling a boat for the first time or using new equipment, it is my responsibility as a kayak salesman to test our products for performance and usability and share my findings with our customers. For those who may have read my previous blog post you already know that I took a memorable trip down the Medina River back in June. My father is recently retired and it was the first chance we’ve had to paddle our favorite river together in several years. I thought it would be fun to introduce him to kayak fishing as well as a couple of ACK’s most stable kayaks that offer elevated seating and the option to stand and paddle.
One of the perks of working at a top tier kayak shop is having access to a variety of kayaks that you do not actually own yourself. So I chose two boats from our rental fleet that I felt would be compatible from a paddling perspective and ideal for our river journey.
The kayak we decided to take on our outing was the Lure 11.5 by Feelfree Kayaks. You will find that the Lure is feature laden right out of the wrapper and has a great deal to offer even before adding aftermarket accessories. The name designates the length at 11’6” while the width of this model is 36”. Based on these specs it is clear that we have another kayak whose primary purpose is to provide a stable platform for anglers who want to sit high and stand up while fishing. The boat weighs 74 lbs which I consider to be average and on par with other kayaks in its class.
Depending on who you are, today’s “average” size kayak can be a bit difficult to handle when loading and unloading, or even during launch or portaging. One thing I have always appreciated about the Lure series is the molded in handles that have been incorporated into the design of the boat. These handles are found on the bow and stern as well as each side of the kayak. To me this is an advantage over a more typical nylon strap or toggle style handle that would be more prone to breakage and wear over time. (ACK does not recommend running straps through these handles.) You can run tie down straps through the molded handles which allows for more convenient and secure attachment to a vehicle or trailer. Furthermore, pulling the boat from the front handle allows kayakers to take advantage of another great feature that Feelfree offers, The Wheel In The Keel. That’s right, they built a wheel right into the stern and for some customers this feature may suffice as a replacement for a kayak cart!
The Lure comes standard with flush mount rod holders that have built in leashes and the versatile Uni-Track system that lets you add numerous accessories and rod holders without drilling into the hull of the boat. You can use the Uni-Trak Accessory Mount by itself or even add the Uni-Bar Dashboard to configure your gear placement just about anywhere on the kayak.
The large oval hatch on the front of the FeelFree Lure 11.5 is one of the driest hatches I have seen. With three locking latches, all on opposing sides from the lid’s hinge, I have spoken with 11.5 owners who have completely submerged the bow of this kayak and taken on little or no water inside the hull. A welcome addition to the feature set for 2016 is the ever popular Sonar Pod. This is the ideal solution for your fish finder as it allows anglers to hard mount their head unit to the pod’s lid and the transducer to the bottom of the pod while the battery and excess wiring are protected on the inside. The end result is a portable, self contained setup that gives your transducer through-hull contact with the water and in turn a more accurate temperature reading.
Perhaps the most impressive feature found on the Lure series is the innovative and highly adjustable Gravity Seat. It can be elevated gradually and locks securely in 1 inch increments as high as 10 inches off of the deck. While some paddlers may prefer a taller seat back I personally found that the low-back design gave me ample back support and offered substantial comfort when seated. Since my first run with the 11.5 I have found that the seat mates up perfectly with my high-backed NRS Chinook PFD. As I often tell my customers in San Antonio, you are not likely to win any races in this boat. It takes a little work to get the Lure 11.5 up to hull speed but once you do it performs exceptionally. Whenever maneuvering a craft this wide you know that you need to factor in the potential for a little extra drift and adjust your timing when managing turns on the river. I could definitely see where the addition of the FeelFree Lure Rudder Kit would be advantageous in big water. At our Kayak Hunting Seminar last month I spoke to a customer at length about how he loves to take his Lure 11.5 offshore. He assured me that the boat can make it through the surf without issue and loves the comfort and stability that his kayak affords him once he is past the breakers. For me the Lure was very stable even when sitting high and I used the padded standing platform to cast with ease while fishing on the Medina. Weaving through the trees that bisect certain stretches of the river I stood tall and directed the course of my vessel. After paddling the Lure for several miles I had determined that the boat performed exactly as I expected it to and will continue to recommend it as a great choice for river kayaking and fishing.
The FeelFree Lure 11.5 is available in 8 different camo color schemes and this year FeelFree has stepped up their accessory game as well. Items like the affordably priced Feelfree Camo Angler Paddle, the Feelfree Crate Bag and Feelfree Fish Bag Cooler make it easy to further outfit your kayak and look good while doing it. With options like this to chose from I am certain that ACK customers are going to be lured in by the 11.5 in 2016!
-Brice @ ACK San Antonio