Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bill's Review of Jackson Cruise 12

When Dan mentioned he had a new Jackson Kayak that he wanted me to demo I was of course excited. So far I have paddled the the Coosa, with its rockered hull and slippery feel in the water, perfect for floating rivers and catching eddies on the way down, as well as Cuda 14, with it's sharp entry and long waterline, perfect for long distance paddling and cutting through chop. Well what about people who can't afford 2 or 3 boats, or folks who are new to paddling and/or kayak fishing and don't know what type of specialized craft they might need to meet their demands? Jackson has the answer in the Cruise 12.

My testing ground was my favorite trout river in the valley, the Merced. Dan got his shipment of Cruise 12s in time for opening day in the anadromous water section of the Merced. Dan, Drew and I loaded up 2 Coosas and the cruise 12 and headed out with expectations of a stellar day of paddling and catching trout. A nice bonus for the day was Dan was willing to try his luck with a fly rod, upping my excitement level further.

When we arrived, I had mixed feelings seeing that there were more cars parked along the river than I had ever seen. On the one hand, I love sharing the sport with others, I mean that's what this blog is all about, right? On the other hand I knew there are only so many holes on the river that consistently held fish. We loaded our kayaks with gear and launched, still hopeful for an excellent day.

Upon loading the Cruise, the first thing I noticed was how much storage it had in the hull. Unlike the Coosa or Cudas, there is no foam glued into the hull near the hatches, providing tons of space. I also liked the hatch. Not only was it large, making it easy to store things like wheelies and long fly rods, but it was well sealed ensuring that if, as a beginner, you did take a spill your gear will remain dry.
Lots of internal storage.
Large touring kayak style hatch.

Once in the water the Cruise lived up to all of my expectations. We first had little play time getting to know our boats, since Drew had never paddled a Coosa and I was new to the Cruise. I was hoping that the shorter length would increase manueverability and it did. I also enjoyed the fact that the hull shape is relatively flat, providing a high degree of initial stability, giving me more confidence to really lean into turns when eddying out. I think that a beginner will appreaciate this greatly compared to the Coosa, which to someone who isn't familiar with edging a kayak might feel a little tippy, with its lower initial stability, but high secondary stability, allowing for increased ability to manuever and play in rivers.

Our first fishing spot was upstream so we took off paddling. Another great thing about the hull shape of the Cruise is that it allows for greater speed. I had no problem in flat water sections of the river leaving the Coosas in my dust. We arrived at a nice eddyline and decided that before we wet our lines it might be in our best interest to go over some river safety and practice eddying out. Since I make my living working on rivers, I am familiar with how to eddy out. Still being new to the boat and never passing up on free paddle instruction, I enjoyed our safety session. Even though the hull shape is not ideal for rivers, I had no problem ferrying back and forth across the current and floating downstream and spinning the boat into the eddy was no problem. It just required a little extra leaning and sometimes a back or forward sweeping stroke.

Now that all of us were fully comfortable in our boats, it was fishing time. Dan broke out the fly rod I had lent him and started roll casting, within 5 minutes he got his first grab and had the fish on just long enough to feel it and then it was gone. Nothing for the rest of us, so we decided to keep fishing upstream. Unflortunately all of the good holes were occupied. No worries, we'll just float down. We floated through a braided section of the river and Dan being the paddler at heart that he is, found a small standing wave and started surfing. It looked like fun to me, so I asked for a little instruction. After about the 3rd try, I was surfing in the Cruise. While the boat did fine, at this point I was wishing for my playful Coosa. The hull on the Cruise is so flat, I was a little concerned that the bow might get sucked under. Not only did I get my first surfing lesson, I also managed a fish as a bonus.

First fish of the day.
We continued our float through the most techinical rapid on this stretch of the river. The current pushes your boat to river left and then there is a drop off creating a trough and a standing wave. You have to allow the current to push you sideways and then shoot through the trough. At this point Dan is geeking out, loving the fact that not only are we fishing, but we are getting in some decent paddling. Dan pulls out and Drew and I float through. Dan of course paddles back into the wave and does some surfing.
The Cruise in its element.

Throughout our float there were other anglers in most of likely spots, and being the polite fly fisherman that I am, decided we should just keep floating until we could have a place to ourselves. This didn't allow us as many fishing opportunities as I would have liked, but I did manage to land one more fish and Dan hooked up one more time, the fish allowing him to play it a little longer before coming off.
Dan and Drew enjoying the float.

All in all, the day ended up being more about paddling than fishing, bet we still all had a great time. I thoroughly enjoyed paddling the Cruise and would recommend as a great first boat for beginners or a great jack of all trades boat. Not to mention a fine fly fishing vessel, with the nice obstruction free deck and plenty of storage space in the hull.

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