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Field Test: Best New Fishing Kayaks

The rise of fishing kayaks coincides with last decade’s spike in oil prices. In 2000, you’d have had better luck spotting a mermaid than a fishing kayak. Now, they’re a common sight. Many converts credit the expense of operating a motorboat as the impetus for joining the kayak navy. But that’s not the only reason to grab a paddle. Even a 10-pound fish can haul a kayak around. The fight from a kayak is a completely different adrenaline rush (as in: way more intense). You’re also fishing in tight quarters, paddling out of reach of motorboats and shore fishermen to where the trophy fish often lurk.

The fact that we’re even conducting a fishing kayak test means manufacturers are paying attention. In the old days—like, five years ago—normal kayaks were retrofitted for fishing. Now, specific touches like rod holders, casting platforms, lure storage, and sonar mounts are commonplace. We put five new models through their paces to find the best all-water fishing kayak.

Wilderness Systems Ride 115

▶ The first thing that impressed us about the Ride 115, pictured above, was the seat. It slides forward and back, adjusting your center of gravity depending on the load.

It also has multiple comfort adjustments. Hours in the seat don’t mean leg cramps later. When you first stand up, the kayak feels a bit tippy. As you lean side to side, though, the chines on the hull engage. The hull is designed perfectly: It’s got little surface area on the water when you paddle (translating to more speed), but plenty when you stand up (meaning added stability). All details are thought through, from easy-to-use latches on the dry storage to foot molds on the deck. These attributes come with one drawback: increased weight. The Ride 115 tips the scale at 76 pounds, more than many boats 2 feet longer. However, that extra weight means a lot of plastic in the hull for durability.

Test Result
Overall: ****
Mobility: B+
Stability: A
Design: A
Durability: A
Price/value: B+
Length: 11 ft. 6 in.
Width: 33 in.
Weight: 76 lb.
Final Word: The best boat for all-around use in lakes, rivers, and inshore.
MSRP: $1,019

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