Jameson Redding, GOPC Kayak Fishing Team member
I have paddled the Jackson Coosa for several years now and love it. Last year I picked up the Jackson Cuda 14. I have used this kayak for almost a year and feel the same way about it. I use the Cuda for my flat water, lake and salt, excursions and like the speed it has over the Coosa. Don’t get me wrong, in my opinion the Coosa is the perfect river kayak. When I started looking into the Jackson Big Tuna for a tandem solution for me and my wife I quickly realized it had great solo potential as well. I believe it is the single most versatile platform on the market with all of the seat configurations and the Tuna Tank. I got my Big Tuna just in time to take it on my annual trip to Pensacola, Florida for the holidays. I loaded it up on my new Malone trailer, which I love, and headed down to the Gulf Coast. Excited to try it, I planned a trip for that night to a spot that was known to hold big reds. The bait of choice is white trout that can be caught in the same location as the bull redfish using a Gulp! shrimp and a jig head. I wasted no time saying hello to everyone and getting my gear ready upon arrival in Pensacola. Once on the water the trout began to come to the boat, this is where my review starts.
1. THE TUNA TANK
I drilled some holes in the Tuna Tank and could not wait to see how it would work. I placed several trout in the tank with it in the upper position. I checked on them periodically and noticed that they were alive and kicking every time. As the tank filled I decided to drop it into the low position. I eventually had 20 white or sand trout, whichever you prefer, ranging from 10-14 inches. Me and my friend used these throughout the night and all of the fish stayed healthy and frisky. We caught several nice reds. The following days were spent between this night spot and a flat that we fished for speckled trout and slot reds. Again, while fishing the flats I employed the use of the Tuna Tank. I usually carry a stringer with me that I put the keeper fish on, which can slow your paddle down and attract unwanted friends such as sharks and dolphins. I don’t like carrying a cooler with me either, due to it taking up space for my tackle. I would rather leave it in the car. I managed several nice specks 17-20+ inches and since you are allowed 5 with one being over 20, I filled the tank. I kept my keepers alive all day and was able to cull fish since they stayed healthy and active. I would never have had this luck with the stringer. I plan to order the replacement tank soon for those days where I will not be using live bait or keeping fish.
I would have assumed that the Tuna would be slow compared to my Cuda 14. If it is slower, however, I could not tell on the water. I was more impressed by how well it paddles as a solo kayak than any other feature of the boat. It is fast and yet still turns well. I do have the rudder on mine, but only because I am used to it on my Cuda 14. The only way I might could see it being harder to handle is if the wind was up a lot. The boat is bulkier and sits higher on the water.
Even the most stable kayak takes a little getting used to, however the Tuna would be a quick learn. I stand and fish from all my Jacksons and have no problem fighting even 42 inch reds while doing so. This kayak is the most stable Jackson I have paddled as of yet. I have wanted to try and stand in the seat of my Cuda for extra sight fishing height all year. Many times I have started to attempt doing this and chickened out due to it becoming a little rocky. I again pursued this dream in the Big Tuna. I was able to accomplish it with ease. I am no little guy either at 215 pounds and 6 feet tall. I was impressed to say the least. (Now, I am not saying that I recommend this, but I did it anyway.) The boat also rides through choppy waters well. With the wind blowing on several of our outings the waves were up. The Big Tuna road over them keeping me dry, yet still maintained its stable feel even with the seat in the high position.