I've been shopping around for a new kayak for a while now. I've always been into fishing, but it's either been from our bass boat or the bank. The kayak fishing scene has blown up over the last few years, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My first attempts were a little frustrating, mostly because I was attempting to fish from a whitewater crossover or hybrid boat that you sat in and used a bungee skirt. It was a 10' long boat, but due to the sit-in nature of it, it just didn't have the storage, freedom, and flexibility that I wanted and needed for fishing. Enter the sit-on-top options...
There are dozens of sit on tops out there, available for all shapes and sizes, in all sorts of colors and options. Most seem to be pretty good, and about every high end or reputable kayak brand out there has at least a couple models of SOT's in their lineup. Some are better for fishing than others. Some are better for standing up. Some are better for sitting down. Some are a great combination of many factors, and that's why I chose the Wilderness Systems Ride 135. I was VERY strongly considering another boat from a competing company, but the combination of features, size, price, and stability put me in favor of the Ride 135.
I am no small guy by any means. I'm 6'4" and around 300lbs, I needed a good boat that would be stable and track well for flatwater but still be maneuverable in moving water such as on rivers. I can stretch out completely on this boat and still have plenty of room. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I believe guys up to 7' tall or possibly even taller, would have no problem fitting in this boat. The seat and footpegs are adjustable to get your front to rear trim fine tuned, and there is infinite adjustment in the seat for the backrest and leg lifters. The Phase 3 seating is one of the most comfortable seats that I've ever had the pleasure of sitting in. While sitting in the Ride 135, it feels very solid with none of that tippy feeling you get from some other boats. I did briefly try standing in it, and although it felt a little sketchy at first, I can see myself getting used to it very quickly. Finally, a kayak that the big boys can stand in!
Storage is very impressive on this boat as well. With the large hatch up front and medium hatch mid way back, there is plenty of room to store all of your gear. With proper gear management and packing, you could stick a weeks worth of gear and supplies in this boat, with room to spare. I use the left side of the hull as my rod storage when I'm driving to and from the lakes or rivers. It keeps them out of sight from the prying eyes of potential thieves as well as protected from any bugs or road grime. It's very easy to stick at least 4 or 5 rods down the side of the hull when going in from the front hatch. One could stick several more down the other side as well. There is no real limit as far as size goes either. There is at least 11-12' of space, so all of my 6'6" and 7' rods are in no danger. The hatches have rubber and foam seals, so water seepage shouldn't be a big issue.
The color of this boat is my favorite of all the boats I've looked at. Almost everyone offers a camo color, but Wilderness Systems really pulled it off the best. At 88 lbs, the weight of the boat is pretty heavy but you have to take into account that it is 13'6" inches long and nearly 32" wide, it's not going to be light by any stretch...nor should it be. I'm going to be paddling this boat on lakes, rivers, and creeks. It's going to encounter a few bumps along the way, I want the plastic thick enough to handle it, and it is. Despite the heft and length, this boat is still reasonably maneuverable, which is important in moving water. While being maneuverable when you need it to be, it tracks really well on flatwater, requiring very little corrections to keep it moving straight ahead.
The Ride 135 has a bunch of little features too that are particularly handy and really prove that a lot of thought has been put into this boat. Features such as loops inside the hatches to lash gear to, recesses for smaller items in the cockpit, self draining in the recesses, cup holders, and hatch rims, a paddle holder on the side and the front deck, bungee disconnects in the rear tankwell for proper fitment of a crate or other large pieces of gear, bungees on the back of the seat to keep it from flipping down when you stand up, flat areas for Scotty and Ram mounts, pre routed cable housing for the optional rudder system, etc.
The only thing I would like to see is the availability of an add on lock cylinder for the hatches. It would be great to be able to lock them. Granted, it's a plastic boat (albeit a ridiculously thick and tough one), a persistant thief could break into it with a saw if they really wanted to, but it would just add that little bit of extra security when sitting unattended on top of your vehicle or at the put in when you go take a leak or something.
Overall, I'm VERY happy with this boat and I got an absolutely screaming deal on it through AustinKayak.com with free shipping. I normally do try to get my gear local and support my local outfitters, but I couldn't find this particular boat anywhere reasonably close to my home, so I opted to have it delivered. It was shipped via freight to my workplace, so I wasn't expecting it to arrive for at least a week or so, but it only took 5 days! It was packed extremely well by the guys at ACK, so there were no bumps or scratches from shipping.
Check out the videos below for a visual walkthrough. I was only going to do one video, but decided to do another to cover a few more features a little more in depth.