The newly released Jackson Kayak “Big Rig” is a beast of a kayak, and the one I was looking at was the first off of the production line. In olive drab with all black accessories, it looked like something that would be used in riverine warfare in Vietnam. I would not have been overly surprised if a matched pair of .50 caliber machine guns were included to mount on the deck!
We did not come to have an all-out war though; we came to battle with some largemouth bass. Eric Jackson had already been fishing that morning, and had an identical Big Rig in the water. We got the second one ready, and I loaded my fishing and camera gear and slipped on my PFD. It was finally time to get on the water.
Stepping off the dock onto the deck of the new vessel was an eye-opening experience. The 37” width provided the most stable kayak I have ever been in. With the stand assist strap and the leaning bar accessory, the ultra-wide Big Rig made standing easy. The bar has a place to lay your paddle while standing. I am not sure if it was designed or coincidental, but it was pretty darn handy. It will allow sight fishermen to keep their eyes on the target, and transition from paddle to rod without losing focus. The leaning bar lays flat when not in use and is fully out of the way.
There are three gear tracks in front of the seat - one in the center of the floor, and one on each gunnel. I had to move the ram ball and the rod holder to the right side to keep me from wrapping it with my fly line. A stripping basket mounted to the leaning bar will eliminate that issue. There are two gear tracks behind the seat, along with two RAM® “Tough Tubes” for more gear mounting and rod holding options. On each gunnel is a rod trough with a dedicated tip protector over the end. The trough is long enough to hold fly rods, and the tip protector is large enough to slip a rod and a rigged lure inside.
The Big Rig hatches and covers are very similar to the ones on the Jackson “Coosa”, and there is ample room inside for camping gear or dry bags. The tank well is crate ready, or has enough bungees to secure whatever type of gear you carry. There are multiple gear staging options to hold the various boxes anglers tend to carry. The “Elite” seat has high and low positions, and I was able to change from one to the other while on the water.
Now the real deal: how does it paddle? Describing a boat’s paddling characteristics is a lot like describing a taste or smell - very vague, and subject to personal interpretation. This is my opinion, and I would encourage the reader to paddle a Big Rig before offering their own. In the high position, it was a bit of an effort for me to paddle for long distances. I think for my paddling style, my 240cm paddle was too short to properly propel this kayak for anything other than fishing spot to spot. I need to get a longer paddle before I can fully evaluate the high position and compare it to another kayak, like my Big Tuna.
Transitioning to the low position, the Big Rig became a totally different animal. I paddled the same long stretch that I paddled in the high position and it was a complete pleasure. I was able to easily keep up with my friends in longer and “faster” boats. Tracking was nice, as was the glide when I stopped paddling. There is a tiny bit of nose waggle for the first couple strokes, but in short order the boat is up to speed and tracks straight. Maneuverability is good; not quite as loose as a Big Tuna, but easily turn-able in tight spots. The profile is very low to the water, so the wind had minimal effect on the Big Rig. When it did blow, the kayak was easy to get on point again.
Fish-ability was outstanding, and after I put the fly rod down I found myself going toe-to-toe with bass and bowfin in some of the thickest stuff I have ever fished. There were two tactics that day: slowly pulling a frog over the thick mats and waiting for a violent blow up, or punching through the mats with soft plastics and ripping the fish back up through the mess. These tactics required out-of-position casting and setting the hook way harder than I usually do. The stability of the Big Rig allowed me to do things that would have left me swimming from any of my other kayaks.
The weight of this kayak is just less than the weight of the Big Tuna, so if you have ever handled one of those you know what to expect. I was able to pick it up and set it on top of my Tacoma with no issues. I found it was easier to stand at the back of the boat and raise it on its side with the two rear handles, then ease up to the middle to lift it up. That kept me from leaning over the middle and trying to lift up from the other side handle, like I usually do.
My best advice would be to paddle before you buy, but I would say that about any kayak. The Big Rig will be ideal for a sight fisherman, or a bass fisherman who likes to flip and pitch. It will also fill the need for any person who exceeds the weight rating of most manufactured kayaks. The Big Rig comes ready to accept the Raymarine “Dragonfly” fish finder and has inserts molded in to mount the Power-Pole® Micro anchor system. It can be ordered with an optional rudder, and comes in multiple colors for 2014: Sand, Lime, Yellow Jacket, Green Hornet, Forest Camo, Lowland Camo, Desert Camo, and Urban Camo. The Jackson Big Rig is 13’2” long and 37”wide. It weighs 85lbsminus the Elite seat. MSRP: $1,499 w/o rudder, $1,699 with rudder.