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The Story Behind the Jackson Kayak Coosa…

A lot of people have asked how I and Jackson Kayak got connected on this Coosa project and how a boat like this is developed. Well, I’ll address the first half of that story some day, but for now I want to talk about the second part, which deals more with the actual development of the Coosa with the prominent team members at the Jackson Kayak factory in good ol’ Sparta, TN.

One common question I get from anglers is, “Where did all of these diverse deck features come from?” Well, I have been kayak fishing seriously for 9 years now and have made over 700 trips on the water that have allowed me plenty of time to contemplate the pros and cons of all the watercraft I have fished out of. While they may not have been designed for fishing exclusively or even by a kayak fisherman, they still got the job done fine and I enjoyed my time in each one of my previous boats. However, I knew Jackson Kayak and I could make some significant improvements if we were to team up. The goal was to simply take all of the “problems” or “issues” that kayak fisherman have had and with the help of the Jackson Kayak team try to “solve” them in some feature on the boat.

My initial sketches of the Coosa were rough, and the one in the photo at the beginning of this article is actually the very first rough drawing I ever did of the boat. I am no artist, and I can’t believe I even scanned this in for all to view and confirm that fact, but there were a few better sketches that eventually found there way to two of the top notch kayak architect minds at Jackson Kayak – Tony Lee and Scott Henderson. In my sketches I was always trying to get across my concepts and what sort of problems I was trying to solve for kayak anglers and from there Tony and Scott were instrumental in improving the “solution” if there was an easier or better way to solve the problem that my rough draft had outlined. For instance, I knew it would be a nice little feature to have the hatches lock, but I wasn’t sure “how” to best make the hatch lock, as simply and cost effective as possible. Tony Lee has designed and developed dozens of successful kayaks in his day and I knew that he would eventually come up with a method that would do the trick. Clearly what you see on the boat today is just that, a simple, effective solution. I could go on and on about situations just like that where Tony, Scott and I went back and forth in this phase of the Coosa’s development and between the three of us we figured out a way to solve the angler’s issues the best we knew how. Obviously this boat wouldn’t be the hit it is today without those guys, and from feedback from so many kayak fisherman out there that I consulted. Most notably those on the Jackson Kayak team such as Sean Brodie, Ben Adrien, Hal Lambert, James Mcbeath, Jayce Boldin, and of course Jackson Kayak president Eric Jackson, who not only designs whitewater kayaks but is also a big time fisherman from his days growing up in Florida. Members of our sales team, most notably VP of sales Marty Cronin and our southeastern US sales rep Dave Blanding, also had valuable input as well thanks to their many years in the industry and such close contact to what the dealer base was looking for . It truly has been a great team effort by everyone at Jackson Kayak.

From those initial designs and the input I gave the Jackson Kayak team, Tony and Scott had a “plug” of the boat ordered based off of CAD work that was done by Steve Scarborough, another accomplished kayak designer. They eventually made that plug into a prototype boat that was simply to get the hull design correct. It was completely plain on the deck, but it handled well enough to the point that we really didn’t make many other major changes to the hull, just small ones here and there. In the above slide show you can see some photos of that prototype that actually treated me pretty well for the few trips I had in it – I tied my largest shoal bass ever in that boat and finished second place in one of the Carolina Yakfish tournaments out of it as well.

From there Tony and Scott began to build up the plug with some of the main features that were on the original sketches. From those changes they made prototype number two. This is when I really got some other anglers in it and involved to see what they thought about its standability and unique seat design. All feedback was positive and we were all getting really excited about what the boat would become, since we knew it would only get better from there.

We made a third prototype after adding most all of the features you see on the final boat and making a few tweaks based on how prototype #2 handled. Eric Jackson and I took these prototypes up to Canada to really test them out on the famed whitewater runs of the Ottawa River. Of course, in between the rapids we explored back bays and oxbow lakes that had massive smallmouth, pike and musky in them. A lot of the footage that many have watched about the Coosa has come from the stage 3 prototype in Canada. Joining us in Canada to film an episode for his TV show was Chris Bailey, host of Reel Outdoors. I would stay tuned to the Sportsman’s channel because you may very well see this episode on sometime in the coming months.

I was encouraged by everyone at Jackson to make sure that it was “right” before I let the plug get sent off to get the mold developed. Keeping his advice in mind we made the final tweaks, including adding the Tallon recesses, cupholder (you can thank Powers Outdoors in Michigan for that), repositioning of the side rod stagers, adding the side pocket accessory (not yet in production) and raising the deck level of the standing platform so that the weight capacity before water comes through the Drew in Coosa with bassscuppers would increase. Is the boat perfect? We shipped the plug off and let me tell you those were the longest two months of my life waiting on that thing to return!

When I got the call that the mold had arrived back at the plant I nearly got in my truck that second and raced up to see how some of the first boats came out. Our skilled and passionate production team were already working through issues in both of their areas to get the molding and assembly dialed in. One thing that is unique about Jackson Kayak being a small, family run company is that each boat is hand assembled by one of the solid staff at Jackson Kayak. When you buy a Coosa you will notice that it has a tag on it signed by the person who put your boat together! That is pretty cool and it is great that the entire crew takes so much pride in their job.