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This week was my first experience in the Big Tuna from Jackson Kayak. I put it through the ultimate test of a kayak here in Texas; I took it down the Devils River. Not that any trip down the Devils River is a regular trip, but this trip went beyond normal.

We took a four day trip and loaded two Jackson Coosas and three Big Tunas with eight people (seven non-Texans plus myself) and more gear than any logical person would take down a river. But what are you going to do when you need to get all that gear down river to film a TV show. Luckily most of us knew our way around a kayak and a river.

If you know anything about the Devils River, you know you have to drag your kayak in areas. With that much gear and with the water levels down, we had to drag the boats more than usual. I was a little bit worried about taking such heavy boats down the river with all the sharp limestone and fossilized oyster reefs. I have know of several boats that were loaded with normal amounts of gear, that ended up broken and eaten up by the Devils River. But what was I going to do except give it a shot.

Day one and two were spent dragging the boats over the rocks and through the shallow rapids. The bottom of the boats got cut up a little bit, but not one sprung a leak of any sort. I was dragging my boat with the sound man, his sound gear, his extra batteries, his camping and personal hear, and my camping gear all packed inside or sitting on top. Needless to say, the boat was not light with all this. I was amazed at how well it stood up to that abuse. We discovered that the stand-assist straps can be moved and attached to the front handle, making a “handle extender” and allowing you to pull the boats around without having to bend over.

There was enough water for most of day three that we did not have nearly as much dragging. But day three did include the likes of Dolan Falls as well as several class two and three rapids like Indian Creek Rapids and Three Tier. We portaged the falls, but ran the rest of the rapids. The Big Tuna handled itself pretty well in the sharp turns and short drops that are common throughout the devils. Only once during the trip did a Tuna roll over and that was a mistake of the crew, not the boats fault. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances of the trip, I was unable to play with paddling the boat from the solo position through anything difficult, so I can’t report on that. But with two paddlers, the boat handled itself wonderfully.

On the flat-water pools between the rapids, the boat tracked very well. We did not have a rudder installed, but the boat paddled straight ahead. It was surprisingly faster than I expected. It was also a very stable platform. I was able to jump in and out and climb all around the boat without feeling like we were going to tip once.

Due to the packing situation that we were faced with, I was unable to play with the seating positions much, but they looked like they were just about endless. Another cool feature was the “Tuna Tank.” It sits in the middle of the boat, between the two seats, and can easily be opened from either side. Even without drilling holes and turning it into a live bait-well, the tank will take on water. So do not make the mistake of assuming that this is dry storage. We did keep a bass in one of the tanks for a while to test it out, and it performed like it should. I will be interested in trying to put a five bass stringer limit inside the tank for a tournament. I wonder if it would keep the fish healthy. If it does, this could be a great tournament kayak to compete against power boat anglers. I think someone like Tray Collins should try this out.

There is some storage inside the hull of the kayak, but this is limited. It is more than you would need for a day trip, or probably even a regular camping trip, but it wasn’t enough to carry all the gear you need to film a TV show. But that is ok because there is plenty of room on top and behind the back seat.

I did not get to fish from the Big Tuna, but I did have the opportunity to stand in it quite a bit. I think it is even more stable when standing than wither my Coosa and the Cuda. I can’t emphasize enough how stable the Big Tuna is.

Overall that Big Tuna exceeded my expectations, but why would I expect anything less from fishing boat made by Jackson Kayak. I am looking forward to getting my own in the near future. I think it will be the perfect boat to take my son out in once he is a little bit older. I also think it would be a great guide boat for any of you kayak or river guides out there. If you have any questions, let me know.

-Pat Kellner