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I had the awesome opportunity to spend a week in the Florida Keys with some of Jackson Kayaks newest products. There was a couple hard driving, serious fishing models and then there was the Cruise. I wasn’t sure what to make of it truthfully. It had a nice look, clean lines and was almost docile looking next to the boats that were bristling with gear and fishing rods. My bride had the first go at paddling the Cruise and quickly learned just how seaworthy this 12 footer is. We launched into a small craft advisory and 20-30 mph winds that would have turned a lesser craft into a submersible.

As soon as we left the protected bay where we launched, the curling white caps began crashing into us quartering on our bows. The Cruise handled itself very well in conditions that most kayakers would have turned around and headed home in. She is an experienced paddler, was wearing an excellent Kokatat PFD, and had a team of seasoned veterans around her so we pressed on. She put many miles on the Cruise that day in everything from open bays to the flats to incredible mangrove tunnels. Her usual ride is an earth colored Jackson Ibis that she is fiercely devoted to but I could tell a Cruise might just be in her future. It was several days before I had my shot at paddling it. A quiet morning had me up before the rest of the adventurers and I figured it was a perfect opportunity to get some seat time. As a larger paddler, I am always leery of a 12 foot boat. They tend to plow with my 250 pound weight in them and I was expecting that to happen with the Cruise. There was no plowing with this kayak! The Cruise rode up and over the small waves that were already forming from a storm in the bay. It tracked beautifully and had a nice long glide when I stopped paddling. Maneuverability was impressive and so was the speed of the Cruise. I was using a borrowed paddle so I would really like to see how well it would do with my Bending Branches angler paddles. They seem to have a better bite and quite a bit more torque than the paddle I was using. Looking over the Cruise, I noticed the slight differences between it and the Cuda and can see benefits of both. For the serious angler, the Cuda has it all with no real need to add a thing.

The Cruise is clean and neat. There are several mounting points for RAM type rod and gear holders for anyone who wants them or for simplicity you can leave them off. There are even GoPro mounts for those who like to film their adventures. It is a wonderful blank canvas that will allow folks to customize as they feel fit. The rear tank well is missing the small cover of the Cuda for in hull storage but the well itself is cavernous! You could easily put enough gear for a nice camping trip in there. It has a large dry hatch in the bow that is a great place to store camera gear for photo enthusiast like myself. There is a small phone and key hatch right in the middle of the deck where the long center hatch is in the Cuda. This opens up the deck and coupled with the clean lines and lack of bungees makes the Cruise an outstanding kayak for fly anglers.

Later in the week I got to watch Jackson’s Brooks Beatty prove that the Cruise could be as serious a fishing machine as any person could want. Moving the Elite seat from the low position to the high position he added the higher visibility advantage and then he stood and poled across the flats casting at various targets with ease. I have to admit, after 7 days with the Cruise, seeing it go from recreational paddlecraft to serious fishing machine, I was fully impressed. One of the biggest attractions of the Cruise has to be its simplicity and that is the reason most of us got into paddling in the first place. Give the Cruise a paddle for yourself and see what I am talking about!

-Chris Funk