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Life is not easy for the portly kayaker, and exceedingly so for those who, like myself, fit in the ‘big AND tall’ category at 6’4”, and tipping the scales close to the 400# mark! Even with the exponential growth in popularity of the sport, the kayaking industry has continued to disappoint me, as it continues to leave my fellow hefty brethren and me with limited choices in kayaks. And, trying to find the right kayak has made me feel like one of King Arthur’s knights in the quest for the Holy Grail! I have painstakingly read a ton of reviews and recommendations in my quest to find my perfect kayak. Until recently, my efforts have been futile and harrowing as many of the ‘big guy’ kayaks have the weight capacity, but they DO NOT have the right fit. I’m sure many of you big guys in my category can empathize with my previous experiences with so-called ‘big guy’ kayaks, such as: the need to twist and contort my lower torso like a pregnant-with-twins Amazonian belly dancer just to fit in the seat; the need to enter the lotus seating position because my large legs and calves do not fit in the leg wells (well at least something similar as it would be physically impossible for me to attempt such an unnatural position); or, the Carpe Diem of all things we big guys must sometimes deal with- the vile conflation of both acts, or what I like to call the ‘contortus’, just to get in a freaking kayak! It’s definitely not a pretty sight, and then there’s the enduring challenge of trying to paddle in such a position…

There are a few non-negotiable must-have features that I’m looking for in a kayak, and they are: stability, comfort, paddle performance, and ‘fishability’. I recently thought I had found the right kayak from another brand that claims to make kayaks for really big guys, as it has a nice combination of features and the necessary weight capacity; however, I would quickly find out that ‘weight capacity’ does not equal ‘stability’. My maiden voyage in that kayak left me with an ominous sentiment that I was simply doomed in being able to comfortably fish from a kayak. I unloaded my new kayak from the truck and was smiling from ear to ear at the attention it was getting from other fellow yakkers at the launch. One of them asked me, “How does she handle?” I boasted in reply, “She’s the most stable kayak I’ve ever been in!” After all, it was just a small white lie amongst fishermen, as he didn’t know this was my first trip, and, my dealer assured me that I would fall out of the yak before it turtled (there are videos of grown men doing gymnastics in this thing, so I believed him)! In hindsight, I sure wished my dealer had one for me to demo before I purchased… Needless to say, my old buddy Murphy was quick to remind me of the adage “pride before the fall” (pun fully intended). I hopped in on one side of my kayak and fell out the other side, head first- all in one nice fluid motion like I was a synchronized swimmer starting my routine with a graceful sideways dive! Rather, ‘graceless unsynchronized swimmer’ would have been a fitting description, as I have never been able to fall with grace, my entry splash failed to keep my accident a secret, and I’m sure my legs flopping violently at the surface were anything but ‘synchronized’. Unfortunately, the chorus of roars of laughter from my buddies at the launch belied my feeble attempt at remaining inconspicuous, and I felt myself searching through a myriad of excuses for a plausible explanation of my soggy demise. I could only utter two words to describe a source of blame amidst my shame, embarrassment, and disappointment- “Stupid shoelaces!” Stupid shoelaces??? That was the best excuse I could come up with to justify my awe-inspiring display of balletic prowess??? What tormented me even worse was the fact that I was wearing sandals- and everyone around knew it! I quickly called it a day, but I’m not one to give up so easily. I was determined to make the kayak work, and somehow find my sea legs, but in the end I just could not feel stable (unless I practically sat on the floor) and ultimately decided it just wasn’t the right kayak for me. Needless to say the quest continued.

Then the Jackson Big Rig came along…

I swear rays of the most beautiful sunlight shined down on me through my window blinds (at night!) and the song “Ode to Joy” triumphantly bellowed in the distance when I first got wind of the new Jackson Kayaks Big Rig at the 2013 ICAST show! I was immediately hooked on the amount of thoughtful detail, design, and quality components that this kayak provides for some serious fishing!

I eagerly awaited the arrival of the Big Rig at my local Jackson Kayak dealer, and set up an appointment to demo the kayak. Duane (owner, TG Canoe and Kayak) described all of the features found on the Big Rig, gave me a few instructions, and sent me paddling down the river in the new Big Rig! Hopping into the seat was effortless, and the first thought that popped in my head was that I couldn’t believe how comfortable the chair was- almost like it was made for me. I could literally sit in this chair all day! The layout of the cockpit was extremely roomy, with ease of access to the side rod troughs and the Ram Tough Tube rod holders. The Yak Attack rails in the front are strategically placed, and any accessories I would attach to them would be easily accessible as well. The leg wells are extremely large, and I was able to extend my legs at a very comfortable angle. I could recline if I wanted to! The Big Rig definitely exceeded my expectations for comfort and fishability.

Next thing I noticed was how much fun this yak was to paddle! It was very easy to paddle, with a nice glide, and when I pointed it in the direction I wanted to go it never veered off track. The demo was rigged with a rudder so I deployed it just to give it a try, but didn’t really notice a difference in tracking (as expected on a small river). However, it definitely helped me turn the kayak in tight spaces. Thumbs up for exceptional paddle performance! I was headed back to shore, when I realized that none of the scuppers were plugged, yet no water was coming in- WOW! Freaking unheard of for a guy my size!

I then decided to give the stability a ‘test’ (I fully expected to take a dunk and was prepared by wearing some fast-drying clothes) by leaning precariously to the side, even performing a few quick ‘side-to-side’ leaning maneuvers. I couldn’t believe how hard the chines bite into the water on this yak, and I actually had trouble trying to reasonably force this yak to turtle. Duane told me that I’d fall out of the boat before this thing flipped over- and I couldn’t agree more. I had to sustain a laugh as those exact words were uttered towards my previous kayak and me. After going over a few more details on the yak, Duane then set the chair in the ‘high position’- AHA!!!! In my total amazement of this yak, I totally forgot that this thing has seating options! NOW it’s time for the REAL test for stability!!! I hopped back on, took her out for another paddle, and again TRIED to make her tip over, yet the yak refused to dunk me!! Finally- a kayak that holds true to its core in promising a stable platform! The kayak was already super comfy in the low seating position, so the high position was the icing on the cake for my decision- the Big Rig will be my next yak!

Just one more test… I brought my daughter with me to ‘simulate’ what my gear would weigh in the kayak (she weighs about 65 pounds), and placed her in the rear bay. I’m generally a minimalist when it comes to gear (have to be thanks to my weight), but I was curious to see if the Big Rig could handle the extra weight should I choose to pack some gear for an overnight camping trip. I returned to the river to paddle and I didn’t even feel the ‘added weight’. Simply amazing…

Stability, comfort, paddle performance, and ‘fishability’- Jackson Kayaks nailed it out of the park on ALL of these with the Big Rig!

However, I still had one concern- the seat. If these were ancient times, I know exactly what my God-given moniker would be: “Tantor, Destroyer of All Plastic and Canvas Chairs and Cots”. So obviously, I view any plastic or canvas chair as “not if, but when…” I emailed Jackson Kayaks about my concern with the seat, and Jeff Leach quickly responded and assured me that ‘if’ my seat broke due to my size I would be taken care of, no issues. Folks- this is what exemplary customer service is all about! SOLD!! I’m now a proud owner of a Big Rig in Green Hornet (amazing color!), with a rudder. I don’t think I have ever been this excited to fish from a kayak and I can’t wait for my next fishing trip! Thanks Jackson Kayaks for developing such an awesome kayak for us ‘really big guys’.


– Proud dad, hunter, fisherman, avid outdoor enthusiast, and a ‘really big guy who likes to kayak’