Freshwater Shark: the Thresher Hunts Inland – An admittedly biased Wilderness Systems’ new fish chaser

An admittedly biased Wilderness Systems' new fish chaser

A shark strikes: Jeff Little puts a Wilderness Systems Thresher to the test on a local freshwater fishery. All photos courtesy Jeff Little.
A shark strikes: Jeff Little puts a Wilderness Systems Thresher to the test on a local freshwater fishery. All photos courtesy Jeff Little.

By Jeff Little

As a Wilderness Systems Pro Staffer, my opinions of the new Thresher 140 are decidedly biased. In terms of an objectively critical analysis of the boat, I can offer the perspective of an angler who targets freshwater species. The Thresher was primarily developed to deliver the angler through the gauntlet of a surf launch. I have little opportunity to test it in that manner, but in the first four trips that I’ve used the kayak it has seen a variety of fisheries: whitewater in smallmouth rivers, tidal flats targeting largemouth and on brackish water targeting Chesapeake Bay striped bass. Its angling-rich features and speed make it a good boat for many freshwater applications as well as it’s intended fishery beyond the breakers.

River Runner
The first mile I paddled the Thresher 140 was against the swift current of the Susquehanna River to a riffle my buddy Jed and I knew held bruiser smallmouth. I immediately noticed its speed. The overall shape of the boat is long and only as wide as it needs to be to maintain incredible seated stability. This provides a glide that requires little effort to maintain a quick pace. When Jed and I reached our destination, he commented that he might want one for next season’s bass tournaments, where speed is a critical advantage.

We ended up ascending several miles upstream, including scooting through some shallow water. Its large and lean footprint in the water means it drafts shallower than other shorter, rounder river boats. This description might concern the river angler from a standpoint of not being able to turn as well as needed in rapids, however it handled a strong class 2 rapid. The ledge drop with a minor angle adjustment mid-chute went much better than I expected. The rounded hull designed to throw waves away from the angler accounted for that ability to turn. It’s no whitewater boat, but it handled a class 2 with ease.

The Thresher 140 also ferried across some rather strong chutes at the base of a major rapid without being pulled downstream thanks to that rounded leading keel line. The trade-off for this rounded and bulbous bow is that the wind catches it more than a Wilderness Systems Tarpon or Ride. The difference is minor, but on windy days, you will want to employ a bow mounted anchor to hold on a spot. I strongly recommend ordering this boat with a rudder, for many reasons, but the wind factor while paddling is easily countered by the use of a rudder.

Jeff Little likes having a boat that is stable enough to climb out onto the bow to change a video camera battery or access the new bow storage well.
Jeff Little likes having a boat that is stable enough to climb out onto the bow to change a video camera battery or access the new bow storage well.

Tidewater Troller
The next fisheries I used the Thresher on were closer to its intended purpose. The first was the tidal largemouth fishery of the Susquehanna Flats at the top of the Chesapeake Bay. This area has excellent largemouth bass fishing in the grassy shallows and striped bass in the deeper channel edges running through the flats. The second tidal trip I used the boat on Eastern Bay on the Kent Island side of the Chesapeake. A friend and I chased breaking fish and the birds that told us where to find them.

Again, speed was a major advantage in keeping up with the moving schools of stripers. We trolled small umbrella rigs behind the kayaks, picking up 18- to 22-inchers on each pass. In many instances, we traced a specific depth transition. The new gas pedal-style rudder system really made sticking to a specific depth easy. The old sliding track rudder controls did the trick, but the new design makes for more comfortable and intuitive steering.

New Features
Much of the day, we were zig-zagging across the deep to shallow transition trying to find fish. This occasionally resulted in a trolled line fouling in the rudder itself. The newly redesigned rudder blade and wheel proved to shed the wrapped braided line much easier than the old style . A simple lift and drop of the blade freed the line.

I film kayak fishing adventures for a streaming video site called Tight Line Junkie’s Journal. It may seem like a minor thing, but having a boat that is stable enough for me to climb out onto the bow to change a video camera battery in open water is one of my favorite things about the boat. It also allows the angler to access a new bow storage well. On our trips to the Chesapeake, I carried two tackle trays, extra water, an emergency clothing dry bag and an extra battery for my buddy’s Torqeedo motor in this spacious storage area. Its forward lifting lid allows for much easier access compared to the hatch style storage. Plus, in December, you'll be able to upgrade to a high capacity bow hood, further expanding storage opportunities in the bow.

A unique paddle park sits atop the hatch – a place for you to easily slide the blade of your paddle when you need to turn around and access gear behind you, drag the kayak to the water, or put it out of the way to fight a fish.

Near the end of the foot well is the FlexPod OS (Over-Sized). I’ve installed a Raymarine Dragonfly 7 depthfinder on my pod. The larger version of the pod that Wilderness Systems introduced with the Ride 115X provides more than enough space for all the extraneous power and transducer cables plus a battery and a spare. The large pass-through transducer scupper hole beneath the pod is large enough for the seven-inch-long down imaging transducer head to fit. While running over sharp ledge rocks, the transducer head is protected. The pod can also be used for storage or other electronic accessories like a Power Pole Micro, or battery storage for LED lighting.

Another storage area is in between the angler’s legs, this time within arm’s reach. The long hinged hatch was initially designed to provide in-hull storage for rods during a surf launch. The top deck of the lid is laced up with bungees to clip carabineers with pliers to, and is the perfect width to slide a Hawg Trough measuring device into. Forward on the hatch is a length of accessory track that allows the angler to quickly install a rod holder, RAM ball or other accessories.

Park that paddle: the Thresher's new go-stick stash.
Park that paddle: the Thresher’s new go-stick stash.

I ordered an accessory tray that fits inside the rod locker and allows me to put things like pliers, my lunch or a ZipLoc bag full of soft plastics within easy reach. I’m thinking that the tray might partially replace the need to put every piece of tackle in my YakAttack BlackPak behind me. Between the front storage, the center hatch, and the FlexPod OS, much of the storage weight has been moved forward in the boat, trimming out how it sits in the water, ultimately making it a faster paddling boat.

The mid-boat handles are integrated into the hull of the boat as opposed to being a piece of hardware that you bang your knuckles across, or have line catch on. The handles at the front and back of the boat are similarly low profile, durably rigid and much more comfortable than anything that pinches or twists under weight.

A rope runs the length of the boat. I assume it allows an angler who has been tossed during a surf launch to grab for reboarding. I have not figured out how they will be useful to me in a freshwater fishery, but they also have not been in my way at all. A set of straps spans the rear storage well allowing vigorous security for gear boxes. Innovations like these give me pause – what kind of brutal experiences lead to someone deciding that they need straps and hull attachment hardware strong enough to strap a piano to the back of a kayak? Whatever gear loss happened to result in this feature shouldn’t happen again.

No boat is the perfect blend of hull design, length and features for all waters. This one is obviously designed with specific fisheries in mind that are very different than the ones I frequent. However I was pleasantly surprised by how many of this boats strengths – speed, stability and storage – fit very well into the places I fish.

Bass man Jeff Little doesn’t have much use for a surf launch, but he’s no stranger to moving water. The Kayak Fish contributing editor regularly threads the boisterous rapids of his native Susquehanna River.