Tested July 2012
Jackson took concepts developed for the company's 2011 sensation, the pioneering river-running Coosa fishing kayak, and made them bigger and better for the new Cuda. It's purpose-built as a "standable" kayak, and comes complete with an assist strap that makes the transition from seated to vertical much less dicey. The discussion really has to start with the mesh Elite Hi-Lo seat though--a veritable throne that lives up to its name. The rod stagers notched into the foredeck also carry over from the Coosa, securing rods lying on the deck. The new goodies include one of the better stretched-out cockpit hatches going--one large enough to stash even the big guns favored for blue-water big game--and Jackson's new, unique rod tip cover up front that deflects "grabby" shoreline branches. Our testers gave it good grades for fishing the flats, where its quiet hull, high seating, on-deck tackle storage and stand-up stability are great strengths, but also remarked that it has most of the hallmarks of a true open-water boat. Only downside to this otherwise killer crossover: The relatively low-volume bow spears through surf and chop, making for a soggy ride.
Jackson Kayak Cuda
($1,199; $1,399 with rudder in roto-molded, high-density linear polyethylene, jacksonkayak.com)
L: 14'3"; W: 29.75"; 74 lbs., 400-lb. capacity