I started looking around for kayak options when I decided I wanted more from a boat. In 2005 I purchased a sit-in style "angler" kayak that was only about 10 ft in length. It had a rod holder and that was about it. I bought a paddle and a life jacket and thought I was set. I used that little kayak many times and for many years. Eventually, I got fed up with being uncomfortable after about an hour and I got tired of folding my 6'5" frame in and out of the sit-in style. There had to be a better option. A friend of mine turned me on to the Jackson Kayak lineup and after reading many reviews and watching the walk-through videos on their site, I purchased the Coosa from Delaware Paddlesports in 2012.
What can I say? The Coosa from Jackson Kayak acts as my "all-in-one" transportation to many different hunting and fishing destinations. I have used it duck hunting on public waters. I have used it in local fishing tournaments on the reservoirs in the area. I have also fly fished from it drifting along my favorite rivers. For me, it covers about as much as I can ask for in a single boat. Jackson Kayak's website refers to it as "the answer to the evolving needs of the river and small water kayak fisherman". I have the original Coosa in desert camo, which is what I will be talking about in this review. This kayak was designed by their fishing pro Drew Gregory. Here is the video with him doing the walk-through.
A few specs- from www.jacksonkayak.com
Hi-Lo Seat- Yes
Paddle Stager- Yes
Material- Linear Poly
Total Capacity- 375 lbs
Weight- 70 lbs (64 w/out the seat)
Stability- As mentioned before, I am a large human being. I am 6'5" and weigh over 225 lbs. After I flipped it (and lost an expensive rod) on its maiden voyage, I have become accustomed to it and have not fallen out of it since. It is extremely stable. I have not mastered the standing part that they so often mention on their website, but I think I'm slightly larger than the guys demonstrating it. I trust this kayak while duck hunting the cold waters of the Potomac as well as paddling through low class rapids in a smaller river. The versatility of the two position Hi-Lo seat helps out. I personally like the low position when traveling longer distances or if I am taking it duck hunting. It sits slightly forward of the Hi position and with the weight shift, allows for more of the bow to come in contact with the water. For fly fishing or drifting, I like to move it to the Hi position so I have a better view of the water. I especially like this position when fly fishing as it allows more room and freedom to cast.
Tracking- The Coosa is meant for river fishing. I have paddled upwards of 2 miles upstream to get to a certain destination and while it is by no means the fastest kayak, it glides over the current fairly well. I really like the overall weight of the boat. It is not heavy compared to similar kayaks and even with my added weight, I can get it moving well. Additionally the Hi-Lo seat provides options to increase maneuverability.
Durability- I have pushed this kayak to its limits in terms of weather conditions, skinny water and submerged boulders. It has the usual scratches and dings from boat ramps and submerged boulders, but the structural integrity of the boat is as good as it was on day 1. The paint does not scratch or chip away because it is actually molded into the body.
Fishability- This kayak is truly set up to provide many advantages when fishing on the water. Multiple rod staging features as well as dual rod holders shooting out behind the seat provide the option to A) bring multiple rods and B) have multiple rods available at any given time. This is a huge advantage when fishing unknown waters or when you are trying to locate fish. I can keep a baitcaster with a swimbait in one of the back rod holders. I can also keep a spinning rod with a jerk bait in one of the staging areas while fishing a rod with a spinnerbait. The rods I am not using are secure and out of the way in case I need to grab the paddle or fight a fish.
Additonal Features I Like- The front hatch and rear storage hatches are lockable. The front hatch is the perfect size for a half dozen mallard decoys while the back hatch is big enough to put a pair of waders and blind bag in. When empty, both hatches are completely open and connect under the kayak, which allows additional storage for rods.
Cons- While not really a con because of the river kayak design, this boat is not meant for large, open bodies of water. I have used it on reservoirs and lakes under calm conditions. It does just fine. When the wind picks up or if you are using it in tidal waters, it is easy to get pushed off course (minimally). It just requires a little extra "oomph" when paddling to stay on track. This is by no means a design flaw and if your fishing or hunting adventures require larger bodies of water and better tracking capabilities, be sure to check out their other fishing kayaks.
*I have since added an action cam mount that fits in one of the rear rod holders which offers an over-the-shoulder camera perspective that I really like. Additionally, I added the drag chain (a quick YouTube search will show you how) which is really great when you want to slow down and fish a specific section of river.
Conclusion/Afterthought- Since its inception, the Coosa has provided an answer for those anglers and hunters looking for a "utility" vessel. It's overall versatility is important to me and for the money, cannot be matched. I can confidently recommend this kayak to both hunters and fishermen looking to get into the sport or upgrade from their current kayak.
Jackson Kayak has since upgraded many features on the original Coosa, as well as introduced the Coosa HD (MSRP $1699). The Coosa HD would probably be the only kayak on the market to draw me away from my original. It adds additional length and width (perfect for bigger guys) and it's slightly longer hull design allows for better tracking. Jackson Kayak has also partnered with a number of companies to provide options such as Ram and GoPro inserts, YakAttack Boomstick, and a new Elite Seat 3.0. I'd be beyond thrilled to get my hands on this new bad boy.