For 2015 I’ve opted to paddle the new Jackson Coosa HD, one of Jackson’s newest fishing kayak models along with the Kraken. As much as I enjoyed the Jackson Kilroy from last fall, I was curious about the Coosa HD due to all of the hype it was getting and had to get a look at it for myself. To say I was impressed is a huge understatement and I knew the HD would be my choice of kayak for the 2015 season. Since ordering and receiving my HD in the new GI Jackson color, I’ve spent some time on the water with it, but we’ll get to that in a bit. First, let me walk you through what I feel is one of the most versatile fishing kayaks on the market, the Jackson Kayak Coosa HD.
A Drew Gregory signature kayak, the HD was designed with Drew’s input. However, the designers at Jackson had a large hand in making Drew’s ideas come to life and they knocked it out of the ballpark on this one. The idea behind the HD was to upgrade the old style Coosa, a strong seller in the Jackson line up and a great river kayak. The design team had the idea of offering a model that was a bit more versatile for those of us who fish more open water such as lakes or inshore saltwater flats, as well as rivers. They also wanted a kayak that was rich with features and the HD is exactly that.
Starting at the bow, the first thing that your eye will catch is the large front hatch. This thing is so big that you can easily carry several days worth of gear on a multiple night camping/fishing trip. With a nice seal around the hatch and bungee to hold the hinged lid down tight, no doubt all of your gear will stay nice and dry. Although I haven’t tested it for myself, I’m sure you could fit your rods down there too if need be.
You’ll also quickly notice that all of the bungee enclosures are equipped with these great JK pull tabs. They might look like a simple feature, but man are they ever nice for hooking and unhooking bungee cords!
Next up, if you look on both sides of the front hatch, are the rod tip covers. Designed to protect your rod tips from catching on obstructions, these things saved my fly rod on my very first trip out in the HD.
Looking at the entire cockpit area, you’ll notice Jackson provided the cushioning on the floor of the cockpit area. This stuff is great for both comfort and silencing noise. You can also see on the inside of the cockpit and to the right, the sheath for the included Splizzors by Buck Knives. These things are awesome! They work as everything from pliers to braided line cutters, and from a bottle opener to split shot crimps. Look them up at http://www.buckknives.com. The Splizzors themselves are easily mounted inside the HD’s cockpit with simple thumbscrews, keeping them easily within reach when you need them. Of course, like all Jackson fishing kayaks, rod holders are included. There’s plenty of gear track on the HD to position your rod holders and other accessories right where you want them. Last but not least and something I’ve already used numerous times, is the stand assist strap. Gotta have it for those times when you need to get up out of the seat and do some fly fishing!
But what about that fancy center console you ask? Let’s take a look at that. The first thing you’ll notice about the center console is that it has a handy center compartment for storing smaller items such as your cell phone, keys, etc. When unlatching the center console’s bungee and lifting up, you’ll see that it easily folds up to provide access to an area molded in the floor of the HD specifically for your fish finder battery and a dedicated scupper hole for a transducer, not to mention a spot for the included Jackson Nalgene water bottle. See what I mean? These guys thought of it all! Well, it gets better. If you look at the underside of the center console, you’ll notice a spooling station for keeping leader material handy and at the ready. Pretty handy huh! To top it all off, and those of you who fly fish will like this, the entire center console is completely removable with a couple of thumbscrews to provide you with a more open deck. I’ve fly fished a few times from the HD and haven’t found the center console to be much of an issue, but I definitely will take it out on future trips I’m sure.
Front / Back and Sides
On the front and back of the HD are the standard handles for carrying the kayak, but on the left and right side of this model you’ll see that they added some material for padding. This makes carrying the HD’s 79 pounds (without the seat) a tad more comfortable. Also in the below picture, you’ll see one of the bungee straps that are on both sides of the HD to hold your fishing rods in place while the tips are in the rod tip protectors.
This brings us to what has become my absolute favorite feature of the HD, the seat. Jackson’s new Elite Seat 3.0 provides the comfort one would expect from a Jackson fishing kayak, and then some. Included with the seat is an inflatable Therm-A-Rest lumbar support that maximizes comfort and lets you adjust the seat to your personal preference. I feel most kayak anglers underestimate the importance of a comfortable seat by failing to recognize that the more comfortable you are, the longer you’ll stay in the kayak and on the water. Of course the longer you’re in your kayak and on the water, the better your chances of catching fish are. Underneath the Elite Seat 3.0, you’ll see storage pockets for the two included waterproof Plano 3640 tackle boxes. We all know you can never have too many 3640’s for your favorite lures! The tackle boxes can also, if you wish, be stored under the seat on the floor or upright in the molded in pockets on both sides of the seat. On the back of the Elite Seat 3.0 you’ll notice the familiar mesh storage pocket which comes in pretty handy for storing more tackle trays, rain gear, or other items you want to easily access while on the water.
Of course the HD’s seat can easily be put in either a high or low position like the older model Jackson seats, and I find the high position to be my favorite thanks to the HD’s amazing stability (more on that in a bit). However, all of the Elite Seat’s features that I’ve mentioned previously are not the reasoning it has become my favorite feature of this model. Rather it’s the versatility and option to move the seat forward and aft to adjust the trim of the HD that really trips my trigger. If fishing a river, you can put the seat all the way back to loosen up the front of the hull for easier handling and maneuverability. Yet, if you’re going to do like I did the other day and paddle for hours on end while trolling for crappie or simply have a lot of water to cover to get to your favorite spot, you can put the seat more forward for easier paddling. Personally I’ve found my favorite spot is with the seat in the middle of the trim settings and in the high position. This is, for a guy my size anyway, a nice balance between handling and speed on just about any body of water.
Moving back, we’ll find two (one on each side, just slightly behind the seat) flush mount rod holders. With these and the rod stagers (bungees and rod tip protectors) along the sides of the HD, you can easily carry four rods if you so wish without any problems at all. My Sage 8 weight fly rod is a bit long, but it still rides easily in one of the rod stagers while my baitcasting and spinning rods ride in these flush mounts.
The tank well of the HD is the perfect size for a standard milk crate, Jackson J Krate, Orion cooler, or the many other options out there for us kayak anglers. My favorite feature of the tank well are the new turn knobs on the gear track, making it easy to adjust the tank well bungee easily instead of having to mess with getting a screwdriver. Super easy and convenient, even while on the water.
On the left side of the tank well (as you sit in the seat of the HD), is where the included YakAttack Boom Stick cameral pole sits. Super adjustable, the Boom Stick is a welcome feature for those of us who video our fishing trips and want a camera mount with more than just one angle option.
Moving to the stern of the Coosa HD, we come to the rear hatch. Once again, plenty of space for getting inside the hull of the HD and storing lots of extra gear, while at the same time keeping it all dry with the bungee secured, hinged lid.
Last but not least, I love the way the stern of the HD is molded. Remember when I said the design team thought of everything? Check this out. The crew at Jackson shaped the stern to both be drag chain ready for those of you who use one and capable of accepting a Micro Power Pole without the need of modification for those of you who want to go that route. Pretty dang sweet, huh!
So that’s a look at the 2015 Jackson Coosa HD. Now that you’re familiar with this feature rich model from my favorite kayak manufacturer, you’re probably wondering how does the HD perform right? The HD paddles pretty similar to the Kilroy with the Kilroy being maybe slightly faster due to it weighing considerably less than the HD. However, the HD is plenty fast for me and paddles easily enough that four hours of trolling for crappie didn’t wear me out whatsoever. It’s not going to paddle as fast as the new Kraken of course, but what it lacks in speed it definitely makes up for in stability. The Coosa HD is, to me anyway, right in between the Jackson Big Rig and the Kilroy on the stability chart. I’ve heard the HD referred to as a little Big Rig and I think that’s a very fair comparison. I’m 45 years old, 250 pounds and a bit “top heavy” if ya know what I mean, yet I feel perfectly comfortable standing in the HD and casting a fly rod. I can’t say that about too many kayaks on the market today. Whether your sight casting to redfish on a saltwater flat or fly fishing for northern pike on a Canadian lake, if you want a stable kayak then this is one for you to check out. However, don’t take my word for it. Do yourself a favor and get to your nearest Jackson dealer (see http://www.jacksonkayak.com to find yours) to test paddle the new Coosa HD.