IF you're looking for the ultimate estuary and freshwater kayak package, Jackson's Coosa HD could be your ticket. Scott Thomas reports.
CHOOSING the perfect kayak comes down to a number of factors. Is it comfortable enough to fish all day? Is it stable? Does it track well? And most importantly, is it designed specifically for fishing?
After a long search, my brother Mark found a kayak which ticked all of these boxes and more. Mark is an experienced freshwater and estuary fisho and owns a couple of other kayaks including a Wilderness System Tarpon 120 and an Ocean Kayak Prowler Elite 4.1. Both are great kayaks, but Mark was looking for something more comfortable for long stints on the water and with a few more dedicated fishing features. The Jackson Coosa HD was the obvious choice.
The Jackson Coosa HD is the latest in a series of models from the specialist US kayak manufacturer. Boat Fishing has previously reviewed an earlier model Coosa and various other Jackson models. Former Fisho staffer Mick Fletoridis also owns an earlier version of the Coosa.
What is the Coosa?
The original Coosa is Jackson’s flagship all round fishing kayak. It’s a good length around 12 foot (3.6m) and a beamy 86cm. At this size it makes an ideal kayak for all sorts of calm water fishing. It’s small and nimble enough for tiny freshwater creeks while not out of place on a lake or large estuary.
Like a lot of high-end fishing kayaks, it’s built specifically with sport fishing in mind with an extensive list of features. It’s made of unbreakable polyethylene plastic designed to take some hard knocks and stand up to years of mistreatment. The original ’yak also featured a comfy elevated seat and plenty of tackle and rod storage.
So what is the HD model? While the Coosa HD, at first glance, looks very similar to the original Coosa, it quickly became obvious how many changes Jackson had made. The Coosa HD is pretty much a newly designed kayak with a range of improvements, while maintaining the Coosa DNA.
The first and most important modification is the length and beam. It’s slightly longer and wider. This means the HD paddles faster and remains more stable at rest. Given the Coosa is beamy enough and designed for standing, Jackson has also improved the floor and created a true grippy flat platform. Compared to the original rigid moulding, the new floor makes it simple to stand and fish in comfort without any worry about slipping.
Another major modification is the built in console. This removable plastic addition provides extra storage space and even has a built-in spool holder for quick leader changes.
Another major change is the shape of the Coosa's topsides are now flat and provide a useful point for mounting sounders and other accessories.
As already mentioned, Mark wanted a kayak that was comfortable enough for fishing all day without causing too much pain. Jackson has one of the comfiest seats on the market which comes with a ThermaRest lumber support. Most importantly, like a lot of modern kayaks, the seat is elevated and has high and low positions for fishing. An elevated position is the key for comfortable fishing!
The HD version features a recessed transom which fits an optional PowerPole Micro Anchor or Jackson anchoring system. The PowerPole would be a great accessory if you do a lot of shallow water fishing. The other more affordable option is to use a stake pole through one of the scupper holes.
The front of the kayak features an enclosed rod tip keeper which protects the rod against wayward branches and hazards. It's also possible to store a fully rigged rod down one side out of harms way. I like this option as opposed to holding rods vertically. In small bushy creeks, vertically stored rods are never a good idea.
Under the bow hatch there's ample room for storing additional gear or camping supplies for multi day trips. The Coosa's generous depth means you can squeeze a lot of gear into this hatch. There’s also more gear storage at the opposite end of the yak and a recessed section for a crate or small ice box. Underneath the seat there’s space for several tackle trays, plus there’s dedicated tackle box storage within easy reach of each side of the seat.
The HD costs a little more than Jackson’s standard Coosa. However, while you pay more, you also receive all of the above extra additions plus a bunch of handy accessories.
Jackson has partnered with brands such as GoPro, Buck and a few others to provide customers a fit-out package to accessorise their Coosa HD. There are GoPro attachments, an adjustable camera pole, tackle trays, drink bottle, pliers and more. It’s a nice touch to receive these products, and for newcomers to kayak fishing, you’re buying a complete package. All you need is a paddle, a rod and reel, and some lures and you’re ready to fish.
On the water
On paper the Coosa HD looks almost perfect, but how does it perform while fishing? On the water it's a fantastic fishing kayak. The wide beam and hull shape allows for a high level of stability while fishing. You'd fall off this kayak before capsizing! Another factor to consider is how easily it turns. Mark often chases bass in creeks and rivers and the ability to turn on a dime is useful while fishing against snags or while fighting fish. Again, the Coosa performs well in this regard.
Everything is a compromise and with easy turning and stability, the original Coosa wasn't as good at tracking. While paddling over distance the nose would move slightly side-to-side after each paddle stroke. It wasn't a major problem, it just wasn't as fast as some of the more streamlined kayaks out there. Interestingly Jackson has somewhat fixed this by tweaking the length and hull shape. While it's no speed machine, it does paddle in a straight line and is perfectly fine for most fishing trips. If you're looking to cover any distance at speed, a specialised fishing kayak isn't the answer anyway.
Another positive is the spacious fishing area. Compared to some other kayaks, the Coosa has an abundance of space and you don't at all feel cramped.
All of the Coosa's features mean it ain't light! Loading the 'yak on and off your car solo will take a bit of practise. Most quality roof rack suppliers have accessories to help load heavy kayaks and these are worth keeping in mind.
Is the HD worth the extra dollars? With a retail price around $2600, the Coosa HD doesn't come cheap. Even so, for such a premium package which includes all the bells and whistles, it's a small price to pay for such a fishing friendly kayak. If you're into chasing natives or estuary fishing for bream, flatties, or jewies, the Coosa HD could well be the perfect 'yak!
Check it out at www.horizonline.com.au.