As soon as I joined Jackson kayaks, a little over a year ago, we began chatting about adding an offshore/big water fishing kayak to their already impressive lineup. This style of kayak was the one missing item that they needed to cover fishing from streams and rivers, to ponds and lakes and now the open water.
There was an initial push to get the kayak done quickly but it was agreed that rather than push the boat out we would take our time and get it done right and make a boat we would all be proud of. I truly believe we have done just that.
One of the first steps in the design process was me sitting down and putting together an initial proposal for this yet to be named JS signature offshore kayak. I am a paddler, I started out in touring boats and love kayaks that paddle well so these attributes were at the top of the list, then came a list of features that I would like to see in a big water fishing kayak. I forwarded this list along with some very bad drawings of what I had in mind to Damon the project manager, Tony Lee, the head designer at Jackson, and other members of the design team to get a formal proposal nailed down. We then had to come to a consensus on the specifics for this boat, things like what length and width would we be looking at, hull design and lastly what were the most important deck features, because my list of wants was a bit long.
One of our biggest challenges and questions was weather we could incorporate the Jackson elite seat into an offshore boat. I have fallen in love with this seat but we were not sure if it would work on this boat. If we were going to use it we had to figure out a way to get it lower and more secure. Tony has come up with a fantastic solution for this which will not only give me the comfort of the Elite seat but lock it in and add the ability to adjust the trim on the kayak.
There was some debate as to the length that the kayak should be, sales indicate that shorter kayak sell better, but I had it set in my head that I really wanted a long kayak for gliding across the offshore waters. With the plethora of big boats on the market now I also wanted to be very sure that this was not a Stand Up kayak. My words to the design team on this subject were “If people can stand on it then it is too wide”. Once all was said and done we settled on a proposed length of 15-16 feet and under 30 inches wide. Figuring these dimensions would give us a good balance of speed, stability and volume for carrying all my gear.
In trying to figure out the boat dimensions and hull design our first mission was to take out a variety of kayaks into the rough water and surf zone. By jumping from kayak to kayak and discussing each boats performance it really got us onto the same page as to what we were trying to achieve on our new project. Yeah the fun part of the design process is taking some kayaks out and playing on them. We had a blast.
Once we knew what we were shooting for on the hull the first plug was made so that we could get a prototype built. The first prototype was basically just to dial in the hull no real deck features were included. Once the first prototype was finished it was shipped out to me in San Diego to take for a test drive on some flat water and then in the surf. I have to say for the first run prototype I was already very impressed, the boat had incredible glide was quite and though we had some drainage issues, due to lack of scuppers in the prototype, it surfed like a champ. More fun for me!!
Along with working with Tony and his team I spent a good deal of time chatting with other Jackson team members from around the world to gauge what were the most important features in a kayak for their fisheries. Of course you can’t get all the features built into the kayaks that people are looking for but we tried to make the kayak as easy to modify as possible.
For me one of the most important people in this design process was my good friend and Jackson teammate Sean White. We fish together a lot so have very similar desires for a fishing kayak. We bounced a lot of ideas back and forth for our new boat and he was always an inspiration for new ideas.
Having someone like Tony Lee who can take our crude drawings and ideas and turn them into reality is the key to getting this kayak right. We would hand off our ideas to Tony and he would run with them, making them better than we could have ever hoped.
Of course this process would not be complete without the bumping of heads from time to time. Sometimes working from different sides of the country on a design via phone and emails makes getting ideas across tough. At one point Tony and I just were not seeing eye to eye on a specific area of the kayak and it just was not getting resolved over the phone. We are both very passionate people when it comes to the design of the boat mainly because we both so badly want it to be done right. Because we just couldn’t clear up our differences over the phone, I jumped on a plane the very next day and flew to Jackson Kayak in Sparta Tennessee so we could fight it out in person. This was honestly one of the best things that could have happened during this entire process. Tony and I were able to quickly resolve that one issue, once I could sit in the actual kayak and demonstrate my meaning. We were also able to hammer out many of the final design features on the boat during this visit. If I had not made that trip I think we would have been another couple weeks in bringing this boat to market. Of course since I was there I also got to jump on the latest prototype and even got it out for a fish and got several largemouth bass on a local lake. More fun and yes a fish has already been landed on the new boat.
When we first started work on this kayak the name Kraken was one that I had my mind set on. I love the image of this mythical sea beast that can sink even the largest ships and ruled the seas. I liked it so much I had a friend and artist Jackie Endlich draw up some concepts of a logo for me then I took those concepts to another friend and tattoo artist Charles Belnavis and had him logo up my left arm. These two pieces of art where then sent to Jackson kayak and turned into the actual logo for the Kraken. Thankfully they agreed to name the boat The Kraken, after all it was already a permanent part of my body. You can see the final version at the top of this article.
With the Outdoor Retailer trade show planned as the event to Release The Kraken Tony and the guys at Jackson have been busting their tails off to get the boat ready for the show. Over the past couple days I have had countless texts and emails updating me on the process and consulting on the final details, things that just can’t be done until you have a molded kayak on hand to work with.
I have been in the kayak fishing business for over twenty years and to say I am excited to have my name on this boat would be a gross understatement. Though my name is on the boat this truly was a team effort and I can’t thank everyone involved enough for pulling this all together. I hope that everyone that has a chance to see and paddle the Kraken loves it.
The Kraken, putting the kayak back in kayak fishing.