Contributed by Jeff Malott
Over the last several years kayak manufacturers have been pushing the envelope when it comes to innovation in fishing kayaks. New pedal drives, deck layouts, storage options, hull designsto name just a few. Wilderness Systems has introduced the ATAK and Thresher models, Jackson rolled out its Coosa HD, Feel Free, Native and Hobie have also come out with new offerings in the recent past. Kayak shopping during these exciting times can be a little confusing. But if you’re in the market for a new one in the midst of this excitement, don’t forget about one of the most versatile boats ever made, the Ride 135.
At just over $1000 for the base model, the ride comes in at a very reasonable price point for a premium kayak. It comes rigged standard with the AirPro Freedom Elite seat and plenty of factory installed track on both sides of the boat making accessory mounting easy, especially if you don’t feel comfortable drilling holes in your kayak. The kayak is pre drilled and tapped for the available rudder kit. If you fish in an area that wind is an issue I highly recommend this add on. The Ride 135 is solid, demonstrates better than average stability and a pontoon style hull that is battleship tough. I have dropped, dragged, and pounded my Ride in every way imaginable without the hint of a hull failure. Standing to fish is no problem for most people and using the stand assist strap makes it easy even at my gangly 6″3″ height. My only issue has been not having enough floor space to adjust my foot position while standing up. Measuring 13.5 feet long and 32 inches wide, the Ride tracks well and even with the wider hull gets up to cruising speed fairly easy. Two hatches offer access to storage inside the hull. This storage runs the length of the boat and is the reason the 135 is still my go to river boat, especially for overnight trips.
One of the complaints you sometimes hear about the ride series is the sheer weight of the kayak. The Ride 135 weighs 82 pounds, which is pretty heavy compared to other kayaks in its class. The tradeoff for the added weight is the stability and hull strength as previously mentioned.. If I could improve anything on the design of this boat it would be the deck itself. There are several ridges and cut outs that are nice for laying down tools or lures without having them roll around, but these raised areas also make it difficult to stand for anglers with larger feet. Flattening the deck much like the new ATAK would really add to this boat. One more shortcoming is the lack of an electronics pod. Most of the newer boats offer some sort of ready-made mounting system or at least a transducer scupper hole to accommodate most fish finders or other electronics. I have tested the versatility of this boat over and over. My Ride has been down the smallest streams and beyond the breakers in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve paddled through wind, rain, snow, and ice with no issues. It has truly been a do it all boat for me. These days I mostly use my ATAK when on the lake or competing with the additional features it offers. While it is not a perfect boat, my Ride still sits on my trailer.
Every time I take it out I am reminded why I will always own one. I have contemplated selling it several times, even put it on craigslist for a minute. I just can’t get rid of it! If you are in the market for a new kayak, get out and demo all the new boats you can before making a purchase. Remember though: with a low entry price, outstanding versatility, and trusted reliability, you definitely don’t want to forget about the Ride 135.