Bonafide SS127 Kayak Review

Bonafide SS127 Kayak ReviewIt’s not a secret that the Bonafide SS127 has been on the review wish list for me for almost a year now. Watching videos of people paddling the prototype made me even more curious because all of the ideas and dreams of Luther Cifers and his team were molded into a plastic prototype that received some pretty glowing feedback. I needed to paddle this kayak and quick. The curiosity was killing me.

One of the things I didn’t see a lot of in the videos I watched were people paddling in straight lines over distance so I wanted to make that a priority. I also didn’t want to test it in glassy calm conditions and luckily the weather agreed. We took the SS127 out on Stillhouse Hollow. The skies were partly cloudy, winds from the south at 15 to 20 mph. We fished and paddled the two hours before sunset.

Bobby Clark, Bonafide’s Promotional Team Manager, happened to be heading through my area of Texas last week and asked if I wanted to meet up. I jumped at the chance. This would give me a couple of hours in the kayak, I could paddle it on a big lake, fish from it, and see what was what.

One final note before we get into the nuts and bolts here. The kayak I paddled was a prototype. There will be differences, as with all kayaks, from the prototype version I paddled and the production models out later this fall. Please keep that in mind.

The Specifications

Bonafide SS127 Kayak Review Specs SpecificationsPrice: $1,599

Length: 12’ 7”

Width: 33.5”

Weight: 75 lbs.

Capacity: 475 lbs.

The Good

Bonafide SS127 Kayak Review Specs SpecificationsThe first thing I noticed on the kayak in person was the self-retracting stern handle. It’s a nice touch, had a wide, solid form, and was designed in a way to not bust your knuckles. I suppose it stuck out to me because it didn’t stick out and was a new twist on something pretty standard in the kayak market.

Once the Bonafide SS127 was on the shore, Bobby walked me through different seat positions (high and low) and how to move the seat between the two. When it comes to seats that have multiple positions, this is by far the most secured seat in a kayak I have seen (short of bolting it down). The locking mechanisms and multi-position channels give you adjustment and security. I didn’t flip the kayak but the design appears to be able to retain the seat should a turtle occur. As a person who fishes in sometimes iffy conditions, I appreciate one less thing to add to the yard sale.

Locking down the seat, whether high or low position is not a problem, but moving from one to the other while on the water with a little chop is going to take some practice. I was able to do it without assistance but the first couple of times took some focus.

Bonafide SS127 Kayak Review Specs Specifications
The seat locking mechanism on the Bonafide SS127 Kayak

The high position on the Bonafide is high. Really high. It is a little strange sitting up that high and still feeling secure. Normally I’d expect a little side to side rock and instability sitting that high but it just wasn’t true. This was one of many times I asked Bobby if I was interpreting the kayaks design correctly. It shouldn’t be that stable, at that height, in that kind of chop, but it was. Beyond being able to see better from the high position, the angle of my knees was such that I didn’t get the normal foot fatigue, tingling, asleep sensation that different angled seats of varying heights can cause. It’s a lot more like sitting in a desk chair than a lawn chair if that makes sense.

Stability is absolutely as advertised. The Bonafide SS127 is a kayak I would estimate 75% of the population will be able to stand and fish or stand and paddle. It has secondary stability built into the design which may catch newer paddlers off guard. If you lean to one side with all your weight, it feels like the kayak is going to dip into the water or flip but as you get to the secondary stability it catches and doesn’t progress any further into the water. Can this kayak be flipped? Sure, any kayak can be flipped but this platform is made to keep you dry whether standing or sitting.

This is a dry kayak. I have been in several kayaks advertising 450lb+ weight capacities and at just under 200lbs I can have water gurgling up through the scuppers. That isn’t a worry with the Bonafide. It is as advertised and really dry which could make it a great winter kayak for folks who venture out in the colder months and want as little water as possible on the deck. (In wetter boats you could always go scupper plugs but then you lose the ability to drain water quickly).

The deck layout is fairly open. I like that it comes with an electronics pod and padded decking standard. The paddle park is a nice touch as well. The junk drawer under the seat came in handy during my time out for storing my pliers and terminal tackle. I appreciated that it slid out on a GearTrac and could be secured with the twist of a knob. And while we are on it, the Bonafide SS127 is covered in YakAttack GearTrac. Mounting accessories will not be a problem in this kayak.

Bonafide SS127 Review

Paddling the Bonafide SS127

Bonafide SS127 Kayak Deck Layout
Bonafide SS127 Kayak Deck Layout

The Bonafide SS127 paddles differently than almost every kayak on the market. It doesn’t perform how I expected it would based on the design features. I kept having to ask Bobby if it was doing what I thought it was doing.

The kayak was sluggish in the high position while sitting in the seat. I expected it to move faster than it did and I had to expend more effort to move it from Point A to Point B in the wind. On a calm day you might not notice it but paddling against a head wind was work.

With the seat in the low position the SS127 paddles like a completely different kayak. Pushing directly into the wind it is a little sluggish but moved better than expected for a kayak with a stability hull. The nose walked a little side to side but not annoyingly. The most surprising thing in the wind however was the ability to lean and cut. We used to call it carving a wave.

I could lean to one side of the kayak, hit a 45 degree angle and the kayak would carve the wave and utilize its momentum to carry to boat forward with less effort. I started laughing I was having so much fun cross cutting waves and barely having to use the paddle. Is that important to most folks? Not at all. Is it nice to have features designed into a stability hull that perform more like a touring adventure kayak? You bet it is! And it also made it much easier paddling back to the ramp.

Curious because of all the video I had seen from Florida, I wanted to see about calm water situations while we were out so Bobby and I tucked back into a creek so I could paddle it there and also test it in some skinny water. The glide on the Bonafide SS127 is pretty great. If you were used to fishing heavier, wider kayaks, there would be an adjustment for you. When the wind isn’t blowing, the 127 will glide and continue to use momentum for a good while. I past the first spot I was trying to hit because I stopped paddling too late.

The turning radius on the Bonafide is comparable to most other 12 foot kayaks on the market. I would rather have the performance in the hull that is designed in than a flat bottom kayak that spins in the wind. It took three paddle strokes to turn the kayak 180 degrees. At 60 degrees per stroke, that’s pretty comparable to most performance, high end kayaks, made with stability in mind.

Points of Improvement

Side handles are a must. The Bonafide SS127 as a prototype does not have side carry/load handles. It needs them. They don’t have to be fancy but with the surface area and weight of this kayak, car topping anglers will want an extra handle or two, especially midship.

Bonafide SS127 Kayak Deck Layout
Could the perch pads be turned into 3700 Series box storage?

Rod holders aren’t a thing on this kayak. The rod stagers up front will guide the rods horizontally along the front of the kayak but they aren’t going to work for folks who want to troll or utilize flush mount rod holders to hold a net, gaff , or other device like a YakAttack Dog Bone. There is GearTrac so if you wanted to add rocket launchers or Zookas you could but they won’t be on the kayak when you buy it. My guess is most folks are using a milk crate or BlackPak solution now so rod holders weren’t a necessary design element. I wish it had two flush mounts behind the seat but I’m old school in that thinking.

The seat is good in many ways but the bar that is at the back of the seat pan (where your tailbone sits) is in a weird place. It needs to bow out more or be moved a couple of inches. It hits right on a nerve that can be uncomfortable.

The “Perch Pads” I don’t get. I have never seen anyone fish like that, standing on the gunwales. It’s a cool look but I felt much more comfortable a couple of inches lower in the deck of the kayak standing up. Maybe those areas could be turned into box storage for a 3700 series box? I get the cool factor, I just can’t wrap my mind around the usability of the space for most consumers. I would think standing in the seat in the low position would offer a better vantage point and more stability.

Drainage on the kayak is pretty good but I think another pair of scuppers in the cockpit area could be helpful. Maybe move the mid-deck scuppers forward and add a set under the seat. The center channel for the junk drawer tends to gather water from paddle drips and fish and it stays there.

Final Thoughts

I was worried the excitement over the Bonafide SS127 would stain my impressions of the kayak before paddling it but after a couple of hours in the seat, a few fish on the deck, and some real world paddling conditions, I’m impressed. Are there things I’d like to see worked out for production? Sure. If none of things were adjusted however, I’d still buy this kayak at $1600.






19 thoughts on “REVIEW: Bonafide SS127 Kayak”
    1. As somebody who knows nothing about paddles, can you tell me which 250-260 paddle you would recommend for all the good stuff like power, efficiency, shape and all the other confusing stuff I read on the internet. What would be your choice for this kayak if you could spend a good amount on it?

      1. It will depend on what price point you are looking at but for me, a Werner Kalliste or Bending Branches Angler Pro are efficient, lightweight, and very durable.

  1. I am becoming weary of waiting for this supposed superior kayak. month after month after month go by. No one has them in stock, no one knows when they will ship, everyone wants a deposit. Having been burned too many times, I will never place a deposit. I will purchase when they are physically available. Bonafide lost out on the sale of four kayaks for Christmas this year. For the writer of this story, please make us a pledge – you will not write about or promote any product until it is being shipped.

    1. I won’t pledge to avoid products not available yet. The idea is to discover the pros and cons and let you the consumer know before it is too late. Any kayak can have delays. If you want one when they first come out, regardless of kayak, a deposit is necessary. If you want to wait and hope they have additional stock, that is also an option. Nobody is forcing your hand. Do what makes the most sense for you. Retailers should have them mid-December.

  2. There are no delays. It’s been scheduled to start shipping in December since July and is on time.

  3. Chris,
    I am torn between two Kayaks at this point. The feelfree 11.5 or this new bonafide SS127. Have you ever tested the feelfree 11.5 before? They’re very similar in design however most reviews show the feelfree is a slow and sluggish kayak. I’m just trying to get a feel on those that have paddled the bonafide and possibly the feelfree what their views are.

    1. Hi Robert. The Bonafide to me is every bit as stable as the Lure 11.5 and it paddles much better. It will carve waves and allow you to move against or crossing current and waves. I felt the FF was just pushed by the waves and it couldn’t really crosscut them, just go over. If you have the $ for the Bonafide you won’t be sorry.

  4. Thanks for the awesome review. I’m between this kayak and the nucanoe pursuit, have you paddled the nucanoe as well and can you shed any light on comparisons between the two?

    1. I have paddled both. I actually sold my Pursuit and went with the Bonafide this year. It has a lot more bang for the buck as far as layout and rigging for almost the same money. The Bonafide is better for tournament fishing and the Pursuit is built for river rats and folks not interested in lots of gear. Both great boats and you can’t go wrong with either.

  5. Chris, thanks for the review. Since you’ve bought one and have had some time with it, I was wondering if you could address some issues I have heard from some people with this yak. I have heard that the hole for the center console can hang up on rocks in a river and spin you making it prone to dumping if this happens. Also, I’ve heard that the tall side profile makes it spin excessively in wind. Have you encountered either of these problems?
    Lastly, my only experience with kayaks has been with fishing. Can you go into a bit more detail by what you mean in regards to the 45 degree lean and carving of waves? I’m having trouble understanding this. Thank you!!

    1. David,
      If fishing a river, leave the electronics pod in. If it’s not there, it will be more prone to hang ups. It’s the same issue Hobies or Natives have with their drive not deployed. Excessive wind spin has not been my experience at all. I’m not sure where that comes from. Does the wind push it? Yes, as with anything that has surface area. It is a little taller than some other kayaks out there so it will push a little more than something with a 3″ shorter sidewall but I tested it in 20+mph winds and fish it in those conditions regularly and would say it is as expected in regards to the wind. The 45 degree angle would be cutting across a wave at a 45 degree angle. For instance, if a wave is coming toward you and you point the bow of the boat directly into the wave, that would be a 90 degree dissection of the wave. A 45 means you take the wave between parallel and perpendicular. As the wave lifts you, you can away from the rise and use the wave’s momentum to “surf” longer distances without having to paddle. It takes some practice and most folks won’t utilize it for that but after a long day, it’s a nice technique to save those shoulders.

  6. Chris,

    Since you’ve had the SS127 for a good while now, can you talk a little more about the seat. This is a important point for me because I’m 6’5″ 290 and that’s a lot of ham pushing on that seat. This could be the only thing holding me up from buying.

    1. For that weight, I’d recommend a seat pad for additional cushion. The straps will loosen a bit and the back bar might become an issue. Also, stay in the low position.

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