Friday, March 4, 2011

A Jackson Kayak Coosa Elite Review - Blog and Vlog! - 2010-11

My journey with the Coosa started last December when a number of us met in Tennessee to pick up our Coosa’s from the Jackson Kayak factory. Since this allowed for a behind the scenes experience, I must add a few things that made an impact on and are important to me. First, the entire Jackson operation is top notch. They are a family friendly company and entirely US based. Their kindness and helpfulness was striking. And they really care about their customers, so much so that the feedback they have received from our group of anglers has already led to small changes in the way the Coosa is manufactured and assembled. Now, onto the real review…

I have paddled and fished from the Coosa roughly 12-15 times and I must say that I am impressed. I have broken this review into categories, in which I will address the pros and cons.

Weather/Conditions: I have paddled the Coosa all winter long, including a couple days with air temperatures in the 20’s where ice formed on the deck. However, I always felt good having extra clothes and supplies in the hull, as the Coosa has a lot of storage space. A friend of mine even stacked his full of firewood and started a nice fire on the river bank this winter. Plus, the Coosa is a pretty dry ride. And I have paddled the boat in light, moderate, and heavy winds. If the boat has a downfall, it is handling in the wind. Wind will, of course, affect any kayak, but the large front end of the Coosa (which allows for better maneuvering and stability) catches a lot of wind. And, I have found that when paddling from the high seat position I got blown quite quickly – roughly three times faster than the 10’ sit-in kayak that a fishing partner (typically my girlfriend/better half) often paddles.

Tracking/Maneuverability: The Coosa tracks OK. I was surprised at how well it tracked given its design and handling. But compared to a non-river boat, it will not compare.  It maneuvers very well and steers, as I and others have noted, more like a creek boat – with a very responsive front end. I will note that on rivers, particularly those that are quite rocky, beginning paddlers should be cautious. When sitting high in this boat your center of gravity is quite high and getting caught on shallow rocks can be trouble if you are not experienced.

Speed: This kayak isn’t going to win any races. However, I find it comparable to some of the slower sit-on-top kayaks I have paddled before (like the Wilderness Systems Ride 115). It definitely moves faster from the low seat position. And from the high seat position I highly recommend a paddle of at least 240-250 cm length to maximize efficiency and speed. This size paddle will also help when standing.

Stability: At 11’3” with 31.5” of width, the Coosa is quite stable. And it is noted for being a kayak from which you can stand and fish. I found that it does take some adjusting, but after I got comfortable it became easy to get up from my seat, stand, and fish while floating. For reference, I am 6’ and 185 lbs. It is also easy to enter the boat from the water; however, I have yet to do so from water deeper than four feet. My first trip in saltwater will not be for another month or two, but on a very windy day on Jordan Lake it handled 2-3 foot waves with ease, so I suspect inshore applications will be a breeze.

Weight: The Coosa weighs 63 lbs without the seat, which is removable in the elite model. I have no problem loading the boat onto the roof of my SUV by myself. It is significantly (20 lbs) heavier than my other kayaks, but after a few trips I barely noticed.

Features: This yak has A LOT of nice features. First, it has a lot of storage space in the hull and rear tank well. It also has a small pocket for keys, wallet, camera, etc. in front of the seat, room for storage under the seat ( which fits 4 tackle boxes perfectly), and a cup holder (which if you are like me typically just fills with lures). The Coosa has an extremely comfortable removable seat, which inclines to any position. It has paddle holders on each side of the boat and a paddle “stager” in front, which is a notch to rest your paddle and is particularly helpful while standing. It has two flush mount rod holders in the back, two rod stagers on the sides (with bungees), and 3 slots that help to hold rods on the front hatch. Both hatches are also lockable, which is a great feature while traveling, particularly because you can store 4+ rods and other gear in the hull without a problem. One other nice feature on the Coosa is the recess in the back, made for a drag chain (for river guys) or anchor system of some sort.

I also have a depth finder transducer mounted in-hull, although you could mount one in a scupper if you desired. The in-hull mount works great because the Coosa has recesses in the deck that are made for Talon and RAM mounts, which make installation of a depth finder easy and keeps the deck clear and free of wires.

Now for the grand finale - check out this video filmed with my new GoPro Hero HD this past weekend on Jordan Lake when I met up with Jackson Kayak fishing team member (and friend) Herschel Finch.

Overall, I am impressed with the Coosa.  It does everything a river boat should do, but is not going to be an all-around boat that everyone likes. The positives outweigh the negatives with this boat and I would recommend it to anyone from beginning paddlers to seasoned vets. I know I can’t wait for things to warm up so I can spend more time getting this yak on the river!


  1. Nice Review, the music in the beginning cracked me up, sounded kind of like a kung fu western.

  2. Nice! ...and you even spelled my name right!!!

    Had a good time Drew, even if I could only be there half a day. Let5s do it again after the weather and water warms up.


  3. @Kev - thanks! The song is Ennio Morricone who composed most of the music for the old Clint Eastwood westerns. I believe that song if from 'A Fistful of Dollars'.

    @Herschel - I had a good time too and we need to do it again soon when it warms up...maybe on a river. Hopefully I make it to VA a time or two this year.

  4. Hi Drew great review I am really interested in the Coosa Elite and was wondering if I might contact you with a couple of questions regarding the kayak and fishing from it.

    Thanks, Roger

  5. How much do they cost?

  6. They cost $999 for the elite version and $799 for the standard version.

  7. And also, if anyone has additional questions about the Coosa please do not hesitate to contact me on this site or via email!

  8. I should have an Elite in the morning, my very 1st Kayak! Nice informative videos and reviews on the Coosa. You mentioned it's best to use 250cm paddle, do you have a particular brand/model to get? What style blade should I look for? mostly fishing Louisiana Bayous and tidal marsh areas, NO Rivers! I'm wanting a paddle light and strong, a composite material is best?

  9. Chip - thank you! I do recommend a 250cm paddle, however you could get away with a 240cm. I own a Werner paddle and love it. The Skagit and Camano are popular lines by Werner. Bending Branches and Aquabound also make great paddles. Composite will definitely be lighter and stronger, although often a little more expensive.

  10. Majority of kayaks aren't suitable for fishing. Some tend not to offer adequate storage for gear, other kayaks make it tough to rig rod holders and cases, and many ordinarily are not stable enough to stand from whenever you're casting a line or pulling in the big catch.

  11. Really nice, Drew - I sincerely appreciate your efforts.
    I rather stumbled upon the Jackson Coosa after looking around at other models. I was not very keen on SOT's, to begin with, preferring hybrids like the Ultimate and Commanders.
    But the Coosa's seating and over all open layout are killer! The innovations are really sublime too - the purposeful fitting of a drag chain system? River capability - on purpose? Locking hatch covers? I mean, who thinks of this sweet stuff, anyway?

    Some people have knocked the Coosa for not being steered by the wind too much, in open water. Can't you say much the same about any boat, when out on the mile wide waters? It's always a trade off.
    Add a milk crate, cooler and fishing vest and the Coosa just might be the One for me
    Thanks again, Drew.


  12. Thanks for the kind words David. Drew Gregory and the crew at Jackson Kayak did a great job with the boat. It is definitely a river machine, but that doesn't suit everyone. I hope you find the yak you are looking for. In fact, I strongly encourage you to try as many as possible. I am sure you are familiar with many of them already, but Wilderness Systems, Malibu Kayak, Ocean Kayak, Native, and others make great boats! Tight lines!

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