A few weeks ago I had the privilege of paddling the prototype Jackson Kayak Kilroy. I feel like this boat is the Swiss Army knife of kayaks. It has a ton of features, paddles smoothly, and like any of the other Jackson fishing fleet, it is super stable to stand and fish out of.
Like most of my fishing adventures, Drew Gregory and myself loaded the pick-up truck with some kayaks and followed the snowbirds south. I mean come on, it’s wintertime in the Carolinas and we were eager to bust out the swim trunks. After a long day on the road we made it down to the Shell Island Fish Camp in St. Marks, FL; where fellow fishing team member, Chris Funk, warmly greeted us with a smile and a firm handshake. We spent the rest of the evening gearing up for our early morning river session.
The next few days we fished on various rivers in the St. Marks area. Out of the group I spent the most time in the Kilroy. At first, I felt a little uncomfortable not being on my usual sit on top, but it really didn’t take long to fully appreciate what all this kayak is capable of.
Once I was in the Kilroy, everywhere I looked there was something that made me say, “Oh, well that makes sense”; and would start using that feature seamlessly. Just to be clear, this is a sit in kayak, but has a roomy cockpit. On the water, I never felt enclosed or Closter-phobic, there is plenty of room to turn around or stand up. Actually standing up and sitting down is quite pleasant with walls being a very secure place to use for support. Obviously, don’t put all your weight to one side; I’m sure it could handle it, but just a disclaimer. One real slick feature is that the Kilroy has two paddle stagers, one for when you are sitting down and one for standing. I didn’t realize how useful it was until I was out in the kayak actually sitting and fishing, then standing and fishing.
This kayak is full of things like the individual rod sleeves that run down the inside of the kayak, a great way to store rods safely when not fishing with them. There is a front deck/tray that is removable. This allows you to customize different decks or simply remove it for more open space. The fishing deck features a foam pad on top with slits in for a place to keep lures, hooks, or flies when not in use (it is very similar to the inside of a fly box). Also, on the underside of deck is a decent size compartment, like a hidden glove box. This is great place to keep pliers, scissors, cell phone, or any other accessory close at hand. It is not closed so it is possibly that some water may get in there, but it is pretty well tucked away. There is plenty of bungee on the kayak to hold down extra gear; a large bungee space on the front of the kayak and some smaller sections on the front deck to cover a variety of sizes.
The Kilroy uses the same hi/lo seating as the all the Jackson fishing kayaks. Since it is a sit in kayak, the center of gravity is lower than a sit on top. This made the kayak seem extremely stable, and could hardly tell I was in the high position. Behind the seat there is plenty of room for your favorite crate or room for dry bags. Another cool add-on accessory that will be available for the Kilroy is a “soft” deck that attaches via bungee. The prototype of this cargo style net was a tightly woven material similar to the elite seat, and is a multi-function piece. Attached behind the seat it can act as a cargo net, keeping things in the kayak. It also has a pouch on it so you could slide a tackle box or other small items in there. You can swap the “soft” deck to the front and attach it on the same J-hooks as the “hard” deck, now you have a wonderful place for your fly line to land and not get tangled. On the back deck of the Kilroy there is a circle hatch that lets you access the sealed off area for those items you really want to keep dry.
Now to talk about how the Kilroy handles, like the rest of the Jackson line, this one did not disappoint. The hull is more or less the same as the Cuda 12. I felt it really got up to speed quickly, after only a few strokes I was really moving. The nose sliced through the water smoothly, like a hot knife through butter. Yet, it still offers plenty of maneuverability. Standing and paddling was no issue, especially since my feet were slightly below the water line, unlike my sit on top that I am used to. I would highly recommend visiting your local dealer when this bad boy comes in, so you can see the “Swiss-Army Kayak” for yourself.
On a side note, while in Florida, we went searching for the goose that attacked Drew, since we were fishing the same exact spot of the river. He wanted to bury the hatchet between the two, in hopes that the rivers of Florida would be safe for all kayak fishermen moving forward. Well, there was no sign of the infamous goose, but I did have a few close encounters with a native barred owl. I’m not real sure what’s going on down in the panhandle of Florida, but the local fowl aren’t fans of us kayak fisherman. My guess is they don’t like us playing with their food.