Having the Jackson Kayak Big Tuna for some time now, I realized that I know all the ins and outs of the boat pretty well. To help you out if you are planning on purchasing a Big Tuna from Jackson Kayak, this review will be concise and quick to all the important details and matters including both the positive and negative design aspects from my point of view. All opinions are non biased and are truly what I think of the Big Tuna from Jackson Kayak.
The first thing that can really seem daunting in the beginning is the size and weight of the Big Tuna. At 14' 2" and 102 lb. with both seats, it is quite a beast. However, the Big Tuna is designed as a tandem kayak / heavy hauler. With this said, two people can handle the Big Tuna quite well and maneuver it through seemingly uncontrollable areas of water. The length seems to be the bigger factor than the weight to me, as some people do not have a vehicle that can fit a 14' 2" kayak. This could be a problem and is something to consider when purchasing a Big Tuna.
The width on the other hand is quite nice at 35.5". It is relatively stable, with more secondary stability than primary stability, but overall handles water quite well. You can stand quite easily in the Big Tuna, especially with stand assist straps to help you get up out of your seat and sit back down. All of this is primarily because of the rather large width of the Big Tuna, although I could very easily see it being a little wider for even better handling, of which we will discuss next.
For a large kayak, the Big Tuna handles itself quite well. Tracking is good due to the moderate entry line and a good lengthy hull to keep everything straight, but it does have a slight tendency to veer off course just a little. This is actually a good thing though as you are able to turn the Big Tuna just about as good as it tracks. If the Big Tuna tracked too well, it would be way to troublesome to turn it. Two people paddling aid in this tremendously as you have different areas of input in the water vs. just one person inputting their paddle in the same place every time.
Considering the Big Tuna as a tandem kayak / heavy hauler it really handles well in all categories of handling except one - wind. The major adversary of a lot of kayaks is drag, but it doesn't always have to be drag from the water. Wind can push you around in the Big Tune quite a bit and can make paddling very difficult. I will say that this is a major problem with a lot of sit on top kayaks though, as they have a lot of above the water surface area in general to allow room for the paddler.
Tandem vs. Solo
One of the most unique aspects of the Big Tuna is the capability to go from a tandem kayak to a solo kayak and vice versa. I primarily use the Big Tuna in the tandem configuration, but I have used the solo set up a few times too. The capability of being able to move from solo to tandem and so forth basically works of a system of molded in seat supports in conjunction with some movable seats supports. It works very well with my only complaint being the amount of parts that are used to simply support a seat and paddler - two plastic seat supports, four washers, and four wingnuts. I could see these parts becoming lost one day and I think a simpler... or more so less complex design would drastically improve the simplicity of the Big Tuna.
The nice thing about moving to the solo position is the amount of storage that you gain. A whole section of storage behind you in the solo position opens up because of the elimination of the rear seat. You will also gain the storage of the front compartment where the front paddlers legs would be. This is a significant amount of storage that you gain, but the drawback is having a large kayak with one person paddling it.
Paddling the Big Tuna in a solo position is more impressive than you would think though, as it glides across the water quite gracefully. However I would have to say two people paddling can drastically make a difference in the handling department in consideration of a tandem vs solo setup.
Low vs. High
The seats also have the capability to go in a low position vs a high position. This is done in conjunction with the seat supports as well and drastically aids in handling.
Simply said, the low position is best for the following reasons: better stability, better tracking, less wind resistance, slightly more controllable paddling, perhaps a personal preference in comfort, rough water, rapids. The high position on the other hand is best for these reasons: better vision into water, more accessible to stand up and sit down, little more leg room, personal preference in comfort, and for the most part the position you will use 90% of the time.
Using the Big Tuna as a fishing kayak, it only makes sense to discuss the fishability of the Big Tuna - and yes I made fishability up. The number one characteristic that helps the Big Tuna out in fishing is the stability. Being able to stand and fish can make a big difference and allow you to cast some technical casts that would not be possible while sitting down, or at least not as easy. Flush mount rod holders in the rear of the kayak allow for two rods to be stored, along with some rod storage running along the gunnels of the kayak with the aid of some bungee cords. The flush mount rod holders work good but can be a problem if you are going under some low cover, so be sure to keep and eye out on that.
Tackle storage is quite sufficient too, although it takes a few possible modifications to your style of tackle. Really the best way to store your tackle is to use Plano 3600 series tackle boxes, as the Big Tuna has designated spots to store these securely with the aid of some bungee cords. There is also storage underneath the seats if you are in the high position. You can store more than enough tackle, and if you need more go ahead and stop researching kayak fishing because you need to get a boat or something.
Besides that, the fishability of the Big Tuna can really only be described as great. It can take you in many places that you would never be able to go.
Unique Characteristics and Aspects
There are a few unique things about the Big Tuna that can make all the difference for some buyers. The first of which is a partnership between Jackson Kayak and GoPro. Throughout the Big Tuna are molded in inserts of which allow you to mount a GoPro without placing adhesive mounts or drilling into the boat. This is great for filming and a really nice feature. The inserts also work for RAM Mounts, another partnership between Jackson Kayak.
Behind the seats you will notice a small storage bag which works well for storing some snacks, keys, sun screen, etc.
At the very front of the kayak is a day hatch, which is water resistant, but not waterproof. I say this because quite a bit of humidity can get in this area of the kayak at times. This is another small storage area to store some stuff you may have.
In the rear of the kayak is the largest storage compartment, but it is not anything humongous. It serves its purpose very well though and can really aid in bringing a couple more items with you.
The Tuna Hatch is quite possibly the most unique feature of the kayak, as there is a center compartment designed for storing live bait / keepers without the need of a livewell. This is a unique and simple design that works off the idea of having water from the "water you are in" move in and out of the compartment with the movement of the water and the movement of the kayak. This can only be achieved by drilling holes into the Tuna Tank, but I use it as a drink storage area as of now.
The Final Thoughts
Everything considered, the Big Tuna is easily the best tandem fishing kayak on the market. On a scale of 0-10, I would give the Big Tuna a 9. The reason is because a few design areas that I think could be improved, such as the seats supports and possible a redesign / elimination of the Tuna Tank.
However, there are a lot of deciding factors that really set the Big Tuna apart from others. The first is the quality of the kayak. Jackson Kayak produces some really nice kayaks and the Big Tuna is no exception. The seating arrangement is the best on the market and can really make for a comfortable day out on the water, while at the same time having the capability to adjust to your individual needs.
The last thing that I would like to mention is that I have had the Big Tuna for about two years now. Through these years it has gone to many different rivers, been dragged through rocks, and beaten up pretty good. The crazy thing is that my Big Tuna looks like it just went on its maiden voyage. It really can take a punishment and can take you anywhere you are willing to go. Check one out at your local dealer or go to www.jacksonkayak.com for more information. Below are a few videos highlighting the Jackson Kayak Big Tuna as well: