I have been fortunate enough to acquire a Wilderness Systems Ride 115X. I had been aware of the Ride series of kayaks for quite some time with a number of kayak anglers speaking highly of them. The recurring theme that kept coming up was stability and the new Ride 115X continues on with this theme. Wilderness Systems have created an almost uncapsizable angling craft with their ‘pontoon style hull’. Check out what Wilderness Systems have to say about the boat on their website here.
What do I think of the Ride 115X? At first glance it looks like a feature packed angling kayak. Closer inspection confirms this. I was given a ‘factory fresh’ boat and the first thing that struck me was the plastic that has been used in the kayak’s construction. It seems to be a tougher, higher grade plastic than has been used in other boats that I have paddled and fished from. Built to last, that’s for sure.
Starting at the bow, let’s have a look at what this boat has to offer. The first feature on this boat is the rigid, aluminium handles. With no play in them they are easy to handle and as well as functioning as handles they also make handy tie points for transporting or utilising as a point for a security chain when storing the kayak or transporting it on roof bars.
Next up is the paddle keeper bungee for quick storage of your paddle when playing a fish or casting to a rising trout. The larger roller as compared to older models allows easier location of your paddle in this area. The paddle keeper sits just in front of a generous bow hatch which features a double locking mechanism that ensures a dry, sealed fit. There is ample room to get all the parts of my C-Tug trolley through this hatch and once they are stored inside there is still plenty of room for other items (lunch, first aid kit, etc).
We move into the cockpit area after the bow hatch and the first feature here is a revelation for kayak anglers and an item that I’m sure will be replicated by other companies for its sheer ingenuity. Wilderness Systems have joined forces with Lowrance to produce a truly innovative feature for this kayak; the removable sonar console. This feature is a plastic console that is removable from the kayak. Underneath it sits a cavity in the hull of the boat which will accommodate transducers of pretty much any size that Lowrance produce.
I will explain the console in greater detail in a rigging project but the general idea behind this is a unit that you can mount your fishfinder screen to the top, house your battery in the middle and attach your transducer to the base. The console keeps all these items together and can be removed from the kayak at the end of the day for charging or security reasons. This system is really well thought out, removes the necessity for drilling, messy through hull installations or scupper mounts and has just won itself a big fan right here!
At the seated end of the cockpit lies some GearTrac by Yakattack and this can be utilised to use one of their Screwballs (included with kayak) to lock the console into place when you are on the water. This setup provides a host of extra rigging options that won’t require drilling. Also at the end of the console we can find a length of black webbing which the angler can use to assist both standing up and returning to their seat.
Either side of the cockpit are foot braces which are adjustable. Like the boat itself, these are well made and installed with what look like very good quality materials and hardware. Moving back along the cockpit we find another hatch with the same style secure fastening as seen in the bow hatch. This cockpit hatch allows access to the length of the hull and is a very handy place to store away a couple of extra fishing rods.
The next item on the feature list is the ‘Phase 3 Air Pro’ seat which is, without doubt, the most comfortable seat that I have had the pleasure of using on a kayak. With multiple options for lumbar and thigh support, this seat can be adjusted to accommodate virtually any angler. No more sore backs or legs! Another excellent part of this boat and seat design allows the angler to determine, to a degree, where the seat will sit on the boat. Move it further back to let the bow sit high in rougher waters where you need to get through waves or to give yourself more standing room. Move it forward to balance the boat better for an easier paddle over distance. The choice is yours.
The cockpit itself is spacious with plenty of room for the angler and there is a large, flat surface area to enable easier standing for spotting fish or getting an extra yard or two on your cast. Carrying handles either side of the cockpit are well placed to keep the boat balanced when lifting it onto a car roof and just behind these on one side can be found a ledge to be used as either a paddle keeper or somewhere to store a stake out pole for shallower waters. Either will be held in place by the bungee that is present.
Just behind the seat there is a generous flat area which Wilderness Systems have left clear to allow the angler rig the boat to their own specifications. I have added a couple of flush mount rod holders to this area and there is still plenty of space to add more items. A camera mount will probably be the next item to be installed here.
Moving closer to the stern we now reach the tankwell. This has more than enough room for a crate, tackle box, bait bucket, livewell, some camping gear or whatever else you might think of carrying with you. The tankwell is flanked by more GearTrac which can be used for yet more rigging projects. Also featured here are small, solid bars for attaching extra bungees or straps to secure gear when in transit.
Moving to the stern of the kayak we come to the rear carry handle which is fashioned the same way as the bow handle. We also see the bung which allows the kayak to ‘breathe’ when in storage. The keel features a removable skid plate which can be replaced when wear and tear becomes an issue. This boat is also ready to take a rudder should you need or desire one.
Weight and Handling
At 80lb/36kg I am able to lift it onto the roof of the van unassisted. This makes it an ideal solo craft and the short length, 11.5ft/3.5m, means that even in a stiff breeze this job is manageable.
The Ride 115X is also a wide kayak coming in at 33 inches/84 centimetres. What do you get for this width? Combined with the hull, you get extreme stability. The generous flat areas in the cockpit facilitate easy standing, even for my size 13 shoes! Being a size 13 would indicate that I have a bit of height. Six feet and two inches to be precise.
Being tall, I do not have a low centre of gravity which results in me having the balance, poise and grace of a newborn giraffe when I am on the water. There are very few kayaks that I would even consider standing up in. With the Ride 115X, not only can I stand up but I can paddle, gondolier style! When the water in Ireland warms up a bit this stable platform will undoubtedly lend itself to being able to elevate myself to spot and cast dry flies to brown trout on some of our lakes here. This boat is so stable that you would really have to be determined and work hard to capsize it.
As for paddling in the seated position, the seat offers superb lower back support, the boat tracks excellently and is incredibly easy to turn and maneuver in tight spots like small backwaters. Being short and wide there is a compromise with speed and it would be fair to say that I have paddled far faster boats than this one. That said, it was able to propel me against the current of a flooded River Shannon and River Corrib.
If you want a kayak for covering good distances then perhaps the Ride 115X would not be ideal but if it is a stable fishing machine you are after then look no further.
Built as an angling kayak through and through, the Ride 115X is a little workhorse of a boat. It won’t get you places in a hurry but it will get you into tight spots that other boats won’t have the maneuverability for. It will facilitate easier fish spotting and the confidence that it give for those who like to stand is unparalleled. This will help in casting or even something as simple as extra reach to untangle lures from overhanging branches on those out of the way waters.
This boat is made with high grade materials and fittings. The options that the centre console give are limited only by your imagination and the GearTrac allow many multiples of rigging options to be utilised. There are so many features that have been packed into this small boat for anglers by anglers.
This boat is the ideal fishing machine for the smaller Irish waters. If you like fishing the smaller bays, smaller lakes, the rivers, canals, backwaters and snooping about the harbours and marinas then this kayak will not disappoint you. I hope it will enable me to explore many such venues over the coming seasons.
Wilderness Systems kayaks available in Ireland through the Canoe Centre
Article written by Gary Robinson