The Thresher series of angling kayaks from Wilderness Systems heralds the arrival of the first purposely designed fishing kayak for saltwater anglers that are more inclined to find themselves thrust into more ‘challenging’ conditions that big game fishing at sea can provide. That said, it is far from a saltwater only boat with many options being offered by this boat to the freshwater big river and lake angler too. A boat that comes with a lot of the features that are to be expected from Wilderness Systems, it is also packed with a host of new, interesting and very innovative ideas that should come in very handy for a host of anglers.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a factory fresh Thresher 155 and opted for it in the flint colour with an optional rudder fitted. First look that I got at it was when it was in its purest form and free from modification. What was instantly noticeable was the build quality of the boat. Heavy grade plastic has been used in its construction, the components used in any of the rigging are top quality and, as we have come to expect from Wilderness Systems, this looks like an angling kayak built to stand the test of time.
The first thing that struck me about the Thresher 155 is the length and sleekness that this boat displays through its width. I was very surprised with how narrow the kayak is, far more so than a lot of images online would suggest. The second thing that struck me, immediately after the first, was the sheer number of features that this boat is packing. It really is packed from bow to stern with some fantastic favourites from Wilderness Systems along with some really clever new additions. Let’s do a walk through of this boat from bow to stern to take a look at the features of this particular angling kayak.
Starting at the bow, the bulbous nose of the kayak is immediately noticeable. This is a departure from the more pointed bows that Wilderness Systems have been producing like those found on the Tarpon series. The pointed bow cut through waves when launching which resulted in a fair bit of water coming over the bow. This new rounded nose has been designed with breakers and swell in mind and hydrophysics should dictate that a bow of this shape should push the oncoming water to each side and allow the kayak to ride up over the wave rather than through it.
Right up at the top of the bow is a solid moulded handle. This looks like an improvement on the Ride series and really makes the kayak a lot easier to transport. Solid handles means less swing when carrying so less strain put on the arms. It also means that there is less chance of snagging fishing line or hooks during a retrieve as well as providing a secure point for leashing/strapping to your vehicle for transporting. The handle is well rounded and comfortable to hold.
Moving further back the bow of the kayak brings us into contact with one of the new features for this series of boats – the cavernous front storage hatch. This very large hatch is hinged towards the bow of the kayak to allow the user access when on the water. Taking a look at the hatch lid we can find another very clever addition to the Thresher series, the very secure and functional paddle keeper. The large strap that features the company logo makes a fantastic place to park a paddle when you need you hands free in a hurry. Placing and removing the paddle from this area is very easy but it still retains the paddle securely when not in use. A simple and very effective idea from the team at Wilderness Systems.
Staying with the bow hatch lid, there are a couple of other neat features that shouldn’t be overlooked. The small rubber fasteners that are used to keep the lid securely shut are designed in such a way as to pull towards the angler when in use. One thing that really strikes me about them is that although they are very easy to use they seem to hold the lid very securely. The tabs are of a size that will facilitate opening and closing even with numb fingers, a regular product of kayak fishing in Ireland. One the sides of the rubber fasteners towards the centre of the kayak are a couple of grooves. These have been added as resting places for the blanks of fishing rods, to prevent them rolling about when rebaiting or unhooking fish. A simple addition but a very clever one.
The next area we will take a look at is the storage space provided under the hatch lid. before looking at the storage space itself it would be worth mentioning the deep lip recess under the lid. This has been designed to carry any water that does make it over the bow back towards the cockpit where it can drain quickly and easily. Looking at the storage space itself and it is clear to see that this cavernous space will hold a lot of gear. It easily takes a C-Tug trolley with the wheels removed with plenty of space for more. The storage area features scupper holes and this would suggest that the recess is far from waterproof. Wilderness Systems have included a couple of scupper plugs to keep water coming in and although the recessed lip around the storage area will drain a lot of water away, this storage area is not completely waterproof. If you intend on keeping items inside that must remain dry then pop them into a drybag of some sort. The storage bay also features a flat surface which offers the option of mounting a round hatch for access to future rigging projects.
Moving on from the bow storage hatch brings us to the front end of the cockpit and another excellent new feature, the FlexPod OS. An improved feature from the Ride 115X, The FlexPod OS is a removable console that allows the user to mount and keep their fish finder screen, wiring, battery and transducer in one unit. The hinged console will hold the fish finder screen on its lid, the battery and wiring can be tidied away inside while the transducer is connected to the bottom. When the console is removed from the kayak we can find a large rectangular void in the hull of the boat which allows the transducer to sit in contact with the water. Easily opened clasps hold the console in place and a good carry handle allows the user to remove the unit with ease.
The advantage of using this system means that the angler does not have to mess with adhesives for through-hull shooting transducer setups, you get more accurate reads from your unit due to the transducer being in direct contact with the water, the entire unit is easily removed for transport, charging, security or storage, the design of the console and transducer recess means that there is minimal drag created by your unit. The recess for the transducer is of a generous size and should accommodate most models. Of course, this unit does not have to be used for electronics and would make an ideal storage space for spare lures and fishing tackle.
Moving further down the cockpit the next feature that we see is the rectangular centre hatch which features bungees and Slide Trax for mounting accessories. The lid of this hatch is hinged towards the bow to lift away from the angler and is secured using the same type of buckle that is seen on the FlexPod OS. Opening the hatch gives access to the hull and is an ideal place to store a couple of fishing rods for a rough launch/landing. A rectangular hatch such as this is a first from Wilderness Systems and a very welcome one, particularly to anglers that frequent ‘bigger water’. The pod can also be used to store spare rods to give the angler more options while afloat.
On either side of the rectangular hatch plenty more features can be observed. There is a small recess for resting the butt of a rod when changing lures or unhooking fish, only a small feature but very handy. Beside these depressions are a pocket which is covered by a rubber mesh, very handy areas for storing small items and a feature continued on from the Tarpon series. One really clever addition to the Thresher series was to add drainage notches to ensure that gear stays dry when stored within.
Also included are the Slide Trax system for mounting gear either side of the cockpit, a concept found on most Wilderness Systems kayaks and an excellent idea, especially to those who don’t like drilling holes in kayaks. Also included in this area are the new foot braces that Wilderness Systems have introduced with this kayak and will no doubt feature on future models. Called the Keepers XL Footbrace System. This new style of foot brace works like any conventional foot brace on the boats that do not feature rudders. With the optional rudder included they really come into their own and provide a totally new experience in rudder control, something I will develop further when I arrive at the rudder on the stern.
The last item to be found in the cockpit is the now famous Air Pro seating system. A firm favourite with all who have tried it, the Air Pro seating offers unparalleled comfort. A seat like this is the difference between sitting and fishing all day or starting to fidget a couple of hours into an excursion. As seen on the Tarpon series, the seat is adjustable in many different ways. The backrests height and tilt can be adjusted and the seat can be raised at the front to give better upper leg support. all adjustments are made with webbing straps and are intuitive to use. The seat is foam covered for support and drilled to facilitate drainage when needed.
Directly behind the seat we can find a few pad eyes and good flat areas for rigging. These flat areas should easily hold at least four flush mounted rod holders and the pad eyes offer multiple leashing points for rods. A smaller ‘traditional style’ paddle holder can be found at the side of the flat rigging areas. Just to the rear of the tankwell is another flat surface that is perfect for a round hatch to allow the angler access to any rigging hardware that may be installed in this area. As well as this obvious area, the kayak also features many other flat areas which are perfect for all manner of rigging projects and modifications that those who love drilling holes in kayaks will appreciate!
Just after the flat mounting spaces for flush mount rod holders or any other accessories that take your fancy, we can find the very generously sized rear tankwell. This tankwell will easily accommodate those anglers that like to take everything but the kitchen sink with them. As seen on the Tarpons and the Rides, there are multiple fixing points for bungees to keep your items on board and a couple of webbing straps will help with securing loads. Large crates and tackle boxes can be stored here and, if YouTube videos are any indication, it looks like Wilderness Systems will be releasing some accessories that will fit snugly inside (really looking forward to the live well).
The tankwell is flanked by Slide Trax for all your rigging needs. These are great for adding things like camera mounts for the over-the-shoulder shots. A sturdy handle, similar to that at the front of the kayak finishes the tankwell. Easy to find and use, the solid handles really are a great addition when it comes to transporting the boat. Just before the kayak’s rudder is another flat mounting surface which should facilitate the mounting ball for a Torqeedo motor.
Located at the very back of the boat are the rudder and bung. The bung is a bung and self explanatory. The rudder is fantastic! A newly designed blade and operating system have been incorporated into the Thresher’s design. This has resulted in a longer, curved blade that is connected to an ingenious steering system. On the old system when you wanted to use the rudder you extended one leg and bending the knee of the other. The new system operates exactly the same way as any car pedal does. You operate the kayak with your toes, pressing down in the same manner you would your car accelerator pedal. Paddling with a rudder just became a whole lot easier. Using the rudder with this system allows the leg to stay where is was for a more comfortable and efficient paddling experience. Another feature of the rudder is the adjustable tension that the paddler can apply to it. With three different settings the paddler the responsiveness and turning angle of the blade can be adjusted for different types of water and preferences.
We have looked at the features of the Thresher 155, now I would like to take a look at the boats dimensions, handling and suitability as a fishing kayak. I received a Thresher 155 in the ‘flint’ colour option and it arrived to me in its purest form prior to modification. For my angling needs I have made just some basic modifications but there will be more to follow. To get me started I added an anchor trolley, echo sounder and flush mount rod holders.
Weight and Dimensions
There is no hiding the fact that the Thresher 155 is a big boat. Very big. Side by side it dwarfs a Tarpon 140. The Thresher is 15.5ft/4.72 metres long and spans 30 inches/76 centimetres at its widest part. The factory fitted rudder included with my kayak adds another few inches to the length. What do you get for a boat this size? A lot of speed, stability and weight capacity (450lbs/205kgs). The Thresher 155 comes in at 80lbs/36kgs in weight according to Wilderness Systems’ website but I do think that this figure is an over estimation. Off the water the Thresher is big and heavy but having said that I can car top it on my own in a moderate breeze. Maybe I am stronger than I think I am but I have a feeling that the stated weight is a bit of an over estimation!
Car topping is not a major issue with this boat, especially if you have help. The rigid carry handles make excellent lashing points for transportation, especially for longer journeys. I regularly travel from the west coast of Ireland to the east and the peace of mind offered by the rigid handles as tie down points is very reassuring.
Handling on the Water
Getting the Thresher 155 onto the water reveals a different side to this boat. Granted, the weight of the boat means that it will take a couple of paddle strokes to get it going but once moving the Thresher 155 glides across flat water almost effortlessly. Even without the rudder the kayak tracks excellently on calm water with no wind. Covering distance in flat conditions is no problem at all and this kayak should eat up the miles when travelling to marks that are further out.
Throw a bit of wind into the equation and the Thresher adapts. Unlike the Tarpons that like to cut through waves, the bow of the Thresher 155 rides up and over the breakers, taking in far less water that the Tarpons. There is still some water ingress and spray to the cockpit but this is to be expected when paddling into 3ft/1 metre waves against an onshore wind. The well designed cockpit and scuppers ensure fast and reliable egress of any water that makes it into the cockpit.
Launching through breakers is no problem to the Thresher 155 and either is traversing swells once you get beyond the breakers. The kayak seems to want to ride over the top of them and allow the paddler to ride down into the trough before rising to the next oncoming swell. Paddling parallel, perpendicular and diagonal to the swell provided no problems or issues for this boat at any stage. Testing conditions for the rougher water paddles were carried out during onshore winds of 24 knots.
One consideration of big game saltwater kayak anglers is how stable the kayak is. This is certainly a consideration of my own given my tendency to chase species of sharks form the kayak. The Thresher 155 will put to rest any doubts that anglers may have over stability. The kayak is incredibly stable, allowing me to stand on flatter water. Sitting side on in quite a roll and swell was never something that even remotely worried me. At all times I felt perfectly safe sitting and fishing facing side on with this kayak. There is more than enough stability to push yourself forward to access the large front hatch too. You would really want to try hard to capsize this kayak.
One thing I do have to mention about this kayak is that it has stability and speed in spades. What it does not have is maneuverability but being a boat that is nearly 16ft/5 metres long this should be fairly obvious to most people looking at it. This is a boat for getting across swells and eating up miles to get to fishing marks to target bigger game, not for picking your way through flooded forests or small rivers. Keep this in mind and the Thresher 155 is an excellent craft designed for exactly that.
The rudder system introduced on this kayak is a dream to use. The new system with the ‘car pedal’ style foot braces are very responsive and it is a joy to keep both legs at a constant length when using it. Very comfortable, intuitive and I imagine that there will be many manufacturers trying to replicate this system over the coming years.
The big question though is how will the Thresher 155 stand up as a fishing craft? Very well if the preliminary trips out are anything to go by. Fishing has been slow as can be the case at this time of year but that’s no reason not to get out and have a look at how the kayak has been set up for fishing. The answer, as it happens, is ‘very well’.
Starting at the top, the rigid carry handle does not present the opportunity to foul hooks that other styles of carry handles can. The rigid handle stays clear of the bow and clear of fishing lines. The large storage hatch at the front is cavernous and capable of storing a lot of gear from packed trolleys to packed lunches and most things in between. Fill it with ice and use it as a cooler for your catch! The stability of the kayak allows access to the front hatch when on the water. The fasteners on the front hatch are large and well thought out, facilitating easy use even when fingers and cold and numb.
The FlexPod OS is another fantastic addition and I have modified mine to take my Lowrance echo sounder on RAM mounts so I have full tilt and pan options with the screen. The unit fits snugly into it’s recess and when buckled in place will stay there. Removing the entire unit after use is simple and saves having to break down wiring circuits every time I need to load/unload the kayak from the car as well as the security issues involved with leaving the electronics in situ. A big ‘thumbs up’ for this particular feature.
The rectangular storage hatch is also an introduction for the Thresher series and an excellent one at that. This hatch allows the angler to carry extra rods or provides somewhere secure to stash fishing rods for a rough launch or landing. Accessing them from the water is simple and the rod pod easily took both rods that I attempted to store – a 5ft/1.5 metre set up that I use for jigging and light static bait fishing alongside a 7ft/2.1 metre spinning rod for lure fishing. Both rods were easily stored and removed from the hatch that is well sealed and easy to use.
When closed the lid of the rectangular hatch is also very useful to anglers. The flat bungeed surface is great for holding a couple of tools like unhooking pliers, a knife and a T-bar disgorger. I also have an idea to mount a section of chopping board onto the lid of this hatch to provide an area for cutting and preparing bait without marking the kayak. The lid of this hatch also features a short length of GearTrax for adding small items like a rod holder, GPS or whatever you decide for yourself. The rectangular hatch is very much a ‘hit’ for me.
Looking at features found in the rest of the cockpit reveals some interesting concepts and developments, some improvements on previous Wilderness Systems models, some are entirely new ideas for this series of angling kayaks. The GearTrax that flanks the cockpit is not a new idea but it provides ample mounting options for those that don’t like drilling.The small rubber mesh pockets that were present on the Tarpons are still here but they have been cleverly notched to prevent water pooling.
Small depressions either side of the rear of the rectangular hatch have been added with the sole function of providing somewhere to rest the butt of a fishing rod. There are corresponding grooves cut into the front hatch which act as a continuation of this idea and I have to say that I really like them. It’s a very simple idea but one that stops rods rolling or slipping when baiting up or unhooking a fish. They also make excellent places to rest rods when fishing static baits at anchor when using a longer rod (6ft/1.8 metres plus). There is a generous space under the seat in the cockpit which will also take a small Plano box or two.
The rigging spaces available for flush mount rod holders is generous and will fit at least four flush mounts, possibly six. The options that are provided by the sheer number of rod holders means that anglers will be able to carry an extra set up or two, on the off chance that there may be something unusual about that can now be fished for with the ability to carry more appropriate gear. Who hasn’t been out on the water to think “If only I had that rod with me”?
Finishing with the tankwell we once again have ample space for the angler that likes to carry boxes, crates or whatever. I am looking forward to some of the items that are in the pipeline from Wilderness Systems, particularly the livewell that has been developed to fit snugly inside. The tankwell offers a host of storage with many options for securing a load through bungees and webbing straps. As with the cockpit, the tankwell is sensibly flanked by GearTrax for extra rigging of accessories.
The Thresher 155 has been designed by Wilderness Systems as their first step into a big water boat specifically aimed at saltwater guys and anglers that like to fish bigger rivers and lake systems. They have pulled off a feat in being able to take that first step right into a sprint. The Thresher 155 is an interesting craft. The weight takes a little bit of getting used to and it will not turn on a pin head but when these minor factors are taken into account, the Thresher 155 is a kayak that has a huge amount of relevant features to the angler, everything is well thought out and placed deliberately and with the utmost of care and attention to detail. The boat covers distance well, offers tremendous stability and can be relied on when the wind whips up a bit and the flat waters turn to rollers. The Wilderness Systems Thresher 155 – Fishing Machine!
Wilderness Systems kayaks available in Ireland through the Canoe Centre