Jackson Kayak Big Tuna Review: All You Need to Know

If you’re looking for a stable but agile kayak that can take you and your buddy on a fishing or recreational trip, take a look at the Jackson Big Tuna tandem kayak. It is a high-quality, versatile boat with significant design innovations and great features.

Whether you set out to a family camping excursion or embark on a solo fishing frenzy – the boat configures accordingly.

RELATED: Jackson Kayaks in 2020: Full Model Lineup and Reviews

Pros:

  • Comes with installed rudder (or rudder-ready customization)
  • Plenty of under-deck storage space
  • Open standing platform
  • Tracks well
  • Multiple rod stagers
  • “Tuna Tank” bait livewell
  • Drag chain/anchor recess

Cons:

  • No gear tracks included

Size and Weight

Designed as a tandem kayak, the Big Tuna is 14’2″ long, 35″ wide and 16″ high. It weighs 92 lbs without the seats and 104 lbs with the seats and the Tuna Tank. Two people can effortlessly carry the boat. With this kayak, the length may be more of a problem than the weight. Before buying the Big Tuna, it’s better to decide on the vehicle and gear you need for safe transportation and storage.

Capacity

The Big Tuna is designed to carry a lot of weight. Its capacity of 500 lbs allows anglers to bring lots of accessories and equipment for comfortable and relaxing trips.

Construction and Material

Jackson’s Big Tuna is one of the new superlinear PE kayaks. It is made from High-Density Polyethylene using the rotational molding technology. Beads of polyethylene are poured into the mold; the mold is heated up and slowly rotated so that the material fills up every nook and cranny. After the mold cools down, you get a one-piece construction that is extremely rugged and durable.

Jackson Kayak is known for its high-quality materials. Their kayaks last a very long time.

The downside of polyethylene is that it is a very non-stick material. If you manage to put a hole in the hull, you can’t just glue a patch to it. Repairing requires a piece of the same material and a blowtorch to melt it onto the hole.

Hull Design

The Big Tuna’s wide base hull allows incredible standing stability and on-deck movement for casting lines. The bow cuts in hard and sharp, adding to the kayak’s ability to handle open waters or ponds and lakes equally well. Having just a little bit of rocker enables flexibility, smooth tracking and maneuverability in fast-moving rivers or class III water to the point where conditions aren’t considered loose.

This boat can take you to any fishing spot if you are using the rudder and anchor/drag chain systems.

You may have difficulty to paddle through strong open-water currents and heavy wind, single-handedly. When you have a partner with you, fighting the currents becomes more manageable, but the wind remains a problem.

Even when being heavily loaded, the Big Tuna floats shallow in the water and is easily adaptable to different kinds of water conditions. It is an all-round boat with the length to demonstrate speed and excellent tracking, as well as sufficient width to keep you stable and dry.

Deck/Cockpit

The Big Tuna has a spacious 22-inch wide standing deck with a flat and clean design. The molded-in indentations all around the boat follow the kayak’s linear style and prevent thread entanglement. This boat is excellent for an exciting tandem fishing session, sight fishing, fly fishing, and wade fishing. The Big Tuna offers great fun no matter whether you’re with company or alone.

You cannot find bungee tie-down hooks, sharp angles or finishes on the outer lines of the boat. The bungees that secure the rod tip protector at the bow are simply bolted down to avoid snagging threads.

The cockpit is spacious enough for two people to freely cast lines with no worries about interfering with each other. The Big Tuna comes with a removable stand assist strap in front of each chair allowing the kayakers to quickly and securely get up and sit back down.

A total of eight scupper holes are located in the cockpit to drain water from the boat. The drain plug and drag chain/anchor chutes are molded at the stern.

Seat

Jackson Kayaks are known for great seats. The Big Tuna comes with removable Ergo framed seats designed to relieve your back and enable a comfortable journey. The seats also double as camping chairs if you want to have a campfire lunch ashore.

Those who practice fishing in a sitting position will be glad to know that the seat and backrest padding is made of weather-resistant and breathable material. The side chair straps easily customize seat elasticity and back support angles.

The Ergo seats feature the MOLLE webbing system at the back of the chairs, where you can attach bags, lures, and accessories. Some models include zippered mesh pockets you can place behind the backrest and under the seat for storing your pliers, lip grips, or similar small tools and gear.

Both chairs can be adjusted to a high or low seat setting. The position is quickly switched by putting the chair into the molded grooves and strapping it with a front buckle. The kayak supports multiple chair configurations such as solo, forward-facing tandem, or FaceTime seating. Jackson Kayaks use detachable plastic seat supports that you can move and place around the cockpit depending on the sitting position you want to use.

Few tandem boats on the market offer such versatile seat variations as the Big Tuna.

Storage

The Big Tuna offers plenty of room for storage on deck and inside the hull.

Starting with the bow, in case the first kayaker needs more storage room, they can put the rod tip cover aside and use the bungees to store dry bags or gear instead. Additionally, an 8″ day hatch with a cat bag inside allows you to store your personal belongings such as a phone, keys, or snacks. This dry hatch is secured with a stretchy rubber lid that tightly closes the coaming and protects your stuff from water and weather.

In the middle of the cockpit, between the seats, there’s one of the most exciting storage innovations – a bait livewell officially called the “Tuna Tank”. It has a double-access sturdy lid that opens on both ends, separately or simultaneously, enabled by a hinge in the middle. The hatch cover is secured by a bungee. A molded-in cup holder is provided on the console cover, as well as a bottle holder groove, also tied down with bungees. With each Big Tuna, Jackson Kayaks include a custom 32-ounce Nalgene water bottle as an accessory.

This console offers three different storage options:

1) It can be used as a standard dry storage hatch. If you plan on storing your electronic devices or documents, it is still a good idea to put all water-sensitive items in a drybag. You can also use the compartment for easy access to store your small tools, lures or fishing gear.

2) If you purchase Jackson’s insulated Cooler/Fish Bag, you can use it to stow your catch on ice or keep your drinks and sandwiches fresh and safe.

3) If you want to use this compartment as a livewell for the bait or the “keepers”, drill holes in the bottom of the tank to enable fresh water circulation. Some people also paint the console in a light color to see the fish more easily.

If you catch some big ones or you don’t carry enough weight to have your live bait nicely covered with water, adjust the level of the livewell by pushing the console towards the bottom and secure the desired height with bungee cords.

Keep in mind that the Tuna Tank causes a slight drag. In shallow waters, if the livewell hits an underwater obstacle, it immediately pops back up to its initial position.

On each side of the seat, there are two molded-in tackle box holders secured with bungees. Under the seat, when it is set to a high-sitting position, there’s room to stow four standard-sized tackle boxes or other gear you may need.

The oval rear dry hatch with dimensions of 16.25″x11.37″ provides access to in-hull storage that spans the length of the boat. It’s a great place for extra rods and other gear.

If you take out the Big Tuna in a solo configuration, you get a standard-sized rear tank well for a crate or a cooler.

Gear Mounts

The Big Tuna offers a total of eight RAM mount inserts along the deck. One of them is occupied by a GoPro mount, another with a RAM-mounted swivel rod holder. We would prefer some gear tracks, but the RAM mounts do a decent job as well.

The kayak comes with some transducer scuppers and molded drag chain chutes. The Big Tuna is also rudder-ready (a rudder will set you back another $200).

Rod Holders

The kayak comes with two flush mount rod holders next to the rear hatch. They are meant to hold casting rods because they seem to be shallow for spinning or fly fishing poles. Another rod holder that comes with the boat is the square-based RAM 2007.

Regardless of how many rods you decide to bring, the Big Tuna allows you to put them away anywhere you want. At the bow, a specially designed, bungee secured rod tip protector provides two stagers where you can lay the rod tips inside the plastic cover.

Between the rod tip protector and the day hatch, the Big Tuna features three more rod stagers.

In the single-seat configuration, you can also put the rods to the sides of the boat in the gunnel grooves and secure them with bungees.

Please be cautious about the rod tip protector while driving at high speed. The wind can blow the cover or the kayak off if not secured properly. For this reason it is better to remove the protector when transporting the kayak on top of your vehicle.

Footrests

The Big Tuna uses two sets of sturdy adjustable footrests that are designed for one or two kayakers in multiple sitting positions. The footpegs are removable and can be attached on either end of the rails.

Paddle Holders

The Big Tuna comes with a bungee-secured paddle park on top of the rod tip protector. There are also two simple bungee paddle holders on each side. Finally, there are two sets of paddle notches on the gunnels to rest the paddles sideways.

The Jackson Kayak design team improved the rod and paddle stagers by making them deeper and tighter, enabling better grip.

Handles

The Big Tuna comes with five ergonomic handles made of sturdy plastic. All of them are molded in line with the hull to prevent line entanglement.

There’s one carrying handle at the bow, two at the stern, and one on each side of the kayak. Such handle placement is great for transportation and storage.

Stability

Big Tuna’s broad hull and flat, 22-inch standing platform provide a lot of stability, especially when paddled solo. That said, users have reported that the Big Tuna is not very comfortable in windy conditions. The kayak sits relatively high in the water and strong winds can push it around quite a bit.

Maneuverability and Tracking

At 14’2″, you would expect the Big Tuna to track very well and be difficult to maneuver. To counter that, Jackson added a small rocker at the bow. As a result, the kayak has a slight tendency to veer off to one side but is easy to turn, especially with two paddlers.

Speed

The Big Tuna can maintain decent speed with two paddlers on board. Its long, streamlined hull with a narrow bow tip cuts through water easily.

If you decide to go on a solo fishing trip, keep in mind that the Big Tuna is sensitive to strong winds. Your speed will depend on where you’re going relative to the wind direction.

Care and Maintenance

Rotomolded kayaks are incredibly durable and require minimum maintenance. However, to make sure that the kayak always performs well when plunged into the water, we must follow some general rules:

Regardless of how uneventful the paddling has been, upon arrival home, always check the hull for cracks, abrasions, or more serious breaches. Light nicks and scratches are a normal part of the experience. It is also a great time to get the new gear you were dreaming of last year.

During the season, it is a good idea to quickly spray down your kayak after each trip (especially in saltwater). Store the kayak away from direct sunlight or use kayak covers. Avoid dragging the kayak on its hull if possible. A kayak cart is a great and inexpensive accessory that can prolong the life of your boat.

Make sure you get any sand, dirt, or dead bugs out. Check the rigging and see what needs replacement. Loosen any bungees or straps that can be loosened. Apply some corrosion protection (like WD-40) to metal joints, screws, and bolts.

Always check the straps, buckles, hatch cover, and cords if they hold a strong elasticity. If any of the moving parts become loose, it is better to replace them.

Storage

Dry the boat thoroughly. Store your kayak on its side, never on the hull.

Provide shelter from the sun. To prevent heat build-up, do not cover the boat with a tarp laying directly on its surface. Leave adequate air space to allow for air circulation.

If possible, store your kayak inside for the winter. Don’t allow water to accumulate between the deck and hull and freeze.

About the Manufacturer

Jackson Kayaks was founded in 2003 by world champion and Olympic kayaker Eric Jackson, design partner David Knight and friend, Tony Lunt. Based near Rock Island, Tennessee, Jackson Kayak is well-known both in the kayak fishing world and among freestyle kayaking athletes. In fact, many of the world’s leading freestyle kayakers use Jackson kayaks.

Warranty

For kayaks bought in 2019 and earlier, Jackson offers a 3-year limited warranty. For kayaks bought in 2020, the warranty period has been increased to 5 years.

The warranty covers substantial defects in materials and workmanship in the hull and outfitting components made by Jackson Kayak.

The warranty applies from the original date of purchase from an authorized dealer. For demo boats and used boats, the warranty begins from the date the kayak was shipped from Jackson.

Unlike with some other manufacturers, Jackson’s warranty also applies to subsequent owners of the kayaks, not just the original owner.
Depending on the year of the warranty period, Jackson will repair or replace the hull and/or outfitting components, as follows:

Watercraft Purchased 2020 and After

First Year of Warranty: We’ll replace or repair the hull for free (or we’ll replace the complete boat for 10% of the current MSRP), Free Shipping
Second Year of Warranty: We’ll replace or repair the hull for 10% of current boat MSRP (or we’ll replace the complete boat for 30% of the current boat MSRP), plus shipping.
Third, Fourth and Fifth Year of Warranty: We’ll replace or repair the hull for 30% of the current boat MSRP (or we’ll replace the complete boat for 50% of the current boat MSRP), plus shipping.

Note that some components are manufactured by independent companies and are covered by separate warranties. You can learn more by contacting Jackson.

To submit a warranty claim, you will need proof of purchase. Jackson may require you to provide photos of the damage or to return the product at your own cost.

International warranty claims are handled via Jackson’s distributors. Warranty terms may be different in different countries. Please contact your local dealer to learn more.

For full Jackson’s warranty terms, click here: https://www.jacksonadventures.com/warranty/

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