I've been paddling mine for almost four years and I've clocked up over 250 trips on it. I'll also cover a wee bit of my rigging with regards to how the yak has performed with these additional modifications.
I spent months trawling forums in order to read numerous review before taking the plunge and buying myself a kayak. Top of the list, it had to be a comfortable platform to fish off, I wanted plenty of storage space plus it had to be stable. Stability was a big issue as over 50% of my fishing is at night, alone, often a mile or more offshore. Sure, I'm leashed onto the yak with a long board leash, but I just didn't want to be exiting the yak if it could be helped!. For the record I'm 6'1" and around 200lb.
So anyway, here's the kayak when it turned up.
I'd never tried a Big Game prior to this and it seemed very spacious whilst seated. Once afloat it's massively stable. I took it to a local swimming pool to practice re-entry drills and I had to literally throw myself off it in order to capsize. Re-righting the yak by reaching underneath for the far carrying handle in order to pull and flip the yak was a doddle. Re-entry was easy enough, no dramas there. At one stage I left the pool and the yak was upside down for 30 minutes. After 3-4 hours of capsizing about 20 times I'd taken on 3-4 litres of water, not bad all things considered (most of this water came in through a flush mount rod holder - now sorted)
Anyway, the layout. The centre console is a bit useless in my opinion, with the cover removed the tray is very shallow and isn't particularly ideal for storing much of anything, however, there is a cup holder!. I have considering cutting the area below this cover out and fitting a re-enforcing ring from machined and anodised aluminium thus creating a 'rod pod', though to date I've not pursued it... probably wont now. I always keep my bait box on the centre console, utilising on the existing straps to secure it, for that it's perfect! :P
Here's the cup holder, you see, very useful
The front hatch is easy to access ashore and allows a C-tug or dry bags to be slipped in there with ease. I've had no problems with it sealing. In a choppy sea swells come over the hatch on a very regular basis so it's proved itself in that respect. Once afloat you can sit side saddle, it's comfortable as the seat is high so your thighs aren't digging into the sides of the yak. It makes accessing the rear tankwell a cinch.
I made do without a rudder for over a year, though once I got around to fitting one there was no looking back. Without a rudder paddling with a crosswind or cutting across a tide is a real pain in the ass. You're often paddling on one side for many strokes just to keep your heading. However, the rudder transforms the handling and makes paddling pleasure. In fact I'd say a must for this kayak if fishing offshore or in exposed areas. DIY fit is straightforward enough taking 2-3 hours at most.
The standard seat is ok for anything up to about 3-4 hours on the water, after this point your ass becomes very numb!. I soon upgraded to a Crazy Creek 3 seat to overcome this problem as I'm often afloat for 6-8 hours, I think 9 hours is my all time record. Great seat btw, only let down by its crappy securing clips that should be upgraded.
Where this kayak does excel is rigging potential. There is just so much space which presents so many options.
Additional rod holders are a must so I eventually decided on some RAM tubes. There are two circular mouldings, one ahead of either footwell, aft of the front hatch. These scream to be fitted with rod holders, though there's the slight issue of accessing them when afloat!. Why they where put there is totally beyond me. After sitting on the yak for hours (in the garage) I decided that placing the tubes just behind the seat would provide an armchair fishing experience. I've no regrets in placing them there, highly recommended, they're a very versatile piece of kit.. If you were to capsize you can fold them down or back making re-entry straightforward.
As I tend to bait fish I can take a lot of fresh & frozen bait on a trip. The tankwell area had to provide plenty of storage for all my crap and needed to offer some potential storage for frozen bait. I tried a couple of things, though I soon settled on the Yakmate 3 and a Marine storage box. The latter takes a cool bag and ice blocks plus bait whilst the yakmate took everything else.
Just ahead of the seat there's a recessed moulding for a centre hatch. When I purchased my hatch I was expecting a back toggle type affair, though when the package arrived it was grey hinged type hatch. It turned out the be OK's 'Revised' hatch which soon proved to be crap. It didn't seal well and being hinged, and positioned under your legs, it made access a pain. I lived with it for a while before ripping it out and fitting the 'original' black hatch. What a difference, well sealed and easy to access. Just tie a lanyard onto the hatch lid, it's not something you want to splash test. I hated the idea of the hatch opening into an empty void, not much use to me. The solution was to fit a washing up bowl which is clipped in place, though it can be unclipped and slid after out of the way if required.
When accessing the front hatch there's a battery tray mounted internally and just aft of the hatch opening. There also a shallow tray either side of the battery slot. I'd say it's ok for freshwater fisherman as a battery mounted there in a salt water environment will result in corroded terminals over a period of weeks and months, no matter how careful you are
The trays either side do allow your sonar cable to be coiled up and secured in those recess, makes it a tidy installation. However, the battery tray wasn't working for me after a few weeks so a dedicated watertight battery box was required. The box has proved to be the way to go and after more than 2 years it's showing few signs of wear and tear. The battery is big at 12Ah, does it need to be?. Well it powers my FF, GPS, light and live well (if required) and I can use it for several trips without having to recharge, ideal for long weekends away.
The design of the yak allows easy rigging of an anchor trolley, though an additional mounting point is really required to position the trolley far enough back. At anchor it's very stable, retrieving anchor is simple with the addition of a cleat towards the front. Even when swinging the yak across the tide when pulling anchor it rarely does more than rock a little.
A quick story... A couple of years ago I dropped anchor close to a headland, the tide was a little stronger than I'd realised!. By the time I'd let out some slack and the anchor warp tightened I'd put myself in difficulty. Oddly enough the first hint of this was a very strong vibration through the yak. turning around I couldn't see my anchor buoy :?: . After a couple of seconds I spotted it, about 3' underwater and shaking violently. The stern was pulling down, not by much though, I could have played a cracking tune on the now somewhat taught anchor trolley . So I was facing aft on my knees trying in vain to un-clip the anchor from the trolley. I was about to get the knife out when the warp snapped and the GPS clocked me drifting at at 7mph. So yup, it's stable at anchor
I've made a good few surf landings and it handles the surf well. Ok, you get soaked going out as a good wave will envelop the yak. Coming in on a big waves I've been angled right up, hatch dug in and not visible, waiting for my life to end,.. though to date I've never been flipped, never capsized once in fact (except when doing drills), again, super stable.
You hear a lot about this kayak being slow, is it really that slow?. Well I fish a lot with guys in Prowler and Trident 13's and I have no problem in keeping up, so in that respect I'd not call it slow. Without any tide I paddle along at around 4mph. Sure, paddling into a headwind or tidal stream is going to slow you down, though I always plan around the tides and pray to the weather gods so it's never really been an issue. Ok, I'm lying a wee bit there, I have paddled for long'ish period in 20-30mph winds and it's not pleasant, but would it be that much easier in another yak??, perhaps a little.
Hull slap is a bit of an issue at times, though I tend to only notice it when the fishing is terribly slow and I'm ebbing towards boredom. However, there is one thing the design does provide, an excellent sleeping platform. I've been out deep for over two hours in a stint, and what a sleep... highly recommended
People rant on about how heavy the Big Game is, is it?. The latest Prowler 4.7 is over 10% heavier. There doesn't seem to be any difference when lifting other OK models onto the roof on my 4x4. Loading itself is all about technique and position of the roof bars, I can easily load my yak onto the roof off my Land Rover, takes seconds. The addition of roller bars makes a huge difference.
What else?. Ah yes, due to it's width (34") I find that it doesn't sit well on the C-Tug trolley. With a laden yak it's prone to tipping on an uneven surface, something that is massively infuriating. I've since made my own trolley to overcome this though it's something to bear in mind. Being a wide yak at 34" and a good length paddle is required. I started off with a 220ch paddle though it was always clattering down the sides, I swapped to a 240cm item and that problem disappeared, made all the difference.
There is a flat 'dashboard' area aft of the front hatch which could be utilised for mounting a FF/GPS, etc. As I mount my yak upside down on the car I decided against using this as it'd only be a matter of time before I ripped stuff off. Though as said earlier, there a many options available when mounting accessories on this kayak. Here's a few rigging photos below to show how I went down that route.
With drogue stored.
Mounting and connection point for stern lamp (optional connection point for live well)
Ready to go, loaded onto the BB trolley
So to conclude..
As a platform to fish off it excels, it's a riggers dream and it's extremely stable. It's not the fastest, though it's not particularly slow. It really needs a rudder to make it a good all rounder. If you like to paddle several miles every time you hit the water I'd say it's not for you. sure I've clocked up quite some distance from time to time, though it's not something I'd want to be doing every trip. My average trip is 2-4 miles, though I've hit 8-10 miles on the odd occasion.