I bought the Big Yak to have a warm weather SOT that would be suitable for beginners paddling Class I-II rocky Texas Rivers. It works well for my intended purposes.
It provides a very wide, stable platform that gives novices a feeling of security. Because of its short length, its width, and its rather blunt bow, it is a very slow boat. Any trip longer than a few miles will tire out all but the strongest paddlers; however, for an afternoon jaunt of three to five miles, it's great. As with all sit-on-tops, the paddler is going to get wet. Since I personally hate being wet and cold, I regard everything in this genre as being suitable for summertime use only.
Previous reviewers have mentioned the need for using a long paddle--amen to that. They have also mentioned problems with leaks and they are right about that also. Remember to open the drain plug and get the water out after every usage or you'll end up with quite a bit of extra "ballast." Because of the leaks, I would definitely not recommend taking this boat out on open water for hours on end!
I talked to a livery operator recently who said that the big drain holes in the foot wells and under the seat are major wear points when the Big Yak is used in rocky streams. He said that these drain hole areas wear out very quickly, rendering the boat useless after one season of hard usage. I guess I have not hit enough rocks to cause that much damage, because I haven't noticed any significant wear around the drain holes on my boat yet.
Despite its shortcomings, I would buy this boat again so I can take first-timers out in warm conditions to introduce them to paddling moving water.I have used an OC Prowler 13 for about a year now to fish the protected bays near the Gulf in Southwestern Louisiana. I love the Prowler 13, but the ride is not entirely dry and it is not nimble enough to chase redfish or specks when they are feeding. I purchased a Big Yak in hopes of a drier ride, increased stability, and something easier to turn when I needed to do so. The Big Yak has proved just dandy thank you. Despite what you read in some reviews, the Big Yak is not slow, it turns on a proverbial dime, paddles fairly straight on flatwater if you have any paddling sense at all, and it does very well in rough water. In fact, it is faster than my Prowler 13 in that the Big Yak rides over the waves and does not lose much speed while the Prowler 13 comes to a near stop every time the bow plows into a good sized wave.
A little imagination and some bungi cord work, and the Big Yak is a very easy to load in a standard truck bed, extremely stable, inexpensive, and great fun. I strongly recommend the Crazy Creek Kayak III air inflatable seat from Cabelas. It is a third of the price of other high end yak seats, most comfortable for all day fishing; your butt does not get numb. The Big Yak has a high seat and thus, drier ride. The air seat elevates your butt another inch or more and makes for an even drier ride. Get a 230 cm paddle. The Big Yak is wide> I love it. No yak scores a 10 yet…I enjoyed reading TB's review so much that I bought a Big Yak Package from L.L. Bean. I got a kayak, paddle, and seat rest for $435 delivered from Washington to Southern California. I enjoyed the Yak and put it in the back of my pick up truck.
I soon realized that I had a leak. I contacted Ocean Kayak website. I think their customer service is terrible. The leak was coming from the scupper hole. Several times my replies were not answered. Apparently not returning customer complaints about specific problems is common since I heard another guy say his complaint of the drifter taking on water was never answered. I was taking on a gallon of water an hour. I am new to kayaking and ignorantly thought all the water draining out was no big deal, until I asked another kayaker I met at Dana Point.
L.L. Bean is a fantastic company and is will to return and replace the kayak immediately. I was hoping that Ocean Kayak could refer me to a dealer closer to where I live, rather than wait on another delivery from Washington.
Ocean Kayak finally agreed, but never returned my last E-mail, the one giving them the closest dealer's address to my house, which was in Long Beach. There was absolutely no follow through at all, so I reluctantly wrapped up my Big Yak with shipping wrap and am waiting on the truck from L.L. Bean.
It grieves me to know that another family could be out there without knowing their kayak is slowly sinking. They never even apologized for a leaky boat. I guess it is too common at Ocean Kayak these days. They diagnosed the leak, got the serial number and were gone, despite stating that they would switch my Yak at the nearest dealer.
I plan to E-mail L.L. Bean and let them know that one of their brands is represented by a company that takes leaky boats too casually and a customer service that does not follow through.
Now I have to wait for L.L. Bean to pick it up. In the meanwhile, I went over to Malibu Kayaks and was treated like a king. I got to try their kayaks for free and their kayaks are guaranteed for life. I really very impressed with the Malibu Extreme. Maybe there was a reason for all of this mess. The Big Yak was too small for open ocean fishing, but is very stable and easy to paddle in the bay. I also liked the fact it fit in my mini truck's bed. However, if you are willing to overlook a leak that could have easily sunk the boat, and casual customer service that view a leaky boat as a minor inconvenience, this might be the Yak for you!After 3 years of driving highly customized Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro Tankwell in all but white water environments this 6', 200# avid angler made an unexpected, and some would say irrational about-face to a new boat.
OK SPTW is a 14'9" x 26" 55# fast, long-distance touring vessel believed by many to be THE boat for fishing (before Prowler and Drifter entered the market in 2003). New boat, BigYAK is a 2004 new addition to Ocean Kayak line-up of single Sit-On-Tops. Nothing like it has been built before: 9'8" x 34", 47#. (It is the widest beamed boat except for Cobra Fish'n'Dive which boasts 36", but with 12'6" length and 57#).
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Boat is very wide, extremely well finished. There is not a single rivet in it - stainless steel screws and brass threaded inserts that are molded into hull.
Very sturdy padded handles with neoprene base lining on the sides. Flat rectangular storage behind the seat, no front hatch, optional center hatch which I declined to have installed.
Hull design is remarkable: very elevated cockpit, bottom is completely flat in front 50%, there is a strongly pronounced keel-like crest in the rear 50%. Very interesting.
Stability - I had no idea that a kayak can be so stable. I stood on it and it was almost good for casting (wouldn't try it in rougher water though). One has to sit side-saddle and lean forward for the boat to begin tipping, but there is ample warning period before the point of no return.
Transition from seated to horizontal position is very easy (instant relief from sore back). Rolling from back to belly is absolutely secure.
Dryness - Not a drop of water inside the cockpit. I repeat, not a single drop. Scupper holes are level with water. Seat is very wide and cannot possibly retain water by any means.
No rivets and no hatch means unprecedented watertightness - upon removal of threaded plug from the bow one hears a faint Pfffft of escaping air.
Comfort - The footwells unlike OK SPTW have straight-through flat-bottomed trough on the inner side. That means one can stretch legs without digging the heels at certain intervals. Extremely comfortable.
Large flat area where front hatch is located on boats like Caper would easily accomodate supermarket-type cold storage bag with ice. Keeeping fish problem is therefore easily solved (in case of multiple fish in 25" class). Rear storage space is exceptionally accessible and more than sufficient.
Acceleration - Longitudinal gains of speed are poor due to boat's instant turn in response to power stroke. This boat was designed to avoid surf-swamping by instant bow direction adjustment, not by running over swells like OK SPTW. Since acceleration in kayaking is used primarily in last-second avoidance of swelling waves, this judge deems it fairly unimportant in case of the BigYAK.
Speed - Poor by comparison with OK SPTW. Fully adequate for fishing. Addition of rudder should improve the speed by probably 25% or so. Unlike in longer boats, rudder deployment would not require cables and complicated hardware. Strongly suspect that maintaining comfortable speeds would require re-learning to paddle this different hull and may in fact be more fuel-efficient per mile than OK SPTW.
Maneuverability - Excellent, to the point of amazing. Zero-radius turns are accomplished instantaneously, without counter-stroke. Boat maintains steady forward speed by paddling with bare hands, which never worked on OK SPTW.
Fishability - In a word, superb, provided one changes tactics from those akin to tournament bass fisherman (lots of gunning and running, electronics-intensive style, long distances covered) to those of jon-boats (slow, methodical work of sure fish-holding spots, slow-trolling of livies). Boat design promises excellent stability in anchored setup (in front of a drop, ledge, hole or breakers). OK SPTW tended to sway widely and would almost require twin anchors for secure hold, which is impractical.
Speed of put-in deployment is second-to-none. Compact truck bed secures the boat in less than 30 seconds by means of 2 bungees. No straps, no humming at highway speeds, no rack. Boat sticks out 21 inches past the bumper's edge - no need for red flag.
Additional Remarks - Equipping the boat with thigh straps is more than recommended if surf rougher than 2-3 ft is to be traversed. A lot of careful thought went into this design. It is doubtful if the boat has many areas for improvement when used according to its purpose. I love the boat, if my verbosity obscured the meaning for anyone. Gave it 9 because nothing is 10. TB