Please note: I wrote this article 1.5 years prior to being ask to join the Wilderness Pro Fishing Team. I was not affiliated with the company at the time I wrote this article.
I was lucky enough to be able to purchase a new Ride 115 within the first couple weeks of it’s initial release. Since then I’ve put the boat through it’s paces on rivers large and small while guiding professionally and fishing for fun. Let’s just say I’ve got a LOT of seat time in this boat. It has quickly become by river chariot of choice on most of my kayak fishing excursions. This kayak offers great fishability and paddling performance as a result of a well thought out design.
In this review I’ll cover some of the major points that make this boat stand out in the crowd. More importantly, I want to comment on some of the “finer points” about this kayaks design and utility for the river angler that some folks may overlook.
Most of my experience kayak fishing is on large rivers, small rivers, creeks, and small lakes. I’ve paddled kayaks ranging from 11 feet to 16 feet on those waters. The Ride 115 really is in a “sweet spot” if you want a kayak that can handle the wide range of waters I’ve listed. In this review, I’ve selected a number of categories to address points I think are relevant to kayak anglers. If you have specific questions, feel free to post them on the comments far below. This way others can take advantage of the discussion.
You can check out more detailed specifications on the Wilderness Systems Webite. They have some great video over there as well.
Basic specs from the Wilderness Systems Site
Length – 11’6″ / 351 cm
Width – 33″ / 84 cm
Weight – 76 lbs* / 35 kg (*with seat removed, kayak weighs 68 lbs / 31 kg)
Deck Height – 16.5″ / 42 cm
Seating Well – 67″ x 21.5″ / 170 x 55 cm
Capacity – 500 lbs / 227 kg
The Wilderness Systems Ride 115 has really nice speed when compared to other short kayaks/Sit on Tops that I’ve paddled. The speed is more than sufficient for the rivers and small lakes I paddle. Quite honestly, it’s as fast as some slightly longer boats I’ve paddled. At 33 inches of width, one might expect it to be slower. The hull is chinned and designed in a way that there is less hull in the water than would be expected of a 33 inch wide kayak. The result is better speed. In addition, the ability to trim the kayak by sliding the seat forward or aft is a plus when you’ve got a lot of fishing gear in your tank well. No more tail heavy kayaks that can slow you down!
The boat has more than sufficient tracking for river and small flat water applications. Yes, my Ride 135 tracks a little better but for an 11.5 foot boat the Ride 115 will be VERY hard to beat. I’ve done 2 mile up river paddles in the boat and criss-crossed the mile wide Susquehanna River on fishing trips and the boat performed great. The tri-hull design with a substantial center keel running the length of the the kayak keeps you tracking straight.
The Ride 115′s maneuverability is one of the things I enjoy most about this kayak. Running some of the smaller rivers and creeks that I guide on has become an absolute joy in this boat. Also squirting in and out of island eddy’s and shore line pockets during periods of high water on big rivers makes the kayak fun to paddle. This level of maneuverability allows me to get on high water fish in tight quarters. It also allows me to more quickly respond to unforeseen river obstacles.
The Ride 115′s chinned hull design is one of the design features that improves maneuverability. Unlike many sit on top kayaks that I’ve paddled you can actually edge (or “J” lean) with the Ride 115. This helps when ferrying across current, doing peel outs, and eddy turns. Yes, it’s not a white water boat but for a sit-on-top it does some really good stuff!
The short 11.5 foot kayak is inherently maneuverable but Wilderness has added just the right amount of rocker to the boat which further improves turning ability yet is not so much rocker that it kills tracking. Kudo’s to Wilderness on walking the line between tracking and maneuverability in just the right amounts!
Can you say “stand and fish”? Well, if your an angler who wants a small boat and the option of standing up then the Ride 115 should be on your short list. Pun intended! I stand quite a bit while fishing river weed beds during low water periods in the summer. The high vantage point allows me to sight cast to fish in weed pockets and gives me a better angle for pitching baits into those pockets. Even if you don’t want to stand, the stability of this boat will allow you to easily sit side saddle while fishing so you can access gear in your tank well with confidence. Most “would be” kayak anglers I speak with during seminars want stability. Well, you’ve got that and more in the Ride 115.
Cargo Capacity & Storage
When I purchased the Ride 115 to use as my personal guide kayak, I was concerned that at 11.5 feet in length it would not have enough gear capacity. I was accustomed to loading scads of gear in my Ride 135. Lets just say that on any give day I have more gear in my kayak than most local tackle shops have on their shelves! All kidding aside, I was able to find a place for all my gear in the Ride 115. The tank well takes a standard size crate with room to spare. The Orbix hatch on the bow is big enough to stow my cold weather dry bag, lunch, throw rope, water, and a number of other odds and ends with room to spare. The Orbix hatch in the cockpit is angled giving me the ability put rods of up to 7 feet inside the kayak. That’s great when running sections of a river that are a little technical. You may want to protect a few of your more expensive rod/reel combo’s by putting them inside the Ride. If you’re like me, and you need to slide the seat forward to better trim out the boat then you’ll have some space behind the seat to throw a couple bottles of water or anything else that you want to keep handy. Bottom line, the Ride 115 has more than enough gear capacity for a day trip or even muti-day trips on the river.
The Ride 115 has an out of this world weight capacity coming in at 500 lbs. This is excellent for us bigger paddlers! Make no mistake, the hull of this kayak has a lot of volume. Most of which is at the center of the kayak creating more stability. An added benefit of the hull design and volume is that the Ride 115 drafts very shallow even with a lot of weight on board. This makes the Ride great for getting into those shallow areas of the river where other boats can’t go. You’ll also get in and out of the kayak a lot less during low water conditions on the river. Increased hull volume also means that the 2012 Ride 115 stays dry in the cockpit even with the scupper plugs out. No more water up through the scupper holes like you’ve experienced with the old Ride series Kayak (Ride 135)!
I’m not even sure I know where to start with this one… there are a lot of nice features built into this boat but I’ll give it my best shot! First, Slide Trax allow you to add rod holders, fish finders and GPS units with ease. There is a lot of flat surface across the deck of this kayak. You can add all kinds of rod holders, camera mounts, flush mount rods holders, etc with ease on these flat surfaces. Wilderness has also incorporated their Phase 3 seat into the new Ride 115. As a result, you’ll spend more time fishing and less time standing along the bank working kinks out of your back. I put in 8-10 hours of seat time in the kayak on each trip out. believe me when I tell you, it’s comfortable.
The Ride 115 is built to fish as you can tell from all my comments above. It’s really a total package. One point I’d like to leave you with is its pure paddle-ability (I made that word up). You have to be able to “get there” to get the fish. The Ride 115 gets you there in style!
If you’re shopping around for a kayak think about the features, specifications, and water you plan to paddle. Once you have your list prioritize those items. What’s most important to you? What’s least important to you? Prioritizing will help you zero in on a number of kayaks that are right for you. Then all you need to do is test paddle. Hopefully this review will help you gain a greater understanding of the Ride 115′s capabilities and how it may fit your requirements for a fishing kayak. I know the Ride 115 has certainly exceeded my expectations!
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