Posted on December 06, 2012
I have been a fan of Native Watercraft since Andy and Jimbo designed the Ultimate some years back. They have continued, for the most part, to release cool and innovative products since then. Their biggest claim to fame was the "First Class Seat". They had an early model called the Magic which was their first Sit On Top to have the first class seat. Owners of the Magic LOVE it! It's difficult to find a used Magic these days because they were great paddling boats and far more comfortable than any other SOT for it's time. Native stopped making the Magic a few years back because they had a hard time keeping the mold in place during production and a large number of the molds had to go back into the oven. That didn't mean faulty boats came to market, it just meant that a lot of production costs were involved into getting that boat to the stores. Native's only SOT since then was the Manta Ray, but the hull had not changed since it was a Liquid Logic branded kayak and the seat, while pretty nice, didn't stack up to the “first class seat”.
For 2013, Native finally released another SOT with the First Class Seat. Some of the highlights include a "stand up" capable hull, places to stash Plano boxes, and a "Hi/Low" First Class seat that allows the user to sit in a lower position while paddling, or put the seat a few inches higher for better visibility while fishing. The only problem with these features is that Jackson Kayaks has been offering the same thing for a couple years now. Anyone familiar with each are pretty much chalking up Native's “Slayer” as a "rip off" of the Jackson Cuda.
Jackson has been around for several years and is very well known and well respected in the whitewater kayaking realm. They did a great deal of research and development prior to releasing their first Fishing Kayak. When the Jackson “Coosa” was released, they had the first kayak that came to market with a seat that was as comfortable (more comfortable to some) than Native's First Class Seat. The Coosa was a very stable, well laid out kayak that took the industry by storm. The only problem with the Coosa is that it was designed as a moving water or river boat. It was very stable and capable in rapids and moving water, but in large open water, it was a bit much to paddle. In comes the Jackson Cuda.
Jackson released the Cuda as a flat water version of the Coosa. It had a more pointed nose and a redesigned hull to give you both a better paddling experience AND the quietest hull I have ever not heard. Those of us sensitive to hull slap and its effect on spooking fish will really appreciate the Cuda. It's slightly less stable then the Coosa for us larger paddlers (I'm 6'2, 230lbs), but still stable enough to stand up and Fly cast or land fish. The fist release of the Cuda was a 14ft version, followed this year by a 12ft. The Cuda's now come with Ram Rod holders and Go Pro Camera mounts standard and even more well thought out “nooks and crannies”. They just continue to hone these boats in each year.
The Native Slayer has FINALLY come to market after much anticipation. There are many Native fans (I'm one of them!) who were really excited about this product. Unfortunately, as it's come to market, we're all just sitting back asking ourselves why we wouldn't just get a Jackson Cuda. Comparing the Cuda and the Slayer, both paddle very much the same. I notice that the Cuda is still a quieter for hull slap. Stability is equal at my size. It all comes down to features and comfort really. The addition of the groove tracks on the bow and stern compartments is maybe a nice touch, but I can't really come up with anything useful for them for my own fishing habits. I am a HUGE fan however of the open bow compartment on the Slayer. Enclosed bow hatches are completely useless in most kayaks unless you are camping. Most of us are looking for areas to stow gear that is accessibly while in the kayak. I find the open bow to be VERY useful. Good one Native!
Two years ago, the Hi/Low First Class seat would have completely wowed everyone. Unfortunately, Jackson coming to market first with their seat has taking some of that surprise and made it an expectation for most of us. Having to compare seats and comfort is difficult. We all have different butts, backs, and build. You should never listen to someone else's opinion on comfort! Get out there are spend a few hours on any kayak you may be interested in buying. It makes all the difference. I will tell you, though; After 5 years of paddling Native kayaks and being a huge fan of the First Class Seat, my body definitely prefers the Jackson seat. I’ve spent 8 hours on a Coosa before and felt great.
In conclusion, these boats are both cool boats and similar enough that you could own either and be happy with it. It all comes down to you and your situation. My experience with both brands and the innovation of each, and how I fish, I give my decision to Jackson's Cuda. It's maybe the perfect fishing kayak made. Why? A few main reasons for me. Fishing in SW Florida means mangroves, skinny water, and salty water. Jackson has so much storage along the side of the boat, and the best feature is the rod tip saver up front. It never fails, you'll be paddling and a rod tip will get snagged by a log or mangrove sticking out of the water. The tip saver on the Cuda is a really great innovation and saves a lot of money and aggravation of broken rod tips. In addition, the Cuda comes standard with two of the Ram Rod Tubes just behind the seat. For those of you using the traditional Seadog style rod holders in salt water, your life will never be the same with the Ram Tube. It keeps your reel up out of the saltwater and allows you to position it at any angle. I don't paddle without having a line in the water, and with a couple turns of the thumb screw, you're Ram Tube is pointed in a perfect trolling position. We’ll hope that Native wows us on the next release. For now, Jackson continues to be a step ahead these days. Nice work guys!