Into the Wilderness


The Australian bass is a favourite amongst anglers for many reasons. It loves to attack lures off the surface, it fights with gusto and lives in environments that vary from swampy drains to pristine creeks and rivers.

For me, it’s these picture postcard flowing creeks and rivers that make a day’s bass fishing so special. Quite often you get to see all manner of weird and wonderful wildlife as well as catching a few bass in gin clear water along the way. The most important piece of equipment in any bass angler’s bag of of tricks is a good canoe or kayak. Canoes are great if you have someone to fish with all the time, but if you’re like me and head off on the sniff of a good barometer it’s not always possible to find a fishing partner at short notice, so a decent ’yak is the way to go.

A good bass kayak needs to be super tough, light, stable and manoeuvrable – especially if you’re going to attack isolated areas with limited access and running water. My bass ’yaks get dragged across paddocks, roads, logs and plenty of rocks. It’s no place for fibreglass or a kayak that’s too heavy or bulky.

My last bass kayak proved itself to be far too heavy for the job weighing in at around 34 kilograms. Believe me when I say weight makes a massive difference when it comes to launching, retrieving and portaging kayaks. The lighter and easier your bass ’yak is to handle, the more enjoyable it will be to use.

After selling my heavy old beast I spent a few months scouring the internet for a potential replacement and stumbled across the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100. The specs seemed to meet my criteria, so off I went and shelled out some cash on a shiny new toy.

The Tarpon 100 measures in at 305cm long, 77cm wide and has a healthy load capacity of 147 kilograms. It’s a sturdy kayak with the type of quality finish on the plastic and molding that Wilderness Systems kayaks are well known for.

One of the biggest selling points for me was a dry weight of 25 kilograms, it’s a dream to lift on and off the roof of my car or drag up a steep river side bank. In this regard, it’s just what I was after.

Wilderness Systems has done a great job with its Phase 3 seat system on this model. It’s one of the most comfortable kayak seats I’ve used. My back’s pretty average but I can easily spend a couple of hours sitting down in the seat without the need to get out and unfold myself. The back rest is height adjustable via a pull of a handle that’s positioned between your legs and you can also raise the front edge of the seat base for more support under your thighs by pulling on a toggle either side of the seat.

The overall layout of the cockpit area feels quite spacious for such a relatively short kayak. The combination of the Phase 3 seat and adjustable foot rests make it quite easy to find a comfortable paddling position.

One tip I can give readers regarding the foot rest department is to fix a small self tapping screw into the start of the footrest track. If you manage to get a foot or a piece of equipment behind the rest that depresses the adjuster, the foot rest can easily slide straight back out of the track and if you’re unlucky disappear in the water. The small self tapper simply acts as a stopper at the beginning of the track. Just a very small detail Wilderness Systems has overlooked.

Wilderness Systems has also incorporated its Slide Trax System on the Tarpon 100. This track is mounted on both top decks adjacent to the foot rests and can be used to mount rod holders, electronics or camera equipment.

Carry handles are mounted at both ends and sides of the 100. These handles have a hard plastic outer and are quite easy on the hands when carrying or dragging the Tarpon.

Other features include a mesh covered tackle stowage area in the cockpit area, bungees that can be used for holding rods or your paddle on the side of the kayak and various connection points for lanyards.

Stowage is another vitally important component of a good bass kayak and the Tarpon 100 has plenty of it. The tank well behind the seat is big enough to hold a modest size camera box, icebox or tackle pack. There’s a track mounted on both sides of the well that allows easy adjustment for bungee placement to secure equipment.

The Tarpon 100 is fitted with two Orbix eight-inch hatches that allow for items to be stored in the bow area and midship between your legs. These hatches seal well and the latch system works soothly and efficiently. The type of rivers I like to fish have plenty of runs and rapids so all of the gear I put inside the hull is always stored in dry bags for extra security. I also attach lanyards to everything stored in the rear well or cock pit area. I found out the hard way when I bit off more than I could chew and lost $1500 worth of gear in one capsize. Lesson learnt, much safer to portage around bigger rapids and sometimes even the little ones will bring you unstuck. It pays to always to stop, look and do a quick risk analysis before you take on any white water.

On the water
This little ’yak is a ripper for fishing small streams and running rivers; it turns easily and holds its position in a breeze fairly well thanks to the small keel at the transom. The good news is that the Tarpon’s keel doesn’t seem to produce funny directional control habits in running water as much as some other ’yaks I’ve paddled. Some are terrible and seem to have a mind of their own and are very hard to control in this sort of scenario. So far the little Tarpon has handled everything I’ve thrown at it with flying colours.

The Tarpon 100 paddles like you’d expect, it’s short and wide and better suited for slowly working river banks and snags with well aimed casts than speedily covering lots of water. If you want to cover more distance on open water, the 120 or 140 models are better options for paddling efficiency. In saying that, the 100 tracks straight and still gets along pretty well.

One area the 100 really shines is stability. It’s rock solid and gives you a feeling of confidence at all times, whether you’re casting, fighting a fish or pulling a lure out of creekside scrub.

In summary, if you’re thinking about a new bass kayak, check out the Tarpon 100 – it’s well finished, packed full of features and performs very well on the water. It meets my needs and has already proved its capabilities is some tough situations. For more info, check out www.wildernesssystems.com.au. 

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