An in-depth look at the Jackson Cuda 12 Kayak

Before I became a seasoned kayaker, I found myself at war. This war I’m referring to was the one where I had to decide on which kayak I would invest my money in. One of my considerations was the Jackson Cuda 12.

The problem was that I had no idea how this kayak performed out on the water, and I wasn’t sold on the idea of purchasing it just for the sake of ‘seeing’ if it would suit my needs.

So here’s what I did:

I took the Jackson Cuda 12 Kayak for a little test drive. The results? They were good, I was impressed, but in the interest of honesty, it wasn’t the kayak I ended up buying for myself. By reading my review below, you’ll be able to see how this fishing kayak performs, and you’ll be able to determine whether or not it’s the right fit for you.

Before we get to the deeper details though, there are a few things I need to get out in the open.

 

Jackson Cuda 12

Purchasing a kayak that caters to your specific needs can be the difference between an epic adventure and a terrible mishap.

The Jackson Cuda 12 is a kayak which was designed for anglers, and the great thing is that Jackson Kayak did an astounding job at ensuring quality in this yack, the same way they do with all their products.

 

Who Is the Jackson Cuda 12 For?

The Cuda 12 is a well-designed kayak, but if you’re not a kayaker that loves to fish, this might not be the right pick for you. If on the other hand, you love large water surfaces and you love punching through the water with great power and speed, this might be your ideal kayak. Furthermore, the Jackson Cuda 12 has an overall length of 12’6”, sporting a beam of 31 inches, providing the target market with just the right balance of maneuverability stability, and speed.

 

Here’s What to Keep In Mind Before Closing the Deal

Before you go ahead and invest in the Jackson Cuda 12, there are a few things you need to consider. If you can live with the things I’m about to describe, you might well be the exact person that this kayak caters to.

Stability

The Jackson Cuda 12 comes with the option to use either the high or low seat, which has an impact on the kayak’s overall stability. I didn’t really have an issue with the Cuda 12’s stability, but I definitely wasn’t blown away by it either.

Storage

The Cuda 12 has a center hatch, and once you understand the dimensions and its capacity, the Jackson Cuda 12 can be an awesome tournament kayak. Furthermore, the kayak also has front and rear storage hatches, which adds more storage space on board for all your loose items.

Comfort

Since the Cuda 12 comes with an elite seat, you’ll have the option of switching between low and high seating positions, which caters pretty darn well to the aspect of comfort.

Speed

One thing is or certain: the Jackson Cuda 12 is a fast ride, combatting the wind perfectly because it sits low enough in the water.

Getting it from Point-A to Point-B

The Cuda 12 isn’t a light vessel, not is it short, and if I had to summarize its movability, I’d give it an 8 out of 10 scores for transportation-friendliness. Take note that the Jackson Cuda 12 tends to keel over when you’re dragging it out of the water, which is one of my biggest problems with this kayak.

Tracking

The Cuda 12 is great at tracking, especially given its size. Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that the Cuda 12 has minimal side-to-side movement while you’re paddling and it also turns effortlessly.

 

Getting To Know the Jackson Cuda 12

As the little brother of the Cuda 14, the Jackson Cuda 12 is a very versatile fishing kayak. If you’re a little limited with your budget, I reckon this might be a great option to consider. With an overall length of 12 feet, it’s a kayak that can easily be transported and stored when you’re not spending the day out on the waters.

Unlike the Cuda 14, the Cuda 12 might not have the same stability (for standing angling applications) as some would expect it to sport. The deck does offer great comfort and convenience features, but some folks – including myself – find that the bigger size and weight f the Cuda 14 is preferable over the more compact Cuda 12.

 

Features & Benefits of the Jackson Cuda 12

Specifications

Length – 12’6”
Width – 31”
Weight – 74 pounds
Type – Sit-on-Top
Capacity – 350 pounds
Kitted for Anglers? Yes
Propulsion: Paddle
Latest Price – $1300 without rudder, and $1500 with rudder

 

The Pros:
  • Has a good balance between speed and maneuverability
  • Has a reasonably stable fishing platform with a width of 31 inches
  • Has a comfortable seat which is also height adjustable
  • Comes with adjustable foot pegs and stand-assist strap
  • Has a lot of storage space onboard

 

The Cons:
  • This kayak isn’t as maneuverable as other compact kayaks in its range
  • Some anglers might find that this kayak isn’t stable enough for them
  • With a total weight of 74 pounds, the Cuda 12 is a bit heavy, meaning it might be heavy for some anglers to load and unload the kayak unassisted.
  • The center console interferes with the standing room
  • Doesn’t come with an anchor trolley

Now, let me tell you a little more about the Cuda 12’s best features…

 

Hull Design

Designed to incorporate the maneuverability of the Jackson Coosa and the speed of the Cuda 14, the Cuda 12 comes with an adjustable seat (which is nice because it can be adjusted according to individual needs). The seat’s position greatly impacts the kayak’s stability, making it a very stable kayak when used correctly. You can check out this review for details.

Storage Space

Storage is a BIG deal with the Cuda 12, and all the onboard space on this kayak makes it great for anglers. The Cuda 12 has a roomy hatch in the center, but you can also add bigger storage units to the kayak, or choose to go sans the storage space. This video from John’s Fish Tales has more details.

Rod Tip Protector

All anglers love rod tip protectors because it takes care of their rods while they’re not being used. For more details on how this feature benefits angler, take a look at the video below.

Adjustable Foot Pegs

Foot pegs which can be adjusted according to your needs is a must for anglers, and it’s something that makes any kayak more user-friendly. I appreciated how easily the Cuda 12’s pegs adjusted, but you can learn more about how to use it here.

Stand-Assist Strap

Some anglers love the idea of standing up while they’re angling, which is why I appreciated the fact that the Jackson Cuda 12 came with a stand-assist strap, allowing me to stand up (and sit back down again) easier and safer.

 

Alternatives to the Jackson Cuda 12

In case you were wondering, there are quite a few alternatives to the Jackson Cuda 12. The top three contenders include:

 

NuCanoe Frontier 12

NuCanoe Frontier 12As a hybrid kayak, the NuCanoe Frontier 12 is perfect for fly fishing, bass fishing, and hunting on the marshes. Super stable, very agile, and easy to paddle, the Frontier 12 is self-bailing. This kayak has enough room for tandem adventures, but you can also go solo since it’s easy to load and unload by yourself.

Best Features:
  • Adjustable seats
  • Rod holders
  • Fishing sports deck
  • 360-degree mobility
  • 20” wide Cast & Blast Deck

 

Jackson Coosa

Jackson CoosaBest known for its compact size and great maneuverability, the Jackson Coosa was made with solo anglers in mind. The Coosa is recommended for beginners, but yet it sports advanced features and amazing comfort. It might not have as much storage space as the Cuda 12, but it does sport handy features such as a stand-assist strap, a drag chain chute, and a height adjustable seat for ultimate comfort.

Best Features:
  • Comes with elite (adjustable) seat
  • Has a drag chain chute
  • Features a stand-assist strap
  • Very stable and maneuverable
  • Small and compact
  • Ample storage space

 

Perception R15 Pescador 120

Perception R15 Pescador 120With a multi-chin hull and all the control and stability you want and need, the Perception R150 Pescador is another great alternative to the Cuda 12. This kayak effortlessly moves through the water, but since it has all that length it features loads of onboard storage space. The Pescador 120 is great with all aspects including maneuverability stability, and glide. With its very attractive price tag, the Pescador comes in as our most budget-friendly alternative to the Cuda 12.

Best Features
  • Comfort Seating System (CSS)
  • Keepers Foot Brace System
  • Features bow hatch as well as a stern and center day hatch
  • Comes with comfort carry handles
  • Features a handy paddle park

Comparing Your Options

  Cuda 12 Frontier Coosa Pescador
Price $1300-$1500 $1499 $1250 $630
Maneuverabilty 7/10 8/10 10/10 6/10
Speed 7/10 8/10 5/10 5/10
Stability 7/10 8/10 8/10 6/10
Comfort 8/10 7/10 8/10 7/10
Storage 9/10 7/10 6/10 7/10
Overall 8/10 9/10 8/10 7/10

 

Feel Like You Need More Info?

If you want to learn more about any of the alternative kayaks we just mentioned, feel free to dive in and explore the options. The NuCanoe Frontier 12, Jackson Coosa, and Perception R15 Pescador are all stunning fishing kayaks in their own rights, catering to very specific needs.

 

Conclusion

I’ll admit it: the Jackson Cuda 12 is a great fishing kayak, it’s amazingly well designed and outfitted to a great extent. But the real reason why I didn’t end up purchasing one for myself has a lot to do with the insanely high recommended retail price of anywhere between $1300 and $1500, depending on whether or not you take it with the rudder.

Kayaks such as the Jackson Coosa, heck even the ‘cheap’ Pescador are just so much more affordable, and if I were to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a kayak, I might as well do it good and proper and invest in something like the Jackson Kraken.

All-in-all the Jackson Cuda 12 is a great fishing kayak and it offers oodles of onboard storage space. If you do decide to purchase this kayak, you’ll be a happy paddler if you can get past the idea of battling with the center console for standing space. My respect for the Jackson brand and their Cuda 12 is tremendous, I just don’t have a love story to tell about this specific model.