Gear Institute Expert Test Menu

Water Master Kodiak

- published June 2016

95

2016

RATINGS

Weight/Portability
10
Capacity
10
Durability
10
Moving-water Performance
10
Still-water Performance
6
Versatility
9
GEAR INSTITUTE RATING
95

SHOP

MSRP
LOW PRICE
$1695.00
N/A
Support Gear Institute. If you make a purchase after clicking on the links above, a portion of the sale helps support this site.

THE GOOD

  • Super durable
  • Great performance on rivers
  • Good gear capacity
  • Lightest boat in the class
  • Made in USA

THE BAD

  • Most expensive boat in the class
  • Standard oars are short and weak for river use
  • Angler sits low on the water
  • Average still water performance

THE VERDICT

The Water Master Kodiak from Big Sky Inflatables, LLC, earned praise from every tester we put into the boat. Whether on mirror-smooth lakes, or bounding through Class III rapids, the Kodiak outperformed expectations. The Water Master Kodiak’s performance on still water is a tad lower than some of the other boats in the class, but it’s still effective on lakes and its river performance is unmatched.

FULL REVIEW

The Water Master Kodiak—produced by Big Sky Inflatables, LLC, in Missoula, Montana—offers big raft performance, in a compact one-person design. From flat water to swift-flowing rivers, the Kodiak provided a stable platform from which to fish safely and effectively. 

When launched on lakes, the Kodiak’s open floor design allowed easy use of kick-fins to power the boat when trolling woolly buggers or delicate chrominids. The lack of a rocker on the raft tubes allows the Kodiak to track well, though not quite as straight as a pontoon boat. And the low position on the water, compared to the slightly more elevated seats in the pontoon-style boats, makes sight casting a little more difficult. 

But no other boats in the class come close to the Kodiak’s performance in river use. When drift angling on a river, the Waster Master boats earn the name.  The traditional oval raft design keeps the Kodiak tracking cleanly on active water, and the closed bow ensures the boat bounces off mid-stream rocks where pontoons can split over them and get hung-up. We found the open-floor design in the rivers was best used to ‘body anchor’ the boat—when you reach an area that called for more than simply drifting a fly through as you pass, I could simply stand up mid-boat and use my body to hold the boat in place while I cast to fishable waters.   

When designing, and refining, their Water Master boats, the folks at Big Sky Inflatables opted to build strong, even though it meant a little more weight. The raft’s 1100-denier polyester material is treated with UV protectant before it receives its PVC coating. During construction, all seams are joined with an overlap of 1 inch, then covered with 1-inch seam tape. That is then sealed with 2-inch seam tape. That stout seam construction is backed with a life-time warranty. 

The boat weighs no more than its competitors—only 27 pounds for the boat by itself, but nearly 40 when seat, oars, gear bags, etc. are added—but it also hauls more than any other boat we tested. The 750-pound capacity is twice that of the Creek Company boat. The length of the Water Master (8’10”) means there’s also room to use that impressive capacity. When I’m in the Kodiak, the space behind me is big enough for a gear bag and a small cooler while still allowing room for my yellow lab to comfortably ride along. Or it can handle is a sizable dry bag or two to haul overnight gear for multi-day floats. 

The Water Master Kodiak stands as our pick for best all-around boat for solo anglers. 

How We Tested It

A number of testers—including both male and female anglers—used all the boats in this test on lakes and ponds in Washington—from a couple acres in size to a couple thousand acres in size. I also floated sections of the Yakima and Naches Rivers in them, on water ranging from Class I to low Class III.

The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.

About the Author

Dan Nelson

Dan Nelson

Dan Nelson is the fly fishing editor of Gear Institute.com. He is a veteran outdoor journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. Follow him at Google+.


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MSRP
LOW PRICE
$1695.00
N/A
Support Gear Institute. If you make a purchase after clicking on the links above, a portion of the sale helps support this site.

RATINGS

Weight/Portability
10
Capacity
10
Durability
10
Moving-water Performance
10
Still-water Performance
6
Versatility
9
GEAR INSTITUTE RATING
95

Specs

  • Length: 8'10"
  • Width: 52"
  • Capacity: 750

Weight

27 lbs

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