Well, it’s June and I’ve had a few months to test out this year’s new Ocean Kayak Big Game II. As a pro staff member for Johnson Outdoors, the parent company of Ocean Kayak, Old Town, and Necky, I will be as neutral as possible, and avoid any comparisons to similar kayaks from other brands. As I personally feel it is impossible for someone sponsored to give an unbiased “review” of one of their brands’ products, I will mainly be comparing the platform to others within the JO lines, based upon my observations and experiences putting them through their paces.
For those unaware, the Big Game II is an updated version of the Ocean Kayak Big Game, which was introduced several years back. The original concept of the boat was to offer a stable, seaworthy platform, with a substantial weight capacity, which also made it an ideal fishing kayak for larger paddlers and bigger prey. After Johnson Outdoors incorporated the Element seating system into the Old Town Predator MX and 13 in 2013, the next logical step was to take this elevated seat and integrate it into the preexisting Big Game, as the Ocean Kayak line already had a stable, and tried and tested hull. Along with the new seat, the hull received some substantial modifications, primarily on the upper half of the rotomolded hull, adding the Mod Pod, new click seal hatch, mounting plates, and a few other new features.
As for the functionality of the Big Game II, just as the boat’s predecessor was, it is a seaworthy, stable vessel. The new seat offers a whole new level of comfort, with two seat levels, and being able to be folded backwards when desired for standing. The boat also turns quite well, without a rudder. Personally, I would place the BGII somewhere between the Old Town Predator MX and 13, for its versatility. The Predator MX is an outstanding “mixed water” hull and is my go-to kayak for flowing rivers. The Predator 13 tracks amazingly well, and is my preference for a super stable kayak for covering ground. The BGII falls in the middle, and is at home on a calm flowing river, inshore, and also in bigger, sloppy conditions.
As for seaworthiness, I have seen what the BG hull has been capable of over the years in large open water, so that area is no question in my mind. The BGII can handle most any conditions thrown at it. That being said, with the new seating system and placement, the center of gravity is shifted from that of the original version. If in these heavy conditions, I would place the seat in the lower position.
A few of my favorite features and design elements:
#1: Element Seating System (No question about it, I LOVE the Element seat!)
#2: Weight capacity (Up to 600 pounds! This will definitely be my go-to camping kayak.)
#3: Dryness (This falls kind of under the weight capacity category, but I am so impressed, I needed to give it its own line. I am a big guy, and the cockpit deck stays really dry in typical conditions.)
#4: Mounting Plates (As most know, I like to rig kayaks. These plates make it easy to install and reinstall accessories. They are also great for those who may be unsure about putting holes into a new kayak.)
#5: Mod Pod (I have always liked the rod pod system, for easy interior access, and it’s a great spot to just plug in a rod holder, without installing a base.)
#6: Glide Track Foot Brace System (Comfy, enough said.)
#7: Transducer compatible scupper hole (I have raved about the Humminbird compatible scupper holes since they came out a few years back. Get the boat, buy a Humminbird, send the stock transducer to the company, receive the scupper transducer, feed the cable through the hole, screw on the nut, and you’re ready to roll.)
#8: Battery bag (Just a nice feature that can be used as a convenient storage spot, even if you don’t have a fishfinder.)
#9: Clam shell paddle clip (Another nice feature that just comes in handy.)
#10: Click Seal hatch (Two words, stays closed.)
#11: Solid side handles (More ergonomic and durable than canvass.)
#12: Removable stern skid plate (One of those nice features that makes a difference.)
#13: Color (I am just hooked on urban camo!)
For more information on the Ocean Kayak Big Game II: http://kayakbattleship.com/