The Wilderness Systems Ride 135

The Wilderness Systems Ride 135
The Wilderness Systems Ride 135

It's everything you'd expect from a sit-on-top fishing kayak and more. The Ride 135 is stable, easy to paddle and rudder ready

Chad Hoover of HOOK 1 Outfitters, host of Kayak Bassin' TV and one of the leading kayak fisherman stated the Ride series is “Still one of my favorites and it is the ATV of kayak fishing.”

Chris Payne of Kayak Bass Fishing says, “Offering tremendous weight capacity in a stable, yet paddle friendly kayak, the Ride is the perfect blend for almost every application.”

Kayak companies have been working with kayak anglers to design better more stable kayaks, like the Ride Series. The Ride debuted in 1996 and was the first kayak in the Wilderness Systems’ lineup designed to allow the paddler to stand up, catering to the growing fishing audience looking for better sight advantage when casting. After testing the kayak, a member of the Wilderness Systems family exclaimed “What a Ride!” and hence the name was born. The Ride combined pure sit-on-top (SOT) touring fun with ample storage, comforting stability, easy portability and nimble performance. The SOT kayak spawned the kayak angler and has been a staple in kayak fishing ever since.

Just a quick overview of kayak fishing for those of you asking where kayak fishing began and why. According to Chad Hoover, kayak fishing got started in the mid-to-late nineties and really started taking off around the year 2000. The grassroots of kayak fishing began in the warm southern areas (like Texas, California and Florida) and has taken off from there. It has reached the northern states and is still growing. Some say Hank Parker may have played a part in spurring kayak fishing, back when he was first seen commercial fishing from a Hobie inflatable kayak. Who really knows where it all started? All that can be said, is the grass roots has caused it to explode.

Now back to the Ride and looking at the original specs of this kayak:

  • Length: 14 feet
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Weight: 60 pounds

The Ride series is now available in two sizes – the 115 and 135 – as well as several iterations, including the Ride 115X (which was the first kayak in the Wilderness Systems lineup to feature a removable console for integrating fish/depth finder electronics). The Ride 115 is 11 feet 6 inches long, 33 inches wide and weighs 81 pounds. The 135 is 13 feet 6 inches long, 31.5 inches wide and weighs 87 pounds, so a little heavier than the first Ride, but wider for stability. I was able to unload the Ride by myself on occasion, but at 87 pounds, help is suggested when loading or unloading. The side handles are well placed for balance when two people carry it. The offset rear handle also works well with the front handle when carried by two.

The Ride 135 is the kayak I tried out and ended up purchasing. It tracks nice and straight. Paddling this 13.5 foot kayak is surprisingly easy and not much stress on my shoulders when paddling for long periods. The rudder is not mandatory, but I would say it was quite helpful when maneuvering the kayak and utilizing the foot pedals to steer was so effortless. The Ride 135 come rudder ready, so if you decide to go with the rudder – all holes are pre-drilled for you and the tubing is pre-installed at the factory (saving you the hassle of having to run the small diameter tubing yourself).

Stability wise I can stand up in it and feel safe, but understand you’ll need to work at it. The guys and gals demonstrating this have great sea legs and core strength, so before you head out – practice first. Get used to the design of the boat rocking back and forth and maybe flip a few times to get used to it. If you do this, make sure you are wearing a PFD (personal flotation device) anytime you are in your kayak out on the water.

Wilderness System Ride 3 Position Air Pro Seat
(Gary Elliott photo)

One of my favorite things (and I am sure you would agree) is the seat on the Ride series. It has seen several seating upgrades, including the Phase 3 AirPro SOT seat, Phase 3 AirPro Advanced seat, and (my favorite) the award-winning AirPro MAX high/low seat. It is a winner in every position, whether all the way down for paddling or up high for casting and the position does not affect your paddling either. The reclining position is nice, but support only goes mid-way on your back so you are left holding your head, which is not all that comfortable. The mesh kept me cool and dry on those hot days on the lake and I never had any discomfort when sitting a few hours at a time.

The bow has a sealed hatch for storing your dry bag and gear when traveling in your kayak. In the cock pit is another smaller sealed hatch too, but I found this one a little uncomfortable to use. It is tilted toward the front to drain water, so it wasn’t convenient for me to use because I was sitting back and a bigger guy. The trays you can purchase to put in your front hatch and cock pit storage would be a great help.

When utilizing the open hull, you will need to secure items so they do not slide around throughout it. It’s nice to have the open hull if you like to run wiring for electronics or lights though, because you’ll have an open field to work with. I have had kayaks with a larger center console that I found most useful, so maybe that’s a change Wilderness Systems could look at moving forward.

The standup leash is handy when wanting to stand or if there is a need for some added support. The tank is plenty big enough to load gear for that long weekend or be used as a cooler (with room for a tackle bag) for the days fishing. There is a decent amount of track to add on rod holders, electronics holder and so much more. The bungee on the front is great to put your paddle into and it holds the paddle in place while you haul in that nice big fish.

Wilderness System Ride 135 Paddle Holder
(Gary Elliott photo)

I don’t know what more I can say that others haven’t already said since the Ride first came out. It is everything you’d expect from a SOT kayak and really more. Before closing, I did ask Chad Hoover if there were any misconceptions about kayak fishing and if so, what they were. He replied, “The biggest one would be that kayak anglers only do it because they can't afford a boat. In fact, many came from boats and got more into kayak fishing because they could catch them where others can't” and this is so true. I have been able to get into areas I would have never taken my 16-foot motor boat into. Areas where it is weedy, nasty and pads everywhere are great places big bass hide. Not only bass, but any kind of fish can be fished from a kayak. I have watched YouTube video of guys shark, pike and muskie fishing. So in closing, I have found most everything I am looking for in a SOT fishing kayak in the Ride 135.

For more information, please visit

Review written by Gary Elliott, facilitator of and @garys_outdoor_news_and_reviews.

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