Fishing Kayak Review: Ascend 12t

Buyer’s Guide | Kayak Angler

The Ascend 12t is a sit-on-top fishing kayak with major features geared toward anglers. The elevated seat, standing platform cockpit and large tankwells leave no question this boat was built to chase fish.

Ascend kayaks are a brand under the banner of the White River Marine Group. By volume, the White River Marine Group is the world’s largest manufacturer of motorized boats. The White River Marine Group is owned by Bass Pro Shops. As such, Ascend kayaks are most commonly available at Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and also boating retailers who carry White River Marine Group brands.

What makes the Ascend 12t stand out among a sea of fishing kayaks? The 12t is a platform-style fishing kayak with an elevated seat position and an open, flat cockpit intended for standing casts. A standing platform provides the ability to sight fish, enhance casting ability and increase mobility when fighting fish. These design features are commonly found on kayaks much more expensive than the 12t fishing kayak.

Fishing-centric kayaks of this size and style are regularly priced two or three times higher than the Ascend 12t. That being said, the 12t does have a higher price tag than some other fishing kayaks available at large retailers. So is the Ascend 12t worth it? We’ll try to help you answer that in this Ascend 12t review.

On the water with the Ascend 12t

Ascend 12t Specs
Length: 12’0” / 3.6 m
Width: 31” / 79 cm
Weight: 77 lbs / 35 kg
Capacity: 350 lbs / 159 kg
MSRP: $779 USD / $1,119 CAD

Performance

What are anglers looking for in a kayak? Often it’s the ability to get where conventional motorized boats can not, without sacrificing storage space or stability for casting and catching fish. There’s also the appeal of skipping out on the hassle of owning a motor boat, and the chance to turn everyday fishing into a bit of an adventure. With this said, let’s talk performance and Ascend 12t stability.

The Ascend 12t sit-on-top kayak is built on a tunnel hull. Tunnel-hulled kayaks are generally wider than other kayak hulls. Think of a tunnel hull as a pontoon boat or catamaran. There are essentially two rounded surface areas bridged by the center of the kayak. The dual, rounded surface areas provide reliable initial and secondary stability. These tunnel hulls are especially popular with fishing kayakers for the stable platform they provide.

The reason for the tunnel hull is to provide the Ascend 12t’s standing platform area. What do I mean by standing platform in a kayak? It’s when the floor of the cockpit is an open, flat area, rather than being scooped out for a footwell, and the kayak is stable enough to allow the paddler to stand. Standing platforms are a game changer for fishing kayaks, giving a kayak angler the opportunity to sight fish and increase casting ability. It’s a next step up in the fishing capability of a kayak.

The Ascend 12t provides this open standing area. But the 12t dimensions are worth looking at when assessing the stability of the kayak. The Ascend 12t is 12 feet long and 31 inches wide. In comparison to other fishing kayaks with a standing platform, the 12t is on the small side. For this reason, inexperienced paddlers may find the 12t to feel unstable when it comes to standing.

Market and demographics

The Ascend 12t is a sit-on-top fishing kayak. Sit-on-top kayaks are kayaks where the paddler is not enclosed at all. They sit on the deck of the boat, which has been molded for an exterior seating position. This is in comparison to a sit-inside kayak. A sit-inside kayak is one where the paddler slides into the cockpit of the kayak. They may also wear a sprayskirt to cover the cavity of the cockpit. Sit-on-top kayaks have become popular for fishing kayaks because of their ease of entry, open storage and easier rescue scenarios in the event of a capsize.

The Ascend 12t kayak was designed specifically with the kayak angler in mind. The elevated seat position and tunnel hull make the 12t less about covering water as a paddler, and more about comfort and stability.

This kayak is best suited for slow-moving rivers, lakes and sheltered coastal waterways.

Know The Local Hazards
  • Check navigation charts before you launch.
  • Check with those who have local knowledge of man-made and natural hazards, e.g. low-head dams; sweepers, strainers and undercuts; tides and currents; and rocks and shoals.

Beyond rod and reel action, kayaks like the Ascend 12t can also be used for hunting. Duck hunting is well within its scope, since its open cockpit design, elevated seat and large tankwells are also benefits to carrying decoys, setting up a shotgun rack or even bringing along your bird dog. The spacious decks make it manageable to ride along in the 12t with dog for duck hunting.

About the Ascend 12t

Design

Material and construction

The Ascend 12t is constructed of high-density polyethylene. Polyethylene is a plastic commonly used in kayak manufacturing. This polymer compound is also regularly used to make other durable plastic goods like milk jugs and shampoo bottles.

Ascend produces the 12t through a rotomolding process. Small plastic pellets are loaded into a mold. The mold is then placed in a large oven at high temperatures and rotated at speed, pushing the liquified nurdles outward so they spread and take the shape of the mold. While the mold is pulled from the oven it continues to rotate as it cools. When the mold is opened, presto we have a kayak. Rotomolded kayaks are one of the standard production processes in the industry to produce durable and afforable kayaks.

Ascend 12t accessories and outfitting

One of the most obvious elements of the Ascent 12t is the amount of open storage.

This starts at the bow, where the Ascend 12t has a roomy forward tankwell. Tankwells are storage areas molded into sit-on-top kayaks. The tankwells of the 12t have plenty of space for storing tackle, fishing crate, coolers and dry bags for a day on the water.

Nearly two feet at its widest and two feet in length, the forward tankwell has a built-in bungee system for securing your gear. One downside to this system is that it is attached to the floor of the tankwell, rather than mounted on the deck. This means the bungees are not able to stretch over the entire tankwell for securing gear, but rather just for items stored close to the floor. It may be thoughtful in some instances, but removes some versatility in securing gear.

Another thoughtful design to the Ascend 12t’s front tankwell is the cut-out where it meets the cockpit, allowing waves splashing over the bow to drain out into the floor of the cockpit, where it will exit via the scupper holes.

The cockpit of the 12t Ascend kayak is an open concept, with an overall flat surface, covered with traction padding. This allows kayak anglers to use the floor of the cockpit as a standing platform, which increases your ability to cast, sight fish and move around the deck.

Also within the cockpit of the Ascend 12t are sliding foot braces. Sliding-style foot braces provide more positions than molded-in footwells. They do however require you to reach down by hand if they need adjustment on the water. Foot braces are an important part of a kayak’s outfitting because they provide a point of contact with your kayak. This gives you more leverage for paddling strokes, and more control over the kayak.

At the center of the cockpit between the foot braces there is a hatch for storage. This deck hatch is large and rectangular, providing access to the interior of the hull. The hatch operates on a hinge and has a gasket to provide a seal. Items can be stored within this hatch, but be mindful this section is not divided from the cavernous interior of the kayak. The upside to this is it also provides a way to access the interior of the kayak to make repairs or install new gadgetry.

Directly behind this large hatch is a smaller hatch, sealed with a threaded deck plate. It is located closer to the seat, and makes for accessible dry storage of smaller items you want stowed away.

On the floor of the cockpit you will see four scupper plugs. Why exactly are there holes in the bottom of the kayak? These scupper holes are built in to let water entering the boat drain out through the floor. This keeps the cockpit of the kayak from filling with water. The Ascend 12t has six scuppers in total. Four are in the cockpit, and two in the rear tankwell.

Water can also come up through the scuppers. If you are paddling in calm conditions, and don’t want water to splash up through the floor, you may want to close the scupper holes. You can do this with a set of scupper plugs, which are included with the 12t.

The seat of the Ascend 12t fishing kayak is an elevated, stadium-style seat. It has a mesh construction, with some padding under the butt and on the back. The raised seat provides a more natural posture and sitting height than the low position of traditional kayaks.  An elevated seat also increases visibility, and keeps you off the wet floor of the kayak.

The Ascend 12t seat has a unique track system. Near the hinge on each side of the seat are small plastic blocks. These blocks slide into an enclosed track, rather than resting on top of a track. This keeps the seat from bouncing up off its position, but also means if you want to move it out of the way you must slide it forward, rather than just folding upward. This is not necessarily an advantage or disadvantage. It does make for a specialized system, creating difficulty for any seat upgrade.

One area of concern cited by users of the Ascend 12t is the seat’s vulnerability to rusting. A rusted out seat on a fishing kayak with an elevated seat would render the kayak relatively useless until you have a replacement seat.

The area around the cockpit of the Ascend 12t features pre-installed accessory tracks; on either gunwale near the knees. This provides a place to easily mount electronics on your 12t such as a fish finder or action camera. It’s a simple pre-installed add-on, but saves time and money for a kayak angler who wants to have their boat ready to launch the day of purchase.

Another handy accessory beside the cockpit area is a two-piece paddle clip. Paddle holders are an easily overlooked but useful accessory for a fishing kayak. Without a paddle holder or some sort of leash, your paddle can easily drift away without notice while you are rigging up a line or landing your catch.

Behind the kayak seat are two flush-mounted Ascend 12t rod holders. Flush-mounted rod holders are a common standard found on fishing kayaks, and give you the space to carry two rigged setups.

Near the stern of the Ascend 12t is another large, recessed tankwell. This tankwell is segmented into two areas. The first, closest to the seat, is rectangular and makes for a great place to keep a small cooler, or battery if you decide to modify your kayak with a trolling motor or power hungry electronics. There are also two scupper holes underneath this section of the tankwell to drain any water which makes its way into the storage area. The second section of the rear tankwell closely resembles the bow tankwell with an elongated, triangular shape and similar bungees running along the floor.

Finally, the stern is where you will find the drain plug. The drain plug allows you to empty any water which has entered the interior of the hollow hull of the Ascend 12t. How can water get inside a sit-on-top kayak? Water ingress can occur at seams, screw holes or places where the hull has been cut for exterior components. It’s not uncommon to get a small amount of water inside your kayak, and you should drain it at the end of your trip.

Dress For Immersion, Not Air Temperature
  • Your body loses heat much faster when immersed in cold water than it does when dry.
  • Avoid cotton clothing like t-shirts and jeans; they retain water and accelerate cooling when wet. Synthetic fabrics, or wool, are generally a better choice. If the water is very cold (60° fahrenheit or less), you should wear a wetsuit or drysuit.

Ascend 12t kayak mods

Even with all the components included with the Ascend 12t, kayak anglers may want to make some additions to the kayak.

The Ascend 12t only has the two built-in flush mounted rod holders behind the seat. You may want a rod holder in front of you for when you are actively fishing. Thanks to the pre-installed accessory mounts, adding a forward, swiveling rod holder is as simple as sliding it onto the gear track. Ram and Scotty are two brands of popular aftermarket rod holders.

To take full advantage of fishing from the Ascend 12t, anglers may also want to install a fish finder. The pre-installed accessory tracks mean you won’t have to drill any holes on the deck to install a kayak fish finder. Simply mount your transducer and decide on your power system. Depending on the fish finder you choose, YakAttack has some great options for mounting your device on the accessory track.

Warranty

Ascend provides a one-year, limited warranty covering parts and labor to correct defects in materials and workmanship.

How it compares

The Ascend 12t finds itself in a crowded class of fishing kayaks. Here are a few regularly compared with the 12t.

  • Ascend FS12t vs 12t

    For all intents and purposes, the Ascend FS12t is the same kayak as the 12t. As the kayak has gone through different iterations the name has changed back and forth in recent years. If you find a kayak listed as the Ascend FS12t, you are looking at the same boat as this review of the 12t.

    Ascend also made a now-discontinued sit-inside fishing kayak called the FS12. If you’re looking for a similar sit-inside fishing kayak, its smaller sibling, the Ascend FS10 sit-in, is still available.

  • Ascend 12t vs 10t

    The most comparable kayak you will find to the 12t in the Ascend line is the 10t. The Ascend 10t is a shorter version of the 12t discussed in this review.

    The major difference between these two kayaks comes down to dimensions, and how those dimensions affect the layout of the kayak.

    The 10t is so-named because it is 10 feet long. This is two feet shorter than the 12t which, you guessed it, is 12 feet. The 30-inch 10t is also an inch narrower compared to the 31-inch 12t.

    The 10t offers similarly spacious bow and stern tankwells to the 12t, with the caveat that the longer kayak’s tankwells are even roomier. However, both kayaks have enough on-deck storage to carry all of your gear and tackle for the day.

    Another storage difference is the 12t has an additional dry hatch compartment within the cockpit. It is accessible through a large, hinged hatch cover.

    The difference in size is also going to equate to a difference in weight. The 10t being smaller weighs less at 67 pounds compared to the 12t at 77 pounds. It also has a somewhat lighter capacity at 325 pounds compared to the 12t’s 350 pounds.

    The two kayaks are close to par with one another. The increased dimensions of the 12t may give it an edge in storage, stability and perhaps a bit of speed. If weight and ease of transportation are more of a factor, the 10t offers similar performance in a more compact package.

  • Ascend 12t vs 128t

    The Ascend 128t is another platform-style, sit-on-top fishing kayak design, though this specific model has been replaced by the updated Ascend 128X. The 128t is a definite upgrade from the 12t in regards to design and features.

    Most obvious is the 128t’s inclusion of Ascend’s Yak-Power system. The Yak-Power system includes wiring harness and plugs, meaning with a 12-volt battery your fishing gadgetry is ready to plug and play on the 128t.

    The 128t also has substantial differences in design to the 12t. The 128t is eight inches longer at 12 feet 8 inches, and wider at 33 inches. The 128t also extends the tunnel hull further through the bow and stern. These factors provide a larger, more stable standing platform than the 12t. The downside to all this is the 128t is substantially heavier at 96 pounds, compared to 77 pounds for the 12t.

    Power-hungry anglers and those who want a kayak with the rock-solid stability of a barge should take a look at the 128t (or the new 128X). If you want a fishing kayak that still retains some of the agility and handling of a traditional kayak, stick with the 12t.

  • Ascend 12t vs H12

    The Ascend H12 is what Ascend has dubbed a hybrid kayak. It is not quite a sit-inside or sit-on-top kayak but somewhere in between. It has a recessed cockpit surrounded by a deck, similar to what you would find for a sit-inside, but the cockpit is open and squared off.

    The H12 features supersized storage hatches in both the bow and stern, covered with a hard plastic deck plate in the bow, and plastic fabric cover in the stern. Again, following this hybrid mentality, these storage areas fall somewhere in between an open tankwell and an enclosed hatch. The intention is to provide storage for long outings and even overnighters. There are, however, no bulkheads built in to isolate sections of the kayak. Any water entering the H12 will not drain through a scupper and should the boat capsize, it will take on water. This makes the H12 only suitable to paddle on calm or sheltered waterways.

    The Ascend 12t will drain water. And should the 12t capsize all you have to do is climb back in. There is no open cavity where water will collect. While it is open air, the Ascend 12t kayak has plenty of storage space in the open tankwells, where gear can be stowed within dry bags. For this reason, the 12t feels like a much more versatile craft.

Stay Clear Of All Other Vessels
  • Know the “Rules of the Road” Navigation Rules that govern all boat traffic and stay out of the way of all other vessels.
  • Never assume that power boaters can see you. Avoid high-traffic areas whenever possible. Proceed with caution when you can’t avoid paddling near boats. Dress for visibility.
  • Ascend 12t vs Pelican Catch 120

    The Pelican Catch 120 is a sit-on-top fishing kayak with a similar design to the Ascend 12t.

    The Pelican Catch 120 is also a 12-foot sit-on-top kayak with a tunnel-shape hull. It also features an elevated seat, sliding foot braces and a flat standing platform within the cockpit.

    One noticeable difference is the seat for the Pelican 120 sits on a ledge molded onto the deck of the kayak. This makes it easier to mount and remove, but some users may feel less secure than sitting in the slightly recessed Ascend 12t seat.

    The major difference between the two, when it comes to performance, may be the width. The Pelican 120 is a full three inches wider than Ascend 12t. Generally speaking, with similar hulls this is going to translate to lower speeds but more stability for the standing platform.

  • Ascend 12t vs Perception Pescador

    Perception is one of the oldest names in kayaks, with a reputation for building quality boats. The Pescador is a sit-on-top fishing kayak within the same price range as the Ascend 12t. While these are both sit-on-top fishing kayaks, they are geared toward a slightly different type of use.

    The Pescador has a traditional, molded seat so users are sitting lower to the floor of the kayak than the 12t’s elevated stadium-style frame seat. The hull is also more streamlined than the Ascend 12t’s, providing less stability for standup fishing but a considerable weight savings of 13 pounds. In fact, the Pescador 12 is one of the lightest fishing kayaks in its class, making it a good option for those who want a kayak that is easy to transport and carry.

    The Pescador also has a different storage layout than the Ascend 12t. The Pescador has an open stern tankwell and a dry storage hatch on the bow. The Ascend storage is distributed between two large, open tankwells in the bow and stern.

    If you want the higher vantage of an elevated seat, and plan to do a lot of standup fishing, choose the stable platform of the Ascend 12t. If you’d rather an agile fishing kayak that is just as fun to paddle recreationally, then take a close look at the Pescador 12.

  • Ascend 12t vs Perception Outlaw 11.5

    Another sit-on-top offering from Perception comparable to the Ascend 12t is the Outlaw 11.5. Like the 12t, the Outlaw has an elevated frame seat and an open, platform-style cockpit set atop a super stable tunnel hull for standup fishing. The Outlaw also offers large open tankwells in the bow and stern.

    To cut to the chase, the Outlaw is a full four inches wider than the Ascend 12t. While measurements are only part of what gives a kayak design its stability, it is fair to say this additional width gives the Outlaw superior stability while standing. Add to this Perception’s throne-like seat allows for one of the highest fishing and paddling positions ever in a kayak, and the choice for those who like to fish on their feet is clear.

  • Ascend 12t vs Lifetime Teton

    The Lifetime Teton Angler 100 sit-on-top fishing kayak is in the same price range as the Ascend 12t. Right off the bat, it is important to note availability of these kayaks may be a deciding factor. The Teton 100 is sold exclusively at Dick’s Sporting Goods, while the Ascend 12t is sold through Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.

    While the Teton has an elevated seat, it does not have a flat standing area, and is intended for seated fishing. Without a tunnel hull, and at just 30.5 inches wide, the elevated seated position of the Teton can make it feel less stable than the Ascend 12t. This is likely a major factor when deciding between the two kayaks. If you want both an elevated seat and a standing platform, the Ascend 12t is the obvious choice.

Where to buy the Ascend 12t

Where can you find the Ascend 12t available for purchase? Bass Pro and Cabela’s carry the Ascend 12t. Ascend Kayaks are a part of the White River Marine Group, which is owned by Bass Pro Shops. This is why these are the retailers carrying Ascend kayaks. You will also find the Ascend kayaks available at a limited number of smaller local boating stores that carry White River brands.

Ascend 12t Pros and cons

Pros

  • Large tankwells and hatches for storage
  • Standing platform for sighting fish and active fishing
  • Elevated seat provides comfortable seating and better casting
  • Affordable price point

Cons

  • Narrow width makes standing stability suspect
  • Tunnel hull is heavier than other kayaks
  • Seat is known to rust
  • Limited availability with select retailers

Related articles

Ascend kayak reviews

Sit-on-top fishing kayak reviews

12-foot fishing kayak reviews

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