Bonafide SS127 Fishing Kayak Review

Buyer’s Guide | Kayak Angler

Luther Cifers was wearing my clothes and pacing around like an expectant father. We were getting ready to splash the latest incarnation of his first attempt at kayak design, and he was so nervous that he had left his fishing clothes at the house. Since I was packed to catch a plane in a couple hours, I had an extra set to lend.

Bonafide SS127 Specs
Length: 12’7”
Width: 33.75”
Deck Height: 15.5”
Weight: 94 lbs
Capacity: 475 lbs
MSRP: $1,649 USD

The boats were hot off the design table, straight out of the oven; no one had seen them outside the guys standing around Lake Cunningham boat ramp in Greenville South Carolina. We had come here because the fishing was good. Thick fields of lily pads and submerged deadfalls are a haven for big largemouth bass and a perfect place to stretch the legs on the new boats.

The prototypes of Bonafide’s SS127 were only a few weeks away from the highly-anticipated release party and the design was still a work in progress. On his second day of testing, Luther’s crew was anxious to work out some fixes and feel out the performance. I was along for the ride.

Bonafide Kayaks was born last summer, the brainchild of YakAttack founder Luther Cifers. After building a reputation for designing cool kayak fishing gadgets, Cifers turned his energies to designing a kayak. His team was hush-hush about the design, only leaking vague images and limited information about the boat. This had the kayak fishing community buzzing with anticipation and high expectations.

Which was another reason Cifers was nervous. I assured him he only had to meet his own expectations. Cifers’ reputation as a perfectionist is built on the smart and tough line of kayak accessories he’s designed and built. He continually pressed me for my opinion on the SS127. “Tell me five things you don’t like about it,” he asked me a half dozen times.

Two days earlier, I got my first look at the new SS127 on the workshop floor at a borrowed warehouse the team was using as a design center. Tools, pieces of foam scraps of fiberglass and plastic littered the floor around the two boats the guys had put together. One was sitting upright, the other was flipped hull up. I walked to upside down one first. It was the wild hull that got my attention. The boat was built on two pontoons and a flared bow. The angles and planes were shaped to look like a Stealth bomber. Designer Hans Nutz took me through the purpose of each line.

“It comes down to balancing stability with performance,” he told me.
While the tunnel hull pushes volume to the sides for rocksolid platform, the

boat’s considerable rocker improves maneuverability. The flared bow kills hull slap and a curb weight under 70 pounds improves speed. “We’re going for an all-around boat,” he explained.

The topside was equally impressive. Product manager Jake Fuller, showed off the bow hatch grooved to hold rods. He leaned down and flipped open the hinges to release the lid. “You can open it from the front or the back,” he explained.

He was also proud of the waterproof center pod that pops out of a scupper in the deck. “It’s the world’s first integrated pee hole,” he laughed. The opening will also accommodate any transducer and the lid is pre-rigged to hold the most popular accessory bases.

Fuller was really stoked about the seat: a high-low mesh chair that can be adjusted while the angler is seated. He bragged, “It’s the highest seat of any kayak.” Under the seat, a sliding tray holds tackle boxes, tools and stuff. “We call it the junk drawer,” he chuckled.

Even the bungees on the stern well were well thought-out. Cifers designed clips that hold a YakAttack BlackPak or any crate system.

Next, Cifers took me to the factory where they had just installed a rotomolding oven that took six tractor trailers to deliver and three weeks to build, put- ting Cifers legitimately in the kayak-making business.

By the time we were done with the tour, I was anxious to get on the water. As promised, the design features work together to make a fast boat that is stable and maneuverable. While they were still tweaking the boat for balance, there was no question about stability. The pontoons make it the most stable boat in its class. I was able to turn around, move forward and back and stand on one side or the other with impunity. I even climbed up on the bow hatch and paddled hang-ten style. This boat is stable.

Of course, the topside features were convenient and ergonomic. The seat provides lower back support and plenty of cushioning, moving it up and down or back and forth is easy. I really like the standing pads on either side of the seat that provided a few more inches of elevation.

“Do you think it will meet everyone’s expectations,” Cifers asked on the ride home from the lake.

I told him he only had to meet his own expectation. RIC BURNLEY

I arrived to the ICAST On the Water Demo early, but there was already a line of anglers anxious to paddle the new SS127 from Bonafide Kayaks. After a year of build-up, everyone was excited to see the new kayak from the folks who make YakAttack kayak fishing accessories.

Bonafide SS127 Specs
Length: 12’7”
Width: 33.75”
Deck Height: 15.5”
Weight: 94 lbs
Capacity: 475 lbs
MSRP: $1,649 USD

Bonafide’s SS127 is Worth the Hype

Last summer, Luther Cifers announced that he was putting his creative energies into a new kayak company. Immediately, kayak anglers blew up social media with speculation, but Cifers released few details about the new boat. Each leak resulted in a deluge of likes and shares.

I met Bonafide designer Hans Nutz and Product Manager Jake Fuller to get the lowdown on their hotly anticipated boat. “SS stands for ‘Sit/Stand’ because that’s what it is designed for,” Fuller explained as I ran my hands over the sharp angles and flat planes that make the boat’s Stealth Bomber design.

Since we first paddled a prototype of the SS127 a few weeks before the show, the Bonafide design team has been busy getting the boat ready for its big debut. The rest of the world has waited, very impatiently. After waiting my turn, I found a few tweaks in the utilitarian boat.

SS127 Has Rock-Solid Stability

First, the innovative tunnel hull has been shaved to reduce noise, increase speed and improve handling. Average paddling pushed me at 2.5 to 3 miles per hour. Stability remains the boat’s strongest suit. The rockered hull made for easy turning while the pontoons improved tracking. The primary stability is loose enough to enable maneuverability, with rock-solid secondary stability to keep the angler upright whether standing on the bow or the stern. You can even turn around backwards to make the SS127 a 360-degree fishing machine.

Man stands with paddle on top of the Bonafide SS127 fishing kayak
Kayak Angler’s web editor stands on the Bonafide SS127. | Feature photo: Ric Burnley

At our demo, Cifers kicked off his shoes and stood up in the kayak. “Our focus has been on stability,” he said, demonstrating the broad, flat deck. Then, he pushed the seatback forward, and stood on small pads on the gunnels. “We call them perch pads,” he explained. They give the angler a few more inches of elevation and a very stable platform for poling or paddling.

One of the early photos of the SS127 released on the Internet shows Kayak Bassin’ TV’s big man Chad Hoover standing with both feet on one side of center. The boat barely leans. The more I played with the boat’s stability, the more I was impressed with the performance.

Sit High and See Far

Bonafide also tweaked the high-low seat to improve comfort and toughness. I put the mesh material to the test in the hot and steamy Orlando sunshine. Moving the seat forward and back or raising and lowering it is made easy with over-engineered clamps that lock the seat in place. It’s also easy to move the seat out of the way to stand up on the boat’s sweet spot. The seat is one of the highest in the industry, allowing anglers better visibility and improved comfort.

The star of the show is the deck layout. Flush mounted gear tracks on the gunnels and in the deck allow plenty of rigging options without snagging lines. Non-slip, closed-cell foam padding covers the deck. The boat includes a waterproof center pod for gear or electronics.

My favorite detail is the bow hatch. Not only is it large enough to fit fishing rods and camping gear, it’s also grooved to hold rods horizontally on the deck. The best part is the removable hinges in the front and back of the hatch. I can open the hatch from the bow, the cockpit, or remove it completely.

The stern well is huge, with bungees and clips that accommodate any crate or livewell, but is specifically designed to host the YakAttack BlackPak. The broad flat stern has room for a rudder or electric motor and Power-Pole.

Fish All Day With the Bonafide SS127

While the SS127 is a boat for all waters, it will really shine on back waters and skinny water. The incredible stability and ultra-high seat make it great for sight fishing and all-day standup action. At 75 pounds, the Bonafide SS127 is light enough to car-top and easy to move to the launch.

Most important, this boat is fun to fish. Every inch is intentionally designed to make fishing and paddling easier and more enjoyable. Many features are completely new and totally unique. With so much excitement proceeding the release of Cifers’ latest invention, the heat is on. “Do you think the boat will meet everyone’s expectations?” Cifer’s asked me after the test drive. “If it meets your expectations,” I told him, “then it will exceed anyone else’s.”

Video Review of the Bonafide SS127 Fishing Kayak: