Jackson Liska Fishing Kayak Review

Buyer’s Guide | Kayak Angler

After searching Google Earth and driving around neighborhoods like the ice cream truck, my search for a closer access point to my favorite fishing spot turned up nothing. I had resigned to paddling four miles to the fish when Roberto Westbrook, Kayak Angler’s eager freelance photographer, suggested a little-known public access a stone’s throw from my honey hole. As soon as I saw the spot, I pulled out the Jackson Kayak Liska because it is short, wide and easy to rig.

Jackson Kayak Liska Specs
Length: 12’1”
Width: 34”
Weight: 84 lbs
Capacity: 400 lbs
MSRP: $1,349

Introducing Jackson’s Liska Fishing Kayak

I borrowed the Liska from Appomattox River Company in Hampton, Virginia because it’s perfect for a short paddle to fish tight quarters. At 12 feet long and 34 inches wide, there’s plenty of stability with a short water line to weave and spin into the crowded pilings and supports of the bridges and docks.

At last summer’s Paddlesports Retailer tradeshow, James McBeath, the marketing director at Jackson Kayak introduced me to the new Liska.

“We took inspiration from the Mayfly,” he started pointing to the wide, channeled hull, flat, open deck and low profile they carried over from their fly fishing boat.

“This year it has been our second most popular boat, selling almost as well as Jackson’s new FlexDrive Coosa.”

“The Mayfly was so popular, people asked for a lower cost version,” McBeath added. The Liska may cut costs, but the boat is still a great value, with the high-quality construction and smart features for which Jackson is famous. This is a solid kayak.

The Liska Excels as a First Fishing Kayak

To appeal to a wider audience, the Liska offers a large center hatch and extra capacity in the tankwell while cutting the price by over $500. All to appeal to a wider market—the Liska is an everyman’s kayak.

“This year it has been our second most popular boat,” McBeath says, selling almost as well as Jackson’s new FlexDrive Coosa. The combination of smart features and easy handling make the Liska perfect for new anglers or adding a pocket fisherman to the fleet.

The new design is named after Jan Liska, Jackson Kayak’s European team manager who died after a skiing accident in the French Alps. James McBeath points to his friend’s passion to spread kayak fishing through Europe. “Jan thought comfort, stability and ease of use where the biggest barriers to the sport,” McBeath says. “The Liska takes these design cues from him.”

To make the Liska popular with the masses, the tankwell is big enough to fit a 25-quart cooler or any tackle management system. With 400 pounds of capacity, anglers also get plenty of float to carry lots of gear. Tie downs and bungees keep the gear secure in the tankwell.

Jackson Kayak is famous for squeezing every ounce of functionality out of every inch of their boats

The Hi-Lo Ergo seat is secured on gear tracks recessed in the deck. The seat can slide forward or aft to improve the boat’s trim. Move the seat between low and high elevations by removing two pins and lifting the seat into position then replacing the pins. The process took a few seconds and a little shimmying to get the pins into place.

One cool feature, the seat can be removed and used onshore as a beach chair or replaced with a 25-quart cooler for a standup paddleboard feel.

Jackson Kayak is famous for squeezing every ounce of functionality out of every inch of their boats. The bow hatch is crossed with bungees, doubling as a paddle holder. A triangular hatch in front of the cockpit is the perfect size for tackle trays and is pre-rigged for electronics with a transducer scupper and gear track. A gear bag comes standard on the back of the seat. Two flush mount rod holders behind the seat are angled for trolling or drifting. Jackson partnered with Raymarine for the transducer scupper and with Ram Mounts for gear tracks and a rod holder to round out the rigging.

Man standing fishing in a Jackson Liska fishing kayak
Jan Liska would surely approve. | Feature photo: Roberto Westbrook

Super Stable, Perfect for Sight Fishing

On my short jaunt from the new launch to my favorite striper spot, I paddled the Liska a half-mile across open river despite a little wind and some significant current. The high-volume bow sloshed through the water pushing spray with each little wave. The trade-off for a rounded nose and tail is increased capacity and improved stability, even if it comes at the cost of efficiency.

The Liska doesn’t pretend to be an open water boat, but the tracking and stability allow it to get you out of a jam.

Once I hit the first lighted dock, the Liska really shined. When I stood up to pitch a 5/8-ounce jig into the pilings, the boat hardly bobbled. To keep the nose pointed towards the fish, the wide, flat hull makes it easier to turn and spin.

The padded deck gave me plenty of room to dance around without any obstructions to snag my line or interfere with fishing, another tip they took from the Mayfly.

With kayaks falling into two categories: standup and open water, the Liska is committed to sight fishing. From the open cockpit to the wide hull, this boat is stable and maneuverable.

Fishing is a Breeze with the Jackson Liska

The stability and easy handling making a safe and responsive craft; if you fall out of this boat, even with the seat in the high position, you might want to stay on land.

Should you end up in the water, the limited rigging and low profile should make it easier to climb back in. I put new anglers and family members I like in the Liska.

Best of all, when I hooked a feisty striper, the low sides and open deck were safe to swing the fish aboard. Before the end of the night, I was standing, paddling and fishing with confidence. The Liska is a great boat for beginners or a ready-to-fish backwater and river ride for experienced anglers.

This article was first published in the Early Summer 2018 issue of Kayak Angler Magazine. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

Jan Liska would surely approve. | Feature photo: Roberto Westbrook