The Jackson Bite Angler and Bite FD: Accessibility, Comfort and Stability by JK Team | May 29, 2020 | Bite, FD, Featured Post, Fishing Boats, JAdventures Main Banner | 3 comments When I review any product I make a list of criteria that I use to evaluate the product’s design and performance. Generally, I write a preface, build things up, establish a metaphor, and so forth. I decided in this case to put the criteria in my title and jump right in. Why? Because that’s what you should do when you are thinking about buying a Bite Angler or a Bite FD. Now, “Henry,” you will say, “you are biased. You are on the Jackson Fishing Team!” Yes, I am on the team, but I haven’t always been. I started paddling and fishing from a Jackson Coosa 10 years ago but then switched to other makes and models. I came back to the Jackson brand, and I came back because of the Bite FD. I had been looking at it since it was introduced in 2019 and once the Flex Drive 3D was introduced for the new FD version, I was sold. The Bite Angler’s open design, the Bite FD’s new pedal drive and rudder and their open deck designs all had my attention because I had been looking for those features in a kayak that had a modest price point and in a kayak that could handle any water. I ordered the Bite FD and immediately began putting it through the ringer over a period of three months, in every type of weather and water. I’ll be honest below, but I will reply to the earlier point by saying I am not biased – I am convinced. The Jackson Bite Angler and Bite FD are simply that good. As I noted, I will use three criteria for the review. Let’s begin with Accessibility. Accessibility Accessibility means two things. In the first place, the Bite and Bite FD are economically accessible without sacrificing the finer features of the Jackson brand’s more subtle design features. For example, a kayaker interested in fishing from the Bite can fish from it right out of the box: no modifications are required for a simple, relaxing day on the water. Throw your rods into the built-in holders, put your tackle bag under the seat, zip up your PFD and go. You can stand and fish, sit and fish, or pedal and fish from the Bite FD. You don’t have to spend money on extra add-ons. In the second place, the Bite Angler and Bite FD prioritize open space on deck, the Bite Angler even more so because it does not have the pedal drive’s lower unit. Open space: that is the second meaning of accessibility. Most fishing kayaks borrow from recreational kayaks meant for paddling, touring and camping. Those kayaks contain storage compartments inside the hull. Accessible through hatches, gear stashed in the hull requires dry-storage bags, for instance. Water always gets in there and no one likes the smell of a wet tent. Like the Jackson Mayfly before it, with its clear deck built for fly fishing, the Bite has more open space in front of the angler. This makes for excellent sight lines, easier cleaning and more options for modifications. The Bite leaves the fore and aft storage recesses above the deck. If you plan to camp, or simply want to keep your gear dry, store your dry bags under the mesh, tie it all down with a simple rope, and go. The bonus? You don’t have to drain water from the Bite or Bite FD. There is no hull access; everything is on deck, ready at hand for when you need it, dry-bagged, tied down or drying out when you don’t. There is room for coolers, tackle storage and camping gear. And because the Bite is of a medium-range in length for a fishing kayak, you can reach it all without having to beach the boat. Now let me tie it all together, because accessibility is more than the mere sum of those two parts. No access to the hull? How can you call that accessible? This is where modifications come in to the picture. The mechanically inclined know that any hull can be wired for electronics, even a closed hull. When my Bite FD came out of the box, I noticed an interesting feature: the scupper hole beneath the seat leads down to a recessed area with a cover plate. Most transponders for fish finders will fit in there, nice and snug. I simply rigged my wiring through a scupper plug and ran it along the inside deck to the front. I rigged my front storage compartment with a fish-finder mounted on a battery box: there are no holes in the hull, the wires are out of the way, and the unit is easily removable for charging. In sum, you don’t need to access the Bite’s hull. Note that I moved from the center to the front of the kayak. In the most important ways, the Bite and Bite FD are built around the angler. All of the kayak’s design features and options flow from the seat, and you. For example, the seating configuration on Bite and Bite FD inspired me to find better ways to store my gear. The raised seat has room for extra dry boxes and tackle beneath it. I learned I can secure gear there, too, using the seat legs as anchor points. In this way, I made room for an Orion cooler in the back, and modified the cooler for additional storage when necessary. If you install the rudder kit (more about that later), you will lose some space for adding track for mounting gear or accessories. No worries – you can add it to several other blank spots on the gunwales. The same is true of the Bite FD – the pedal drive will take up space on the center console. There is room for gear-mounting track elsewhere. That was, to me, an unexpected advantage of eliminating in-hull storage – the open deck actually creates new configuration possibilities. Side to side, from front to back, and from the middle in all directions, the Bite’s open deck is a blank canvas on which you can paint a masterpiece. You can fish from it straight out of the box or modify it in countless ways. The Bite is affordable and its open deck is pleasing to the eye. Anyone can enjoy it – if that is not a definition of accessibility, then what is? Now, for Comfort. Comfort This is where and how I put the Bite kayak through the proverbial ringer. While I paddle and fish for fun, I am also a tournament angler. This means that my fishing rig has to be a trusted steed that I ride into every kind of fray. Travel, the elements and repeated use will all test its durability and design. Kayak fishing tournament days are long. When fishing before and during a multi day event, I may spend 12 hours a day in my kayak, or more, for an entire week, traveling thousands of miles to get there and back through every type of weather you can name. Let’s start with the basics. The Bite FD is 35” wide and 11’.6” long. The front bottom of the hull has a V-shape that splits into a pontoon style bottom with two channels. What this means is that it is a wide, stable boat in which you can stand and fish. But how does it paddle, what about the pedal drive and how do those affect comfort? First, for paddling. I love to paddle and often leave my pedal drive at home. So as to truly test the Bite’s paddling features, I asked a friend with a Jackson Coosa to join me on a local river. Water levels were falling and there was a moderate current. We paddled upstream into current and a light headwind, navigating a few light rapids as we went. In all, the Bite matched the Coosa for every turn, it was more stable and it tracked beautifully in both directions. Below the largest rapid, I struggled to paddle through a strong current line. I’d like to blame it on early season rust but the Coosa is simply more hydrodynamic – but not by much. The Bite passed the river test – it’s a great boat to paddle, its tracking is true, it turns well without the rudder and it is stable. As for comfort, I left the water after a long day of paddling without any seat-induced soreness. By keeping the seat back in an upright, 90-degree angle, my back had the support it needed to reinforce the core muscles we use when paddling. My legs rested well on the deck, too. I would note one small flaw – the indents on the inside of the gunwales work well as foot pegs for me, but when my shoes were wet they sometimes lost their grip. A minor detail, but if you paddle hard or in current, dry your shoes. Now for the big water tests. The Bite FD comes with the new Flex Drive 3D. It is a two-part pedal drive system consisting of an upper and lower unit. The lower unit is built into the hull and easily removed for maintenance. It is open, meaning it is not entirely sealed, so it drains well. The propeller folds up into a recessed area directly in front of the seat. If you fish in weeds, this is useful – there is no lifting or removing the prop shaft to clear weeds – simply pull a lever and clear the blades. This is also important to prevent the unwitting transport of invasive vegetation to other water bodies. By contrast to the lower unit, the Flex Drive 3D’s upper unit is closed and removable. It contains the bearings, coupling, pedals, crank arm and other parts. All of these are sealed and above the water line, and easily maintained with easily accessible grease ports. The upper unit secures easily and is stable while pedaling, too, but users must maintain it to prevent grit build-up and improve smoothness. Jackson includes a maintenance kit and clear instructions for the Flex Drive 3D. Everything you need is in the box – you don’t have to watch on-line tutorials. Furthermore, it is light and has a solid ergonomic handle for easy transport. With respect to comfort, this is important. You don’t have to remove a heavy drive when loading the kayak. You simply pop out the upper unit and store it, if necessary. Additionally, the unit is accessible relative to the seat position so you can lift the lower drive unit by reaching down, clean the prop blades, etc. And the upper unit has a low profile: it does not obstruct visibility, enhancing the open deck feel of the Bite kayak model. Most importantly, the Jackson seat design can be adjusted relative to the pedal drive. As when paddling, your seat position is important relative to the muscles you use, with emphasis on back support. When paddling, you use your core muscles, arms and shoulders, but when pedaling you are primarily using your legs. In both cases, you can easily find the optimal, most comfortable seat position in the Bite FD, either by moving the seat position forward or back or by adjusting the straps on the seat back. I first tested the Flex Drive 3D on big water during a tournament at Santee Cooper. Conditions were cold and windy, and I was preparing for a long day of tournament fishing. Additionally, I planned to fish docks, where the Bite’s turn radius would be a factor, as would the rudder. I had to cross a windy open bay and then hold or change position in tight spaces all day long. This is where pedal kayaks really shine, because your legs adjust your location with the pedals while your arms focus on fishing. The rudder is a factor here too – if you fish around docks or any structure, you often have to turn and hold position. I was using the new FD 3D rudder. It is a dramatic improvement over the bulky, hollow rudders of previous Jackson models. To my delight, the FD 3D combined perfectly with the Bite FD’s length and the Flex Drive 3D’s pedaling functions to hold and adjust my position. The rudder was very important here: the FD 3D rudder is longer than its predecessor; that length allows for sharper turns. Additionally, it has a more solid design, improving the rudder’s durability. And when I had to make a very tight turn I used a hand paddle for extra leverage and the Bite responded beautifully. I spent half the day fishing docks, a total of 4-5 hours, and the Bite FD’s maneuverability did not result in uncomfortable cramps and soreness. Pedaling back to the launch into a strong headwind, waves crashed over the bow and drained right out through the gap in the lower drive unit. This was a nice surprise – I had wondered if the absence of scupper holes on the front deck would allow water to accumulate. With its closed hull and open lower drive, standing water was never an issue as I drove through the white caps. As I noted earlier, the Bite’s best features all flow outward from its excellent seat design, extending across the open deck and through the FD’s pedal and rudder systems. My trusted steed was quickly becoming a cozy workhorse. Now, for stability. Stability Which kayak is best for you? The answer to that question depends on several factors. They include body type (both weight and height), your budget, the vehicle you use to transport the kayak, the type or types of water you fish and your preference for paddling or pedaling. As always, it is best to find a local Jackson dealer and ask if they have a demo day on a local lake where you can try a Bite. When I started shopping for a new kayak, I was looking to slightly downsize my kayak. I had general criteria: I wanted an all-around kayak, of moderate length, with a pedal drive system that was easily removed for short paddling trips and easily maintained after long tournaments. The Bite and Bite FD fit that profile, and exceeded all expectations in durability and performance while navigating different types of weather (cold or hot, windy or calm) and different types of water (lakes and rivers). The open deck appealed to the eye and also created great sight lines and its price point appealed to the wallet. But we are vulnerable on the water, and safety is always my top concern. I’m an experienced paddler and I have seen it all: boat wakes flipping kayaks, strainers and boulders in current, low tree limbs catching an errant rod and lure, invisible tree stumps below the water line, and so forth. There are many navigational hazards on the water and a safe, reliable kayak must handle them all. Stability, then, is more than a matter of standing in a kayak. It is a matter of trust. Trust between a kayak and kayaker is developed over time. In the end, water is a powerful force, and your kayak is the only thing between you and it. I’ve already put hundreds of hours over several months into my Bite FD, fishing it in several states and on every type of water. My true test, I knew, would be when the recreational boats appeared on my local waters, and every lake would become a wave pool. Would I trust the Bite then? I recently launched my Bite FD one quiet Saturday morning. Dawn was breaking, and there were only 4 or 5 other vessels on the lake, including a paddler in a sit inside kayak. I knew it wouldn’t last long. Within two hours, the ramp was crowded, and a mix of pontoon boats, bass boats and jet skis were sending waves and wakes my way. It was chaos and crossing open water was like playing the old Frogger video game. I was wearing my PFD, I had a 360 degree light, a whistle, a bright flag and my head on a swivel. Additionally, I was fishing both off shore, and near shore, the latter being where waves turn to breakers. Seasickness is not uncommon after a few hours in those conditions. I spent 10 hours on the water that day, two-thirds of them on a very busy lake loaded with navigational risks. I watched other kayakers appear. They struggled to paddle and turn and when they stood their kayaks looked like a see-saw as they bobbed around the hot, busy lake. I watched several leave early in a combination of fear and disgust. To paraphrase a famous TV show, summer was coming. I spoke with several kayakers and boaters that day, and they all asked me about the Bite FD. I told them what I am telling you – it’s comfortable and accessibly priced. But the conditions made me add one more point: it’s as stable as any kayak on the market. Having been in other kayaks on that same lake, in those same conditions, I knew the difference well: in fact, I was standing in the Bite FD, nearly eye to eye with a boater while we spoke, and his boat was pitching more than my kayak. Trust – it’s the most important result of stability. The Bite FD has earned mine. [bigcommerce_product id=”1066″ order=”ASC” orderby=”date”] About the author: Henry “Hank” Veggian is a member of the Jackson Fishing Team Pro Staff. He started kayak fishing from a Jackson Coosa in 2011. A tournament director for Carolina Kayak Anglers, he is also an educator and ambassador of our sport, conveying information and experience through annual seminars, tournaments and interviews. His writings on kayak fishing have appeared in numerous publications. He currently fishes out of a Bite FD. Closest Dealer: Get Outdoors Paddlesports (Greensboro, N.C.) Follow Hank: Blog: https://bowfincountry.com/ Twitter: @miacalva Instagram: @HankVeggian 3 Comments Jody Cussins on May 29, 2020 at 8:37 am How different if any are the bottoms of the Bite and Bite FD? I fish skinny water rivers with lots of shoals but also fish some bigger rivers. Being able to take the pedal drive out for the skinny and add it for the bigger rivers would be great but I’m concerned about using it in the skinny waters! i fish out of a Big Rig now and love it but would like a somewhat smaller kayak for my skinny waters so it’s easier for me to float on solo trips. Reply Henry V on July 8, 2020 at 2:13 pm Jody, good question. The skeg on the Bite is fixed, and very durable. In very skinny water, it is the first contact point between the kayak and the river bottom. Hi n very shallow water (6-8”) it will touch bottom. Otherwise, the Bite’s hull can handle most anything. Hank Reply Jean Wilson on May 29, 2020 at 3:11 pm Such a well-presented and thorough review of the JK Bite Angler and Bite FD! Thanks for taking the time to provide some great feedback from your experiences on the water, Hank! Reply Submit a Comment Cancel replyYour email address will not be published. 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