Bonafide SS127 Review: A Sit-On-Top Kayak Made For Anglers
A sit-on-top kayak made for stand-up fishing
What happens when a renowned kayak accessory designer builds his ultimate sit-on-top kayak for fishing? The result is the Bonafide SS127. In addition to having unique features and accessories, the Bonafide kayak’s layout and hull are the perfect design for stand-up kayak fishing. That’s because the Bonafide SS127 is the brainchild of a kayak fisherman. Luther Cifers is the owner and lead designer at YakAttack kayak accessories. But before he started the company that has brought so many iconic gadgets and doohickeys to paddle and pedal anglers, Cifers was a kayak fisherman. His experiences on the water helped inform each rod holder, camera mount, cup holder, and hundreds of other accessories. All that was left was a need for the perfect paddle fishing kayak to carry his gadgets. So, Cifers worked with long-time kayak designer Hanz Nutz to build the Bonafide SS127, and the rest is history.
Bonafide SS127 Specs:
- Weight: 85 pounds w/o seat
- Capacity: 475 pounds
- Length: 12’7”
- Width: 33.75”
- Hull: Rotomolded polyethylene
- Price: $1699
What Kind of Fishing Kayak is the Bonafide SS127
The Bonafide SS127 falls into the class of stand-up, sit-on-top paddle kayaks for fishing. These boats are utilitarian fishing machines focused on stability and functionality over speed and open-water performance. To excel in these categories, the SS127 combines a super-stable and sporty hull with an uber functional cockpit. From the bow hatch to the seat and stern well, every detail is designed to meet a serious angler’s needs while remaining user-friendly. Fishermen looking for a comfortable and functional sit-on-top fishing kayak will be happy with the Bonafide SS127.
Key Features of the Bonafide SS127
As expected, the Bonafide kayak has some of the most unique and functional fishing features on the water. Almost two decades ago, Luther Cifers started out as a dedicated kayak angler. When he couldn’t find the accessories he needed, the engineer decided to make them himself. While the sport exploded, Cifers had the inside track on the gear kayak anglers need. His experiences helped inspire his designs, and YakAttack’s full line of smart accessories became an essential part of the sport.
After working with the major kayak manufacturers to outfit their boats with his accessories, Cifers decided to design the ultimate sit-on-top kayak to complement his gadgets. To compete in the growing stand-up kayak market, Cifers developed a hull design, cockpit layout, and fishing features that are unique to the Bonafide SS127.
Cifers attention to detail is evident in the huge bow hatch with reversible hinges. The hatch can open from the bow end or the cockpit end, and the angler can remove the hatch in seconds.
Another favorite feature is the removable electronics pod in the center of the wide, flat cockpit. The small, sealed box allows me to install the fishfinder display on the lid and the transducer on the bottom and store the battery inside. Or, I can use the pod for extra dry storage for stuff I need to keep close at hand.
The icing on the cake is the HighRise seat. Arguably the most comfortable seat on the water, the HighRise is just as good on land. The seat is designed for all-day comfort with quick-dry and breathable mesh padding, a high back and lumbar support. In the low position, the seat offers a better paddling experience. Lifting the seat into the high position makes it easier to stand and fish. The unique seat base makes it easy to go from the low position to the high position, even when I’m on the water.
Cifers was most proud of the Junk Drawer tackle storage under the seat. He installed a sliding tray below the angler to hold tackle trays and tools. Not only is this a convenient place to stash the stuff I use most, but it keeps my gear out of the elements and closer to the center of gravity.
How We Tested the Bonafide SS127
Six months before the Bonafide SS127 was released to the public, Luther Cifers invited me to the factory in Greenville, North Carolina, to test the fishing kayak and give him my thoughts. After we paddled around a local lake chasing bass and putting the boat through its courses, Cifers gave me a ride back to town in his sports car. As we zoomed and zipped through mountain roads, Cifers grilled me on my opinions of the boat. It didn’t matter whether I complimented a feature or criticized it—Cifers wanted to know why.
I’m sure everyone who paddled the early versions of the Bonafide SS127 received the same interrogation. Cifers showed me a half dozen prototypes that had been tested and trashed. The sticking point was the boat’s catamaran hull. Trying to balance speed and stability is a constant give and take. Cifers wanted to make sure he got it right.
The result is a paddle kayak for fishing that is fine-tuned for lakes, ponds, and inshore saltwater fishing. Since the Bonafide SS127 is a paddle kayak, it is especially deadly in shallow, weed-choked, and rock-strewn water. While the paddle kayak doesn’t have the legs of a pedal kayak, it can take an angler to the skinniest backwaters that fish love and pedal kayakers hate.
The Bonafide SS127 Kayak is a favorite for professional fishing guides. The boat’s stability and reliable components are a comfort to new anglers and pros alike.
Speed, Tracking, Maneuverability
While Luther Cifers unique designs and demand for quality are evident on the topside of the Bonafide SS127, his real achievement is below the water line. Working with long-time kayak designer Hanz Nutz, the Bonafide SS127 takes the tunnel hull to a new level.
The hardest thing about designing a stand-up-friendly paddle kayak is combining performance with stability. A wide sit-on-top kayak is stable, but it paddles like crap. Also, the wide boat will have a shallow draft and be at the mercy of wind and currents.
On the other hand, a great paddling boat with a keel, rocker, and narrow beam, turns stand-up fishing into a circus act. Of course, adding a pedal system into the equation negates the negatives of a wide, stable kayak. But, the disadvantage of a pedal kayak shows in shallow water, where stand-up fishing is most effective. And this is the conundrum of kayak design.
To solve the dilemma, Cifers and Nutz developed a hybrid catamaran hull. Like any catamaran, the pontoons push the boat’s volume to the outside for improved stability. In addition, the tunnel between the pontoons improves tracking and reduces the effects of wind and current on the kayak. At the bow, the pontoons come together in a hybrid pointed bow to cut through the waves and reduce hull noise.
The hybrid catamaran concept is popular with stand-up kayaks, but it can be hard to pull off. Get it wrong, and water bubbles through the scuppers and boils off the stern, causing drag and slowing the kayak. The Bonafide SS127 gets the tunnel hull right, and the boat travels straight, paddles easily, and stays stable.
This design allows the Bonafide SS127 Kayak to perform at the best end of the stand-up kayak line. While the boat paddles fast and straight, turning a tunnel hull isn’t as easy as a kayak with a keel, but the Bonafide SS127 maintains softer secondary stability to make maneuvering easier.
A Paddle Kayak for Stand-up Fishing in Shallow Water
To complement the hull, the topside of the Bonafide SS127 is designed for stand-up fishing. In addition to the wide, flat, padded deck, the boat has two “Perch Pads” on the gunnels to allow the angler to stand higher for a better view into the water.
For a convenient place to store the paddle when I’m standing and fishing, the Bonafide Kayak has a plastic strap and padded area in the bow to hold one blade. The top of the strap has ridges corresponding to the ridges on the bow to serve as a horizontal rod holder. Another paddle holder is integrated into the side handle to strap the paddle to the kayak.
Bonafide designed unique foot pegs on aluminum tracks to last a lifetime. Other aluminum gear tracks on the stern well, cockpit, and bow allow me to add rod holders, electronics, or other accessories. Pad eyes on the gunwales, by the bow hatch, and along the stern well offer more areas to secure gear. The gear tracks and pad eyes are recessed to avoid snagging my fishing line.
The large bow hatch has plenty of room for dry gear and tackle. I like to keep my kayak life vest in the hatch, so I don’t have to remember to grab it before each trip. I also store dry clothes and tackle boxes in the hatch. The hatch is easy to open and remove, even while I’m standing in the cockpit.
The Bonafide SS127 is focused on stability and fishing ability, with paddling performance to get you to the fishing grounds.
What the Bonafide SS127 Does Best: Backwater and Flats Fishing
The Bonafide SS127 is one of the best sit-on-top fishing kayaks on the water. The modified catamaran hull allows rock-solid stability and manageable paddling performance. The open cockpit and deck with a high-low seat make stand-up fishing easier. The seat can be adjusted from the cockpit, and the paddle holder in the bow and the horizontal rod holders keep these items in easy reach when I’m stand-up fishing. Even the Perch Pads, flat areas on the gunwales, add a few inches of improved visibility. The Bonafide SS127 is a great all-around kayak with all the features and design cues to satisfy the serious angler. The boat’s open cockpit, free of obstructions, makes it popular with fly fishermen. And smart fishing accessories and tons of gear storage are perfect for targeting finicky largemouth bass. When Luther Cifers, owner of YakAttack fishing accessories, set out to create the ultimate fishing kayak, he had long days of casting topwater lures or working jigs in his mind.
What the Bonafide SS127 Does Worst: Long Distance and Open Water
Stand-up fishing kayaks are stable and functional for hours of comfortable backwater fishing. Even with the best design, these boats fall short on long paddles through rough seas. The stability that keeps an angler upright turns into a battering ram when facing wind and waves. Even though the tunnel hull improves tracking, the Bonafide SS127 takes some work to keep on course. And turning the boat’s stable hull can become a chore. These obstacles are common with all stand-up fishing boats, and the Bonafide kayak does its best to overcome them. It is easy to add an electric outboard or trolling motor to increase the kayak’s range and improve performance.
Does the Bonafide 127 Deliver On Its Mission?
Two of the best minds in fishing kayak design worked for a year to create the best stand-up fishing kayak. As expected, they succeeded. The HybridCat hull is fast and stable with better than expected maneuverability. The topside is open and flat, with plenty of room for fishing and paddling. Details like the bow hatch, paddle holder, HighRise seat, and foot pegs are not found on any other kayak. After releasing three boats, Cifers sold Bonafide to another manufacturer. This leaves the Bonafide Kayak alone in the Bonafide lineup as one of the best stand-up fishing kayaks that will probably never be repeated or redesigned. I guess you can’t improve on perfection.