The Good in the Crescent Ultra Lite
The first thing I noticed about the Ultra Lite was the hull design. The secret from my discussions with the Crescent team had a lot to do with Todd West (IGFA World Record angler and widely known river rat) really taking a long time getting a purposeful design put in place rather than a rush to market or cookie cutter solution. The rotomolded kayak isn’t your typical shake and bake kayak. Lots of drain lines, purposeful placement of design elements like the carry handles and all the included standard YakAttack accessories make it water ready for most creek and river anglers without additional investment.
The deck is a wide-open format that unlike many bargain boats, has a rigid floor that doesn’t bow and bend with common angler body weights. Kiss-offs which serve as mid-deck pillars make that stability possible to distribute top deck weight. It’s a very firm platform for anglers who want to stand to fish. Stability and standability are very good in this kayak as long as weight capacity is observed.
A good thing that started off as a bad thing is the seat. The new seat design on this kayak is actually much of what held up production. The original seat was a 90 degree angled, glorified stadium chair that wasn’t well suited for anglers or really even paddlers. At the $699 price point, many manufacturers are unwilling to invest materials and expense into a good seat. After some initial testing, West sought to make the seat more ergonomic and angler friendly. The new design, with sloped angles on the frame shoulders, the reworked feet, and more complete, top to bottom design adds inherent value to a kayak that could have been doomed by a corner cut too quickly in initial runs.
The YakAttack Mighty Mounts instead of water gathering flush mount rod holders is a great choice. These blocks that accept t-bolt track accessories allow anglers to choose what they use in that location. Maybe you want a 360 degree light or a GoPro camera pole right there? It’s possible. Or if you do want a rod holder right behind the seat, drop on a new Zooka Tube or Omega Rod holder. YakAttack front and back take a lot of upgrade money off the table that for years we had to invest in.
Ultra Lite Performance
Performance is what surprised me the most. Kayaks can look nice (which the Ultra Lite certainly does) but may paddle horribly. That isn’t the case here. The Crescent Ultra Lite holds a line better than any 10-foot long kayak I’ve ever paddled and still maneuvers in the current like a nimble 10ft boat should. Spinning around on the downstream side of an eddy to make a cast is a blade dig away.
The Ultra Lite kayaks boast Made in the USA and spring to life in the same facility that makes Bonafide kayaks.
The Ultra Lite Points of Improvement
While I love the purpose and design behind the kiss-offs, aesthetically, they aren’t great. To a novice, they might look like unfinished scupper holes. A deck mat kit would alleviate that look but that’s not yet available. Hopefully, it will be soon.
For less nimble folks, getting back down from the standing position may be a little difficult and feel like a trust fall. The seat is very close to the deck (remember it was built for creek and river applications) and can mean a swim for those not paying close attention. A stand (and sit) assist strap should be a consideration for folks who may have some vertical movement challenges or who are inexperienced.
While the Ultra Lite drains well, the single inline scupper in the cockpit is not my favorite. It doesn’t gulp when paddled like many single scupper models do. A scupper hole closer to the front of the kayak and one under the seat would be a drier ride.
You’ll need to invest in dry bags if you will be fishing in less than ideal conditions as under hull storage is limited in the Ultra Lite. The 12-foot Lite Tackle by Crescent has more dry storage if you have to have it. I’d love to see it in the Ultra Lite but I suppose the features have to stop at some point.
The Crescent Ultra Lite represents what I hope many sub-$1K boat manufacturers will continue to design into their watercraft. The high-end components, thoughtful design by an actual kayak angler, and a $699 price point should make this a kayak you should demo. Whether you are in the market for the throw and go river rider or a pond and creek boat it warrants a look. The Ultra Lite may finally bridge the big box to specialty shop gap.