Founded in 1986, Wilderness Systems (WS) has since risen to become one of the best kayak fishing brands in the world.
Like Perception, they are also under the umbrella of Confluence Outdoor, but are still designing and manufacturing innovative, award-winning boats that bring you closer to nature.
And the Wilderness Systems Radar 135 is certainly one of them.
Part of a family of cutting-edge, tri-powered kayaks, the Radar 135 offers plenty of scope for customization, in what is an already impressive rig.
But why did we give it a 4.3 rating?
Should it be more? Should it be less?
And, more importantly, is it the right fishing kayak for your needs?
Let’s find out.
Our Verdict on the Wilderness Systems Radar 135 Kayak
The Wilderness Systems Radar 135 is a highly versatile fishing machine that offers a wealth of customizable options and balanced performance. But it’s not without its flaws. The Radar 135 is pricey – even without the inclusion of pedal drives or motors.
- The Wilderness Systems Radar 135 Fishing Kayak Review
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The Wilderness Systems Radar 135 Kayak – What is It?
You’re looking at a sit-on-top hardshell fishing kayak designed for solo paddlers, and capable of offering three methods of propulsion in one; power, paddle, and pedals.
The Radar 135 is actually 13.6 feet in length, with a width of 34-inches at its widest point.
First released in 2017, later models have been upgraded with more durable features and improvements.
Aside from its versatility when it comes to getting around, it also offers an attractive amount of fishing-friendly features, a balanced hull design that boosts performance, and super comfortable seating.
What’s it For?
With the smaller Radar 115 at home on calmer bodies of water, the 135 has been designed to venture further afield.
Capable of handling anything from lakes and rivers to offshore and open water, you can feel confident in a variety of environments with this kayak.
In fact, I’ve included it in this review of the best ocean fishing kayaks, so you know it can handle some big water.
As with most fishing kayaks, however, I wouldn’t recommend trying to take this on rapids. The Radar 135 is certainly too large for such maneuvers, and wouldn’t perform too well on whitewater.
Although Wilderness Systems market the 135 at beginners and intermediates, this is still going to be an excellent machine for pros and more experienced paddlers and kayak anglers.
I went with the Wilderness Systems ATAK 140 in this review of the best fishing kayaks for larger paddlers, although the Radar 135 could easily have made that list, and is ideal if you are a bigger human.
And the slim, sleek design, comfort seating, and plentiful storage options means it’s ideal for longer excursions and touring, so I would highly recommend this craft for anyone who enjoys kayak camping adventures, as well as those memorable dawn-to-dusk fishing days.
The Wilderness Systems Radar 135 Fishing Kayak Review
Wilderness Systems are known for their world-class kayaks, and world-class kayaks use premium materials.
As such, the Radar 135 has been built to last a lifetime, and with the right care and maintenance, you’ll be piloting this craft for many seasons to come.
Check out our full guide to kayak maintenance for more information.
Made from a single piece of high-density polyethylene, and with quality hardware throughout, you don’t need to worry about anything breaking off.
Of course, these days, inflatable kayaks are arguably more durable than hardshells, given that the latter can still take cosmetic damage from bumps, scraps and prangs.
Regardless, the Radar 135 isn’t going to let you down when it comes to durability.
The Wilderness Systems Radar 135 has been designed with something called S.M.A.R.T hull technology.
This stands for Stability, Maneuverability, Acceleration, Responsiveness and Tracking.
That must mean it’s pretty decent in the performance department, then, right?
Let’s take a look.
Just looking at the shape and style of this kayak’s hull, and you know it’s going to be a joy to paddle.
Flip the kayak over, and you’ll notice a tri-hull design. The sharp keel is going to help keep it on course while in the water.
It tracks as straight as an arrow, and is one of the most enjoyable fishing kayaks to use, purely for how effortless it is to get from A to B.
And with the low profile design, the Radar 135 offers as little wind resistance as possible, so even in blustery conditions and chop you should be able to cut through with relative ease.
Add in a pedal drive or motor, and you’ve got a fishing kayak that keeps paddler fatigue to a minimum, so you can fish for longer.
Although the hull design is sleek and tapered, the size and weight of this kayak ensures that it’s going to be a little sluggish in the water.
At least, without pedals or a motor drive.
I’m not sure if it will be able to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Vibe Shearwater 125 and Bonafide SS127, for example.
Still, the extended bow and stern help balance things out, although speed isn’t the most important factor when shopping for a new fishing kayak.
Wilderness Systems understands the value of stability when it comes to fishing kayaks, and I believe that each and every one of their designs are ideal for standing casts and reels.
The Radar 135 is a great example, with a pontoon-style hull that ensures a rock-solid fishing platform that is going to be a challenge to tip over.
However, due to the slim design, and long, sleek shape, I stopped short of including it in this review of the best stand-up fishing kayaks, and went with the WS ATAK 120 instead.
The longer the kayak, the more difficult it’s going to be to turn.
And at 13.6 feet, the Radar 135 isn’t the most nimble fishing kayak on the water.
That said, it can still turn well when it has to, and has been designed with a pronounced chine to give it the best maneuverability and response possible for this type of craft.
Features and Accessories
There’s a lot going on in this boat, so let’s break it down with a nice set of easy-to-read bullet points.
Note that storage features will be explored separately.
- AirPro Max seat (more on seating, below).
- Pedal and power compatible.
- Elevated seat mount location.
- Flex Pod OS console system.
- Bow mounting surfaces.
- Adjustable padded foot braces.
- Front and midship SlideTrax accessory system.
- Steering mount for pedal drive or trolling motor.
- Durable, rotomolded carry handles.
- Paddle parks.
- Bow paddle keeper.
- Stern mounting plate for a rudder.
- Scupper holes.
Some points to note:
There are no built-in rod holders! Whether this is an oversight or not, perhaps the number-one complaint about the Radar 135 is that it doesn’t come with any rod holder options as standard.
Even something as basic as the Pelican Mustang 100X Angler manages to include two flush-mounted rod holders!
The Flex Pod OS console system is an ingenious creation that allows for the easy installation of a fish finder in the perfect location at the front of your boat.
It can accommodate a battery, protected and tidily packed away, helping to keep the deck uncluttered. Alternatively, it can be used as additional storage.
The Helix pedal drive system is sold separately, but fits into the designated location on the Radar’s deck.
While it doesn’t use the kick-up fins of the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler, it’s still relatively easy to lift out of the water when you’re in the shallows.
And it’s a similar situation if you prefer to use the Helix Motor drive.
Another attractive feature about Wilderness Systems, is that they also produce an abundance of additional features and accessories that are designed to be perfectly compatible with their kayaks.
Which makes perfect sense, when you think about it!
As such, you don’t need to look hard when you’re in the market for add-ons to pimp out a WS kayak to suit your needs.
Quality replacement parts are also easy to source if required, although there are reports that getting hold of them can take time.
The Radar 135 comes with the AirPro Max seating system, which is as comfortable as you’re likely to get in this class of fishing kayak.
Day-long excursions are a breeze with the AirPro Max, and five to six hours will go by, and you won’t even register it.
Wilderness Systems also sells additional lumbar support if you feel like you need an extra bit of padding at your back.
It’s an inflatable device that can be packed down for easy storage, and is also compatible with most fishing kayak seats, if you want to use it with another brand.
The seat itself is made from a durable frame, with breathable, quick-dry material. The frame is on a sliding gear track, so you can move it fore and aft depending on your paddling preference.
It can also be easily removed, and stored just behind the seating area, which provides you with even more deck space for standing casts and reels.
The Perception Outlaw 11.5 has a similar clever feature of on-board seat storage to maximize space.
The foot braces in the Radar 135 are premium quality, designed with padding to be comfortable to use, and are very easy to adjust with a durable, satisfying locking lever system.
Being the larger kayak in the Radar range, the 135 offers an upgrade when it comes to storage space and solutions.
Starting at the bow, there’s a new “Orbix” hatch (you’ll notice that WS likes to label just about everything with its own name – which is perfectly acceptable if they’ve designed it)!
This is a fully watertight, hinged storage hatch that has two, durable locking levers that seal it and hold the lid in place. It looks and feels quality, and a serious improvement on previous versions, which could still leak water in.
Some users report that it can be a challenge to get into, however, as the levers take a bit of effort to move. It might not be the place to store anything you need in a hurry.
At midships, there’s a rectangular storage hatch that sits flush with the deck. It’s also watertight, and durable enough to stand on if you need to.
On either side, you have molded gear storage pockets that are self-draining. They’re designed to keep things like fishing pliers within reach of your seating position, but not large enough for a Plano 3600 box.
There are two paddle parks located at the port and starboard sides of the craft, as well as a paddle keeper bungee at the bow. They’re easy to use for hands-free fishing capabilities.
Immediately behind the seat, there’s an additional storage compartment that can fit tackle boxes or a spare Helix battery. This features a bungee tie-down to keep things securely in place.
Going further aft, there’s a large recessed tank well that also has a bungee tie down. There are also two, bolted-in handles if you want to add additional lashing straps.
The bungee is on a track system, so it’s fully adjustable depending on what you’re carrying.
If you’re rocking the Wilderness Systems Radar 135, you should have some decent gear to fill it!
With a maximum weight capacity of 475 lbs, you can bring along an impressive payload when venturing out in the Radar 135.
It’s designed to go big, so you can travel further and catch heavier, and this is reflected in the generous weight capacity on offer.
In spite of this, you should never overload your fishing kayak, and try to keep the weight well under the maximum.
The Radar 135 is a lot of kayak, and with a lot of kayak, the trade-off is there’s usually a lot of weight.
It comes in at 90 lbs as standard. That’s before you include things like pedal drives or motors.
There’s no two ways about it, you’re going to need to have a buddy to help you carry this thing, and be in decent physical shape to do so.
At the bow and stern, you’ll find durable, rotomolded carry handles to help with this endeavor. Looking top down, the bow handle is positioned vertically, and the stern handle is horizontal.
But if you want to visit the other end of the spectrum, you can check out this review of the most lightweight fishing kayaks on the market – which offer the very best in grab-and-go kayak angling.
Ease of Use
Wilderness Systems markets the Radar 135 as being a suitable beginner fishing kayak, as well as for intermediate paddlers.
At first glance, I wouldn’t necessarily agree. There are definitely more suitable options on the market if you are a novice paddler. (Check out this article on the best kayaks for beginners for some great examples).
Pelican and Perception are two brands that spring to mind that cater for new kayakers.
To a total noob, the Radar 135 might look a little intimidating. Modular pod systems can be confusing to brand-new paddlers, and it looks “busier” than something like the stripped-back Jackson Bite.
Add in a pedal system or a trolling motor, and with the rudder control steering, it might take a little getting used to – especially compared with a simple paddle craft.
That said, most fishing kayaks are pretty straightforward to operate, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to use the Radar 135.
The team at Wilderness Systems has an eye for attractive design.
Just about every kayak that comes out of the factory is pleasing to look at, and the Radar 135 is no exception.
From the top, it has a very distinctive, sleek shape, with a pronounced, sharp bow, while the stern nearly tapers off to an identical point.
There are no clunky lines here, and it rivals the Vibe Shearwater 125 when it comes to good-looking boats.
You have a choice of four colors – Mesa Camo (green), Midnight (blue), Steel Gray (gray), and Aqua (blue). The latter two are new additions, and at the time of writing, aren’t available yet.
But if the other two designs are anything to go by, we’re in for smart, stylish camo with the feature color mixed with a brushed black.
First, you should always make sure you’re wearing an accredited life preserver or PFD when you’re out on the water – regardless of the safety features/track record that a kayak incorporates.
As for the Wilderness Systems Radar 135, the fact that it’s a large, super-stable kayak should breed confidence in a paddler when they’re out on the water.
It’s going to be pretty hard to tip – and can handle a fair bit of chop given its unique hull design and balanced performance.
But the weight of the boat means you probably won’t be able to flip it back right-side-up.
If you ever do capsize in a kayak – particularly in open or deep water, it’s much safer to stay with the boat than it is to attempt to swim anywhere.
Unless, of course, you’re on a glassy, shallow pond a couple of feet from the shore!6
It was all going so well!
As I might have previously mentioned, Wilderness Systems use premium materials, in conjunction with world-class, innovative design. We’re not dealing with cookie-cutter kayaks here.
Unfortunately, such factors come at a cost. Quite literally.
That’s because Wilderness Systems kayaks aren’t the cheapest on the block, and the Radar 135 is pricey – even without the inclusion of pedal drives or motors.
At the time of writing, you could buy around six Intex Excursion Pro fishing kayaks for the price of one Radar 135!
And there are fishing kayaks that already include a pedal drive or motor around this price point, such as the Brooklyn Kayak Company’s PK12 Angler.
This article on the best pedal drive fishing kayaks will give you an idea of how much these ultimate fishing machines cost.
If you are looking to tighten the purse strings – but like what Wilderness Systems are all about, they do offer a sub-$1000 fishing kayak (although it’s likely to creep over such criteria after tax).
It goes by the name of the Targa 100. You can check it out in this review of the best fishing kayaks under $1000.
And you can go here for even more of the best budget-friendly fishing kayaks.
At the end of the day, so long as you’re out on the water, you can catch fish in just about anything!
What do you think of Wilderness Systems?
To my mind, they’re never quite at the forefront when I think of fishing kayaks. The likes of Hobie, Old Town, Vibe, Bonafide, Jackson, and Native Watercraft all seem to pop in there before WS.
And I’m not really sure why that is? Perhaps it’s because they have such an enormous range of recreational kayaks, it’s easy to forget about the fishing versions?
But that’s doing them a disservice.
There’s no doubt that the Radar 135 is a top-quality fishing machine, and it deserves a place among the elite fishing kayaks on the market.
But at this price point, I’m just not sure if I would personally choose it over something like the Vibe Sea Ghost 130.
And with the Radar 135 there are a few niggling issues that might be the dealbreaker. Features that need to be properly dialed in, are not quite right, or are missing altogether (I’m looking at you, rod holders)!
It’s certainly not been without its teething problems.
Of course, if I was in the market for a fishing kayak I wanted to upgrade down the years, with the versatility to offer pedals, power, and paddling options, then the Radar 135 would definitely be on…my radar.
And Wilderness Systems continues to upgrade it and make improvements with each generation. And although there are reports they don’t offer the best customer service, someone, somewhere is listening.
At the end of the day, the Radar 135 is still a world-class fishing kayak, and is well-worth your consideration.
The Wilderness Systems Radar 135 is a highly versatile fishing machine that offers a wealth of customizable options and balanced performance. But it’s not without its flaws.
I hope this review has helped you make a decision if it’s the right craft for you.
Let me know in the comments if the Radar has your attention. If you already own one – what do you like about it? Is there anything you would change?
Stay safe out there, people, and until next time, tight lines, and happy kayak fishing!