After paddling and pedaling this kayak a few times, I feel ready to give my honest opinion.
In this Wilderness Systems Recon 120 review, I’ll tell you what I like about this boat, and what could be improved.
I’ll also talk about the Recon 120 HD, which is the pedal version of this kayak.
Let’s get started.
[Spoiler Alert: The Wildy Recon 120 is a fantastic fishing kayak. If you’re looking for stability, particularly for big guys, and being able to participate in tournaments… then you need this boat]
Things to Consider Before Buying a Fishing Kayak
Before buying the Wilderness Systems Recon 120, you’ll have to think about where you plan to go fishing.
If you need a narrow boat to paddle swift-moving rivers, then the Recon 120 isn’t really made for this.
Whereas if you want a boat for lakes and even the open ocean, the Recon 120’s huge stability will make it remarkable.
Talking about stability, the Recon 120 is one of the best fishing kayaks for big and tall guys.
Standing up will be easy, and the high sitting position means you won’t feel cramped up.
If it’s your first boat, the Recon 120 is great in the sense that you don’t have to choose between paddle or pedal kayak just yet. You can simply get the cheap paddle version and upgrade to a pedal drive down the road.
Finally, just remember to keep your boat out of the sun when not in use. Otherwise, the UV rays may warp the hull over time.
Wilderness Systems Recon 120 Kayak Specifications
- Length: 12 ft 2 in
- Width: 38 in
- Weight: 95 lb (115 with pedal drive)
- Load Capacity: 450 lb
Wilderness Systems Recon 120 Kayak Design
Like most fishing kayaks, the Wilderness Systems Recon 120 is made of single-layer polyethylene.
This makes the hull virtually indestructible. It will withstand collisions, submerged tree branches, rocks… and almost anything you throw at it.
I’ll be honest − this kayak is incredibly wide, with a high seat position and amazing stability.
This means that speed isn’t the name of the game.
As such, I’m able to get at a slow cruising pace of 2 mph while paddling.
With the Recon 120 HD, which is the pedal version, I can go at 3.5 mph comfortably.
Again, this boat isn’t made for speed, but it will take you wherever you need to go.
The Wilderness Systems Recon 120 steers pretty well considering its width.
You’ll have no problem turning in tight spots and narrow rivers, with or without the rudder.
Both the paddle and pedal versions are able to turn on a dime.
Also, using the paddle as a SUP paddle while standing is much better than I thought. You can turn easily, the boat is pretty responsive despite being so wide.
The rudder is controlled by a convenient steering handle, and I love the mechanism to deploy and fold the rudder.
The new Wildy seat is quite comfortable and breathable, but I think it could be improved.
I know some people who don’t mind, but I found the bar on the back to be really uncomfortable. I had to add some padding and now it’s great, but honestly, it should be great by default.
Although I love the “slide-in” feature of the seat to adjust your position back and forth. You just have to lift the bar under the seat and you can slide back and forth. That’s really great when pedaling or when you want to stand up.
Stability and Tracking
With the Wildy Recon 120, stability is the name of the game.
Compared to the ATAK 120 which is already a stable boat, the Recon just blows it out of the water.
Even big guys won’t be able to flip the Recon 120. Standing up and sitting down without squatting is also very easy thanks to the high sitting position.
If you want to stand and cast, the Wilderness Systems Recon 120 is easily one of the most stable fishing kayaks.
Regarding tracking, with the hull design and the rudder you won’t have any problem at all.
Even in the wind or in currents, I’ve found the Recon 120 to track really well.
Wildy kayaks are known for their superb quality, and the Recon 120 is no exception.
As mentioned above, the hull is virtually indestructible and covered by a lifetime warranty.
For the Wilderness Systems Recon 120 HD, the Pedal Drive is covered by a 1-year warranty. This isn’t amazing considering Old Town’s more generous 5-year warranty.
That said, I’ve never heard any complaints about the pedal drive breaking down. It’s made in a way that even in case you hit a rock at full speed, it will pop up and the prop won’t be damaged.
Like most pedal fishing kayaks, the Recon 120 is very heavy.
I like the fact you can easily remove the pedal drive to make it 20 lb lighter, but it still weighs 95 lb on its own.
This means it won’t be easy to load it on top of an SUV if you don’t have help.
Also, you’ll probably need a kayak cart or Boonebox landing gear to take it to and from the water.
That said, it does have a replaceable skid plate on the stern so you can drag it without damaging the hull.
Also, it has two heavy-duty handles on the side and one on the bow. On the stern, you have two molded-in handles for easy loading and unloading.
Wilderness Systems Recon 120 Storage and Pedal Drive
There’s a lot of storage space under the seat to put small tackle boxes, and molded-in pockets on the sides for loose lures or more tackle boxes.
The big dry hatch at the front is very convenient as it contains a removable gear bin. This makes it much easier to access your gear while on the water. Also, the hatch gives you access to the hull so you can deck your boat easily.
You also have a huge rear tankwell storage area where you can put a milk crate and a medium cooler.
For the Recon 120 HD, the Pedal Drive is easy to lift and put out of the way for shallow water. It’s also easy to put back in place.
The Pedal Drive is quite fast and comfortable, and it has mountain bike pedals. This is great so that you don’t slip if you wear boots or shoes, but for me who likes to go barefoot or with sandals I had to replace them.
Finally, there’s a small rear latch to get access to the rudder for maintenance or to rig the stern easily.
Wilderness Systems Recon 120 Fishing Ease
As expected from a high-end fishing kayak, you get lots of fishing features on the Recon 120.
You get gear tracks on each side to mount your fish finder, rod holders, cup holder, etc.
For bass fishing, the horizontal rod storage on the sides is amazing. You can put 4 rod holders on each side. Be sure to use the straps to secure the rods, though! I’ve heard stories of people having a rod go over the side and into the water.
There are two universal transducer mounts and four scuppers to drain the water. In the wind, you will get wet though.
There are stand-up pads on the deck so that you don’t make noise when putting objects on the floor or if anything falls.
Also, there’s an integrated cup holder behind the seat.
For fishing, I found the seat to be very comfortable for hours, and the huge deck space is great to stand and cast.
The front hatch also has a paddle holder on top so you can keep your paddle out of the way when fishing or pedaling.
However, there’s no convenient spot to place a measuring board − a bit weird since this is a kayak made for tournament anglers.
I would have liked some gear tracks at the back as well to put a cup holder or a trolling mount.
Who is the Wilderness Systems Recon 120 for?
The Wildy Recon 120 is an amazingly stable boat for competitive fishing.
Big guys will be able to stand without ever feeling tippy.
Also, you can get the paddle version for cheap, with the ability to upgrade later down the road.
This is huge for beginners, as most people I know have decided to go for a pedal kayak a few years in, and they had to sell their previous paddle boat.
Overall, if you’re looking for stability and tons of fishing features, the Recon 120 is a great value.
Wilderness Systems Recon 120 Alternatives
Wilderness Systems Radar 135
The Radar 135 is longer than the Recon 120, but I was amazed to see the Recon has more room for gear and it is more accessible and convenient.
Compared to the Recon, the Radar isn’t as stable as it is 4” narrower.
Of course, this also means it’s faster and more maneuverable than the Recon.
The Radar doesn’t have the same adjustable seat, which means you might feel cramped up sometimes.
The Radar doesn’t have the removable gear bin that’s so handy on the Recon 120. You can’t easily access your gear on the water.
All in all, the Radar is an older model and I much prefer the Wilderness Systems Recon 120.
Like the Wilderness Systems Recon 120, the Bonafide SS127 is made for stability.
It’s as stable as the Recon 120 for standing up, which makes it great for big guys.
The Bonafide SS 127 doesn’t have a rudder, which means it won’t track or turn as well as the Recon 120.
Also, it doesn’t come with a pedal system.
Overall, the Bonafide SS127 is similar to the Recon 120, but you can’t easily upgrade to a pedal system in the future.
You can read my full review of the Bonafide SS127 here.
Old Town Sportsman 120 PDL
As you know if you’ve read my reviews, I’m a huge fan of the Sportsman 120 PDL.
Like the Recon 120 HD, the Sportsman 120 PDL is impossible to flip.
It’s very stable, yet much faster than the Recon 120 HD.
It also has amazing storage space and a better seat.
Overall, the Sportsman 120 PDL is better than the Recon 120 HD. But there’s no paddle version of the Sportsman that could fit a pedal drive later on.
Read my detailed review of the Sportsman 120 PDL.
Wilderness Systems Recon 120 – Wrapping It Up
In short, the Wilderness Systems Recon 120 is a fantastic fishing kayak for tournament anglers.
It has amazing stability for big guys, and you can get the Recon 120 HD if you want a pedal drive.
For beginners and experienced anglers alike, the Recon 120 is really hard to beat, particularly at this price point.