Overall a great cross-over boat. This is a paddlers boat.
If you are a serious whitewater enthusiast, this might not be your boat. But if you enjoy leisure days on the creek or river and the occasional thrill of class III, this boat is just for you.
Many of the complaints I have seen in the reviews are things that simple modification can rectify. The seat back in it is made for a high stance and proper form in the boat so the complaint of the seat back goes away if you learn the proper sitting stance for the boat. I have taught over 10 people how to kayak in my approach all complained about the seat till they learned proper form and paddle technique.
I upped my rating from a 7 to an 8 just because of the fact that this is one of the best cross over boats on the market and perfect for teaching novice paddlers. I can go from flat water to playing in class III to ClassIV without a problem and recently had it on a few class V without problem, although it did flood the back hatch area as the cover is not exactly tight enough for that kind of pressure and volume of water pounding on it.
Now for the good, I have this boat in waves and tricky current water and it preforms really well. A spray skirt is a must for waves breaking over the bow. The boat does great riding waves and can turn on a dim with the retractable skeg up. The boat has no problem in very shallow water (3") and up. I needed a cross-over boat for calm and turbulent water. I have the boat filled with 8 inches water and kept a float just fine (took a few set waves over the bow and filled the boat with out a spray skirt on). As for paddling speed its not that fast because of it being a crossover but it can keep up with boats just fine in the same size.
I have been out in several different boats and I would buy this one again with in a heart beat. It just needs a few tweaks to the dry hatch and seat to make it a solid 9.
In moderate whitewater she behaves beautifully, you can safely catch any eddy you want and can negotiate/play anywhere you feel like in the rapids. With that being said, she is truly a river runner, not a play boat. Yes, you can lean her on her side (great stability) without worry. I disagree with other reviewers on rolling, however. She pops back up with little effort, and remember, it's hard to flip this boat in the first place. This leads me to another point, the GIANT cockpit is a great idea for beginners or those who do not want to roll as wet-exiting is very simple and you won't hit your knees on the cockpit rim while exiting. So for river running safely, and with a good bit of fun, I would give her a solid 8.
Now for the flat water portion of my review. Yes, she will do flat water. VERY SLOWLY, but she will do it. I find it best to lean back, with a straight back, and paddle that way to get the bow out of the water. Due to the lack of sharp entry on the bow, it can also be a very wet ride. Any ripples in the water will make for some good splashing. Very nice on a hot day, but it just ticks me off in the winter, and there is simply no way to keep your sunglasses clear of water drops. I have nicknamed this "hull-slap" due to the sound it makes. While it is some-what annoying, it does not seem to slow me down at all. Now, if a motor boat or a windy day drives waves at more than 1', you are plowing the bow right through it, or at least cutting into the wave halfway up. With a spray skirt (I use the Seals extreme-they will make it into a 2.2 for no extra charge, you just have to wait 30 days-ish) this is no problem, but it will stop you dead in your tracks. But, I offer 2 pieces of advice about this, #1, quarter the wave or have it behind you (you can surf her to the beach!) #2, do not take this boat out into a situation where large waves will be present. Consider this boat more for moving water or protected waters. You should have no issue if you run into large waves, but you should not seek them out either with this kayak.
Now to comfort, this boat has none. The seat cushion is thin and flimsy, the back band is better than most, but is still a back band with little support for longer paddles. I have taken mine on 2 overnighters and both times my lower back paid for it. Speaking of overnighters, they are easy to do with this boat. Plenty of room in the rear hold and in front of the foot pegs. I can easily pack an overnighter with all the comforts of car-camping in her. That being said, most of my camping gear is backpacking gear, so that may be to my advantage.
Now on to fishing; she fishes like a dream. I sit on the hull behind the seat with my feet in the seat. Yes, she is that stable. Takes a minute to realize you are not going to flip, but you get used to it quickly due to the rock-solid stability. I believe I will fall off her rather than flip her. But I find that this position enables me to see farther and to have more casting and reeling room. Do not sit up there while moving!
So overall an 8. Used for moving water, light to medium WW, and calm lakes/ponds, it is a great boat. I would also highly recommend this boat to anyone with a child that is interested in paddling due to its stability and general-use appeal.
This is not a racing kayak so thinking you can go 8 to 10 knots in it - good luck - and if that if what you are wanting this is definitely the wrong boat for you. This boat is great for teaching the novice but yet performs well enough to keep an experienced paddler like me happy. I have had the boat on class 2 and 3 rapids and even tried some mild class 4 it does like to dive a bit but if you learn how to read the rapids and learn from your mistakes this problem is easy to overcome.
I purchased the Approach spray skirt and find it to be amazing, after rolling the kayak 20 or 30 times I found maybe a pint of water in the cockpit with me. This boat is a tank to roll and recover, but once you can roll and recover it you can do it in any boat. I give the skirt a 9 and that is very rare for me.
As for the trackability of the boat with or without the skeg I find the boat tracks like a dream. For those that are having this problem in the many reviews on this boat I have read, my suggestion is take some paddling lessons.
The one thing I will agree with and one of the reasons for the 7 in my rating is the seat. The seat becomes very uncomfortable on long paddles but then this is a crossover you can not have everything. I have made major modifications to the seat and if I could have bought the boat the way I have it set up now I would have no problem giving this boat an 8.5 as a 9 is as close to perfect you are going to get from me.
The other complaint I see in many of the reviews is about the foot pegs - I agree there also. This is also part of the reason for the 7 but yet again it is easy to fix as you can easily change out the pegs.
Dagger has a winner in this boat from the novice like my wife to the experienced paddler like me its a great all around kayak. Outside the seat any modifications I found fairly easy. and like any sport you get what you pay for and the Approach is well worth the the $680 I paid for it then the extra $100 for the spray skirt made custom just for the Approach.
Ok I am off to the river for a nice little class 2 and 3 fun.
The Approach is, as far as I'm concerned, the ideal Sit-In Kayak for fishing bumpy rivers. The rivers I fish are narrow to moderately wide, shallow, with lots of rocks and exposed to barely submerged ledges. Mostly Class 1 water with occasional 2's. I have used it in up to easy 3's and technical 2's and it's been GREAT. I have mounted one rod holder, carved out a place in the support beam to strap in a small tackle box, put in a line to tie in a small tackle bag held in the cockpit, and added front deck rigging. Those few modifications has made it ideal for this kind of fishing.
I do not consider the Approach to be a true whitewater boat. I consider it an aggressive recreational kayak. I am 6'3", have size 13 feet, and weigh 240#. I am at the upper end of the weight range for this kayak, but it still performs just fine. I feel as if I have complete boat control in swift water and rough water, it's in slack water where I feel less control without dropping the skeg. That's directional control. No worries or dangers about flipping. I have flipped this kayak a few times, but that has always been user error (read: boneheaded mistakes) and not the fault of the kayak.
There are a few things that would make the Approach better. First, the dry hatch isn't dry. There is so much flex in the bottom that with me in the seat, the hull pulls down far enough to breach the seal. I will be repairing that, but remember that the dry hatch is really a "mostly dry" hatch. It won't fill with water the moment you flip, but it's not going to keep your lunch dry without using a dry bag either. Second issue is that the seat cannot be trimmed out at all. That's one reason I consider this a recreational kayak rather than a true whitewater. An adjustable seat would go a long way to improving performance. Third concern I have is that the back band is not good. I intend to replace it with something more easily adjustable and which holds it's position better. Unlike another poster, I think the thigh braces are fine, but that's because I'm not trying to be hooked in constantly. The way they are, I have the ability to wiggle a bit in the seat, and then when I get to the roaring part of the river I can tense up my legs and be firmly secured. This is not a "boat that you wear" like a true whitewater kayak. This is a recreational kayak that allows for far more solid connection to the boat when you want it than you'll get with any other recreational kayak.
I bought it for fishing, and love it for that purpose. I borrowed one from a friend for a "fifteen minute test." I brought it back to him after two hours of surfing and running some 1+ rapids nearby the campground. He took the rental price out of my cooler, upon which I found him seated with a small pile of empties nearby when I returned. Anyway, as soon as I sat in his boat, I knew I wanted one.
The foot pegs, though definitely recreational in design, are just right for how I use this boat. When I get to rough water, I can shorten them up to have my knees bent more and really hook into the thigh braces and solid foot placement. Then for the slow water, I can release them to get myself some wiggle room. It's a nice "bridge the gap" feature.
I always use a skirt with his kayak. I have a nylon skirt that does OK, and even holds in place when I flip. But I intend to replace it with a neoprene in the near future. I bought this boat for fishing mid-Atlantic karst rivers, but my first use and now my favorite use is for the mid-Atlantic's small creeks. It is perfect for the Class 2 creeks we have around here.
There are some problems. When you lean forward to attack a wave train or drop, the nose dives DEEP and submarines. With the volume of this boat, that's not a big problem, but it can be a little annoying. Without the skeg down, you have to pay close attention to paddle technique - far more than with a Perception Swifty or other similar sized recreational. The boat has essentially zero glide. That's good for a river fishing boat. Slow is good - it allows for accurate casts and long drifts. Just be aware, you aren't setting any speed records in an Approach. The material could be stiffer - especially on the bottom. But stiffer material would carry a higher price. And, by the time you're looking at a higher price then you're likely looking for a real honest-to-goodness WW kayak.
If I were going to be doing class 3 or technical water consistently rather than every once in a while, and if I were planning to be a hot-shot WW guru, I'd want a different boat. But, for class 2 creeking and fishing, it's tough to do better than the Dagger Approach. I have been very pleased with my Approach. It puts a smile on my face every time I use it. There are some minor, easily overcome issues (except for the seat not adjusting), but overall an excellent choice for a medium to large sized person (up to 260# or so) for mild river and creek paddling and fishing.
Skeg up, it will turn circles in it's own length, skeg just partly down it tracks just fine. Have been out on a local lake with huge holiday powerboat wakes, no problem - extremely stable. I added hip pads to make me fit a little tighter (6'1", 180 lbs), and replaced the foot pegs with the easier to adjust ones from my Tsunami 140.
Recently had it in the gulf at South Padre Island, TX, in 10' swells and had the time of my life - totally stable, drinking beer and watching the tour and fishing boats turn back because the conditions were too rough. Used a seals Sea Sprite skirt, perfect! Cruising down the beach just outside the break zone, I got surprised by a really big swell breaking just before it got to me, thought I was going to die, as I was sideways to it, but it just pushed me sideways, then the Approach rode up on top of the breaker, then it was gone and I was trying to figure out why I wasn't upside down.
I love this boat - have had it out in winds gusting to 30mph and could make decent headway, while my buddy in a OK Prowler 13 was dying. This is a sit-in that is good for everything but long distance. Cockpit roomy, easy in and out, even figured out on my own how to climb out and back in over the stern, no big deal.
The lines look really good on it though, so far I am still glad I bought this boat. Dagger does need to do a little bit of a better job in quality control. For example get someone to sit in the kayak to see if there are any obvious problems.
The skeg is nice for easier running/the so called dry hatch does and will leak, so a dry bag is necessary. The foot pedals are pretty flimsy and cheap but fine for cruising. The Approach skirt Dagger makes is Ok, but the velcro will not get you a tight seal. Three different dealers told my buddy that same skirt fits the 9 and 10 footer- THEY ARE WRONG! It will not stay on tight on the 9 after a few months.
The seat is pretty comfortable/ the backrest does not stay in place and will need to be tugged on periodically. I have seen three of these boats get the oil canning flat spots on the bottom. I ran a class 3 over and over again and felt really stable in this boat.
Really decide where you are wanting to head in boating before your purchase. This is a nice casual class 1-2 cruiser with some surf ability that can be rolled with lots of effort!
The only drawback, it is hard to find a neo skirt to fit (deck length is 38). Seals makes one that fits great, but you won't find a neo skirt made by NRS or other popular suppliers. All in all, this is a great boat. Plenty of storage, flotation built in, comfortable and able to tackle flat water or class 2/3 rivers.
My purpose is for fishing. I had a Wave Sport Diesel, which is a far better whitewater boat, but not a good boat for fishing. I sold the Diesel and bought an Approach. I put on a single rod holder, some deck rigging, and bought a nylon skirt. That's all the modifications needed. I feel like I have complete control of this kayak in the Class III or lower waters that I fish.
I can surf, others with skill can surf better. I can turn well. I have only wet exited twice in it, and both times were user error not a problem with the boat. It is roll-able, I just don't have a solid roll.
It does go nose down under power. I'd like an adjustable seat, but the footpegs being adjustable from the seat is a nice feature. I'd prefer a better backband, but the one that comes with it is OK.
The dry hatch is what I call a "mostly" dry hatch. Mine leaks around the bottom of the bulkhead. I could reseal it, but it's not a big deal to me. I use dry bags in the hatch anyway. It's nice when it doesn't fill with water and I don't have to mess with stern flotation.
I'm about 245#, which is the upper limit for this boat. I weighed less last year and it did better when I weighed 230#. Again, user error - not the boat's fault that I like pizza.
I rarely use the drop down skeg, but it does make a big difference, especially when attaining. It's a slow, slow kayak, but I mostly float downriver through the slow stretches seeking fish so I don't really care about paddling speed.
Control through rough water is terrific. A skirt is a necessity, but also a preference for me so not a big deal. The boat's responsiveness is allowing me to step up my paddling skills from the sloppy recreational kayaking skills I've been using. Eddy turns are far easier, ferrying is well controlled and nearly effortless, and it is roll-able to someone with that particular skill. Something that you don't see in a recreational kayak.
That said, I consider this to be an aggressive recreational kayak and not a true whitewater boat. But that's what I want, so for my needs and my skills, this boat and I see eye to eye.
As others have said, it is a bit of a tank, but it supports my weight very well, maneuvers predictably and can do lakes and streams. I've had it in II+ water and it did well. Not a playboat mind you, but at 44 years old and overweight, that's not what I'm there for.
Everyone else that has tried my boats over the years agrees that the Approach is the one they would choose. So do yourself a favor, if you want a good all around boat, take an Approach out at a local dealer. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
We tested it yesterday on the 5-mile section of the James River at Balcony Falls. I was impressed with the stability and ease of turning. It is slower to accelerate than a typical recreational kayak or whitewater kayak. It handled the rock gardens well but it tends to dive into the wave trains for a wet ride so the spray skirt is a necessity in Class II-III. The Seals 2.2 nylon spray skirt with adjustable tunnel tends to leak a bit, but the Mountain Surf neoprene skirt is just fine.
I ran a dozen Class II and two Class III rapids yesterday and felt secure and in control all the way. Now that I have a little time in the boat I won't hesitate to use it in bigger water such as the Upper New River Gorge in West Virginia. I would say the boat is not heavy duty enough for the New River Gorge Class IV-V.
I weigh 215# with my pfd and paddle and the Approach rides low in the stern. I could pass over rocks with the bow and midsection and scrape at the stern. This could be corrected by either weighting the front end or moving the seat forward which will not be easy because it is molded into the boat.
I carried 5# of gear and 8# water in the dry hatch which probably affected the stern load. On the way out I put the water and gear in front of the foot pedals and that made a little difference, not much.
The boat surfs very well, front, side rear. Edges are not grabby. It's too big to spin on a wave as a WW kayak will. Tends to pearl in bigger waves. Carved turns into and out of eddies are smooth and effortless. Attaining is a bit more difficult than in my white water kayak, but not a big thing.
On the lake at the end of the run I could only go 2.5 miles per hour with the skeg up. Pushing beyond that speed kicks up a bow wake that pushes the bow off line and requires extra attention to steering.
By putting the skeg down I could push the boat up to 3 mph before the bow wake became troublesome. This is about the same cruising speed that is comfortable for the Dagger GT 7.5 whitewater kayak and the Esquif Paradigm whitewater solo canoe that were paddling beside me. We were able to carry on an easy conversation while maintaining 3 mph with a steady, easy cadence.
At the end of 4 hours of playing in rapids and practicing ferries, peel outs, eddy turns, back paddling and attaining I wasn't sore anywhere, which means the boat fits me reasonably well and there are no pressure points. There is a lot of room in the cockpit so I could move around and stretch my legs for comfort. Overall it is a very nice little boat and I'm pleased with it. I will use it as a introductory level student kayak on rocky rivers.
Most of the boats i tried didnt float me high enough in the water but this boat seams to be a perfect fit for my size. The max load rating was 330 pounds. Bottom line if your a large boater like me with similar boating interest and your in the market for a new yak; unless you want to haul your 16' yak thru the whitewater and haul your ww boat thru the flatwater , you should give this boat a test drive. I feel like this boat was made for me. Good look.
I've got mine rigged for fishing and it allows me to surf across waves to grab the small eddies where smallmouths can be found. I could see when I first bought it that the skeg extended too far down and could easily catch on rocks etc if it was forgotten and left extended while in a rapid. I knotted the cord so that the maximum extension is about 45 degrees and have had no problems at all. I expected the rear foam wall to leak as the constant flex on the hull bottom soon breaks the seal and allows water to pass under the wall on most yaks used in WW. I cured this by my normal method - cutting a 2X4 to a length about 1/2" longer than the depth of the boat, jamming it in so the bottom is flexed down and then filling the gap with marine goop. So far its been working well and my gear has stayed dry in the storage compartment.
For large paddlers looking for an all-around river boat that can handle easy WW, this is the ticket. The storage area easily holds enough gear for an overnight trip, the drop skeg helps while paddling through the long pools or positioning the yak during fishing and the boat easily handles class II-III rapids while carrying a lot of weight.
As no yak is perfect, a 9 is as high as I could rate it.