The Katana is a crossover kayak made by Dagger. It comes in two sizes: 9.7 and 10.4 (with max. capacities at 210 and 285 lbs, respectively). Like all crossover kayaks, the Katana is designed with a twofold purpose: a whitewater boat up to Class III rapids with a drop-down skeg to provide for quietwater tracking. True with other crossover models out there, the Katana has a whole lot of “rocker” – meaning the curvature of the boat’s bottom from bow to stern, if seen sideways, looks a little like a smile. Similarly, it has a soft or rounded “chine,” which basically is the angle design for the sides of the kayak and the hull, aka the bottom of the boat. Soft chine is like a wide letter U, if seen from behind.
The more rocker a boat has, the more maneuverable it’ll be in the water – any type of water. Simply put, with the front and back ends raised upward, there’s just less boat material in the water, meaning less resistance. In other words, the boat turns on a dime. This is a particularly keen desire when paddling rapids and needing to be as deft and spry as possible. And your center of gravity is concentrated solely beneath your seat. As for the soft/rounded chine, that’s a matter of stability. Here, there’s more boat beneath your own bottom – or, to borrow a line from a friend, “cush for your tush” – meaning a more solid base. Whereas a V-shaped hull tracks better in water but is tippier, a U-shaped hull is slower but more stable.
The folks at Dagger took a stab (ahem) at making an actually comfortable seat and backrest for the Katana, and they did it right. Called the “contour ergo” design, which is hip shorthand for a curved, roto-molded seat with several adjustable straps and ratchets ingeniously engineered so that you’re locked in, snug as a bug. There’s a ratchet called the “Leg Lifter” that does just that (well, your thighs), which in turn provides better back posture. The Katana comes with umpteen multiple adjustable hip pads and thigh braces to dial in your individual body to the boat like getting a suit personally tailored. Crossover kayaks are not really known for being comfortable, but the Katana is an admirable exception to this.
Also, the seat itself has this cool topographical design on it. Nothing essential, of course, purely aesthetic, but it’s cute and thoughtful.
In front of that throne of a seat is the beloved, coveted cockpit console deck pod. Let’s break that down since that’s a lot of words. The console itself is not unlike what you have in a car between the front seats, except here it’s in between your legs. No, there’s no cup holder or loose change compartment, but it is recessed so as to place small contents inside it. Furthermore, it comes with two adjustable snap buckle straps to fasten down your some’um-some’um securely. What’s nice about this is you can keep something inside the boat safely but without it touching the floor of the cockpit, which may well be wet and/or muddy. Something, oh I don’t know, like a weather radio or water bottle.
At the end of the console is a vertical gear bag that extends upward to the top lip of the cockpit. It’s a soft shell storage compartment, not hard plastic, with a zipper. When unzipped, one side comes down, the other still upright – think of an alligator opening its jaws really wide. Inside are two storage compartments, each with mesh netting. For those of us whose kayaks lack cup holders, voila! Here’s a place to securely stow a beverage.
The soft case gear bag itself isn’t waterproof, but you easily could place a camera or phone or whatever inside a small dry bag and then zip that up inside the gear bag with the same effect. The gear bag is connected to the deck pod by four additional adjustable snap buckle straps, so it can be removed in seconds if it’s in the way. Moreover, the whole console deck pod can be easily removed via an allen wrench-like tool provided if A) you don’t like it or it feels too confining, or B) you love it to pieces but are doing an overnight trip and need to stow gear behind the foot pegs and bulkhead.)
While we’re still on the subject of storage, the Katana comes with bungee rigging on the top deck both in front of and behind the cockpit. It’s not uncommon to have bungee in front of you, which is great to strap something down, but having an additional area behind you is just wonderful!
The Katana comes with a rear bulkhead storage compartment that’s quite ample and easily accessible by way of a rubber dry hatch that’s water-tight yet not a pain in the tuchus to take off or seal back on (which is the case with other crossover kayaks).
If there’s a defining feature that sets the crossover kayak apart from most recreational and all whitewater boats, it’s the drop-down skeg – a kind of inverse dorsal fin below the stern that helps track the boat. The Katana’s skeg is deployed via a drawstring that is supremely easy to use and is rock solid. Furthermore, at least to me the Katana’s skeg seems to actually keep the kayak more streamlined than the Fusion’s. The Katana’s skeg is more like a solid meat cleaver that comes down only so far, whereas other types of skegs are more like a long knife.
The Katana comes with a drain plug on the left wall of the cockpit behind the seat. Totally a luxury feature that’s not at all necessary, it’s still nice to have.
Finally, like other crossovers, the Katana has a security bar behind the cockpit that you can thread a cable lock under to secure the boat when not used, although its intended use really is to be attached to a carabineer and rope in case of emergency rescue operations.
And then there are some things I feel like could be improved upon…
You’ll either dig the color options, or find yourself cringing. For the Katana 9.7, there are four main models: solid Red, solid neon Lime, a disaster of a spilt inkwell that is the Aurora (which is fuchsia with a gray and blue swirly stripe), or the Blaze, which is orange with a blue and white swirly stripe (the combined effect of which unequivocally evokes the Miami Dolphins uniform/insignia). Interestingly though puzzling, the 10.4 model comes in an additional fifth color, which actually looks pretty cool called the Aqua-Fresh: turquoise with a red and white swirly stripe. (OK, so maybe like toothpaste.) Why this color is optioned only for the 10.4 and not the 9.7 is anybody's guess.
The Katana features a paddle holder clip and bungee cord that is directly in front of the upper rim of the cockpit. Most boats we’ve seen this feature on has the clip on either the left or right side of the cockpit, which allows for the paddle to be fastened down parallel to the boat. Strangely, here on the Katana the clip is in the middle, directly in front of the cockpit, meaning the paddle will fasten down perpendicular to the boat. Think of a sleek, skinny cat with cartoonishly long whiskers extending 4’ from each side of its cheeks.
Still though, the final word is the Katana is an outstanding boat and much better over all (in my opinion) than its rival crossover kayaks...except for its color options.
I love this kayak! I own 3 daggers and this is my favourite. I have not had the chance for any whitewater yet but in every other type of water, this shines. Moving rivers or standing water, it's a very good all-around kayak. Slow-moving rivers with the skeg down, it almost steers itself. With the skeg up, it turns on a dime. On standing water, it's good for a nice easy pace. If you try to go too fast on standing water, you simply push a lot of water with the front of the boat (due to the hull shape). Also very good stability, I haven't rolled it yet (shouldn't have said that!! lol). It's not meant for the longer hauls but you can put a lot of gear in here. Very sturdy and rigid plastic and the outfitting is absolutely amazing. I can get this to literally fit me like a glove. It came with extra foam inserts for the hip pads and an extra foam riser for under the seat. Everything is very adjustable. I can't seem to think of any real downfalls except for the shape of the bow, I wish it would "cut" a little more through the water but then it would be giving up some of the whitewater manoeuvrability.
I did say that I would provide updates, so here goes... Well into another season of Michigan kayaking, I love this boat all the more. My first ride in it last year seemed a bit uncomfortable, and now it feels like I'm one with the boat. I'm doing 3 to 4 hour open water cruises and it tracks great with the skeg down. Not as fast as a sea yak, no hurry here, and a little nosing in chop, but the nimble performance in bigger waves makes up for those drawbacks. Did some Class 2 recently, which was fun, but not much of a challenge because this boat handled it effortlessly. I've bounced it on rocks, no damage, pretty tough hull. Same rocks dented my friend's LL Remix. He now wants a Katana. Love the bulkhead-like foot rest, better than tiny pegs, although it isn't as easy to adjust. I set the position one time and haven't touched it since. Very comfortable since I can put my feet in various positions and still have good control. Rear bulkhead hasn't leaked, rear hatch remains dry. Yeah, I'm now 65, still a novice, and once I figure out how to roll without thinking too hard, I'll be ready to run this boat in the white water it was designed for. Keep you posted... Again, sorry for the duplicate reviews.
Picked up a new Katana 9.7 last weekend and used it for the first time the following day. So far, I have no regrets!
It's touchier than my Zydeco 9, a little tippier, and, with the skeg up, wants to do a quick u-turn as soon as you stop paddling...which caught me off-guard a couple of times!
The maiden voyage was mostly Class 1's, with an easy 2 thrown in a couple of times. The boat handled very well and I'm looking forward to taking it through some bigger water in the spring.
The boat is outfitted very well and the seat is very comfortable.
I bought a slightly used 2016 Katana in spring of 2018. It was in almost new condition. So far, I've had it on Michigan's Pine and Sturgeon Rivers, Burt Lake, and Lake Huron. No serious white water yet, as I'm a novice kayaker. I have a lot of canoe experience on big open waters and various rivers since childhood. I have also wind surfed large inland lakes and Lakes Superior and Michigan since 1984, on a very fast Mistral board. I am used to being 'on the water' so to speak. Kayaking is a natural fit for me, and I hope to upgrade this review as my experience grows. As when I bought my wind surfing equipment, I wanted a kayak that was well designed and built, and beyond my skill level so I could grow into it. After my first ride in the Katana, I knew this was a great boat for waters mild to wild. Can't wait to get some white water experience under my belt. I can tell already this boat is a rocket. Spins on a dime with the skeg up, and skeg down, tracks surprisingly well in open water. I wasn't expecting sea yak performance, so I've noticed slight wind cocking at the bow when paddling through whitecap conditions. No biggie there. It glides well on calmer waters. The skeg position makes a huge difference in the handling characteristics. It's like getting two boats for the price of one. So far, it's been a lot of fun in surf and big rollers on Huron. I wanted a crossover design because I plan to use it on many types of waters. Yeah, I know it's not the best at any one thing, but it's been a fun, nimble, and very comfortable boat so far. Some nuts and bolts... The thigh/knee braces were a pain to adjust. But that's a one time adjustment. The front bulkhead/footrest is good so far, way better than tiny foot pads. The adjustment system is a bit rudimentary, maybe for simplicity and weight shaving. Jackson has an interesting foot rest/bulkhead/stiffener apparatus. Looks more complicated than Dagger's design as it has shock absorbsion and adjust-on-the-fly systems built into it. It probably works great since its a Jackson design, but I'll stick with simple. The Katana's rear storage area has stayed dry so far, but I haven't put it through anything severe yet. The seat is very comfortable and easy to adjust on the fly if needed. Dagger supplied a pad kit for the hip pad pockets. I like the pocket idea. The foam pads aren't exposed wear and tear. I plan to order a spare skeg, since this is the part that's most exposed to damage. The zippered compartment in front of the seat is a nice feature, although its not meant for dry storage. There's a bungee'd water bottle holder on the seat track. Very useful for me. I use a Level Six Ace skirt and an NRS cover. The Katana coaming holds these well. Again, I hope to add to this review as I become more experienced with this boat.
I purchased my 2016 Dagger Katana 9.7 in early summer of 2018 from the original owner who barely used it. So, it was in near new condition. I made the adjustments to the outfitting, which were pretty simple except for the thigh braces. Those were a bit of a pain to reposition. Once done, everything fit like a glove. I'm 5-10, 190lb, and am very comfortable in the cockpit. The rear bulkhead and hatch cover haven't leaked a drop. The skeg works flawlessly. Although not as easy to adjust, I like the front bulkhead/footrest much better than those foot-pegs-on-tracks. It's a better feel and fit. So far, so good. I plan to purchase a spare skeg and hatch cover while they're still available, because I love this boat, and hope to have it for many years. I've had it on the Pine and Sturgeon rivers in Michigan's Lower Peninsula which aren't a real test of what this boat can handle. I'm 64, and want to eventually improve my skills to handle class 3 and who knows, maybe class 4 white water. I am very confident this boat will handle that with ease. For a crossover, it feels like a sports car. It spins on a dime, tracks straight, and doesn't plow. I've had it on Lake Huron numerous times. Skeg down, it tracks and glides well in open water. Hardly any weather cocking, which I was surprised at, since it has no keels. It's not a laker. It's more of a pocket rocket, (slang for a tiny sports car), surprisingly fast, and of course very nimble, thus lots of fun in surf, whitecap chop, and big rollers. I bought the Katana because I wanted it to perform well on large open waters and mild to wilder rivers. That's a lot to ask from one hull shape. I wasn't expecting it to excel in any one category, but from what I've experienced so far, it has gone beyond my expectations. For its hull shape, I feel it has good primary and secondary stability. This boat wants to stay up. Cockpit combing is as good as it gets. Molded-in side drains. I use Level Six's Ace ww skirt from NRS. The large size fits the combing. Too tight at first, but now perfect. In all fairness to the readers of this review, I'm not a highly experienced yakker. This is my first boat. But I've been on waters of most types since I was a kid. What I'm very experienced with are river canoes, large lake canoes with keeled hulls on sometimes dangerous open waters, and since 1984, wind surfing a very unstable, but very fast board on Lakes Michigan and Superior, Lake Charlevoix in Michigan, and the Atlantic Ocean. So, no, I'm not a high level yakker yet, but I know how to read water. Kayaking is another natural step for me, wish I would have started years ago. I'm already having so much fun with this sport, and I think alot of that has to do with the high performance and quality build of the Katana. As a side note, I bought well-made, high performance, windsurfing equipment that has never failed, (equipment failure, a huge safety concern in open and cold waters). In the long run, it's actually been a bargain investment. Despite the initial cost, I think the Katana will also be a 'bargain' investment. You get what you pay for, and so far, I'm getting lots of reliable fun!