Fishing Kayak Review: Ascend 128t

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

The Ascend 128t is a sit-on-top fishing kayak that has been discontinued at the time of writing. If you would like to read about the most comparable current kayak from Ascend check out the Ascend 128X. If you would like to learn more about the Ascend 128t discontinued kayak, continue reading this Ascend 128t review. We will also provide comparisons to some changes made for the newer 128X.

You may notice Ascend kayaks are found almost exclusively in Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. This is because Ascend kayaks are a brand of the White River Marine Group, better known as the world’s largest manufacturer of motorized boats, which is owned by Bass Pro Shops. You may also find Ascend kayaks in small marine stores that carry White River brands.

What makes the Ascend 128t fishing kayak stand out among a sea of competition? The 128t is a platform-style fishing kayak with an elevated seat position and an open, flat cockpit intended for standing casts. A standing platform provides the ability to sight fish, enhance casting ability and increase mobility when fighting fish. These design features are commonly found on kayaks priced well above the 128t’s sub-$1,000 price tag.

Is the Ascend 128t kayak a good fit for your kayak fishing needs? We’ll help you answer that question in this Ascend 128t review.

On the water with the Ascend 128t

Ascend 128t Specs
Length: 12’8” / 3.86 m
Width: 33” / 84 cm
Weight: 96 lbs / 43 kg
Capacity: 350 lbs / 159 kg

Performance

If there is one word paddlers use to sum up the Ascend 128t fishing kayak, it is “stable.” The 128t is built on a tunnel hull. Think of a tunnel hull as a pontoon boat or catamaran. There are essentially two rounded surface areas bridged by the center of the kayak. Tunnel-hulled kayaks are generally wider than other kayak hulls. The pontoon shapes on the outside act like outriggers, and provide a stable platform capable of standing to fish.

A pronounced keel runs down the center of the Ascend 128t’s tunnel hull, beginning at the tapered bow and extending back to the stern, where it protrudes into a skeg. The keel and skeg provide the 128t with well-behaved tracking, which describes the kayak’s ability to travel in a straight line, without the need for a rudder.

For the Ascend 128X, the design team changed the hull to what Ascend refers to as a catamaran hull. It works in a similar way as the 128t as far as providing a great deal of stability, but removes the central keel. The 128X resembles a widened, upside down letter-U compared to the M-shaped profile of the Ascend 128t hull.

In fishing kayaks we are now seeing kayaks powered in three different ways. These are paddle, pedal drive and motorized. The Ascend 128t is designed for the first, good old fashioned paddling. However, with the pre-installed Ascend 128t Yak-Power (more on that below), a trolling motor could be mounted to the stern to extend the kayak’s range and versatility.

The updated Ascend 128X makes the option of adding a trolling motor much easier, with a widened, squared-off stern and a flat mounting area that can accommodate a trolling motor or rudder system.

Market and demographics

The Ascend 128t is a sit-on-top fishing kayak. Sit-on-top kayaks are kayaks where the paddler is not enclosed at all. They sit on the deck of the boat, which has been molded for an exterior seating position. This is in comparison to a sit-inside kayak. A sit-inside kayak is one where the paddler slides into the cockpit of the kayak. They may also wear a sprayskirt to cover the cavity of the cockpit. Sit-on-top kayaks have become popular for fishing kayaks because of their ease of entry, open storage and easier rescue scenarios in the event of a capsize.

The Ascend 128t kayak was designed specifically with the kayak angler in mind. The elevated seat position and tunnel hull make the  128t less about covering water as a paddler, and more about comfort and stability. The stable hull of the 128t provides a platform for standing casts and sighting fish. The open concept of the 128t is valued by anglers for the large and accessible storage space it provides.

This kayak is best suited for deep, slow-moving rivers, smaller lakes and sheltered coastal waterways.

Carry A Waterproof VHF Radio, Use Your Phone Only As A Backup
  • A handheld VHF marine band radio allows you to communicate with the Coast Guard and other boat traffic. Use Channel 16 only for hailing and emergencies. The radio should be waterproof, because it is virtually certain to get wet.
  • A cell phone, even if in a waterproof case or sealable bag, might not work, so don’t rely on it as the primary means of emergency communication.

About the Ascend 128t

Design

Material and construction

The Ascend 128t is constructed of high-density polyethylene. Polyethylene is a plastic commonly used in kayak manufacturing. This polymer compound is also regularly used to make other durable plastic goods like milk jugs and shampoo bottles.

Ascend produces the 128t through a rotomolding process. Small plastic pellets are loaded into a mold. The mold is then placed in a large oven at high temperatures and rotated at speed, pushing the liquified nurdles outward so they spread and take the shape of the mold. While the mold is pulled from the oven it continues to rotate as it cools. When the mold is opened, presto, we have a kayak. Rotomolded kayaks are one of the standard production processes in the industry to produce durable and affordable kayaks.

Ascend 128t accessories and outfitting

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Ascend 128t’s outfitting is the Yak-Power system. The Yak-Power system is a pre-wired setup for electronics running through the 128t. The built-in master controller and power plugs are a big bonus in a fishing kayak. The Yak-Power system saves time, money, energy and drilling holes in your kayak, allowing kayak anglers to keep electronics including Ascend 128t fish finder, GPS and action cameras charged. With the Yak-Power system, you can also easily install Ascend 128t lights for night navigation. Additionally, the system makes it possible to run an Ascend 128t yak power trolling motor (see “Modifications” below for more on this).

The Yak-Power system provides plugs toward the bow, mid-ship and stern of the 128, and can power 12-volt devices. There is a master controller for the power system located next to the Ascend 128 kayak seat. A battery is not included with the power system of the 128t.

Beyond its unique power system, the Ascend 128t is a fully loaded fishing kayak when it comes to outfitting and accessories. Let’s take a walk through everything you will find on the Ascend 128t.

Behind the bow is a small plastic hood that functions as a rod tip protector. Since kayak anglers often lay their rods down in the kayak, the tip protector is designed to prevent damage from rod tips getting snagged on a branch or bumping into a bridge pillar.

The Ascend 128t has both bow and stern tankwells, or recessed storage areas on the deck of the kayak. They provide an accessible place for kayak anglers to keep fishing crates, tackle boxes, dry bags or even a five-gallon bucket.

The tankwells on the Ascend 128t aren’t very deep, especially considering the size and tunnel hull of this kayak. Deeper tankwells make it less likely for gear to accidentally slide into the drink. The tankwells are one of the most significant upgrades from the 128t to the 128X. The Ascend 128X kayak has deeper, elongated tankwells, with almost the entire deck recessed for storage.

The cockpit of the Ascend 128t kayak is an open concept, with an overall flat surface, covered with traction padding. This Ascend 128t deck mat allows kayak anglers to use the floor of the cockpit as a standing platform, which increases your ability to cast, sight fish and move around the deck. The traction padding provides better footing than bare, wet plastic.

Also within the cockpit of the 128t are sliding foot braces. Sliding-style foot braces provide more positions than molded-in footwells. They do however require you to reach down by hand if they need adjustment on the water. Foot braces are an important part of a kayak’s outfitting because they provide a point of contact with your kayak. This gives you more leverage for paddling strokes, and more control over the kayak.

At the center of the cockpit is a large, rectangular hatch accessing the interior of the Ascend 128t. This hatch can be used for storage or to reach the interior of the kayak for repairs and modifications. The hatch has a hinged cover for easy opening and closing.

On the floor of the cockpit you will see four scupper plugs. Why exactly are there holes in the bottom of the kayak? Scuppers allow any water that splashes into a sit-on-top kayak to drain out the bottom. They are useful to keep water from waves or paddle drip from sloshing around the 128t with you all day. Should a large wave swamp the deck of the 128t, within a minute most of the water will drain out these scuppers. The Ascend 128t has six scupper holes in total. Four on the floor of the cockpit, and two in the rear tankwell.

Water can also come up through the scuppers. If you are paddling in calm conditions, and don’t want water to splash up through the floor, you may want to close the scupper holes. You can do this with a set of universal Ascend scupper plugs.

The Ascend 128t kayak seat is a removable, elevated stadium-style seat that is mounted in small grooves molded into the cockpit of the kayak. There are multiple grooves for higher or lower seat positions. This allows the angler to choose the best seat height for their needs and the conditions.

A higher seat position provides more line of sight, and may be more comfortable for a long day of sitting. The lower position, however, will provide more stability, keeping your weight lower in the kayak. The lower position also provides a better posture for increasing the output of your paddle strokes.

Early versions featured an Ascend 128t swivel seat. However, this was phased out by the late 2010s, and replaced with the folding stadium-chair seat.

One area of concern cited by users of the Ascend 128t is the seat’s vulnerability to rusting. A rusted out seat on a fishing kayak with an elevated seat would render the kayak relatively useless until you have an Ascend 128t replacement seat. Rinsing and drying your seat after use will help avoid this issue.

Within easy reach of the Ascend 128t kayak seat are a number of useful accessories that anglers need close at hand. These include a standup assist strap to give you a boost when you are going from the seated to standing position; two accessory mounts for gadgets on either side of the paddler; and four, flush mounted rod holders. Two of these rod holders are in the forward end of the kayak, and two are just behind the seat.

Behind the Ascend 128t kayak seat is a second large rectangular hatch for access to more interior storage space. The Ascend 128t rear hatch cover also operates like a hinged door and has a water-resistant gasket. There is a smaller, third hatch at the stern of the Ascend 128t, this one with a threaded, watertight deck plate.

The Ascend 128t drain plug allows you to empty any water which has entered the interior of the hollow hull. How can water get inside a sit-on-top kayak? Water ingress can occur at seams, screw holes or places where the hull has been cut for exterior components. It’s not uncommon to get a small amount of water inside your kayak, and you should drain it at the end of your trip.

Before you launch, check you have closed and gently hand tightened your drain plug.

Comparing the 128t to the newer 128X, Ascend made some major changes to the stern shaping and design. On the 128t, the hull tapers toward the stern and finishes with a narrow, squared-off back. For the 128X, the hull stays wide all the way through the back, before squaring off abruptly at the stern. On the 128X stern, there is a thick plastic transom that provides a mounting block for an Ascend 128x rudder system or trolling motor.

Wear A Life Jacket
  • Everyone, even strong swimmers, needs to wear a life jacket at all times when on the water. It is extremely difficult to put a life jacket on once you fall into the water. Even a light wind can blow any paddlecraft away from you, faster than you can swim.
  • Buy (and wear) a comfortable Type 3 or S life jacket specifically designed for paddlesports.

Ascend 128t mods

Speaking of trolling motors, the Ascend 128t fishing kayak does not include the designated mounting area on the stern that is built into the newer 128x. If you would like to add an Ascend 128t Yak Power trolling motor, this is a modification you will have to construct yourself. Check YouTube for an array of DIY how-to videos from other Ascend 128t users.

The nearly 100-pound weight of the Ascend 128t means you will likely need to use a kayak cart to transport your 128t to and from the water. Another option is to install landing gear. The Groovy Landing Gear wheel system by Boonedox can be installed on the 128t. This clever system saves you the trouble of loading and strapping your kayak to a cart (and then dealing with where to store the cart). Instead, the landing gear uses a bar screwed to the deck of the kayak, with retractable wheels. Envision the landing gear of an aircraft and you have the premise of this convenient system from Boonedox.

With the great stability of the Ascend 128t, users who want an even higher vantage point often make seat modifications to raise the elevated seat. This is typically done by installing a metal bracket within the cockpit, to give the seat frame a higher placement. Again, watch a few YouTube tutorials before you start drilling holes in your kayak.

Raising the seat of your Ascend 128t gives the paddler more comfort by allowing a more upright, knees bent sitting position. It also increases visibility while fishing, and reduces the effort needed to make the transition from sitting to standing.

Before raising the seat in your Ascend 128t, keep in mind this could decrease your overall stability, by raising your center of gravity.

How it compares

The Ascend 128t finds itself in a crowded class of fishing kayaks. Here we are going to take a look at various models often compared to the Ascend 128t fishing kayak.

  • Ascend 128t vs 128x

    The 128X is an updated version of the 128t. As we discuss throughout this article, Ascend has made some changes from the 128t to the 128X.

    The biggest change is the hull shape. Ascend went from a tunnel hull (shaped like the letter “M”) on the 128t to a catamaran hull on the 128X, which removed the center keel (forming an upside-down “U” shape). Both are extremely stable hulls, and provide a similar pontoon-style platform for standup fishing.

    Another major change is the design of the stern from the 128t to 128X. The stern of the 128X has a wider, squared off shape with an integrated transom for easy installation of a trolling motor or rudder system. While some users have installed trolling motors on the narrower stern of the 128t, it’s less user-friendly to do so and requires a willingness to tackle DIY modifications.

    Topside, the biggest difference between the 128t and 128X are the on-deck storage areas. For the 128X, Ascend made the tankwells deeper, increasing storage capacity and providing more security for your gear. Essentially, the entire deck of the 128X is one oversized storage area.

    Since the 128t has been discontinued, you’ll likely be looking at the 128X for its easy availability. It also offers some significant improvements to the 128t, especially if you are considering adding a trolling motor to your kayak. On the other hand, if you find a deal on a used 128t, this can be a great way to get a similar kayak for much less money.

  • Ascend 12t vs 128t

    The Ascend 12t is another platform-style, sit-on-top fishing kayak design, though it doesn’t offer some of the features—or the rock-solid stability—of the Ascend 128t.

    Most obvious is the 128t’s inclusion of Ascend’s Yak-Power system. The Yak-Power system includes wiring harness and plugs, meaning with a 12-volt battery your fishing gadgetry is ready to plug and play on the 128t.

    The 128t also has substantial differences in design to the 12t. The 128t is eight inches longer at 12 feet 8 inches, and wider at 33 inches. The 128t also extends the tunnel hull further through the bow and stern. These factors provide a larger, more stable standing platform than the 12t. The downside to all this is the 128t is substantially heavier at 96 pounds, compared to 77 pounds for the 12t.

    Power-hungry anglers and those who want a kayak with the rock-solid stability of a barge should take a look at the 128t (or the new 128X). If you want a fishing kayak that still retains some of the agility and handling of a traditional kayak, stick with the 12t.

  • Ascend FS12 vs 128t

    The Ascend FS12 is another fishing kayak in the Ascend lineup. While the 128t is a sit-on-top kayak, the FS12 is a sit-inside kayak. If you are looking for this enclosed style in a fishing kayak, consider the FS12. However, a sit-on-top like the 128t has more accessible on-deck storage and gives kayak anglers the ability to use the cockpit as a standing platform. Both the Ascend 128t and the FS12 are now discontinued. If you’re looking for a similar sit-inside fishing kayak, the FS12’s smaller sibling, the Ascend FS10 sit-in, is still available.

  • Ascend FS128t vs 128t

    If you are confused about the difference between the Ascend 128t and FS128t, no need to worry. They are the same kayak. Ascend has used slight variations in model name at different times, but the FS128t and 128t are one in the same. If you are in search of a 128t and come across one with FS designation, feel free to scoop it up.

  • Ascend 128t vs Pelican Catch 120

    Pelican is another popular brand of fishing kayaks found at large retailers across North America.

    One of the first comparisons to make between Pelican kayaks and Ascend is the construction. Both are made from durable polyethylene, however Ascend uses a rotomolding process to manufacture all of their kayaks, while Pelican uses thermoforming to produce their kayaks.

    Thermoforming is when you take sheets of plastic and heat them to a pliable temperature. You then put the plastic sheet over a mold and use a vacuum to shape it to the mold. With thermoforming, the deck and hull are formed separately, then chemically bonded together. Ascend and Pelican offer similar quality kayaks at competitive prices, but in general, thermoforming produces lighter weight boats.

    Design-wise, the Pelican Catch 120 is a full one foot shorter than the Ascend 128t, at 11 feet 8 inches compared to 12 feet 8 inches. Both are built on a tunnel hull that provides good stability and include a standing platform and elevated seat.

    For storage, the Ascend 128t has bow and stern tankwells, as well as two large rectangular hatches accessing the interior of the kayak. The Pelican 120 has a stern tankwell, but on the bow has an enclosed hatch. While this would seem to put the Ascend ahead for storage space, in fact, the Pelican Catch tankwell and hatch are deeper and therefore may be more functional than the shallower storage space of the 128t.

    Ultimately, weight may play the most important role in your decision between these two capable kayaks. The Ascend 128t tips the scales at 96 pounds, while the Pelican Catch 120 weighs just 66 pounds—that’s a weight savings of 30 pounds!

  • Vibe Sea Ghost 130 vs Ascend 128t

    The Vibe Sea Ghost 130 is a sit-on-top fishing kayak intended for use on slow-moving rivers, larger lakes and nearshore sea conditions.

    Compared to the tunnel hull of the Ascend 128t, the Vibe Sea Ghost 130 has a flat bottom hull, with rounded edges where the bottom of the hull curves up the sidewall. Both boats have nearly identical width with enough stability for standup fishing capability.

    For storage, the Vibe Sea Ghost includes a bow hatch for storing gear inside the kayak, as well as a hatch within the center console, and a stern tankwell. The Ascend 128t has shallow tankwells at both bow and stern, and the hatches ahead of and behind the seat of the kayak.

    Another big difference between the Vibe Sea Ghost 130 versus the Ascend 128t is the steering system. The Vibe Sea Ghost 130 features a built-in rudder system. The rudder system is controlled by the foot pedals for steering while paddling or on a drift. The Ascend 128t does not include a rudder, giving it less maneuverability and versatility for drift and current fishing.

    Deciding between these two boats may come down to where you fish the most. The Vibe Sea Ghosts excels in rougher water outings, like nearshore fishing. While the Ascend 128t favors standup fishing on sheltered, inshore waters.

Check The Weather
  • Plan for changing weather conditions. Prepare for the worst case.
  • Don’t forget to check tide, currents, or river levels.
  • Ascend 128t vs NuCanoe Frontier 12

    The NuCanoe Frontier 12 is a hybrid kayak providing the deep, wide open cockpit of a canoe with the stability of a kayak. Like the Ascend 128t, the NuCanoe Frontier is designed to provide a platform-style kayak for fishing and hunting.

    The NuCanoe Frontier 12 comes standard as a paddle kayak, with the option for easy upgrades to pedal drive or motor power. By contrast, the Ascend 128t is a paddle kayak that would require some creative DIY modifications to accommodate a trolling motor.

    Another major feature difference between the Ascend 128t and the NuCanoe Frontier 12 is in the seating. The Ascend 128t comes equipped with a stadium-style frame seat with simple high and low positions. The Frontier 12 is equipped with NuCanoe’s Fusion Seat—a 360-degree swiveling seat on a sliding track to move forward and back within the cockpit of the Frontier.

    Comparing these two boats, the NuCanoe Frontier 12 is a definite upgrade from the Ascend 128t. A closer comparison would be to the new Ascend 128X, which has a square stern and mount for trolling motor.

    For its upgrades compared to the Ascend series, the NuCanoe Frontier 12 also comes with a heftier price tag. The NuCanoe Frontier 12 retails for $1,649 USD, compared with the list price of the Ascend 128X at $999.99 USD.

  • Ascend 128t vs Bonafide SS127

    The Bonafide SS127 is another standing platform-style kayak comparable to the Ascend 128t. The Bonafide SS127 has what they call a hybrid catamaran hull, which resembles the tunnel hull of the Ascend 128t or catamaran hull of the 128X, with similarly high stability.

    The Bonafide SS127 and the Ascend 128t are similar in overall design, but Bonafide is a definite step up in features and price bracket. This difference comes down to higher end construction and components. For example, Bonafide uses premium YakAttack accessory tracks.

    Also, the Bonafide SS127 has a HiRise seat system, allowing the paddler to have their knees bent at almost the same angle as sitting in a chair. This deluxe seat offers a significantly higher seating position than the Ascend 128t.

    If your budget allows, the Bonafide SS127 is a great fishing kayak. But if you want similar functionality with a lower price point ($999 compared to $1,799 for the Bonafide), the Ascend 128 series gets the job done.

  • Ascend 128t vs Shadow Caster

    The Shadow Caster 123 is an entry-level sit-on-top fishing kayak from Field & Stream, and is available at large retailers such as Walmart. The Shadow Caster and Ascend 128t are both standing platform-style fishing kayaks with a tunnel hull for stability, and come in at a similar price.

    Like the Ascend 128t, the Shadow Caster features a standing area with traction padding, storage areas in the bow and stern, as well as an elevated seat.

    The Ascend 128t and the Shadow Caster are similar designs overall. Which you decide on may come down to personal preference and availability.

Where to buy the Ascend 128t

Try searching “Cabela’s Ascend 128t” or “Bass Pro Ascend 128t” and you’ll come up empty handed. The Ascend 128t discontinued production and is no longer available to purchase new at retailers. If you are set on a 128t, you will have to buy used. Find other Ascend kayaks, including the updated 128X, at retail stores carrying the Ascend brand, chiefly Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.

Ascend 128t Pros and cons

Pros

  • Stable tunnel hull
  • Standing platform
  • Elevated seat
  • Numerous accessory mounts and rod holders
  • Low price

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Shallow tankwells offer limited storage
  • Seat is known to rust
  • Discontinued—purchase used or check out the updated 128X

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12-foot fishing kayak reviews

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