The Tarpon is tough. My son knocked mine off the roof rack of my 4runner on to the concrete many years ago - no damage. I have used it in all kinds of water environments other than rapids and it handles wonderfully, except when trying to surf the shore-break larger than about 2 feet, then I usually end up getting rolled. Otherwise plenty stable and controllable. I use C-tug wheels to maneuver it to and from the water which really makes this process quite effortless. The seat is plenty comfortable with a thin closed-cell pad placed on the seat bottom, I am good for hours of paddling or fishing. I think I will keep my Tarpon for another 10 years or so.
One thing that this kayak has that many didn't, was a truly comfortable seat. If you aren't comfortable, you can have the best kayak ever and you will hate it! I would readily recommend them to novices to learn with, bet they keep them.
Did I mention they are a blast to fish from?
Pros: track system, tracks great, plenty of storage space, lightweight, stable, comfortable seat, rod holders.
Cons: tougher to control in windy conditions or strong currents without lots of paddling adjustments.
With the Slidetrax be careful not to tighten the bolts to much. I have mine rigged up with four Scotty rod holders (for trolling 3 rods with landing net in the 4th) and use the mortar style holders for getting the other rods out of the way when fighting a fish. A milk crate with a 3 rod PVC holder in the large storage area in the back allows me to keep rods and gear organized. The seat is extremely comfortable, as I have fished for 16 hours straight without issues.
The storage is well thought out and convenient. There is room for a small tackle box or dry box under the seat along with a bungee to secure a medium tackle box in front on the seat. The side pockets are great for keeping pliers, weights or fish grips ready to go.
Overall it tracks well but I find that the front sits a little too low, causing you to go through waves instead of over them. This isn't much of an issue unless if you don't like getting wet. I also suggest scupper plugs in the back, as the water can pool in the far back end of the storage area due to the front scupper hole location. The initial and secondary stability on this kayak are impressive. You can lean almost all of the way to either side without tipping. I have also been out in 4-6 foot white caps without being worried about flipping but you do need to be very careful to stay parallel with the waves. As far as leaks go I have had a small amount of water in the hull after a long day on the water but not much to worry about.
Overall, this has been a great kayak and I highly recommend it whether for recreational paddling or fishing.
The Tarpon came nicely equipped with two "mortar" style rod holders, a versatile rail system in front, and another in the rear where the spacious storage well is. Additional rod holders, dash, and other accessories can be mounted in numerous configurations to the rails. The Tarpon has two dry access hatches, a small one in front of the seat and a larger one in the bow. Both hatches allow the user to store fishing poles and other gear in the dry well, which is the entire inside of the boat.
The boat paddles and tracks very well. The seat back is easy to adjust forward and back as well as up and down. The seat bottom adjusts up and down under the thigh area to increase the user's comfort. Scuppers are located liberally and are located under the seat well, keeping the paddler dry.
I have been extremely pleased with this boat and find it versatile and a pleasure to use. I highly recommend the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 for anyone wanting a great and versatile kayak!
-It's made very well...solid. -Awesome seat...your butt will stay dry.
-Able to handle at least the recommended weight capacity.
-Tracks fairly well for a 12' boat. -Hatches are very water resistant.
-Stable. Easily able to climb back into it when taking a dip on the river to cool off.
-Lots of storage and will keep your gear reasonably dry under the deck.
-Slow for big water. -Water slap in big water.
-Scotty mount rod holder is too far forward.
-"Slide Track" accessory tracks are not as convenient as advertised...can get in the way.
-If you are a serious fisherman, you will quickly outgrow this boat and wish you bought the 140 or 160.
-At 69 lbs, will be heavy for smaller paddlers.
-No way to secure valuables and belongings in small hatch between legs...should have a dry bag in this hatch. I bought a dry box and velcroed it to the bottom of the boat to secure my cell phone, wallet, etc. Otherwise, your belongings slide everywhere.
-Side pockets under rubber mesh netting are worthless...water accummulates in these pockets and you cannot store anything in the pockets that cannot get soaking wet.
Overall, a jack-of-all-trades, but master-of-none boat. Best for river trips, including 3 or 4 day trips.
While, I can believe there are certain kayaks/boats out there that are tailored to a specific style of fishing, the Tarpon 120 does it all. I have family in the panhandle of Florida and I have taken this boat on the intercoastal water ways (my favorite) with great results. I also took it out into the surf off the beach on a calm day. It handles great! And, a couple of weeks ago I took it out on a rather big lake in Mississippi. Today I went out on a river. Again, the kayak had stellar performance in ALL areas. I like to canoe in clam areas like swamps and flat water with no wind, but this kayak works well for this as well.
I am about 155 lbs at 5'7" and this is easy for me to handle and I can move at a quick pace and it tracks great. The seat is very comfortable and I have stood up in the yak on several occasions (Haven't fallen in yet, I probably will eventually knowing me). Buying this boat was the best choice, and I have no reservations or even any complaints. The possibilities are endless with this boat. I was able to get it in my favorite color as well... camouflage. So, you can bet your boots I will be using the kayak for slipping into my favorite swampy bow hunting locations as well. The boat can hold tons of cargo. I don't think I could overload it if I tried. I am thinking about mounting a small seat of the front rail system above my feet, so my son can ride with me. (He is too small now, but once he learns to swim and is able to come safely, I will look into it.)
In summary, I feel this is the ultimate outdoorsman's kayak. I could paddle around in this thing all day, and even if I didn’t catch a single fish, I would be happy! (which is good for me because that happens more than I would like to admit) This boat gets the highest possible recommendation possible from me. If you choose this boat, you will not be disappointed! I plan to keep this boat for years to come and I might buy another one/two for the rest of the family.
I am 6 foot and 190 pounds and quite fit for 64 years of youth. I like the new hatch covers as well: flip a couple of handles and they pop open: I had zero water in the hull even after going into some serious chop. I wish I had discovered this yak much earlier. It was a joy to load and unload.
I find the seat very comfortable and can spend 6-7 hours in it, just shifting my weight around a little to adjust comfort. I have arthritis in my back and still have no issues.
I love this kayak to fish from and I usually carry three rods. The front rod holder is a little too forward to reach without scooting up the seat.
Overall, I would buy this one again in a heartbeat, and I can't wait to go out fishing again.
I found the seat totally unacceptable. First it collapsed backwards twice (ever try paddling from a horizontal position?), and once I got it to stay upright, I found the seatback to be very uncomfortable. It was like leaning against a 2x4 all the time I was in the water.
It is a great looking boat, and tracked much better than the 11.5 foot Ocean Kayak Angler I had previously. But it was just too uncomfortable for this 57 year old body of mine.
I took home a WS catalog and when I looked through it I saw the photo on the back of the guy on a Tarpon 120 angler model. It really looked comfortable to sit on and I was attracted to the HUGE tank well on the back. When I came back to get the Pungo I happened to see a Tarpon 120 sitting right at ground level. I decided to go ahead and sit on it to see how it felt. To my delight it felt totally comfortable. Back when I bought the Cape Horn I sat on one of the original Tarpons and my lower back started hurting right away. Just to make sure I took a Pungo and sat in it also. I quickly realized I felt more comfortable on the Tarpon. One of the major problems I had with the first SOT I bought was the fact that I was sitting in a puddle of water the whole time. The longer I paddled the deeper the puddle got. It was like sitting in a bathtub filled with cold water. But this Tarpon 120 has a seat that is actually raised up above the level where your feet go. So there is no puddle to sit in. Another thing that sold me on the Tarpon was all the storage space it has for only a 12 foot kayak. That tank well on the back gives you room for a quite a bit of cargo. I also like the front storage hatch as well as the 5 in day hatch right behind the seat. I had a day hatch on my Cape Horn and used it all the time. It has a very small hatch in the cockpit area that I'm not sure I'll use very often. However I'm glad they provided access to that space. If I ever do go on a camping expedition it would come in handy. I would probably stuff food and any other small light items down in there. The designers basically provided storage access to every square inch of the hull. I really like the paddle holders they provided on each side. It's also nice having 4 handles all the way around to grab onto. With those side handles I've been thinking I could put a good death grip on them as I take a ride over a waterfall! I'm still debating the wisdom of that idea though...
With my first SOT I followed someone else's advice from a review and bought some of those yellow practice foam golf balls from Walmart to plug the scupper holes. Trouble is water seeped right through them even after I glued em down with silicone. The Tarpon 120 has no less than 8 scupper holes. I'm not exactly tickled about all the holes! As a matter of fact I was going to give the kayak a 10 but for that reason I should knock it down a peg to 9. ;) I went to Walmart and bought 8 brass screw type drain plugs from the marine dept. They expand to fit the holes very snuggly and ZERO water makes it past them. As a test I pulled off one of the front plugs and water flowed right in and left about a 1 inch puddle in the area where your feet go--plugged it right back up and stayed dry. The tips of the plugs stick up from the surface but the designers were good to place the holes in places where you don't have to worry about bumping them with your feet.
I took a chance buying this kayak without testing it first. However I was not surprised that it was so well mannered. I would say it cruises about the same speed as the Pungo 120. Neither of the two paddle as fast as the Cape Horn of course and at first I was missing the crusing speed I was able to maintain on the Cape Horn. After awhile though I was able to adjust my paddling to a point where I felt like I was moving along well but not "working" to keep it going as was the case with the first SOT I had. It was every bit as enjoyable and relaxing as the Cape Horn albeit not as fast. It also tracks straight just like others have said while still being very maneuverable. I have the model without a rudder To test it's turning ability I took it down a very winding narrow stream that used to push the technical limits of the Cape Horn. I was very pleased with the way it made turns. On open water it did have a tendency to want to blow left or right in a headwind. However it was still very easy to keep it going straight even without a rudder.
There's nothing about this kayak I feel the urge to complain about. I also can't think of anything I would add. One thing I did though is fashion an extra-high back rest out of a peice of oak pallet wood and some high density foam. I slip it between the strap that holds up the back and the back itself and it works beautful! The back rest is already fairly high but I'm tall so I like a higher back rest. It's like a recliner now! I also added some foam padding on the back rest and cut out some foam to cover the seat. It doesn't really NEED it but I have a permenant injury to my lower back and I don't believe it's possible to get too comfortable while kayaking. :O) At first I wasn't sure if I liked the rubber hatch cover. While it pops open quickly I had some trouble closing it back down at first. Then I realized it's just like a Tupperware lid where you push down on the middle and it seats fairly easy. Something I REALLY liked about the Tarpon 120 was when I was able to gain access the front hatch right on the water without fear of tipping over. Unthinkable on the Cape Horn! Of course that's not something I can see making a regular practice of... I never used the cargo holds on the Cape Horn but I somehow ended up stuffing several items in the front hatch that I used to be able to place on the outside of the Cape Horn.
The Pungo is no slouch! I really liked it and would have bought it without hesitation. The more time I spend with this kayak though the more I know I've got THE kayak for me. I never took the time to write up a review on my other kayaks but this one has me wanting to rave. Something I'm seeing about Wilderness Systems is they listen to what users say about their kayaks and they make changes accordingly. I'm not going to name names but some kayak makers are putting out some cheap products. I think we all know one of the main culprits. This kayak is VERY well thought out and it's a keeper for sure. Two thumbs WAY up! Now I don't feel so bad having parted with my beloved Cape Horn...
Ever since the first Tarpon 160's hit the market, most anglers expressed a need for a tank well. Quite a few industrious anglers fashioned their own "milk crate system" that acts more or less like a tank well.
After being inundated by letters and e-mails, Wilderness Systems responded by adding a rather large tank well on all their new Tarpon models-The 80, 100 and the 120. The first thing I noticed about the TW is the fact that it really is LARGE. It will easily accommodate the aforementioned milk crate system AND a small live well.
For such a small Sit-On-Top, a true packrat can easily stow away plenty of gear for a day of fishing or a weekend camping trip. With a capacity of 300lbs, you can just about load it to the hilt. In addition to the cavernous tank well, the Tarpon 120 comes standard with 3 hatches-one in the bow, one 6" screw down in the cockpit and another behind the cockpit. The bow hatch is smaller due to the reduced size of the yak but several dry bags and some strategic loading of the hull will solve that problem and make weekend camping a reality.
The new Tarpon 120 embodies all of the qualities of its big brother and then some! The first change I noticed when I sat in the cockpit was the greatly improved seat. The back is slightly taller and gently curves outward, giving your back better support and enhancing all day comfort. The seat back also folds flat into the seat, making it easier to car-top. The standard foot pegs and tracks are redesigned to be more rugged and easier to adjust than the old ones. Let me tell you. This is one of the most comfortable S.O.T.’s I have ever paddled and would recommend it to paddlers of all sizes except the really tall.
Other neat little additions are the molded-in paddle rests on both the port and starboard side that hold your paddle securely. Both come complete with shock cord and a fastening hook. Strap-eyes have been placed here, there; everywhere for you to clip whatever doodads and thingamajigs you need that day!
After looking at the hull layout I have come to the conclusion that this would be one simple rigging job. All you need to get started is a paddle, a couple of rod holders, an anchor cleat and your good to go fishing so the initial cost to get out on the water will be much lower than with other kayaks.
Two flush mounts behind the seat and a cradle mount on a console that has two flat areas designed to mount Scotty pedestals on. That is probably all you would ever need for this boat. It basically comes ready to fish, right out of the box.
As I paddled the 120, I discovered the speed, tracking and glide are pretty much the same as the 160 even with the 29.5" beam, but turning is far easier due to the shorter length and well formed, multi-chine hull. The bow is broad at the deck and gently slopes inward to form a knife like edge that cuts through the water with no tendency to pearl in chop like the 160. I feel this yak will be at home in any back country water as well as the flats.
Aside from all these great features, the smaller size and lighter weight maybe of interest to older paddlers as well as female anglers who need a more manageable boat to car-top. Measuring at 12' and weighing only 55 lbs, the tarpon will be a lot easier to deal with after a hard days paddling.
I like the new funky colors that WS has introduced this year. All colors are solid except sunrise! The 120 can be purchased for about $600, quite reasonable for a new yak considering that you don't have to purchase a seat, parts for the paddle holders and extra strap-eyes. If you want a rudder, add another $150.
The Tarpon 160 was and still is the most exciting, fishable and best paddling boat out there for the money. But Wilderness Systems tends to out do themselves every time. They are always on the cutting edge of design, innovation and quality. The 120 is a kayak that you must test paddle before you look at the others, I'm sure you'll see what I mean.
Dirty Dave Loger - www.paddle-fishing.com