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Reviews for Tarpon 160 Kayak by Wilderness Systems


Rated: 9.26/10 Based On: 47 Reviews


Tarpon 160 Kayak by Wilderness Systems

Length: 16' 0" - Width: 28.00" - Starting at: $1145.00
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09-18-2014
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I purchased the Tarpon 160 because I was looking for a kayak I can paddle to far away fishing areas. So my requirements were speed, ability to handle rough-ish water in larger body of water, stability, and fishability (rod holders, tackle, etc.). I can honestly the T160 exceeds my requirements.

With so many great SOT kayaks out there, I was suffering from paralysis by analysis. I was considering kayaks from Ocean Kayak, Jackson, Viking and the Wildy Thresher (meant waiting but was thinking about it). I've owned the T120 in the past the T160 was at the top of my list, and when the 2014 T160 with rudder went on sale for just over a grand well I made up my mind.

I live in Northern VA so my main paddling waters are the Potomac River and its tributaries. I also have plans to fish the Chesapeake Bay in the very near future. So speed to travel long distance was my first requirement. I can comfortably maintain a cruising speed of 4 mph using a paddle-all-day effort. The other advantage of speedy kayak is paddling upstream to float downstream and fish. I wasn't thinking about this when purchasing the T160 but I love the fact that I can go 3 mph against current for an hour and float down for the next 3 hours and fish on the upper Potomac.

The T160 handles pleasure boat induced waves just fine. We have some large pleasure boats on the Potomac so these waves can be fairly bit. Also handles rough-ish water well. I was out on the lower Potomac when there was whitecaps and there were no issues. I installed thigh/knee braces and I really believe they make it easier to control the T160 in rough conditions. Really looking forward to taking the T160 on the Chesapeake.

Considering the speed of this kayak it is stable. Not stable as my Wildy Ride 115 (not sure if anything is as stable), but I can comfortably sit sideways and fish. Also, it is stable enough for me to fight and land many 20 lb catfish.

The slidetrax accessory rails are great. Makes mounting rod holders, thigh braces, etc a breeze. Tank well is huge easy to carry crate and kayak cart with room to spare. BTW – the T160 seems to track better with some weight in the back.

Nitpick – Just one. I wish there were more scuppers in the tank well. There are only two near the seat so any water can pool in the back of the tankwell.

I guess you can tell I really like my T160. I guess the only thing that can make it better is if it had a fishfinder pod like the Thresher (and scupper). Maybe the 2015 model will. And maybe that is the reason why the 2014 was on such discount.

All I can say I am thrilled with the T160, especially at the price I bought it for.

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07-29-2013
Submitted by: JeffSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I have only paddled my Tarpon 160 twice (about 8miles total) in flat slow water on the Pascagoula River in South MS. I guide paddle trips for my wife's company Eco-Tours of South Mississippi. I have been using an Ultimate 14.5 and while is still like the Ultimate, the Tarpon is faster and easier to paddle. I don't have a rudder but that doesn't seem to matter.

I am 6'2" and about 250 and while not as stable as the Ultimate the 160 is more stable than I expected. Build quality is good, seat is almost as comfortable as the Ultimate, and I maintain 4 to 5 mph with moderate effort. 6.3 has been my top speed. So far I am happy with the boat.

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07-20-2013
Submitted by: RickSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I paddled the 160 on a day trip on a slow river. I own a 140. While the 160 has a lot of space for gear, the maneuverability is much less than the 140. The 160 is a little more narrow and is a bit faster and is better suited for open waters and wind.
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04-08-2013
Submitted by: AndrewSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     This is a 2013 Wilderness System Tarpon 160. I would give this kayak a 10, except for a few problems:

First the front hatch design. The design on the front hatch is designed so that water is retained around the hatch, if you open the hatch without tilting the yak onto the side to drain it, water will be going into the hull. The seal also does not seal well, so if water is retained on the hatch it will leak in a little, it's not going to sink you, but you should not leave anything inside that water could hurt outside of a waterproof container. The first time I took this kayak out I was in 3' to 4' swells and had my good camera inside the hatch between my legs and it was damaged (It was not in a waterproof container) I always carried my camera in the same way on my Tarpon 100 without any problems with water leaking in unless I did not close the hatch.

Secondly I also notice that when you beach this kayak in the surf it retains water in the back end (not sure what you call that area where you carry your bigger items on top and behind you). All right, just make sure all you items you are carrying are waterproofed as needed to protect what you are carrying.

The kayak is awesome otherwise.

I bought it without a rudder and it is slow to turn without it a real bear in the wrong waves and winds. I bought a rudder and had it installed. The kayak tracks very straight even without a rudder but by putting the rudder on it, it turns great and even in the wind she is sweat. She will stay straight with any wind coming at her from any angle. I also have a 2012 Tarpon 100 and when you're in any wind you are going to have to work harder on your paddling on one side or the other (Of course in Mangroves it is sweat also).

Both yaks are awesome in their respected uses. Just make sure you keep anything of value that cannot take water (Camera's, Cell Phones...) in waterproof containers. Of course this is good advice with any time you’re on water in any watercraft, But I love to take pictures and love to have a camera easily accessible to take pictures when I see the shot I want, I want to take it now.

I would not get rid of either of my yaks, they are both overall great.

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03-29-2013
Submitted by: Gus KayakSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I've owned a rudder-equipped Tarpon 140 for 5 years and I love that boat for paddling creeks and smaller lakes. As I'm aging (I’m looking at my 74th birthday) and also wanted to paddle larger lakes and longer distances, the inherent seaworthiness and paddling efficiency of the Tarpon 160 seemed a good choice. In January, 2013, I ordered a yellow 160 and I haven't looked back.

I've had the boat on the water 19 times in mostly blustery (20-25 mph winds, 30 to 60 Fahrenheit, January through the end of March) and learned the following:
• There’s plenty of storage for my 2- dry bags (One for clothes and provisions, one for a dry suit.)
• It tracks like a train on tracks.
• I strongly recommend a rudder when paddling in moderate to strong wind.
• It's fast and coasts for a long distance.
• The seats on both the 140 and 160 are ergonomically correct. Note: I removed the seat and back padding because it allows for more freedom of movement and is in fact dryer than soggy padding.
• Both the 140 and 160 are average weight boats--meaning they are too heavy to heave onto a car or SUV. "Car topping," is a back breaker and can be dangerous. Using a trailer is the way to go. Ready-to-use kayak trailers now cost less than $1,500, although off-the-shelf trailers can be purchased and modified for well under $500. (Google "Harbor Freight")

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02-18-2013
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     First ride today in my new 2013 T160.This is my 3rd 160. These boats get better with every iteration. You sit very high and dry and it is still a joy to paddle. At 82 lbs, it is a beast out of the water.
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02-14-2013
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     We love all 4 of them... we do mostly rivers and don't need a rudder
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08-07-2012
Submitted by: CVSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     2012 Model. Excellent Kayak!!! Tracks excellent, glide is great, fast for a paddle yak! Lots of storage space. The seat is a selling point in itself. I just upgraded from a OK Trident 13 and the seat on the Tarpon is hands down a FAR better product.

Only two complaints, it is a little heavy to top load on a car but it is definitely doable, and it is not the best at turning. I have been able to get through bridge pilings and around parked boats in the harbor, but it takes a little planning. Definitely not a yak to make quick moves on.

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03-27-2009
Submitted by: MiGSpoTSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     Finally after 11+ months of intensive research I've got a NEW WS TARPON 160 (2009 model).
This is the BEST SOT KAYAK ever... FAST, STABLE, DRY, super comfort seat, perfect tracking/control, and light enough for me on land. I'm 5'9" 250lb and this Yak really does everything perfect, even in 11-15mph wind / 2-4ft. chop swell conditions. Next week I will test it on "fishing mode" so I'll update my review. See 'ya on the water!!!

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07-03-2008
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I bought a 140 & a 160 a couple years ago.. both have worked fine in bay and inland waters. I prefer the 160 as it tracks better and is faster. The overall design is very good and it is a relatively "dry" ride. As far as sit-on-tops go, I think these are the best in their class.
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12-05-2006
Submitted by: Glenn HSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     This is a follow up review to my 6-28-2006 post.(I have the 2005 model) I paddle open ocean ocean and some lakes. The Tarpon does everything well, it is one of the fastest SOT out there and tracks well. Need to lean or use sweep strokes to turn the boat. The boat handles well in choppy water with/out the rudder deployed. With the plastic molded seat, I can paddle all day long with little back ache. My only cons with the boat are the following: 1. Water does get into the seat, it is not much, but an annoyance. 2. You sit up high in this boat, which requires me to use a high/power stroke to paddle the boat. 3. I switched out the original foot braces which were little high for my feet. Overall a great SOT boat, highly recommended.
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06-28-2006
Submitted by: Glenn HSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     The Tarpon 160 2005 model is a great kayak!! The Tarpon has great stability and tracks really well. Another nice feature is the boat is really fast and other boats would wise to get out of the way. As far as storage is concerned the boat has plenty and handles well when loaded. The plastic molded back rest is wonderful and makes you so comfortable that there is very little back fatique after hours of paddling. The cons are the following: 1. the boat is very heavy and being 16' long makes it a chore to load and unload. 2. The rudder is a bit stiff to pull into and out of the water. 3. The foot pegs do not adjust as easily as the could.

Minus the cons the boat would be a 11 out a 10.

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03-13-2006
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I got mine used off ebay at a good price and picked it up on my way to LI to visit friends and do some fishing.Im very happy with the Tarpon.The speed and glide makes paddeling a breeze.The boat turns pretty well especially considering the 16'length.Turns a little quicker with the rudder and tracks great with or without the rudder deployed.Very stable with a nice dry ride.At first two things had me concerned.The molded seat has a hump in the center and no tankwell.Surprisingly the seat is very comfortable for me but some hate the hump as it causes them back pain.Ive also come to think the large rear hatch has advantages over a TW.You can store gear below without tethering to prevent loss as you do with a TW and access is almost as easy just a bit slower.Lots of folks simply add a crate on back as a substitute but Ive not tried that arraingement yet myself.The front hatch is identical to the rear and will swallow just about anything.They do a great job keeping water out.Neither has let a drop in yet.The flat/forward sloped floor is very comfortable with plenty of leg room.Rigging this yak for fishing is a breeze as the big hatches allow you to easily reach anywhere inside the hull for installation of any accesories you want to add with enough good surfaces topside.With the "possible" exception of the new Hobie Adventure 16' there's no better SOT for fishing out there.I havent had a chance to try the new "i" vewrsion yet.Some say the hull is identical but others say there are slight differences and feel the old hull paddles better.We'll see one of these days but for now I REALLY like this one!
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10-23-2005
Submitted by: John \Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     Wow...I was just able to get hooked up on a clearance 160! It was a 2005 model, but the mold had not been changed over to the 160i yet. Well, this hull design is very energy efficient. For our purposes, it makes a great fishing platform. A well would be nice too, but the rear hatch is large for storage, and helped in internal access for accessory mounting. GREAT PRODUCT!!!
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07-29-2004
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     Here we go...After trying out a 12' kayak at a demonstration at a local lake from an outfitter, then a 14', which was much better I figgured if 14 is better than 12, than 15 and a half would be even better so I tried the Bimini and loved it. I then thought, well 16' would be better yet. I went to the Kayak store and someone was selling a used 16' Tarpon, completely outfitted with lots of gear and an inflatable seat, anchor etc and even a carbon fiber paddle for $900.00 I thought it was an excellent buy and took a chance. Well was I thrilled, as it was my first Kayak I've ever owned. I have been out 5 times in the canals on Siesta Key and I am getting better and better. The rudder is excellent and I would not even buy a Kayak without a rudder, it really makes a difference in turning and handling as I use my feet to guide the Kayak under the small bridges around here. This Tarpon tracks extremely straight and is very comfortable as my first trip in it was 4 hours and I didnt even get tired. The paddling was really easy with the carbon paddle, which I would buy again, and the boat was really fast, I would guess I cruised along at about 5 knots, or mph. It was effortless paddling considering I am a woman and this was my first time out. Next time I will try the bay. A few power boats passed me in the canals and they kicked up quite a few waves, even thou it was a no wake zone, and the Tarpon stayed dry and I was able to stay steady and kept paddling. I was really amazed and ready to buy a second Kayak for my husband, as company would be fun. I would recommend the Tarpon to any first time Kayaker or even experienced one. I am thrilled and pleased with the boat. I am now buying up accessories, and ready to find a Kayak club out there. Any one know of any in Sarasota area?
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07-21-2004
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 10 of 10

     The FASTEST and FUNNEST [is that a word?] Kayak I've EVER had, and I've had 28 kayaks through my back yard over that past 4 year [though some of them were duplicates]. Stability and speed usually do NOT go together, but they most certianly DO in this kayak! No one I know can keep up with me any more, especially in rough seas. And let's talk about that no-effort, cruising speed. Good LORD, it cruises so FAST and with NO EFFORT AT ALL. It has ZERO hull-slap, and spray and splash is brilliantly deflected by the very smart hull design. But let's get back to the notion of FUN, fun FUN! Used to be that white-caps kept me from venturing into the ocean! HA! Not any more! Now, the rougher the better! It is such a KICK in VERY ROUGH SEAS, I find myself LAUGHING OUT LOUD! REALLY! The boat does a GREAT job of deflecting water, but not matter what, there's gonna be that white-cap that decides that it's gonna break right into your lap, and it will find it's way to the exact point of where you sit. Can't help it. But, it's kind of refreshing, and the boat drains well when this happens anyway. John complains below about poor drainage from the, uh, butt area -- but hey - if there WERE scupper holes here, like a lot of other boats, then this would be a source of constant wetness in flat water. If you don't want to get wet, then stick to flat water -- but I'll take the smart design and great drainage of the T160 any day! Without those white-caps that decided to break right in your lap, you'll stay DRY in the T160 anyway. Cavernous hatches, ya-da ya-da, they'll hold the gear of something like 6 paddlers! Just wish that it had a small "day" hatch in front of your, uh, "lap," like the T140 and T120 has, but hey, I've gotten over that. It DOES have a "beer holder" right there, so, at least they thought of THAT! Plenty of room in the cockpit area for a medium dry sack, which is something that has been a good friend to me for several years anyway. LOVE this kayak, and, if you're gonna be in the Ventura area, drop me a line and let me know -- would LOVE to let you paddle my T160, but be warned: it willl RUIN you! THIS is the kayak by which ALL OTHER SOT's should be judged! A close second place to the T160, I'd say, would be a TIE between the Freedom, ALSO by Wilderness Systems, and the T140, which, if you're wanting to do some FISHING, THIS would be the boat you'd want, with TONS of open-deck storage and smart bungies fore and aft, AND with cavernous hatch up front. The Freedom is a true CRUISER, that simply glides, and glides, and glides -- this boat doesn't know when to STOP -- just that it does better with someone who doesn't weigh what I do, at a fluctuating 240 lbs. Height isn't a problem, with plenty of room for someone TALLER than my 6'4" frame. My hat's OFF to Wilderness Systems, indeed! Open to comments and/or questions, drop me a line anytime!
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05-25-2004
Submitted by: JohnSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I kayak for exercise and eventually to explore the Channel Islands in California. The fit and finish is 10 out of 10 for the attention to details like brass eyelets and screws instead of rivets. Large proportioned hatches are a great convenience. I can slip in a two-piece 240 paddle or my odd shaped dolly thru the hatch. The plastic backrest is surprisingly comfortable. The tracking is great (I found I don't need the rudder, I purchased as an option). Good speed, twice I have been able to chase dolphins for a reasonable encounter. Excellent for my normal routine of 4-6 miles from Ventura Harbor, CA to the Ventura Pier from a quarter mile from shore. On the negative side, shallow contoured seat holds water easily fills from a choppy sea. At 6'3" 225lbs, I feel stable, but with very long legs, I max out the footrest. I may eventually remove them completely and forego the rudder. The kayak is heavy, but stiff (a tradeoff I prefer. For these reason this kayak is not a perfect 10.

I must say that my Tarpon 160 gets many admiring comments for its long and narrow sleek looks, which I know is a nice compliment to the beauty of paddling it.

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10-06-2003
Submitted by: SteveSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I've written several reviews on the Tarpon, but last week I took it to Kentucky Lake. This is a huge lake and the wind was blowing at around twenty or possibly more... The average waves were at least a foot to one and a half feet in height. More often, they increased past two feet and I think a couple of times hit three feet. To you ocean yakkers, that's no big deal, but to us flat water river paddlers, them there's pretty high waves. The trough was narrow and I'd be coming off one wave as the nose plowed into or under the next one. I was amazed at how well the Tarpon handled the rough water. It still maintained pretty good hull speed, and was easy to navigate. A few times, I thought I was a goner as the boat leaned in the high wind and rough water...but those multichines kicked in and saved me. I'm exceptionally pleased with this boat. My other yaks don't hold a candle to it. I'm getting a Surf-2-Summit seat for my old back, and a little lighter boat would be nice, but I love this boat!
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08-21-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     I already reviewed this boat several months ago and after using it several more times straight off the beach through moderate surf here in Topanga (Southern Cal), I am still impressed. But wanted to add that I bought some foam "outriggers" which I used also off the coast..they allow you to ocean fish of the tarpon with a lot of added stability. So I found I could shuffle around the boat and open hatches and access or store gear easily as well as relax more.

The tarpon still impresses me with its speed. Again I'd give it a ten but for the lack of a rear well as having two closed hatches on this boat is not very useful. I also wish it was lighter but I guess that would be toward kevlar. It does oil can a bit but so far I have seen these dings all push out.

All my fishing is ocean.. I have reeled in several three and four feet sharks off this boat no worries. I still hope some enterprising designer will make a fishing kayak that incorporates the tarpon's overall design with a few of its newer, smaller kin's advances, plus light weight and bait well all to the point of sustaining the tarpons terrific handling and speed. So far, of all the fishing 'yaks, this one seems way out front.

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08-04-2003
Submitted by: SteveSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I feel a need to reply to Todd's note. As I have W/S and Perception boats, and have put the Perception boats through several years of running them over gravel and rocks in Ky and Tn rivers, I feel I can comment. I have a Tarpon, and the plastic does feel soft. I think it's thicker on the W/S. Todd's insulting statement is a dark cloud on the brotherhood of paddlers. Fortunately, the majrity of us can post comments and interact without having to act like an insulting ass. Happy paddling! Dr. Steve
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07-30-2003
Submitted by: ToddSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     The person who descibed the wilderness systems plastic as "soft" is simply ignorant and has no idea what he/she is talking about. I work at California's largest kayak dealer and we sell perception and wliderness, as well as many others (no mainstream thank god). The plastic on the wilderness boats is FAR better than Perception!! I even feel bad selling perception boats, they suck and you will eat through their hulls in a few years. Wilderness will last you a few decades hence the lifetime warranty. Trust me, I know kayaks and anyone criticizing the tarpon does not. It is a fantastic boat.
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06-24-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 10 of 10

     This is my second year paddling the Tarpon from Southwind. What a great boat! This boat tracks very well, most of the time without the rudder, but in a 15 knot wind the rudder does come in handy. The seat with adjustable backrest has superb comfort !!!. I have added the thigh support to give that sit inside feel. The hatches do not leak in normal activity...only in the surf zone do I see any evidence of leakage. And yes it does surf well for a 16' boat. The fishing accessories are positioned nicely although I do not use them as much as I thought I would. I mostly enjoy the every weekend paddle of 8-20 miles. Highly recommend this boat to anyone.
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06-12-2003
Submitted by: SteveSend Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     I'm a new Tarpon 160 owner, having bought mine back in the winter. Having 2 decked kayaks and a canoe, I can add some initial comments, even thought I have not had the Tarpon out much so far---more to come later when I've had a chance to really get out on the water.Everyone agrees that this boat is heavy. The plastic is soft, which would skin up easier than a boat such as Perception, etc. Canoe & Kayak evaluated fishing boats this issue and loved the 160, save for the weight...I am 44, out of shape, a bit too heavy and used to being able to feel secure in a decked boat with a brace. My initial observations from the Tarpon 160 are that it feels great to sit on and is easy to paddle. Not being a salt water person, my experience is on flat rivers and lakes. A person with a vertical stroke would have to modify it somewhat to not hit the side of the boat. I paddle with a slow and low angle stroke, so it's no problem. I found my 230 cm paddle to be fine for it. I haven't tried to quick turn it yet, but it turns good on a lake cove, where I was fishing. The multi-chine hull is new to me and still feels a bit shaky when I try to lean it...like I'm going to fall off the top of the boat. I plan to use thigh straps and experiment now that the water is warm enough. I previously had it out in this cold spring, fishing and it was too cold to get in the water. Initially, my only negative remarks are that it is heavy, and I think they should have made the foot rest track out of metal as opposed to plastic. Additionally, the seat needs to be higher for us chubby people who actually need a high seat back to keep us upright! The boat is super comfy and I absolutely love being able to just step on and off the boat---no more having the boat wobble out from under me in sandy or slick river banks. That is affirmed by the lack of having my legs go to sleep. I can move them around freely and drop them off the side of the boat when I am drifting or fishing. Regarding fishing, I have tried it with a fly rod and an ultralight spinning outfit. I think the spinning outfit works well, but I can't say that fly fishing off of it worked well for me. Of course, I'm new to fly fishing, so I won't judge it in that category. I'll write an additional entry later this summer. Happy paddling! Steve
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04-03-2003
Submitted by: mikisuSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     After further experience,my feeling is that WS should also bring out a "Sports" version of the Tarpon. The same concept,but with rear hatch only and a narrower kayak,meaning more efficiency. I am sure a lot of users requirements are not for fishing or camping,for which the Tarpon was obviously designed,but for day tripping and keeping fit. That said, this kayak is fast, especially with a wing paddle, with which I can easily attain hull speed.
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01-30-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 10 of 10

     The Tarpon was mainly designed as a fishing kayak with input from an inshore kayak angler that will appeal to most shallow water anglers in mostly warmer climates. This boat is of 16 feet in length, has a 28 1/4" inch beam and a weight of 58 lbs as stated in the catalog but I feel 65 lbs would be a more accurate weight for this boat. It has two large hatches, both fore and aft that measure at 24 3/4"x 9" inches for both. The hatches are held in place with three straps with nylon clip fasteners and have a high enough coming the keep out any water washed over the deck. I have found the hatches very watertight even after a day of paddling in almost two-foot seas. In all the time I have paddle this boat I have found no water inside the hull and all of its’ contents were dry.

I did however find that the Tarpon has a tendency to “pearl” into the chop somewhat, mainly with following seas, but not as bad as most boats with a knife like bow. When you open the hatches you will find that stowage capacity is almost limitless. There is room for a small cooler, a good-sized tackle bag under the rear hatch, all within easy reach from the seat, almost as convenient as a tank well. Under the front hatch I store my yak cart with much more room to spare.

This kayak will carry virtually all you need even for weekend camping trips. The recommended weight capacity is 325 lbs. A very good margin for most sit-on-tops. The multi-chine hull delivers good initial and secondary stability and the sharp bow make for an ultra quiet hull with no annoying “slap” in choppy conditions, while the 16 foot length delivers excellent speed through the water. Speed can make all the difference when trying to jump Tarpon (the fish, not the kayak) that are rolling in the distance. I have measured the speed of this kayak with time, distance measurements and GPS readings. Top speed was 6.8 mph with an average cruise between 4.9 to 5.2 mph. This boat is definitely FAST!

This yak will maneuver well if you put it on the edge in a leaned turn and rudder deflection will help a little. It does not turn as well as a shorter boat but not as bad as a barge. The cockpit is very roomy and comfortable. I let my rather tall and large English friend paddle it and he fit very well in the seat. A great kayak for larger paddlers. The cockpit and seat are also very, very dry for a sit-on-top. The water drains out the two efficient scupper holes in the foot well and never comes back in! You will not suffer from “swamp ass” and your feet stay mostly dry. I never use the scupper plugs that come with the boat. You should bring a sponge however, to remove any water that has washed over the side into the seat as there are no scupper holes there and the water will just stay there until you remove it.

Other creature comforts include: a molded seat back which I have found quite comfortable, cup holder for you favorite liquid refreshments, easily adjustable foot braces, an H20 bottle mounted on the console, compass mount and grab handles that are a god send after a long paddle, foe, aft and midship which make loading a lot easier. A rudder is also optional. I have outfitted mine with one and found that I only use it when drifting along a shoreline. The Tarpon tracks like it is on a plum line and does not need one if you feel you don’t want to spring for the rudder.

This kayak can be outfitted to the teeth! Plenty of room for flush mounts as well as deck mount rod holders, anchor and deck rigging, paddle holders. The limit is only in your imagination!

Now for the negatives- it is true that the hull on the Tarpon seems to be “soft”. It will dent if you leave it tied down on-top of your car in the sun only if it is “hull down” on narrow saddles. I car-top mine upside down and never had a problem. The dents, if you should ever find one could be easily taken out by heating it with a hair drier or simply just paddle it, the dent will pop out either way. Generally, the longer the boat for a given weight (65 lbs) the more surface area the plastic is spread out during the molding process to keep the overall weight down, a trade-off that you need to deal with any longer plastic kayak.

The Tarpon is a supreme fishing, touring, own-one-go anywhere and-have-it-all-kayak worthy to include in your "To test paddle list". Tight lines, wind at your back and all that crap.

Dirty Dave Loger - www.paddle-fishing.com

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01-27-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 8 of 10

     The Tarpon is my first Kayak purchase in several years, having owned a huge, heavy fiberglass double "Dolphin 2". My first ocean experience with the Tarpon was at Coral Street in Pacific Grove, CA, during fairly calm seas. I haul this boat on top of my motorhome, and had an interesting time getting it down, but compared to my former boat, it was relatively easy. I bungied my fins & mask in front of the seat area and paddled out easily through the rock garden into the open sea. This boat really flies with little effort, and I was soon 1/2 mile out. Putting my fins on was my first humbling experience. I immediately fell off after the first fin. Since my previous boat was much wider, I definitely need to work on my balancing on this much tippier craft. The trade-off in speed compared to my old barge is a welcomed improvement, and the Tarpon is, in my humble opinion, the best of the sit-on-tops I've used.
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12-09-2002
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 10 of 10

     Just got my WS Tarpon 160 on 9/22. I have been renting Tarpons, Scupper Pros, Necky Dolphins, and a host of other SOTs this past summer. First thing I noticed was the tracking and speed of the Tarpon. Scupper Pro needed a rudder to paddle staight, Necky was a lot tippier. Paddle mostly in Long Beach, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach, California areas. Notice that the Tarpon is very smooth and stable in waves, wind, and channel chop. Takes in little water. Wind has minimal effect on stability of boat. (I'm 5' 10" - 210 lbs.) Scupper holes do work. Seat is very comfortable. (Had back surgery last December). Hatches seem to be dry. (Added paddle holder on starboard side and bungee cord over stern hatch) Average cruising speed 4 knots. Glides great. Somewhat slow to turn. (Hey - 16 ft.) Boat is somewhat heavy outside of the water - 68+ lbs. Once in the water no difference. Just added a rudder from WS. (6 hour installation). Very nice having rudder, especially in the wind and channel chop. Really makes controlling boat easier than corrective strokes. Does well in 4 ft seas and waves. Bow really cuts through waves without crashing. With the rudder turns a lot faster than corrective stokes. Would buy this boat again. Plan to do a little surfing near the shoreline. (Realize that boat is not designed for this. Who cares?)
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11-13-2002
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Maiden trip. I launched into a 25 mph wind and white caps, breakers. 2 Fly Rods and all my equipment. Stowed below decks were dry pants,shirt,shoes, and jacket. Not in a dry bag, just loose. Rod tubes,extra reels of course Fly Boxes. I would guess at 25 lb. Me at 170 lb.

Summit seat, with small compass,water, raido, and lifejacket. I would say that all together 200 lb,

After a 30 min. driving into the wind and waves, I found that the 'Icelandic' bow was just the design I had been looking for. I was not covered with spray. I did find that laying the paddle across my lap would act as outriggers on the bigger waves. What realy surprized me was how far it traveled after a paddle stroke. I did use my weight shift to get the bow into the head sea. Leaning back to raise the bow and forward to slide down the back side.

I made my left turn and let the Tarpon take the Quatering sea. Still no Spray. After an hour I was still DRY My Butt was not even damp. This is the first SOT that kept me realy dry. Balances well when carried too.

Stable for Fly Fishing. Fast and Dry. Yep I like my Wilderness System Tarpon 160.

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11-01-2002
Submitted by: mikisuSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Have just launched the first Tarpon in Australia and am a complete novice. So far my expectations have been exceeded and I was surprised how controllable and pleasant kayaking (in a Tarpon) can be.

Having reasonable balance from sailing and windsurfer days,I just hopped on and took off. The stability seemed excellent,no doubt because of the hard chine design,even more so with the rudder down.In fact it felt as if it had a centreboard or skeg. The tracking seems very steady,even without the rudder. My paddling technique is still raw, but it did seem to move quite fast with a bit of a push.

Excellent, sturdy finish to a handsome kayak and even the much dreaded standard seat and back are comfortable for me. The weight seems reasonable for such a large sturdy boat. My only doubt is the width,it does seem very wide even for a big person. I realise this is a stability factor,but the space is like an aircraft carrier!

Either because of the width, faulty paddling technique or wrong size paddle, I keep on hitting the gunwhales at about the side carrying handle position. Yes, I keep the paddle as close to the side and as vertical as possible!

A very pleasant paddle today down Pittwater near Sydney Northern Beaches. The tailwind carried me along without paddling,but surprisingly the following upwind paddle wasnt difficult! Good one,WS.

Can recommend for absolute beginners ,as long as you have some general water experience.

UPDATE: 11/07/02

Further to my previous post,the knocking problem of course was me!*+ Being a novice,I do not have a judging criteria,but am really impressed with the stability and smoothness.It does seem deceptively fast and a reasonable paddle style had me across the bay and upwind in no time.

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07-02-2002
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     For 6 months I have been researching and trying out many different types of kayaks mainly for fishing platforms ( I wanted to get this one right the first time). I decided on the W.S Tarpon. First stability, I feel very confident and secure in this kayak even past the jetty. Second its fast. I wanted a kayak that was easy to paddle and would cut through the waves, Tarpon does. My friend has a Ocean Kayak Malibu II, his comment. "his is the pick-up truck of kayaks and mine the Ferrari". So true, for every one stroke of mine he takes 3. So why not a 10 ? Well it is stable, fast and fun but you don't have the "open space" like a pick-up truck, just throw your stuff in and go you gotta stow it below. However I think the Tarpon is a super kayak. Test drive the "Ferrari of kayaks " you'll want one.
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06-28-2002
Submitted by: PhilipSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I purchased a Tarpon Angler after testing several other kayaks. I recently tested the boat under various sea conditions, one which included an afternoon spent deliberately falling out of it and practicing re entries I have also fished it off the southern California coast north of LA.

Overall I am pleased. This is a fast boat and tracks very straight. It is also quiet and turns pretty well especially with a good head of steam. Its primary stability is excellent and its secondary is OK. I can scramble around in it and bunk myself forward to open the front hatch over deep water and stay fairly stable while I grab gear. After tipping myself out of the kayak it is easy to land on the gull, grab the far carrying handle and tip it back up then scramble in again, which is important to me as I fish on the open ocean.

I have an angler's seat which is wide backed and comfortable. The boat doesn't keep much water in it which is a real plus in colder water. Again, its fast. Overall I like to paddle this baby and also fish out of it. I'd give it a 10 IF it wasn't so heavy to shove onto my truck. If they came up with a Kevlar or lighter weight version of the TARPON I'd buy it in a flat second. It could use an empty well in the back too. But it launches into medium surf no sweat and although it broaches on the way in like ALL my previous kayaks, it is steadier. Wilderness Systems got this one right, its design, shape and performance is really great. Again though...I'm praying hard for one ten pounds or more lighter. Someone will get it right, as the other bathtubs I tried don't even come close to the ride this one delivers. Yesterday I was cruising with some foldable kayaks and it was a breeze.

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06-19-2002
Submitted by: G. BaldwinSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     This is a follow-up to my previous review of the Tarpon. Having read other people's issues with the seating, I wanted to offer two alternatives: First, the Surf to Summit "Seat Set" back piece is a nice enhancement to the Tarpon's factory seatback. However, it won't stay put unless you do two things - first, take a 2" minimum "tuck" in the vertical strap, to get the buckle clear of the bungee cord on the back of the seat. You can do the "tuck" with heavy button thread, multi wraps at each side of the strap, then woven across the strap twice for a secure hold. Second, put 3M non-skid tape patches (the clear/sandpaper tape) at the rear lower right and left quarterpanels of the seatback, to keep the horizintal straps from shifting when wet. Then, click the horizontal straps into the buckle and tighten up really hard, and it should stay put - mone does. The other alternative is to abandon the factory seatback and replace it with the NSIPadz Anatomical Seatback, which is 9"X15.5". I extended the side straps and hook them to the grabhandles on the side of the boat, and this replacement seatback is very comfortable. Hope this helps. If you are unsure how to do the S2S enhancement, e-mail me and I will explain further.
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06-17-2002
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     I am 6'6" tall and currently weigh 245. I have been looking for a good starter kayak, and decided that I would go with the sit-on-top rather than a deck boat (primarily because when I started looking I was over 300 pounds and at that size all of the holes are too small, grin). I started looking last summer and had just about decided on the Tarpon, when the fall came. I went to a kayak festival in Charleston where I tried many boats but settled on the (1)Wilderness System - Tarpon - Wide solid feel. I was able to put my feet in under and beyond the rudder pedals. Tracks fine, and not too bad on the turn. Because I had learned a little more about the skills, it was a dream to use. But no thigh straps, and I wish that I had been able to use them, I would love to try it out with them on and (2)Wilderness System - Freedom - Less of a wide feel, but to be honest the skittish feeling went away in a hurry. I kayaked for several hours and tried this one twice, but did not try it with thigh straps, either. Biggest problem that I had with it was moving the rudder pedals out of the way; could not get my feet to the end. Edging was a lot better, and I suspect easier, in the Freedom. The Freedom was the closest to a "deck" boat that I paddled.

When I got back home, I went to the local Wilderness System dealer and asked to make a side-by-side comparison of the Tarpon and the Freedom. We went out one afternoon when there were some small waves (just enuff to cause bumps, after all the is only Lake Norman, NC). I paddled both for about 25 minutes each, and used leg straps on both of them. For the first time, I did an extended try out of the two boats that I was really interested in. I took them out into Lake Norman on a slightly windy day when the lake itself was not flat (small 2-4" waves). I took along my Thigh straps and used them on each boat in succession. I used the Tarpon first for about 30 minutes as we paddled out into the lake and then to another beach, and then the Freedom on the trip back, basically doing the same route, in reverse. I had never tried either boat in a following wind, and I can finally appreciate what happens when the wave motion tries to corkscrew the boat off course. The Freedom was wetter, and the Tarpon shrugged off the smaller waves better. Speed wise, there was not a whole lot of difference. Comfort wise, again not a lot of difference, although, having the scupper holes at your feet rather than your knees meant that the standing water was further away from the bathing suit (grin). The biggest difference was that without a rudder (the Freedom had one, but I did not use it, since the Tarpon did not have one) the Tarpon tracked much better. The fact that the Freedom is a little more tippy did not make any difference, and both boats could make leaning turns fairly easily. So the end result is that I ordered an Ice Blue Tarpon (with rudder) from WS.

I have taken it out two times since I received it and it is everything that I wanted. It is relatively dry (it is a SOT, and I will get wet), I can stretch out my legs (under the rudder pedals) or prop my feet up against them and use the thigh straps. The only real problem that I am having with it is the seat back; I have not found a really comfortable position, but I have only been out twice. While heavy, I can carry it for the short distance to get it to the water, and I bought some wheels to help me during extended transport. It fits nicely on my truck roof rack, with a set of Mako saddles to keep it in place.

As you can see, I looked hard. If you are tall or big, I do not believe that you can do wrong with the Tarpon.

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05-31-2002
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I bought a Tarpon after trying it at the spring 2002 paddle days for Outdoors Etc and diamond Brand. Diamond ordered it for me in yellow with rudder. After two years with a Captiva, this boat is a joy. Fast, straight, easy to paddle, stable.

The only reason for the 9 instead of ten is the seating. After touring three times, I took the factory pad and cut it down the middle to create an area in the center where there's no pad. The shape is likenend to a Specialized male specific bike seat guys. It seems to help - will have it on the water this weekend again to confirm. The moulded in seat seems to cause you to sit on your tail bone etc.

WS has told me they have something coming for storage that will fit in the middle of the cockpit. In the mean time a couple of small Otter boxes ride under my legs. I also found it helpful to add padding at the near end of the rudder slide tracks. Theis keeps my legs from getting hit with them when turning motions are made.

WS has a definite winner here - exceptional value at tis price level.

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05-30-2002
Submitted by: G. BaldwinSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I recently purchased a Tarpon after doing considerable research. After learning the ropes on an O.K. Drifter, I wanted a new kayak that possessed very good straight ahead speed and performed very much like a sit inside touring/sea kayak. The Tarpon was recommended to me over the Perception Illusion, and I am very satisfied so far. It is quiet, fast, glides beautifully, turns OK without a rudder and performs well in choppy water. My only disappointment is the "built in" seat that comes with it. It is not uncomfortable, just seems a little "chintzy". I ordered back straps for my usual seatback, so I can use that instead of what came with the Tarpon. I get a lot of compliments on the Bermuda color scheme, and it's obvious people consider I have a premium rig under me. All in all, I am very, very happy with the Tarpon, and recommend it to anyone seeking speed, glide, good looks and performance as close as you're gonna get to a long, slim decked kayak!
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05-13-2002
Submitted by: WesSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     Just returned from my first trip on my WS Tarpon .. This kayak is everything I hoped for, speed, tracking, stability, and was very very quiet!.. I purchased the boat with a rudder, but did not find the need for it on this trip.. I plan to hit the ocean in the next couple weeks and believe the Tarpon will serve the purpose well. Experimented with and without the scupper plugs, either way the ride was extremely dry.
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03-20-2002
Submitted by: TFSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     The Tarpon is my first sit-on-top bought expressly for fishing. And it really is great! I love the stability and speed. I paddle with some seakayakers and they are very jealous of my ability to hang my legs over the side and relax while they have to keep "in". I would give it a 10 but it really needs a live baitwell or a place to put one. Also the area in the cockpit is a bit wasted. I think that they could have moved the center console back another foot so there would be a convenient place to mount gps, fishfinder, and rod holder. If anyone has put a live baitwell in their Tarpon, I would like to see pictures! Great Kayak!
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03-19-2002
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     I moved into a Tarpon after a bad knee made getting in and out of a decked boat too difficult. I love it. Easy access, great stability, good tracking and I've found that I can negotiate the tightest of twisting Southern blackwater rivers with ease. In the ocean I use the rudder to offset wind and current and have weathered five foot seas and 40 knot winds--not fun--but the Tarpon performed really well. The large hatches allow for plenty of gear for camping on the islands. I, too, wish it were a little lighter, though I can easily self-load it with my now replaced knee. On longer paddles I would like a little higher seat back, but I happily give the boat a solid 9.
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03-11-2002
Submitted by: Ron C.Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Live on Long Island, N.Y., and recently purchased tarpon after reviewing many reviews and researching many web sites. Had been using a perception eclipse. The tarpon is everything I could have asked for. I didn't give up as much speed as I thought I would while it is 100 percent more comfortable. Had to buy a dry suit as it is still cold in the N.E., but I plan on using it for fishing and touring. Excellent boat for just about anything. I would have given it a 10 except for its weight.
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02-07-2002
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     I've had my Tarpon for nearly a year. I paddled lots of different boats before selecting this one. I owned a Dagger deck boat but had a persistant problem with my legs going numb after 45 minutes in the boat. No problem with this in my Tarpon. The boat is roomy and comfortable. Lots of storage makes it useful for transporting ample supplies and I hope to do some camping this summer. It's a fast boat and tracks well, a little slow to turn. The weight is my only real negative but I can still load and unload it by myself. (I usually paddle alone.) I fish from my Tarpon also and it's nice and quiet. I joined a paddling club and have had some strange looks from the hardcore "deck boaters" that look down their noses at sit-on-tops. After they see how comfortable I am and how much leg room I have, they tend to change their mind. If it's real hot, I just slip my legs over the sides and cool off. The deck boaters have tanned arms and faces and white legs....I don't have that problem.
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09-17-2001
Submitted by: LouieSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I love my Tarpon. I am new to kayaking but have been researching them for some time before deciding on a Tarpon. It is very fast when compared to kayakers I have paddled with. And if you know how to paddle it is easy to turn and steer. It is also very quiet. The only reason not to give it a 10 rating is it is a little heavy, but I still load it by myself. I'll choose the extra weight as a tradeoff for all the other attributes. I also noticed the other day the foam seal adhesive on the hatches is coming loose, but should be easy to repair.
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08-29-2001
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 10 of 10

     I bought the Tarpon as a replacement for my Scupper Pro. I needed something fast as my fishing holes are mostly distant. I also wanted something quieter with little or no hull slap when the water is choppy, which is most of the time. The Tarpon is faster than the scupper and quieter. I can catch more fish as it has increased my range and doesn't spook the fish with that anoying hull slap so common with the Pro. I was first concerned that it did not have a tankwell but after a lengthy test paddle I confirmed that the rear hatch is almost as easy to get to. I can also fit a soft sided cooler inside the hull. The Tarpon was designed as a fishing machine. The hull is quick because of Wilderness Systems usual attention to detail and was designed after thier popular touring boat The Cape Horn which is also fast unlike the scupper which has a hull that is shaped like a canoe, very inefficiant. The cockpit is large and comfortable with room for all you wih to bring along. I got mine with a rudder as it helps with turning such a large boat and comes in handy when drifting a bank for Redfish and Snook. This boat is everything I'm looking for!
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07-26-2001
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I love this boat. It's stable, but really fast. The hatches are large enough for my backpacking gear and the storage capacity is sufficient for all I need for extended river camping trips. I regularly fly fish out of this boat and, with the addition of homemade anchors, it's perfect for my needs as a fishing rig. Extra fishing rods strap onto the rear hatch and are easily accessible. Doesn't need a rudder; it tracks on a plump line and turns amazingly well, especially for a 16' boat. Give it a lean and it turns on a dime (homemade thigh straps do help, make 'em out of old pack straps). I use my Tarpon on moderate creeks, large rivers and lakes and it does the job with minimal effort. Haven't taken it to the beach yet since the Bull sharks seem to be eating people this summer.

This boat is so easy to paddle that I have more than doubled my normal range of fishing locations. These are sharp looking boats with that Greenlandish bow and they're pretty tough, too. In ref. to that post about dents..I bought mine from a rental place with a year of use on it and it has no dents, just a little normal wear that you really have to look for. And..the scupper holes are perfect for my weight (165 lbs); water flows out the holes but doesn't come in and keep my feet wet all day..I don't even use the scupper plugs (my girlfriend's Prism guarantees wet feet all day and the plugs don't really help). Waves from the "loud" boats do not wash into the cockpit when you turn into them; it's a really dry ride.

I rate this boat a 9 because it's a little heavy to load and the cockpit is wider and longer than I need. The only thing I would change would be to narrow it a bit to fit my behind better and maybe cut down on weight. I highly recommend the Tarpon and the folks at WS are very helpful, too. (And..it's pretty fast.)

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07-02-2001
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 10 of 10

     I had looked at, and tried, a number of sit-on-tops before I bought the Tarpon. At 16' I like the larger size (the other SOT's averaged about 13'), the storage, and the performance. I have modified mine somewhat, replacing the hard plastic backrest with an adjustable foam filled fabric one, and by installing thigh straps. I also installed four brackets forward of the bow storage hatch and X'd a length of bungy cord. I have yet to try it at the beach (going in Aug.), but have done alot of paddling in the local lakes. The Tarpon handles very well in wind, chop, and confused water caused by boat traffic.
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06-01-2001
Submitted by: ShannonSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I just recently purchased my Tarpon and I love it! I wanted a sit on top that would be able to keep up with my husbands Merlin XT. This boat does it. I am a big gal (6'2 200pds) and I needed a stable, but fairly quick boat. I doubt this boat will be winning any races here soon, but it glides nice and tracks great(with out the rudder!) I haven't taken it out into the ocean yet, just lakes, but I am sure it will be fine as I don't plan on being in very inclement weather or taking long trekkes. It is a pretty long boat for a sit on top (16') and it's 28" wide. A good steady boat very comfortable and comes standard with everything you really need two hatches, foot braces and a back rest! I would recommend this boat for anyone new to the sport like me that isn't ready for rolls and just wants to enjoy nice fairly calm days out on a lake or in a bay.
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04-20-2001
Submitted by: SPC
Rating: 9 of 10

     I didn't notice any little dents in the Tarpon I paddled. It was at REI paddle day so all the boats were a little abused. Compared to the other touring sit-on-tops this was more stable and had more storage space. It had a rudder which seemed like a complete waste of money. It tracked great and coasted for a long time when you quit paddling. The extra length over the competition shows. I'm unsure of it's speed since I wasn't racing anybody but it seemed quick. The cockpit is very dry. This boat is fair competition for the most popular touring sit-on-tops with more stability and storage than the others.
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04-04-2001
Submitted by: M. HughesSend Email
Rating: 5 of 10

     After paddling this kayak I decided it wasnt for me as I want to fish and need a tankwell model kayak, It was ok but I didnt like the backrest as it wasnt adjustible forward and aft. There was also a little dent in the hull near the front bottom that concerned me as this was a new kayak.
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