When searching for a paddle kayak this fall, I had very specific criteria. I wanted lots of under deck storage, higher weight capacity, a wide boat for standing and casting and a decent rocker if I ventured into windy waters or out beyond the breakers.
The kayak I decided on was the Malibu Stealth 12. I have had it out a dozen or so times including a tournament for approximately 100 hours of on the water time.
Length: 12' 4"
Weight: 55 lbs
Weight Capacity: 450 lbs
Features: Multiple large hatches including the gator hatch, a standing area for secure footing, Lowrance transducer ready mount and a livewell.
Some notes about the specs. The width feels wider than 33". Standing and sitting is a breeze because of the graduated hull design (not flat) that gives multiple levels of stability. The large front gator hatch, aside from offering roomy access to the hull interior also doubles as a child seat up front. The livewell is not pre plmbed save for a drain plug. This is easily done from a youtube video and a kit however. The transducer mount works great and was a solid fit.
The Stealth 12 is pretty lightweight compared to other kayaks of similar length and width. This makes it easy to cartop or throw in the back of a truck. The gator hatch gives a cavernous access to the interior. Previous models had issues with water intake around the hatch but with a redesign, new buckle securing positions and a better seal, this has not been an issue in any of my outings. No kayak is watertight so less than 4 oz of water in the hull after eight hours on the water is a good thing especially in rough conditions.
The FND version has four flush mount rod holders pre-installed and work well. The specialized shock cord cleats throughout the kayak hold the bungees in place and keep you from getting snapped with the larger head on the cleat. There are multiple places throughout the kayak to mount rails and accessories which is nice.
The livewell is under a large oval hatch and also has a quick entry port in the middle. This keeps your bait from being able to escape when they see the hatch open. The hinge opens the hatch away from you so it's easy to access the entire space if needed. It does not come plumbed so you can use it as dry storage as well as long as you leave the drain plug in. Additionally, if you fit a screen in the drain hole you can keep bait in with fresh water without having to run a pump.
The rear tankwell is large and has room for a crate and a small cooler as well. It does come with multiple scuppers in the tankwell as well as the main deck so water has an escape point.
The Stealth 12 needs to come with a standard seat and needs to have connection points at the hinge of the seat that will connect to the hull. The standard Crack of Dawn seat tends to slide forward, covering the lip of the livwell hatch causing you to have to adjust to get in there. Obviously padding on the lumbar and glute sections of the seat would be nice.
The back tankwell has no hatch installed. There is a circular raised section that I installed a 4" hatch to allow access for rigging and in case something gets wedged in the hull. It's a small change but well worth it in my opinion.
The side handles for lifting should either have longer straps or be rigid. The soft handles tend to pinch your hand up against the side wall when lifting with one hand and sometimes two. Rigid handles I think would be the way to go.
The black hatches in the middle of the kayak have a raised texture on them but the plastic can be a bit slick when wet. Putting an EVA foam in the standing section or offering aftermarket pre-sized foam with adhesive for the two sections where you feet rest would be optimal.
The price point on this kayak (around $1100) makes it a great value for those looking to stand, fish rough water and be able to transport easily. It is not the fastest kayak on the water but handles different water types well. In smooth water it will be slower than most but where it really shines is in the rough water scenarios. The graduated hull and scooped rocker cut white caps and allows you to keep pace with most kayaks. The wind doesn't affect it like a lot of high walled kayaks and the ride is pretty dry. I'm using this kayak throughout the 2014 tournament season.
I will have the "Green Goblin" my lime Malibu Stealth 12 on display in the Mariner Sails booth at the Texas Tackle Hunting and Boat Show this weekend in Mesquite, TX. Come by and say hi!