First Kayak choice help

Hi All,

New guy here in need of some help/advice. My wife and I went on vacation recently and rented a canoe to do some fishing in the back waters of Cedar Key FL. We had a great time and I’m hooked on this paddle to the fishing stuff now. I didn’t care for the canoe much but I remember paddling a kayak years ago and had a blast so I’m in the market for a fishing rig. I have been studying everything I can online and watched tons of you tube videos that many of the members her have posted. I plan to fish mostly salt water. I want to find a rig that is comfortable in the shallow back water areas but still be good to go BTB (see I’m already learning the lingo lol). So here is the rub…I live in Huntsville AL and there isn’t too much opportunity to test drive or even look at many of the boats I am looking at in the nearby area. So I’m hoping to get some first hand opinions and advice from you all to help steer me in the right direction. I have two particular models in mind based on budget and the deck configuration that I think I would like. First like the Vibe sea ghost 130. It is inexpensive and has all the bells and whistles like a rudder and paddle included. I don’t really care for the tank well design. I also like the Santa Cruz Raptor. It is a really different design and I like that. It seems to be very stable which is good but I’m concerned that it may be so stable that it is a slug to paddle. I do like the rear tank area but the thin nose seems like it would get pretty wet inside compared to the sea ghost. It is also more expensive and doesn’t come with a paddle but I don’t mind spending some extra if it is worth while. I looked at other boats at Bass Pro and Dicks but they all seemed to be either really cheap or good but overpriced. There is a local dealer that sells wilderness systems models and those were nice but kinda spendy. So…what do you think? I’m sure I’ll get replies for and against both and thats ok but I’m hoping some of you who have these kayaks can give a bit better insight to the specific characteristics. I’m good with other suggestions too.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.


I’m not familiar with either brand
But you would not go wrong with a Wilderness Systems Tarpon, or an Ocean Kayak Angler.

Thanks for the input. I really liked the Tarpon when I looked at it. The seat was great and I like the design of the storage areas. My biggest concern was the stability. The specs show it to only be 29" wide compared to the raptor or the sea ghost at 33" and 34" respectively. Even though I am quickly approaching “Old Fart” status I’m still pretty spry but I don’t want to get into something that is going to feel uncomfortably unstable and ruin the overall experience.



Twenty nine inches is plenty wide enough for the stability you desire; 34-34" is approaching barge-like status.

Or you could think about a Hurricane
If you’re getting to “old fart” status, you better consider weight, too.

The Hurricanes are thermoform instead of rotomolded, and weigh less. They cost more, but in my experience, they’re well worth it.

Hurricanes are made in North Carolina. I’ve owned several, currently the Skimmer 128, and have found their customer service to be exceptional. They build a quality boat and stand behind it.

They do not pay me for all the nice things I say about them, but they should.

It really depends on what kind of paddling performance you are looking for. If you expect to paddle any distance at all then look for at least a 12’ long kayak with a 30" or less width.

Many beginners seem to look for stability as their primary objective but in reality, after an hour or so paddling a 28" boat, you’ll feel totally comfortable with it. On the other hand, a 34" boat will be a slow barge forever.

Thanks guys that makes perfect sense that you can learn to be stable in a narrow boat but you will never get a barge to be more efficient. This is the hard part about not having much seat time to draw from when making a choice. I might see if I can get the local shop to let me test drive the tarpon 120 they had. An additional question would be about length. Is 12 ft enough or should I entertain the 14 ft version?



True enough a lighter boat makes sense. I’m pretty stout so carrying isn’t a big concern but why lug a heavy boat when you can have a light one. I haven’t seen the hurricane brand before but from their website they look great. I will have to look into them for sure. You mentioned they are a bit more money…how much are we talking?


One thing…
If you intend to cast from a standing position, then a wider boat makes sense, but otherwise sub-30" is fine. And a “narrow” boat is when we’re talking about a 22" or less sit inside - not a great fishing platform but still fairly easy to get used to!

Oh, and personally I’d go with a 14 footer as long as you can store and transport it.

Wow I didn’t know they made kayaks as narrow as 22". That kind of puts it into perspective. I don’t think I plan to fish standing up much as I’m more of a lazy mans fisherman but this is a good frame of reference.



kayak costs
You really do get what you pay for in kayaks. “Overpriced” (the term you used) does not really apply in kayaks – they do not have jacked up prices for “status” or marketing like clothing, automobiles or other products. Each dollar you spend fir a kayak or canoe gets you incrementally higher quality and performance features including lightness and versatility.