Submitted: 05-21-2008 by Jersey_Jake
I bought my Malibu Kayaks Pro Explorer in 2004 and it is remarkably versatile craft. I am 6'1" / 250lbs and the kayak handles my weight plus gear with no problem. The Pro Ex has a capacity of 450lbs and I believe it.
I lived in NJ when I first got the kayak and paddled frequently in Great Bay which has its share of current and wind. At 12.5' and no rudder the Pro Explorer paddled well. It's not a speed demon, but it's not a barge either and keeps up a good pace even in strong headwinds and tracks well in other winds. It's small enough though that maneuvering is good too. Again, the trade-off is speed, but not too bad.
The Pro Ex is extremely stable as you might imagine with a width of 31" and it makes a great fishing kayak. I had a ram mount installed on the center column when I purchased it (at KFS) and use it for a tube for my fishing pole. The kayak also comes from the factory with two flush mount rear rod holders which make trolling easy.
The storage capacity is really phenomenal. I have the classic hatch with a compass mounted, rather than the famous Gator hatch. I also had a 4" hatch with a cat bag mounted directly behind the seat to take advantage of the considerable storage available in the rear of the kayak. The cat bag under this hatch also makes a convenient place for wallet, money, watch, etc.
The center hatch is great for easy access and there's quite a bit of space down there. I typically keep a soft cooler, dry bag with alternate clothing and anything else I want quick access to under here. Ironically I have yet to camp with this kayak, though I am busting at the seems to give it a try.
The tank well is not the biggest, but it's big nonetheless. I have mine restrung with cross hatched shock cord. A tackle box rides well there, (or under the center hatch), It has the standard impression for a five-gallon bait bucket and is an otherwise convenient place to stash and lash things.
I live in the Midwest now and recently put-in on the Des Plaines river in northern Illinois. The water level was a bit low and I had a very challenging time with submerged trees, branches, beaver dams and generally shallow water.
In all the time on the back bays of NJ I had never put the Pro Ex through so much abuse than I did on this trip. At one point I even got out of the kayak onto a half submerged tree. Perched up there I dragged the kayak over the tree but realized the only way to get back in because of other obstructions was while the kayak was still partially on the log. So, with the kayak straddling the log I got back in and shimmied the rest of the way over the log. I had one of those moments where I thought it would flip, (you know that feeling). But the Pro Ex got me the rest of the way over and stayed steady. Aside from a few scrapes and some mud the Pro Ex endured.
The Pro Explorer is an extremely versatile kayak and it is built to last. It performs well on open salt water, lakes and slow, (but challenging) rivers. It is a good fishing kayak, good for gear storage and good for general paddling.
In 2004, I could only afford one kayak and I wanted one that could do many things well, if not great. Now in 2008 I have no regrets about my choice. I am extremely pleased with the overall performance of the Pro Explorer.