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Submitted: 06-14-2012 by NickyD
As a professional kayak angler I have fished from a number of kayaks out there on the market and while they all have their pro’s and con’s I have to say the new Malibu Stealth 14 makes it difficult to find a con. For the last year I have been fishing out of the Malibu Stealth 12 which is an amazing platform in its own. Since I have recently started fishing out of the Stealth 14 I am in shock with the improvements that have been added (they fixed things I didn’t even know needed it). The Stealth 12 I previously fished from was an older model that I enjoyed thoroughly and I only got the 14’ for a little extra stability since I find myself standing 90% of the time (on the 14’ I can walk all the way up to the bow and stern) and I like to bring my 80# chocolate lab out in the front hatch. The most recent model now has added some of the following features (from bow to stern):
- Flush front and rear handles: no more of those handles attached to a riveted loop with a little piece of rope, now they have strong durable rubber handles front and back.
- No more rivets: Most of the hardware is now mounted with heavy duty stainless bolts and screws, no rivets will be breaking or pulling out on you with this new model (not that it happened much on the previous model with anyone).
- Upgraded Gator Hatch: You may have read about some leakage issues with previous models… most of that was user error due to not affixing the gator hatch bungee over the provided hooks on the left and right bow of boat. The new Stealth now has more streamlined posts instead of the plastic hooks, it’s stronger… easier to use…and just plain good looking! The new gator hatch also has a much better seal to keep any water from getting in. The other day I was out and took several waves over the bow where I would have taken on a few teaspoons of water in the previous model, when I got back on the beach… totally dry.
- While talking leakage… the side hatches have a much better seal since that is where many have the problem of taking on water. In the older models when closing the hatch if you had the latches undone and you closed it, the door would already sit flush, on the new model if you do this the door needs a little force applied to be able to latch it closed…this is because of the amazing seal it now has. These side hatches also now provide access to the interior of both sides of the kayak, in the previous model only one side was accessible (at least on the 12’ it was). The red bags that insert also sit just above the base of the interior and the hooks to hold it are positioned just right where if you did take on water when the hatch is open the water still won’t go in to the bag unlike other brand name kayaks I have used. Just make sure you keep the hatched closed when taking on rough water, yes some water will pool around the hatch and when you open it some will get in, but this is less than a teaspoon, and a compromise I am willing to make for all the added interior storage.
- Live-well drain: the drain plug has a thicker easier seal and has been offset in the live-well to prevent from any damage to what drainage system you may install. My Stealth 12 is plumbed, but I will not plumb the 14 since I rarely use live bait, and when I do all I have to do is open the plug and let the water circulate through on its own. I picked up a mini strainer piece from a pressure washer hose that I place in there to keep small bait or shrimp from escaping on me.
- Rear Hatch: The hatch behind the seat is amazing now since it’s on a hinge and only requires one latch turn instead of the previous models that had four latches and then you had to find a place to set the hatch cover. With all the storage on this kayak I rarely even need to take out a crate, I can store everything inside which makes it great for beach launches.
- Just in front of each flush mount is an internal thread, I didn’t know what this was at first, but it’s there for a trolling motor mount! Malibu has listened to all their fans and actually put in to action the suggestions they receive, good to see this from a kayak manufacturer.
- Tank-well: This thing is WIDE! When and if I take a crate I use a large shopping basket instead of a milk crate, it’s very easy to carry and the elongated shape tends to fit more into it. The tank well is so large I can store 2-3 baskets back there perpendicular to the kayak (if I ever had to). I have a 5 year old daughter that likes to get back there and just crawl around…she couldn’t do this as easily in my Stealth 12… and she definitely could never do this in my WS Tarpon 14 I had.
- Performance: Comparing this to the 12 I find that the 12 can quickly get up and going very fast, however requires more work to keep up with the others. In the 14 it will get up and going with little effort, but once you are going it just cruises with no effort at all. Last weekend I was in a tournament that had 20 mph gusts of wind, I launched with someone in a Jackson Cuda, an Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 and a Native… once the wind was coming at us I just kept cruising with minimal resistance, the gentlemen in the Ocean Kayak fell slightly behind and the other two were unable to even go any further.
In conclusion, the Malibu Stealth 14 is the best kayak on the market. As a professional kayak angler I have fished out of some of the best including Wilderness Systems (Tarpon 12/14, Ride), Hobie (Outfitter, Revo, Pro Angler), Jackson (Coosa, Cuda), Native… you name it. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses and I find them all to be great in their own way. However, when I was looking for the most well rounded kayak that I can stalk the flats for tailing reds with and the next day launch off the beach in 2-3 ft waves to go out for kingfish and tarpon... the Stealth can stand up to the challenge.
Negative: Some of you may be reading this thinking the Stealth 14 is too good to be true…well it’s not… however I am an honest person and can only find two negatives, even though they don’t bother me a bit.
1) Size/Weight: With a kayak of this size you are going to have to deal with some additional weight. It weighs in at 64 pounds and once loaded down with everything can be around 80 lbs. I like that I can store all my rods, lifejacket, seat, tackle, anchor, stake-out-pole, etc in the front hatch during travel (so it tends to be a little heavy at the ramp. I can load it all up the night before, load it in the truck, wake up and go. I would not recommend this kayak for a 90 year old man that needs to put it up on his roof, however if you are fishing with a buddy (which you always should be) then it won’t be a problem. I have seen some creative ways out there to slide a kayak from the hood up on to the roof. If you have a truck then weight should not be a concern. If you just have a sedan… this kayak is soooo worth it I would check out craigslist for a jet ski trailer or the Harbor Freight site ($300-400 for brand new trailer).
2) Hull Slap: Since this kayak is capable to take on 550 lbs (which I would argue it could carry more) if you are a lighter person it will sit a little higher in the water and cause some hull slap if the wind is blowing over 10 kts and you are stalking a flat. First off, if you are trying to be stealth on a flat in a 10kt wind then it doesn’t matter what kayak you are in…it’s going to slap. If this is a major concern of yours simply distribute your gear weight properly and don’t position your kayak in a direction that will create this resistance. It all comes with experience; this reason should absolutely NOT lead you not to consider this kayak. I also had some custom SeaDek put on the kayak and it has practically eliminated this issue completely. A company in Florida has scanned the Stealth and can cut up a custom SeaDek kit for you at a VERY reasonable price.
If you are looking for a great seat to put on this please consider the Crack of Dawn Spider Angler Seat, Google it you should find my video review, it’s the best thing out there and worth every penny.
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