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Like all Malibu's it has that huge bow hatch that can swallow anything you want to bring. It's a wet ride unless you plug the seat scuppers. Tracks well but there's a fair amount of hull slap. For fishing small to medium lakes it's a good choice. If you don't have to paddle far it's pretty good for salt use to.
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.
It exceptionally watertight with wonderful storage capacity. The initial and secondary stability are great and really proved out during a recent fishing tournament in Galveston bay when a front exceeded forecast and I was caught in 25 mph winds and chop of 2 - 2-1/2 ft. on the beam. I initially tried to get to the nearest shore,150 yards away without any luck as I was constantly having to brace. I had no option but to run downwind to the nearest shore, about 600 yards and virtually flew downwind staying reasonably dry and feeling very safe.
Customer service at Malibu's Sunset Beach location (Corey) sold the deal without regrets. Sure, the Explorer is a slower boat but primary stability is amazing (my main purpose). Corey took care of me and then some during the purchase and upgraded me after HE found a flaw in the used boat I was to purchase. Cool cat and he drinks Sierra Nevada, bring him some.
In the water the boat handles chop and wakes at angles I would normally be uncomfortable with. I'm able to jungle gym the boat on the water without issue. It won't beat my friend's flat bottom by any stretch, but it goes fast enough for me to enjoy the day and get plenty of miles in.
As I was launching yesterday I ran into a nice couple who had two X-Factors and they had exactly the same story about Malibu and Corey. Quality stuff and people.
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