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Gear Guy

Is a sit-on-top kayak safe for ocean fishing?

I've been looking at sit-on-top kayaks, specifically the Wilderness Tarpon 120 and the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13. I'll probably do most of my paddling in the harbor on calm, flat water. However, I might want to get into some ocean fishing just offshore. Also, I travel frequently up and down the West Coast and was wondering if these models are appropriate for some of the waters further north. Any advice would be great before I plunk down my $1,000 or so. Jim Newport Beach, California

A: Either one would make a good boat for you, I would think. The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 ($675; is a cute little sit-on-top 12-footer that's designed to be very stable and easy to manage. The short hull won't be great at tracking a straight line, but it's maneuverable and good in tight quarters, such as smaller rivers or inlets. A compartment with hatch up front and a bungee-covered "trunk" in back hold all sorts of gear—enough for an overnighter.

Prowler 13

The Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 ($750; is just a touch longer (it's also available in a 15-foot length). It's designed for fishing, with easy to use paddle keepers that hold the paddles when you're holding a pole, and even a tray for your tackle box. Overall, a nice little number.

As sit-on-tops, these boats are really designed for calm lakes and rivers. However, they'll certainly be reasonable choices for close-in ocean fishing under good conditions. You could use them in many bays along the Pacific Coast, as well as off beaches when the surf is low. I live just a half-mile from Washington's Strait of Juan de Fuca, and there are a million places around here where such a boat would be great fun. Just keep in mind, they're not ocean-going touring boats.

Ready to pull some tricks on that local Class IV? Check out the top whitewater kayaks reviewed in Outside's 2005 Buyer's Guide .

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Lead Photo: courtesy, Ocean Kayak