Malibu Kayaks has found it hard to follow up the success of its Extreme, X-Factor, and MiniX models - after all how do you improve on the perfect fishing kayak? But with the new Malibu Stealth series they have another winner that continues to evolve the Malibu product line to the needs of the kayak angler. The Stealth comes in 12' and 14' models and I tested the 14' model.
The first thing that strikes you about the Stealth is the reworked footwell. Instead of the traditional large rectagular hatch found on other Malibu models to the interior of the boat there is a gigantic circular hatch in front of the paddler with two small side hatched. The center compartment is not just a hatch - it's a built-in livewell that was all the plumbing you need to support small baits up to large pogies with fresh recirculating water. The hatch has a threaded scupper hole in it that can be used in combination a with a pump for full aeration and waterflow through the livewell for large baits like pogies. Alternatively smaller baits like shrimp, mud minnows, and finger mullet will keep well with a simple bubbler. The top of the hatch has a screw on cap that can be removed for easy access to your baits without opening the entire hatch.
Alternatively the angler can use the hatch for dry storage as I did on my inshore review trip fitting several large Plano tackle flats and a dry bag into it. To the sides of the center hatch are two smaller hatches - to the angler's right is a great tool storage hatch ideal for a couple lures, pliers, scissors, leader, or whatever tools you usually like to have handy. Instead of keeping them in the footwell the right hatch is a great way to keep organized. To the angler's left is another matching small hatch but this one goes to the interior of the kayak, for access to your battery and pump system or to whatever you have stored in the interior.
The hull is v-shaped similar to the X-Factor and also features a newer low-profile gator hatch up front that opens to the interior of the boat for even more storage. On inshore trips I would use that for a soft sided cooler and for offshore and surf launches it's excellent for putting your rods inside the kayak for ultimate protection. Another innovation is the use of threaded scupper plugs both in the livewell compartment and in the seat well.
Like all the Malibus it is a very stable, maneuverable, has plenty of storage, and as dry a ride as there is - it's stable enough to stand on unless you are center of gravity challenged like me, and paddles somewhere between the Extreme and X-Factor. The 14' model also has a rear 45 degree hatch between the paddler and the generous tankwell area - the 12' model has all the features of the 14' except for the rear hatch.
The Stealth will be a popular boat in 2009 for both inshore and offshore kayak anglers in every kind of estuary. For more information on the Stealth and other Malibu Kayaks check out www.MalibuKayaks.com.