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Old 06-19-10, 04:24 PM   #1
MariettaMike
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Default Commander 120 vs Tarpon 120

Took a WS Commander 120 from Settles Bridge up to GA Hwy 20 and fished back. In comparison to a WS Tarpon 120 I made the following observations:

The Commander is easier to carry because you can rest the inside edge of the gunnel on you shoulder.

The Commander does not work with Yakima Mako Saddles/Hulley Rollers because of its hull shape. In fact you don't even need any saddles.

You can drag a Commander on the keel and replace the wear pad when worn down.

The main seat of the Commander is a more comfortable than the Tarpon and the back rest is higher. However having a higher backrest resulted in my kayak pfd falling between me and the seat back.

The Commander does not come with a cup holder, tackle storage slots or dry storage like the Tarpon does.

The shape of the bottom of the commander collects water into three troughs that make your gear get more wet than if it was flat.

The Commander is a little slower and less maneuverable than the Tarpon.

You can't fit a fully assembled 9' fly rod inside the boat like a Tarpon can.

The Commander has a second seating option and standing is possible for persons with average agility. However neither of these are comfortable for extended periods.

The Commander cost $125 more than the Tarpon.

The Commander is not self bailing like the Tarpon.

I bought a new sand .......
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Old 06-19-10, 04:41 PM   #2
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You forgot the biggest difference, the Commander is a canoe while the tarpon is a kayak
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Old 06-19-10, 07:32 PM   #3
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Default covers

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bfish View Post
You forgot the biggest difference, the Commander is a canoe while the tarpon is a kayak
If you put the $59 front and $89 rear covers on the Commander I think it then qualifies as a kayak.
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Old 06-19-10, 10:01 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MariettaMike View Post
If you put the $59 front and $89 rear covers on the Commander I think it then qualifies as a kayak.
Nope just a covered canoe then.
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Old 06-20-10, 12:36 PM   #5
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If a covered canoe is NOT a kayak, then a sit-inside kayak without a skirt is a covered canoe, making a SOT a skirtless kayak.
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Old 06-20-10, 07:28 PM   #6
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Had you gone just above 20 you would have found out one more thing.
It will fill up with water.....like a canoe.

Bottom line is does it serve your needs? If it does what you need it to then it does not matter what it is called. I honestly hope you enjoy it. Please practice deep water re-entry during these warm months. It is just a matter of time before you will need it.
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Old 06-20-10, 10:11 PM   #7
MariettaMike
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Riverpirate View Post
Had you gone just above 20 you would have found out one more thing.
It will fill up with water.....like a canoe.

Bottom line is does it serve your needs? If it does what you need it to then it does not matter what it is called. I honestly hope you enjoy it. Please practice deep water re-entry during these warm months. It is just a matter of time before you will need it.
Excellent points!

The "Its just a matter of time logic" is exactly how I felt about standing up in the Commander. Its not a matter of if I will fall out, its when. To make things worse is where. My knees have taught me river bottoms are NOT soft.
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Old 06-21-10, 09:31 AM   #8
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Hey Mike - I'm guessing that you bought the Tarpon? I do have a couple questions for you regarding this particular trip in the Commander since I want to take mine up there soon.

How far upstream did you paddle from Settles? Just re-read your original post and saw you paddled up to 20.

How long did it take you to paddle there?

Did you encounter any problems around shoals?

Did you feel you would have floated downstream faster in a Tarpon?

At what point(s) during the trip did you take on water, and how?

Last edited by Brewski; 06-21-10 at 09:38 AM.
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Old 06-21-10, 10:37 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Brewski View Post
Hey Mike - I'm guessing that you bought the Tarpon? I do have a couple questions for you regarding this particular trip in the Commander since I want to take mine up there soon.

How far upstream did you paddle from Settles? Just re-read your original post and saw you paddled up to 20.

How long did it take you to paddle there?

Did you encounter any problems around shoals?

Did you feel you would have floated downstream faster in a Tarpon?

At what point(s) during the trip did you take on water, and how?
I did buy a Tarpon 120.

It took me 1 hour for me to paddle from Settles to Hwy 20. Since I have done it quite a few times and know the best paths to paddle up the shoals, which side to be on and where to get out/in to pull over the largest shoal I didn't have any wasted time getting crossed up in fast water, hitting bottom, or slipping around on rocks trying to pull the boat up over the rocks. For first timers add 30 minutes.(or longer if you screw up)

I was surprised at how hard I had to paddle to keep the boat from spinning back downstream when transitioning from eddy to fast water. It was worse than the Tarpon 140 that I just got rid of for that very reason, but better than the Tarpon 160i I used to have and sold for that plus other reasons.

The fairly blunt bow angle and straight up sides really grab a lot of water and sprays water straight up in the air when you paddle HARD to keep from getting spun back downstream. When I say HARD I mean HARD. The thought that I might break my paddle did enter my mind. The consequences of getting washed back down a shoal while sideways are NOT good and adrenaline does kick in. Might be fun for sky divers and rock climbers, but those are two sports I'll pass on.

For the rest of the run upstream I would say the Commander takes about 10% more effort to go the same speed as a Tarpon. Paddling is comfortable and I didn't have any problems hitting the sides with my paddle like I thought I might.

Floating downstream the Commander goes the same speed as a Tarpon. There wasn't any wind on Saturday, but I know wind will effect the Commander more than a Tarpon 120. Correcting the boat angle down the river while drifting takes about 10% more effort than the Tarpon.

Standing up is awesome but it doesn't take long for the boat to start turning and trying to grab the paddle and make correction strokes with one hand while holding your fly rod in the other and not turn the boat over is stressful. Tight rope walkers and chainsaw jugglers might enjoy that, but I don't.

When anchored off the back you can fish from the standing position without the problem previously mentioned and you can sight fish which is really cool.

I didn't try it, but I think you could drift down the river while standing and make correction strokes holding the paddle only. When you see a fish you could maneuver into position, drop anchor and then cast.

Fishing from the Captains seat is kinda cool but it is not high enough to really see down into the water like standing and the main seat doesn't slide far enough back to let you sit with your feet ergonomically correct.

I didn't pull over the drop above Hwy 20 to go down it, but I did paddle into the standing waves from the side and found that water comes over the sides in the front way too easy for me. Riverpirate is probably right about swamping there.

I would get the $59 front cover before personally attempting to go down that drop. (I weigh 230#) I didn't really look at the back to see if water came in there but I would go ahead and get the $89 back cover too if you're serious about floating the Hooch. The drop above Hwy 20 is probably the biggest on the Hooch, but there are other places where the standing waves are just as big.

I watched a non-fat young man paddle a Ultimate 12 up a couple shoals and noticed he was having to exert considerable effort to get his boat up the shoals. Since there is a lot more wetted surface area with these pontoon shaped boats the friction really becomes a factor when you are trying to make faster water speeds.

Hope this answers your question and don't think I'm trying to scare you off. I'm just past my thrill seeking days.
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Old 06-22-10, 11:43 AM   #10
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That's it! I'm taking my Commander back! No, but seriously, thanks a lot for the very thorough feedback using it on the Hooch, and congratulations on the new Tarpon. I loved my Tarpon 120. It's a great boat, and I could see getting another one for sure.

I've never floated that portion of the Hooch (but have wanted to) much less accessed a lot of the water by foot, so this was very valuable information.

These days, nearly all my river/stream fishing is done wading, and the Commander was bought primarily for fishing Allatoona and Lanier with the river fishing thrown in here and there (and in that case, most likely in a shuttle situation). I’ll throw in my two cents since I own a Commander(even though the value of those two cents may be next to nothing in this case since I have yet to use it in the Hooch). Perhaps someone somewhere gains something of value from the following personal observations of the Commander 120.

When I first mentioned testing the Commander on another forum, I received a lot of what I facetiously refer to as 'hate mail' via PMs. I was really shocked by how many negative opinions I received regarding it. I say surprised since nearly every review on the internet was positive. This is when I ultimately realized something regarding both the positive reviews on the internet and the negative reviews received via PM. Everyone has their own opinion, and each opinion is not necessarily wrong. That's why you CANNOT take any particular person's opinion as 'gospel'. You must test it yourself. In this case, you tested it and found it wouldn't work for you or your needs, and no one can tell you that you're wrong.

Especially after testing one myself, I realized that a lot of factors go into determining what boat is best for YOURSELF. The type of fishing YOU will do, the type of waters YOU will fish, YOUR body type, YOUR goals, etc. No one else can determine the boat best for YOU because they are not YOU.

In my case, I'm still a fairly young guy (mid-20s), my metabolism has yet to drop out of overdrive, and so I carry a mere 145lbs or so on my 6'2" frame. This results in a completely different paddling experience than the experience of an older guy on the opposite end of the height/weight spectrum who is emailing me cursing this boat to the sky (not referring to you or anyone in particular nor am I saying older guys have less strength, are shorter, and more overweight so don’t start sending me ‘hate mail’ – simply depicting a spectrum of test subjects for comparison). For instance, I found that my low weight allowed the boat to sit higher in the water, and prevent a lot of water from entering (water that might have entered if a ‘non-beanpole’ like myself had been causing the sides to sit closer to the water surface). I also found that I felt extremely stable standing up. To me the secondary stability was amazing. I simply could not get it to tip over. What some people described to me as an awkward standing platform fit my long, narrow feet perfectly. My ridiculously long legs also allowed me to sit in the Captain's seat comfortably. If anything, I'd like to make a small cushion for that seat (or just alternate sitting in that seat with standing or sitting in the lower seat).

I certainly believe you regarding the amount of effort that must be exerted to paddle upstream. These boats were certainly not designed to be fast or with lengthy upstream paddling through fast water in mind. Whereas I didn't notice it as having a lower 'top' speed than my Tarpon 120 (I never exactly tested top speed in the Tarpon), I did notice it requiring more effort to paddle (and this was paddling on open water out on Allatoona). Part of me (again, coming from a young, slender guy who could use some extra muscle) is thinking that could be a good thing for building strength and adding a little bulk, but I'll have to experience paddling this stretch first hand to back that statement up (perhaps I’m simply trying to rationalize). I must say that I am encouraged to hear that an experienced, knowledgeable paddler can cover this stretch in one hour.

All this said, one thing about your review does have me concerned about the Commander if and when I paddle this stretch of the Hooch: the sensation you described while paddling from eddy to fast water. I'm no crazy thrill seeker myself so this does concern me.

On a side note, I did install the front bow cover (which includes a nice, large mesh bag for storage which is sewn underneath the cover and also sits on the floor - rationalizing $60 expense). This cover sheds the vast majority of any water that comes over the front, and water can attempt to come in over the front while turning your boat into the wake while on a lake after a large cabin cruiser comes cruising by.

Personally, I love my Commander and find it nearly perfect for the waters and fishing that I am spending the majority of my time on these days (note: I said NEARLY perfect since as Riverpirate has aptly said before, NO kayak is perfect for all conditions or people).

I have a couple other questions:

How were you anchoring while floating down and fishing? I was wondering how this boat would both control speed and tracking floating downstream by adjusting the usage of a drift chain.

In your best estimation, how would you compare paddling up and floating down this stretch of the Hooch to paddling up and floating down the Toccoa tail during non-release hours? Where, in your opinion, would be the best water for the Commander between Tammen Park and the GA/TN state line (I’m happy with fishing any of it, so I would want the optimum paddling water).

Finally, is there a portion of the Hooch that you think would be better suited for paddling the Commander (e.g., less shoals, slower rapids, less waves, etc.)?

Last edited by Brewski; 06-22-10 at 11:51 AM.
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