Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 Kayak Review

The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 kayak is a versatile and popular option for many paddlers. Its 12-foot length makes it a good choice for both small and large bodies of water, while its weight capacity of 350 pounds means that it can accommodate a variety of paddlers.

In this comprehensive guide, we will look at the features and specifications of the Tarpon 120 kayak to help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.

The Tarpon 120 kayak is a sit-on-top kayak featuring a comfortable, spacious deck. The adjustable seat ensures a good fit for paddlers of all sizes, and the foot braces provide added support and stability.

This comprehensive Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 kayak review will get into all the details.

Tarpon 120 kayak summary

  • Length: 12’3″
  • Weight: 63 lbs
  • Weight capacity: 350 lbs
  • Front storage hatch
  • Ample rear storage

One of the first things you’ll likely notice about the Tarpon 120 kayak is its stable hull design. This makes it an excellent choice for beginner paddlers and those who want to fish or tour.

The Tarpon 120 kayak has a large front storage compartment that can be accessed from one side of the boat. This makes it easy to store all your gear and keep it organized while you’re out on the water.

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 on a lakePin

There are bungee cords on the rear of the kayak that can be used to secure your gear.

The Tarpon 120 kayak is available in various colors, so you can find the perfect one to match your style.

This comprehensive review will take a deeper look at the Tarpon 120 kayak.

We’ll also discuss some common questions that people have about this popular sit-on-top kayak.

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Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 Features

The Tarpon 120 has many great features, including plenty of storage and a really cool seat. But that’s only part of what makes this kayak a fun boat to paddle.

Tracking

The Tarpon 120 has a sharp flared bow design, which cuts through the water fairly easily. This bow design helps with various water conditions, including smaller waves or choppy water.

Two tracking channels on the bottom help keep you tracking straight as you paddle. The stern keel is very defined and helps you lock in and paddle straight.

I feel like the kayak stays on course as I am paddling and have no complaints about tracking.

Thanks to its sharp bow and wide hull, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 kayak tracking is excellent. This makes it easy to keep your course, even in windy or choppy conditions.

Stability

Kayak stability is critical when you are shopping for a new boat. If you are new to paddling, you want a stable boat to gain confidence. If you are a kayak angler, you want a stable boat to cast and reel fish.

The Tarpon 120 is also stable and forgiving, making it an excellent choice for beginners or advanced paddlers. Thanks to a fairly flat hull design, the kayak has excellent primary stability and very good secondary stability (when leaning on edge).

Storage

There are a lot of storage options on the Tarpon 120. First off, you have the large front (locking) hatch. The hatch is large enough to fit a C-Tug kayak cart or plenty of kayaking gear.

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 front storage hatchPin

The front hatch locks and opens to the side, so it’s accessible from the kayak’s port side (left). 

Between your legs, you will find a dry box that locks into place. The dry box is easily accessible when paddling, which is a great feature. The dry box is not watertight, but it works fine for splashing.

You might not want to keep your key fob for your car, (or other items that absolutely can’t get wet) somewhere else.

The box is a little loose when it’s locked in place, so I may need to play around with this some more to see if I am missing something.

It’s not going to fall out, but I thought it would snap firmly in place, and so far, it’s a bit on the looser side. I wish they had put a hatch in that spot instead.

The rear of the Tarpon 120 has an extensive storage area where you keep a kayak cooler and a fishing crate. Wilderness Systems sells a crate designed to fit in the rear of the kayak, which is an excellent accessory.

The rear storage area has a mesh cover, which can be rolled back if you don’t need it all. I don’t use the mesh cover, because, by the time I put a crate back there and roll the mesh back, the mesh doesn’t do much. I removed the mesh cover and use a shock cord instead when I am hauling a crate.

The mesh cover will work great when I go kayak camping and need to keep more gear covered up and secure.

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I love the rear storage, though, because a standard size (small) milk crate fits just perfectly. I am glad the Wilderness Systems designed this to fit a standard crate and not make it, so you have to buy their crate.

Overall, I am impressed with the amount of storage space on the Tarpon 120. There is plenty of room for a weekend kayak camping trip if you are so inclined.

Seat

Sitting in a kayak for hours on end can cause some serious butt lock, so the seat better be comfortable. But, to be honest, I am kind of geeking out over the Phase 3® AirPro seat.

Wilderness Systems Phase 3® AirPro seatPin

The seatback is easy to adjust forward and backward, and you can even adjust the height of the seatback. You don’t find this with all kayak seats out there.

Part of the seat that I thought was weird at first is the leg lifters. I didn’t understand it until I used it.

The seat raises up under your thighs when you pull the lever up. I was skeptical until I tried it, and I was kind of shocked at how much comfort that little feature adds.

At the end of the day, the Tarpon 120 seat is fully adjustable and very comfortable for long days on the water.

Legroom

There is a lot of legroom on the Tarpon 120 with the adjustable footrests. In addition, the footrests are adjustable on the fly, unlike some other kayaks I have paddled.

Legroom on the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120Pin

Given the weight capacity and ample legroom, the Tarpon 120 is also an excellent kayak for bigger folks.

The only thing that is annoying for me is that the heels of my feet lined up directly with the forward scupper holes. My heels are pretty much in the scupper holes when my legs are extended on the footrest.

It’s not a big deal, and I may need to play around with the footrest some more.

Overall Comfort

The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 kayak is impressively comfortable, thanks to the Phase 3® AirPro seat. The seatback is fully adjustable, so you can easily customize it to fit your body.

The leg lifters are also a great feature and really add to the comfort of the kayak. There is plenty of legroom on the Tarpon 120, and the adjustable footrests make it easy to find a comfortable position.

At the end of a long day on the water, you will appreciate how comfortable the Tarpon 120 kayak is.

Accessories

The Tarpon 120 also includes gear tracks for attaching accessories. This is a really nice feature, and I am excited to try out a myriad of accessories.

You can add things like fishing rod holders, a fish finder, an action camera, etc.

One accessory that I really like is the magnetic water bottle holder. The holder attaches to the inside of the kayak, and it’s easy to access.

The water bottle holder is also very sturdy, and I had no issues staying in place even when paddling hard.

Overall, I am very impressed with the accessories with the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 kayak. The gear tracks are a great feature and make it easy to attach accessories.

Rudder ready

Although the Tarpon does not come with a rudder, it’s already set up for a rudder if you decide to add one later.

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Who is the Tarpon 120 a good fit for?

The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 kayak is a great fit for beginners, advanced paddlers, anglers, and anyone looking for a comfortable and stable kayak. In addition, the Tarpon 120 is easy to paddle and very stable, making it an excellent choice for anyone new to kayaking.

For more experienced paddlers, the Tarpon 120 is a great option, thanks to its speed and agility. The kayak is also well-suited for anglers, with plenty of storage space and gear tracks for attaching fishing accessories.

If you are a beginner, you can grow into the Tarpon 120 kayak without upgrading right away.

Who is the Tarpon 120 not for?

The Tarpon 120 is an excellent kayak, but it’s not for everyone. If you are a hardcore angler, you will probably want a kayak specifically designed for kayak fishing.

In addition, the Tarpon 120 is not going to set any paddling speed records, so if paddling long distances quickly is your jam, you are better served with a longer, more narrow kayak designed for speed.

PROS

Easy to paddle
Tons of storage space
Great for beginners or anglers
Comfortable seat
Ample legroom

CONS

No flush mount rod holders
Kind of heavy to lift by yourself

Other things to consider

When shopping for a kayak, it’s essential to consider how you will transport and store the kayak. Unfortunately, these things are often overlooked.

Transportation

If you plan to transport the kayak on top of your car, you will need a kayak roof rack system. Personally, I like the Yakima JayLow kayak rack. You can read my full review here.

The Tarpon 120 is 12’3″ long and weighs 63 pounds, so hoisting it onto a roof rack can be difficult depending on how much you can lift and how high your roof rack is. 

If you have a pickup or a trailer, it’s much easier to transport a kayak this way. 

I have a mid-sized SUV, and the Tarpon is not easy to put on the roof rack, especially by myself.

Consider how you will transport your kayak before you jump in and make a purchase.

Storing your kayak

Storage is another thing people often overlook when they buy a kayak. Kayaks like the Tarpon 120 are heavy and awkward, and you need a space dedicated for storage.

The Tarpon 120 can be stored in a garage or outdoors in a shed or under a deck. If you are storing your kayak outdoors, it’s essential to protect it from the sun and rain.

I use the Best Marine kayak storage rack. This heavy-duty, padded cradle can easily support the Tarpon 120.

If you don’t have a lot of storage space where you live, the Tarpon 120 might not be a great option for you.

What’s missing?

I wish the Tarpon 120 had flush mount fishing rod holders behind the seat. I make up for this by using a crate with rod holders and track-mounted rod holders.

You can always add flush mount rod holders if you are okay with drilling holes in your brand new kayak.

FAQ’s

Can you stand on a Wilderness Tarpon 120?

The Tarpon 120 is not explicitly designed for standing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stand up. Many fishing kayaks are designed so the angler can stand up to cast and reel in fish. So if you trust your balance, give it a go by all means.

Is Tarpon 120 good for fishing?

The Tarpon 120 has a lot of storage space for fishing gear and includes gear tracks so you can add fishing accessories, like rod holders, a fish finder, etc.

There is plenty of room for a kayak crate in the rear storage area. With all of these features, you can have a great day fishing from the Tarpon 120

What is the weight of a Tarpon 120 kayak?

The Tarpon 120 weighs 63 pounds which is more than some recreational kayaks, but not as much as high-end fishing kayaks. However, 63 pounds is a manageable weight for transporting the kayak, especially if you have a helper.

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Conclusion

The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 kayak is well-crafted and versatile for beginner to intermediate paddlers. It’s easy to paddle and has plenty of storage space, making it perfect for fishing trips or weekend camping trips.

The kayak is also very comfortable, with a spacious seat and adjustable foot pedals. If you are looking for an all-around kayak that won’t break the bank, I highly recommend the Tarpon 120.

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About the author
Steve
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.