Fishing Kayak Review: Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

The Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS is a fully featured, sit-on-top fishing kayak. With an elevated seat, huge tankwells and a standing platform built over a catamaran hull, Sun Dolphin clearly designed the Boss 12 to compete with dedicated and higher-priced fishing kayaks.

Sun Dolphin is a Michigan-based brand that’s part of KL Companies Inc., the largest kayak manufacturer by volume in the world. As such, you are likely to have stumbled across a large number of Sun Dolphin kayaks at retailers and on waterways.

The Boss 12 has what Sun Dolphin refers to as a catamaran-style hull, though it could even be considered a tri-hull of pronounced pontoon-like shapes that provide platform-like stability. The Boss 12 also comes with a raised seat; a flat, open cockpit for standing casts; and deep tankwells for loading up plenty of tackle.

These are all features which make the Boss 12 stand out as Sun Dolphin’s most fishing-centric kayak design. We will discuss each in more detail as we walk through this Sun Dolphin Boss 12 review.

On the water with Sun Dolphin’s Boss 12

Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS Specs
Length: 12’4” / 3.75 m
Width: 33.25” / 85 cm
Weight: 78 lbs / 35 kg
Capacity: 500 lbs / 227 kg
MSRP: $550 USD

Performance

Simply put, the Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS fishing kayak is a barge.

The Boss 12 has what Sun Dolphin refers to as a catamaran hull. This double-tunnel hull has a pontoon shape at each edge, set a short distance to either side of the large keel running down the center of the Boss 12. The tunnels between the keel and each pontoon are bridged with a shape similar to an upside down U. A pontoon-style hull is very stable and the ample 33.25-inch width also contributes. The Boss 12 SS’ stand up capabilities are aided by the large platform to make stand-up fishing safer and easier.

Just what does it mean for a kayak to be stable? Kayaks have what are called initial and secondary stability. The stability is influenced by how much surface area is making contact with the water. When a kayak is sitting flat on a calm pool it behaves according to its initial stability. When it rolls toward one side or another, such as in waves, this is the kayak’s secondary stability coming into play.

Through sheer surface area, the catamaran hull delivers good initial stability. It’s rounded edges, where the bottom and sides meet, also contribute to improved secondary stability, but generally there is a trade-off between initial and secondary stability. When it comes down to it, it’s hard to get this catamaran hull to heel off its base. Take that as a hint not try too hard to tilt it.

To take full advantage of this initial stability, the Sun Dolphin Boss 12 has a flat and open floor plan with a large traction pad. In traditional kayaks intended for staying seated you will notice there are curves within this footwell area following the overall shape of the hull. The Boss 12’s open flat area provides the standing platform for increased casting ability and sight casting.

Market and demographics

Who is the Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS intended for? Someone who takes their kayak fishing seriously. The standing platform, elevated seat, spacious tankwells and numerous rod holders leave little to be desired.

At 78 pounds, the Sun Dolphin Boss 12 is heavy. Without having a pedal drive or motor it isn’t going to cover a lot of ground as a paddle kayak. The elevated seat also does not provide as much leverage for powerful strokes under difficult conditions. The design is also meant to value stability over speed or maneuverability.

The Sun Dolphin Boss 12 is best suited for short-distance paddles to your favorite trophy fishing spot on lakes, bays, slow rivers and coastal waterways.

About the Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS

Design

Material and construction

Sun Dolphin constructs their kayaks from thermoformed high-density polyethylene, a common material in kayak construction.

Thermoforming is done by taking sheets of plastic and softening them to a pliable state. They are then put on a mold and shaped to form. The Sun Dolphin kayak begins as two major halves joined together at a seam. Thermoformed construction creates a plastic kayak that’s sleeker-looking than rotomolded polyethylene kayaks.

Sun Dolphin Boss 12 accessories and outfitting

This Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS fishing kayak is loaded with outfitting and accessories. Let’s take a walk from bow to stern and discuss everything pre-installed on the Boss 12.

At the bow of the Boss 12, a grab handle makes it easy to pull the heavy craft up on a beach.

The space in front of the paddler’s feet is occupied by a tankwell, a hollowed out storage area on a sit-on-top kayak. This forward tankwell is large enough to store a small cooler or bags of gear and also includes a bungee rigging system at deck level to keep gear secured.

Carry A Whistle (And A Light For Night Use)
  • Every paddler should have a whistle attached to his/her life jacket.
  • Carry a light at night. Consider carrying a distress signal device.

An off-the-shelf Sun Dolphin Boss 12 has five rod holders, four of which are flush-mounted and located in pairs in front of and behind the cockpit. The fifth is an additional swiveling rod holder included with the Boss 12  that you insert in a centrally located port for active fishing.

Two pre-installed accessory mounts provide spots for fish finders, cameras or even additional rod holders.

There are two large rectangular hatches in the Sun Dolphin Boss 12. The first is in the cockpit between your legs.These hatches provide storage within the interior of the Boss 12 hull, as well as access to the inside of the kayak.

The hatches have a hinge opening, and a removable liner bag within. This liner keeps gear you stow inside the hatch from rolling around the interior of the hull. They are easily removable should you have to access part of the kayak for a small repair or accessory installation.

The Boss 12 has two sliding foot braces within the cockpit. The foot braces on the Boss 12 provide the paddler with an important point of contact. While paddling the foot braces give leverage for strokes and control over the Boss 12. You do have to adjust the foot braces on the Boss 12 by hand, which may be tricky to reach the first few times you are in the kayak but easy to do on the beach.

On the floor of the cockpit you’ll notice the wide open flat space and floor padding. This traction padding makes it much easier to keep your footing on a wet plastic floor while standing up to cast or land a fish.

Also on the floor of the kayak you will see the scupper holes. Scuppers are the drain holes which allow water to empty out through the floor of the kayak. The Boss 12 has eight of these scuppers all together. Water will also lap up through the scuppers, and scupper plugs are a great idea for flatwater days. If scupper plugs are not available where you purchase the Boss 12 you can buy them from Sun Dolphin’s accessory brand Extent Paddle Gear.

One of the best features of the Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS is the elevated folding seat, which provides a higher vantage point for sighting and casting for fish. This could also be described as a lawn chair or stadium-style seat. The elevated seat has a high and low position, both of which keep you off the floor of the kayak, which equates to staying relatively dry.

Elevated seats are comfortable but they do provide a higher center of gravity, which can feel more unstable. If you are in calm water and seeking the most visibility and upright seat position, place the seat bar on the high position. If the ride is going to include a bit of turbulence, clip the Boss 12 seat in the lower position.

Behind the seat you will find the second gear hatch, which also includes a liner.

The stern tankwell is recessed and massive. It’s big enough to fit a cooler, or your favorite milk crate full of tackle.

Finally at the stern we have another grab handle, and one of two drain plugs (the other is at the bow). The drain plug allows you to empty any water which has found its way inside the kayak through screw holes and seams.

Wear A Life Jacket
  • Everyone, even strong swimmers, needs to wear a life jacket at all times when on the water. It is extremely difficult to put a life jacket on once you fall into the water. Even a light wind can blow any paddlecraft away from you, faster than you can swim.
  • Buy (and wear) a comfortable Type 3 or S life jacket specifically designed for paddlesports.

Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS mods

The outfitting and accessories included on the Sun Dolphin Boss 12 leave little left to add. One of the popular modifications made by users is not so much an upgrade as it is a repair to a potential seat issue.

Users have reported that in hot weather when plastic is more pliable the elevated seat tray has collapsed under loads, sending the seat to the floor of the kayak. If you purchase the Sun Dolphin Boss 12 you should be aware of the potential design flaw. Consider making a preemptive seat fix by providing additional support to the seat bars.

Warranty

Sun Dolphin provides a limited lifetime warranty of the deck and hull to the original owner of the kayak. Sun Dolphin also provides a one-year warranty on boat components to the original owner starting at the date of purchase.

How the Boss 12 compares

The Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS is far from the only option for fishing kayaks. The Sun dolphin lineup itself has less extravagant, yet more portable boats such as the Journey 10 and Journey 12. Beyond this there are other boats with similar features available at popular retailers.

  • Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS vs Ozark Trail 12’ Pro Angler

    If you think the Boss 12 and Ozark Trail 12’ Pro Angler look identical, this is because they are. The Boss and the Angler are the same boat manufactured with a different label. If you are out to find a Sun Dolphin Boss 12 and stumble upon the Pro Angler go ahead and scoop it up.

  • Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS vs Ascend 12t

    The Ascend 12t is a sit-on-top standing platform fishing kayak competitive with the Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS. Ascend is a brand ultimately owned by Bass Pro Shops and exclusive to stores that carry Bass Pro brands.

    The Ascend is similar in concept to the Boss 12, however the Boss 12 is two inches wider and three inches longer. This gives the Boss 12 a larger platform, and arguably more stability. The Ascend 12t has large tankwells, a forward hatch, and two flush-mounted rod holders. But the Boss 12 is tough to beat on outfitting with five rod holders in total and the fore and aft hatches along with the tank wells.

    I like the Boss 12 seat system with fixed drop-in positions, compared with the sliding track of the Ascend 12t.

    The deciding factor may be whether you prefer the single piece rotomolded construction of the Ascend 12t, or the two pieces of thermoformed plastic joined at a seam on the Boss 12.

Where to buy the Boss 12

The Boss 12 can be found at large retailers in North America. Walmart stores carry the Sun Dolphin Boss 12. And you can even order the Sun Dolphin Boss 12 SS on Amazon, though it may be hard to find in stock.

Kayaks: Boss 12 ss by Sun Dolphin - Image 2990
Sun Dolphin

Boss 12 ss

The Boss 12 ss fishing platform sit-on-top kayak is an extremely stable tri-hull design with large stand up walking area and four traction foam pads. Amenities include three position deluxe padded honeycomb seat with aluminum frame, stand-up strap, universal mounting plates, two storage compartments with bag inserts, front and rear storage wells with bungees, four flush mount and one adjustable rod holders, paddle holders and carry handles.
  • Catamaran hull design provides for a flat stable platform
  • Front/rear storage wells large enough for a milk crate or bucket
  • Non-slip pads and stand up assist strap
  • One swivel and four flush mount rod holders
  • Generous below deck storage

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Stable
  • Standing platform
  • Elevated seat
  • Five rod holders
  • Large tank wells

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Potential seat failure

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Education: Get Some!
  • Take a paddling safety course from the American Canoe Association (ACA), your local paddling shop or outfitter, or other reputable source.
  • Take a boating safety course from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons® or your own state’s boating agency.
  • Take on-the-water skills training.

 

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