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Sun Dolphin Pro 120 Review

Ian Fortey by Ian Fortey Updated on January 2, 2023. In Jon Boats

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The Sun Dolphin Pro 120 fishing boat is a sturdy and reliable jon boat on the smaller side of things ideal for solo fishing or fishing with the kids or a friend. It’s been a favorite with anglers for years now and continues to offer solid performance at a decent price.

What Is it:

If you’re a casual fisherman who doesn’t want to spend the time or money on a large boat, and you like the idea of having a smaller vessel that maybe you can take to and from your fishing spot on small lakes right in the bed of your truck, then the Sun Dolphin Pro 120 may fit the bill for what you need. It’s arguably one of the most popular jon boats you’ll find at the 12 foot mark and it checks off most of the boxes you’re going to need checked for a boat of this size. 

You have room for 2 adults or maybe one and a couple of kids on board. There’s ample storage in a number of storage compartments, not to mention a live well. Pedestal seats can offer extra comfort or remove them entirely to have some more space at your disposal. With a 15 hp motor attached you can get this little guy up to a good clip as well, depending on conditions. Top speed can reach around 20 mph, which should be more than adequate for whatever your plans.

Key Features of the Sun Dolphin Pro Fishing Boat:

Despite being a small vessel, the Sun Dolphin Pro 120 has some solid features for a boat of its size. 

  • Polyurethane foam injected floor with aluminum stringers for rigidity
  • Tri-hull design for superior stability and control
  • Reinforced built-in front electric motor mount
  • Carpeted casting decks cover pressure-treated ¾’’ plywood
  • Two padded swivel pedestal seats allow both passengers to enjoy the same comfort and maneuverability
  • Three front cooler or storage compartments with drains offer solid storage for a smaller boat
  • Two mooring cleats
  • Built-in rod holders are sturdy and fairly reliable
  • Large aerated livewell with drain
  • easy to access drain plug
  • Under-deck fuel tank storage to maximize space
  • Recessed drink and tackle holders
  • Conveniently pre-wired for electric trolling motor
  • Fused control panel
  • Navigation lights
  • 2-year limited warranty
  • Anodized aluminum handrails


Specs

  • Overall length of 11.3′ (310cm)
  • Width of 62″ (142cm)
  • Max weight capacity of 532lbs (241kg)
  • Dry weight of 238lbs. (108kg)
  • 2 person capacity
  • HP rating of 10 hp to 15 hp
  • Max Trolling Motor Thrust: 40lbs. Shaft Length: 36”

Pros

  • For a boat of this size, the storage available is really impressive. You shouldn’t have a problem fitting the gear and whatever else you’d normally want to bring with you in the space provided.
  • Stability is great. This is a really well balanced little boat and you don’t feel wobbly getting in and out or if you need to stand up when you’re reeling in your catch.
  • For a 12 foot boat, this is one of the most comfortable and roomiest feeling boats you’re likely to fish on. The spacing with the pedestal seats means you won’t feel cramped and you’ll probably save yourself the sore back you might get on similar boats.
  • Though it’s got room for two, even if you use this alone it’s very easy to manage, including loading and unloading.
  • The running lights are honestly a really underappreciated feature on a boat this size that can allow you to stay out in some lower light conditions that you might otherwise not get to enjoy with other, similar vessels.
  • Maneuverability is really easy.
  • Even a smaller motor that’s under 5 hp can get this moving reliably.

Cons

  • Double check that width before you buy. This boat can be a little too wide for some truck beds depending on what model you have. If you’re trailering it then no big deal, but a boat this small is usually transported in a truck, so just be aware of the dimensions. In some trucks you may be able to squeeze it in with one side up on a wheel well, but you’ll obviously have to do a little more work to secure it as a result.
  • Further to the point just made, you may need to invest in a trailer if you can’t haul this in your truck. While the low price is a great feature, when you add in the price of a trailer if you need one, it can start to look less appealing.
  • At 238 lbs it’s not impossible to carry and lift onto the back of your truck, relatively speaking, but transom handles would have made it a lot easier. Keep in mind that weight doesn’t include the trolling motor you may be using. 
  • The storage compartments have a tendency to hold moisture so be careful if you have anything in there that could be damaged as a result. Definitely don’t store metal things in them long term, just in case.
  • You may want to invest in a bilge pump if you think you’ll be taking this out on any rough waters. It sits pretty low so it can take on a lot of water if you’re not careful.

What You Need to Know:

At around $2,000, depending on where you go looking for one, the Sun Dolphin Pro 120 is a pretty affordable boat, especially for the quality. It’s also widely available which makes it attractive as well. You can find these at Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas but they’re also sold on Amazon and even at Wal Mart. Sometimes that can be a red flag, but in this case it’s just a convenience since the boat is well worth it for the price. 

One thing we should address right off the bat is the motor rating. Most online literature says it’s rated for a 10 hp trolling motor. But a lot of owners have bumped it to a 15 hp engine and reported good results. So, officially, you’re going to want to stick to the 10 hp because that’s what the manufacturer recommends. But if you’re confident in your boating skills, you may want to experiment at your own risk with 15 hp. That said, as we mentioned above, even an outboard motor that draws under 5 hp can get the job done well so it’s more of a personal preference how you want to approach that.

The layout makes casting easy for two people fishing in tandem and that’s a feature you can’t really oversell. Small boats can feel very cramped sometimes and no one likes to feel like they’re in someone else’s way. Of course if you fish alone it’s not a big deal, but part of the reason you’d want a boat like this is because you can bring friends or family along. It lives up to the reputation by ensuring there’s room for everyone without crowding. 


Is It Easy To Mount an Electric Trolling Motor?

In terms of your trolling motor, look at something with a 36” shaft length for the front of the boat but I wouldn’t recommend anything longer. You’ll also want to make sure you have the metal bracket that attaches over the trolling motor mount. Sometimes you can get this boat with one and sometimes without. It seems to be related to either where you get it or when you got it. Either way, the plastic mount seems too risky alone, so go for the metal bracket for extra security and stability in keeping your trolling motor in place. 

What People Are Saying

One of the biggest selling points for the Sun Dolphin with a lot of owners really seems to be the space and stability combo that you’re getting here. It offers an experience that you’d expect from a bigger boat thanks to the tri-hull design which keeps it sturdy and solid on the water. Likewise, because of how the boat is laid out, you have a lot of room for casting and making the most of what otherwise seems like it should be a small space, even with a second person on board.  The average rating value from nearly everyone who calculates average customer ratings is very high.

One thing that has popped up in a lot of feedback, and it’s not the fault of the boat, is the shipping. Because you can pick up a Sun Dolphin from numerous retailers you can’t always account for how it’s going to get to you. A few owners have said that ordering the boat online resulted in it getting to them in rougher condition than they had hoped. Not that it was unusable, but there were a few owners who mention scratches and dents as a result of the boat either being stored or shipped improperly. Consider that if you decide to order one from an online retailer. 

Another potential concern is transport. Like I mentioned earlier, if you have the right sized truck bed you can haul this on your own. But if the sizing is off you may need to invest in a trailer and if that’s the case, the investment increases significantly. At that point, you may want to consider some other models that have a trailer included. But that’s obviously a personal preference thing and you can crunch the numbers to see what works best with your budget.

If you’re used to a lot of bells and whistles and bigger boats than this may not hit the mark for you. But casual boaters, boaters with kids, and retired anglers who need something small but reliable have enjoyed a lot of success with this. You can manage it pretty easily by yourself, and if you have the right sized truck, getting it to and from the lake is not going to be much of a chore at all. It really maximizes the things you need from a fishing boat while not wasting much time or space on the things you don’t.

Do We Recommend It? 

For the casual boater who wants a small fishing boat that is reliable and fun for weekend fishing trips or vacations with the family, you are going to be hard pressed to find many that top the Sun Dolphin Pro 120. This boat model has been available for a number of years now and there’s a clear reason for it. It fits the needs of most fishermen who want a boat without a lot of costs and hassle.

For the storage room alone this is worth some consideration, but the performance and the value for the money put it over the top. If you want a reliable, affordable fishing boat at under 12 feet that won’t break the bank, we definitely recommend giving the Sun Dolphin Pro 120 a try.

About Ian

My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.

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