leopard (18') vs lion (16')
I had the lion 16 and replaced with a leopard 18'
lost about 2' of waterline and 1" tube diameter. However noticed a big improvement in the handling.
I've never owned a Jag, but for comparison sake we did a low water owyhee where my lion16 was loaded down about as much as a friends Jag and his had water lapping on the bottom of his floor. I had a few inches of clearance. I think your Jag is 24", the leopard is 26.5.
I didn't want to lose the weight handling of the Lion, but wanted better handling so I went two feet longer with the Leopard. got a good deal as it was an old stock new Aire special I paid $2200 with the 10 year warrantee. I figured 2' longer is not a big deal since I was used to maneuvering a 16' hog. the 18' boat actually appears easier to navigate in tight spots as I don't have to anticipate as much. My fave river is the Middle Fork and since they can run sweeps through it my theory is I will probably never notice the extra 2' ...
I've since taken it down the Deschutes and the Rogue rivers with a 12' frame, gear for 5 passengers (including me) on a three day/two night trip including a shitload of beer
.... it handles great I can turn it 180 in two strokes. I'm also more confident in its stability (able to T up, it slices through rapids better). And based on some of the shallow water I was running with four passengers, boat was pretty "front loaded" but never had an issue with the 12' nrs frame drop rails being "submerged"
This summer I'm planning on doing some low water trips and although I'm not going to bring the kitchen sink, I know it should make it through no problem.
Any time you get into a new boat its a lot of risk. If you can find a leopard on the water see if you can get a mile or so on the sticks and see if its right for you ...
Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it "guaranteed", I will. I got spare time.