Since my first year kayak fishing, some gear has come and gone. I’ve owned/sold four kayaks over the past few years, changed personal floatation devices twice, upgraded my rod/reel collection, broken at least three pairs of sunglasses, bought a dozen different hats, grown my collection of fat boy sized performance shirts and purchased or lost more lures than I care to count. However, through it all, one piece of gear has stayed with me throughout that time. Until recently that is.
With my desire to purchase a new Jackson Kayak Coosa HD earlier this year, I needed/wanted to sell my current kayak. I found a buyer when my daughter Katelyn bought it for her boyfriend Dakota. I gave them a good deal, but wanted to do more since I love my kids and Dakota is one of those rare boyfriends that a father actually approves of. Knowing he needed a paddle for his new ride and knowing that I would be purchasing a Bending Branches Angler Pro paddle this spring, I reluctantly included my beloved Aqua Bound Manta Ray carbon paddle with the purchase. I know this sounds silly, but saying goodbye to the kayak was no sweat. Saying goodbye to that Manta Ray, however, just about broke my heart. You see, that paddle and I have been through a lot together the past three or four years, and I felt like I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. Weird, huh.
Together, my AquaBound Manta Ray and I have fished all over northeastern Indiana, fished a tournament in southern Michigan, explored some inland lakes in the upper peninsula and chased saltwater species in Florida. The Manta Ray laid loyally in the floor of my kayak as I caught bass, trout, crappie, redfish, bluegill, catfish, rock bass, northern pike and maybe a couple more species I can’t recall.
This paddle, with it’s sleek all black finish, has seen much abuse. The paddle blades have dulled just a little bit, received the occasional facelift by the addition of decals, and they have a few battle scars from our adventures. I’ve used the Manta Ray to push off of rocks, stumps, oyster bars, barnacle covered bridge pilings, piers, sandbars, boat launches and other kayaks. I’ve used it as a push pole, a lure retriever, an axe (that was a rough day) and a stake out pole. It’s lifted more fish into the boat than I can remember and untangled my line from lily pad stems on just about every trip into my favorite fishing hole. It’s startled dolphins swimming beside my kayak and frightened carp in the shallows. Ah yes, good times for sure.
I’ve asked a lot of my paddle over the past few years and it’s delivered without question on every occasion. Never once did it fail me, no matter how much abuse I put it through and I have no doubt it will serve Dakota for many, many years to come. I’m sure Dakota and I will share many fishing adventures together in the near future. I’ll be using my new Bending Branches Angler Pro, which will no doubt take the same abuse as the old Manta Ray. However, I’m sure I’ll look over and smile the first time that Dakota uses the Manta Ray to retrieve his crankbait from a maple tree overhanging the river. Especially if it’s my crankbait he’s using.
Indeed, that AquaBound Manta Ray paddle served me well. I am truly going to miss it.