By Aaron Stiger
Aaron Stiger is a force in the kayak angling community. He is a member for the Jackson Kayak Fishing team, Crew for Hook 1 Kayak Fishing Gear and Pro Staff for Manley Rods.
Backwater Paddle Company most appreciates your time and consideration in providing us with this awesome review Aaron!
How many times have you found yourself floating down a river, or holding a spot on flat water when the current or wind takes you past the area you intended to fish. You are now out of position, and handling your paddle is noisy, clunky and will more than likely scare away any fish in the area.
In situations like this, especially in the fall when the water is very clear, it is important to have a stealth approach to handling and maneuvering your kayak. Today, I am going to review a product that I feel can make a huge impact on your fishing by being a positive fish factor in your kayak. This product is the Assault Hand Paddle by Edward Halm’s Backwater Paddle Company.
When you first see the paddle, you will see it comes it one of two colors: “Orange” or “OD-Green.” Each spring, Backwater Paddle Company also solicits votes from paddle outdoorsmen for new colors, so be on the lookout and vote for your favorite color. This is a great feature and shows that the company is truly in-touch with the kayak anglers and other outdoorsmen it serves.
After picking up the paddle, you will notice it’s almost a full pound. Weighing in at 12 ounces, this brute paddle is made for daily use. It is 22 inches long and the blade is over ¼ inch wide. This sturdy plastic is made for taking punishment on the water. Also featured on the blade is a hook, which is used for pulling, and teeth, which are used for pushing. I will detail these aspects in more detail later in the review. The handle is also covered in foam which aids in the paddle’s buoyancy and comfort. A rope lanyard is also attached, which allows it to stay on your wrist or tethered to you kayak.
On the water, I found myself finding various uses for this paddle. The first place I found it especially helpful was to approach a partially-submerged brush pile. When fishing shallow or clear water, dipping a paddle and knocking it off of branches underwater puts fish from a predatory to prey mentality. Your chances of catching a fish decrease significantly. Approaching the brush pile, I simply used the hook feature to grab onto a branch. I continued to grab another time to get even closer, and I then tethered off onto one of the branches. I tethered by clipping a small carabineer onto the rope and then securing it to my kayak. This worked brilliantly.
Another significant use I immediately found for the hook was after I got my lure caught in the submerged limbs. Normally, I test the strength of my knot, line and rod tip as I pull and tug, trying to free the lure. With the Assault Hand Paddle, it was a much more simplified process. I took the hook of the paddle, and grabbed the small branch, pulled the branch up, and freed the lure with my hand.
After fishing around the wood pile, it was time to push off. I untethered the orange Assault paddle and used the teeth side of the paddle to dig into a log and push my kayak a sufficient distance away from the brush pile so I could begin my normal paddle stroke.
It was not long when I realized another opportunity arose for the Assault Hand Paddle. Normally on a river, fishing headwater is extremely difficult in a kayak. Most of the time, a kayaker will simply blow through the headwater, riffles, and only fish the back end of a pool. I have tried to fish headwater in the past, but it always required me to drop my anchor in and let it drag, undoubtedly scaring any resident fish I was targeting. Today, I was able to locate a stray tree caught on a rock right at the push water before the riffle. The process I took was to tether the Assault Hand Paddle to the side of my kayak, secure the hook to the exposed limb, and begin fishing. This paddle surprised me at how well it held up in the push water. Even though the water was trying to push my kayak downstream with all its might, the paddle held, and I was able to stand and cast until I was satisfied I had fished the area thoroughly. When I was done, I unhooked the paddle, and pushed off as I was taken quickly downstream through the riffle.
Throughout the day, I tend to target my casts more and more precisely on an ordinary fishing trip. This means I am pinpointing specific targets, often around heavy cover. As I continued this ritual, I found myself hooked up in a tree about 8 feet in a branch. I was unable to reach it by hand, but immediately had an idea. I saw a low-hanging branch and tethered my OD-Green Assault Paddle to it. I then let out line, and took my Orange Assault Paddle and hooked onto the small limb, bringing the lure into reach, and freeing it. In this scenario I was rocking the boat back and forth, and even was able to jump up to reach the limb. The OD-Green Assault Paddle never let off its grip. What a great application of two paddles that scenario proved to be.
One of the most well-known uses of the Assault Hand Paddle is for maneuverability and positioning of your kayak. Today, I did this countless times and the subtle ease of movement around structure or to maintain a position on a slow-moving section of river was invaluable. Not having to occupy both hands with a paddle, and just quickly using a hand stroke to maintain my spot allowed me to fire-off more casts, and catch more fish.
Having my Assault Hand Paddle served one final purpose on the day. The water I typically fish is extremely skinny. I often drag much of the flow or try to paddle through, digging my expensive paddle into the rocky river bottom. By using the Assault Paddle, I was able to save the wear and tear on my other paddle when I would get stuck on bottom. By using the teeth to push into the river bottom, I was able to free myself without getting into the 50 degree water. This was extremely convenient and kept me dry.
One final use I can see for the paddle that I was not able to try today was to use the paddle as an ice breaker. I fish quite often in the winter and sometimes find my kayak surrounded and stuck by skim ice. Normally, I carry a hatchet with me, but now I will simply carry an Assault Hand Paddle. With Backwater Paddle Company’s warranty of “100% Guarantee, You Break it We Replace it,” I feel comfortable placing this paddle through the wringer.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the Assault Hand Paddle’s versatility. After using it, I realize it is the Swiss Army Knife of kayak paddles, and there are none like it. For $29.95 at http://www.kayakfishinggear.com/search?q=assault+paddle&type=product it is a no-brainer as far as an accessory for the kayak. It was a great tool to have on the water, and I look forward to exploring many more uses for this paddle in the future.