Why I Ordered A Paddle ONLY Kayak

It's time to up my paddling game.















    Recently I ordered a new kayak for my personal fleet.  It's not because I really need one.  Nor is it because my Slayer Propel or Versaboard are worn out or need replacing.  I decided to order a new boat to help me become a better kayak angler, actually I ordered it to become a better kayaker.
     Now don't get me wrong I love pedaling my Slayer Propel.  It's a great boat that's designed to excel in a variety of conditions.  In fact it may be to GOOD.  Over the last few years I've come to realize that although I have gotten much better at catching fish from a kayak.  My actual paddling skills haven't improved at all.  They haven't needed to because my choice of boat allows me to go out in conditions that are way past my ability.
My Slayer Propel flanked by some fast paddle only kayaks.
     This has become more and more apparent in recent months.  While paddling on the Wolf River in Northern WI I found that I lacked the required skill needed to safely negotiate whitewater rapids.  While out on Lake Michigan this fall I was shocked to discover that I didn't know the correct way to quarter a wave because my Slayer handled them so well that it didn't really matter.  Then at the Sailfish Smackdown on day one I watched as many competitors in paddle only boats moved effortlessly through the waves while I crashed and smashed my way around in the wind and current.  While driving home from that Florida event I had to face myself and admit that I had no idea how to actually handle a kayak.
See I do know how to paddle.  Of course I only do it when I'm in shallow water.
     It's not like I don't paddle on a regular basis.  I'm fond of saying that the best thing about a pedal driven kayak is that you can always paddle it.  I just don't actually do it.  One of my long term goals is to become a certified kayak instructor.  I think it will help my business as well as my credibility in the industry.  To be able to pass any of those tests I'm gonna need to up my game.  I need to make an effort to learn how to properly draw, brace, and efficiently paddle a kayak.  So what did I decide to get?  I decided to order a Manta Ray 14.
Native Watercraft Manta Ray 14
     This boat is perfect for what I want to accomplish and the conditions I fish in.  It's 14 feet long and is built from roto-molded plastic.  That's a fancy way of saying that I can't break it.  It has built in rod holders, a wheel to aid in transporting, an integrated track system to mount my accessories, and is rudder ready.  At 14 feet it should be able to handle the big water well and it's narrow design allows it to move quickly through the water like a Jackson Kraken or a Viking Profish Reload.  This is good because I'll likely be paddling against these boats when out on the local tournament scene.  The only thing I don't like about this kayak is the fact that it only comes in Hidden Oak camo.  Luckily for me I was able to convince the Native Watercraft factory to make me one in a custom color.  They're gonna make it in Blue Lagoon so it matches my other boats (a perk of being on the prostaff).  I'm pretty fired up and am doing my best to patiently wait for the kayak to arrive in the next few months.  I'll still be out and about on my Slayer Propel most of the time, but my kayak game is about to hit another level.
     Tight Lines.

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