Review: Bending Branches Angler Pro and New Navigator Wood Paddle
The most important tool in every kayak angler's toolbox is his paddle. The paddle is the engine of a kayak, and can either aide or hinder you while out fishing. As such, great care should be taken in choosing the right one. For those looking for a great kayak fishing paddle, look no further. Several great paddles coming out of Bending Branches provide anglers with some great features that are essential for a great experience on the water.
The Bending Branches "Angler Pro" paddle, has won "Paddle of the Year" in YakAngler.com's Kayak Anger's Choice Awards for 2-years in a row. It's safe to say that a paddle designed by kayak anglers, is preferred by kayak anglers.
The Bending Branches new "Navigator Wood" paddle boasts a new slick look from from its predecessor. The blade is now made out of rich-looking red adler and roasted basswood, compared to the previous black willow wood. Aside from the blade material, the spechs remain and gives the same smooth pull through the water.
Looking at the spechs, you can see that both paddles provide many of the same great features.
Drip Rings: They both provide the same heavy-duty black drip rings that help to prevent water from dripping down onto ones arms and lap, keeping you nice and dry.
Shaft: Another great feature for both is the straight shaft made from T-700 Carbon fiber material, giving this paddle a nice solid and light-weight feel with a nice smooth look.
Ferrule: Both paddles come with the option of a snap-button ferrule, that provides 0° and 60° left or right ferrule angles. An even better option that I highly recommend getting the paddles with is the PLUS or telescoping feature.
The PLUS ferrules gives the ability to extend the paddle within a range of 15 cm. For those with kayaks that have different seat heights, this gives the added benefit of changing the paddle lengths, instead of using a different paddle. Additionally, the PLUS ferrule can lock into place in any angle you want, with a simple twist-locking feature. Just make sure to not go beyond the recommended telescoping length, or damage could occur.
Aside from the similarities above, there are some differences between both of these paddles, that make the experience of paddling quite different from each other.
Blade: The Angler Pro has a blade surface area of about 104 sq in, while the Navigator comes in around 96 sq in. With the extra surface area, the Angler Pro can push much more water, helping anglers out when digging deep to punch through surf, or paddle through some rough and choppy waters. Though, bigger blades don't necessarily mean greater efficiency. Even though both paddles are great for long paddles, without much fatigue on shoulders, I've found the Navigator to be a better paddle when it comes to longer distances.
Both paddle blades' are rigid, that can move quite a bit of water, but the Navigator felt much better at slicing through the water and gave a much more efficient feel than the Angler Pro. You can see that the Angler Pro has a much wider and scooped blade while the Navigator has a more narrow and flat blade. For paddlers with a more mid to high stroke, the Angler Pro is exceptional at everyday use, while the Navigator shines for longer paddling excursions.
Weight: Weighing in at only 30 oz, the Angler Pro paddle is very light. Having a light-weight paddle helps reduce fatigue while paddling, and can make or break longer fishing sessions. The Navigator only weighs 28 oz, and being only a 2 oz variance, I couldn't really tell that much of a difference while paddling. However, some may find that 2 oz difference advantageous for longer distance paddling.
Rockgard®: One great feature that comes with the Navigator is Bending Branches proprietary technology Rockgard, which has been applied to the paddle to help protect the blades edges from any nicks, cracks, or chips that could occur when using the paddle as a push-pole while in "skinny water". For those that sight fish in shallow waters, your paddle can be used as an extension of your arm to slowly move yourself through the shallows. The Rockgard helps to protect your blade edges from hard bottoms such as rocks or oyster beds, and can help to extend the life of the blades.
The Angler Pro and the New Navigator Wood paddle are exceptional paddles from Bending Branches that provide many unique features that more than fit the bill for every kayakers needs. I personally have enjoyed using both, but they each have their strengths and weaknesses in certain situations. I highly recommend getting the Navigator if you're looking for a paddle that gives you that edge in longer paddles. For a more every day use kind of paddle, you can't go wrong with the Angler Pro. And definitely as a must, the PLUS ferrule is a great option to take your paddling experience to the next level. Though these are my opinions, a must for everyone is to demo demo demo any paddle before you purchase. These paddles come out at MSRP $324.95 (Navigator w/o PLUS) and $354.95 (Angler Pro w/o PLUS), so they're definitely on the higher-end spectrum of paddles, but your paddle should be thought of as an investment. Besides your kayak, your paddle plays a very important role while kayaking, so why not get the best?