For International Women’s Day: Meet Our ProStaff Women

3 minute read

Let us introduce you to some of the women on Bending Branches’ ProStaff team, in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2022.

group of women on the Bending Branches' team in our Osceola, WI headquarters

The women on the Bending Branches’ team in our Osceola, Wisconsin headquarters

Whether it’s kayak fishing or canoeing, their life’s work or an avid hobby, these ladies teach us a lot about the paddling world…and we hope they give you inspiration to get out on the water, too!

Courtney Bennett: Avid Kayak Angler, Tennessee

When I was growing up, my grandfather would take me fishing. He instilled within me a love for the water. My grandfather taught me how to drive a truck in the hay field, bait a hook, and shoot a rifle. Through this, I learned that despite "being a girl," I could do anything I set my mind to.

Those lessons that were born on the water stayed with me throughout my life. I became the first person in my family to graduate from college, and I later earned my doctorate from a private university. Professionally, I serve as district administrator in a large, rural school system in Tennessee.

kayak angler, Courtney Bennett, in her kayak with a fish

Courtney Bennett, school district administrator and avid kayak angler

I became a part of the paddling industry in 2017 and have been very fortunate to work with Bending Branches for the last several years. There are many women who share a passion for the water, and I am extraordinarily honored to be able to represent those women on a broader scale.

Ashley Bredemus: Co-Owner of Birchwood Wilderness Camp and Canoe Instructor, Minnesota

I live in a remote and semi-off-grid 200 sq ft cabin in northern Minnesota where my husband and I own and operate a wilderness camp for boys. We're situated at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), which is a paddler’s dream! The BWCAW is where I first learned the joys and challenges of paddling as a kid and where I've put down roots. Now we teach others the art of paddling!

When I was a young girl, my father taught me everything he knew about paddling a canoe. He taught me how to load the canoe depending on the direction of the wind and when to use different paddle strokes and how to portage the canoe over land.

My favorite of his lessons was on the different paddling techniques required depending on where you're sitting in the canoe. At the front (bow), the paddler must be the power—strong simple strokes of the paddle propelling the vessel forward. The paddler at the back (stern) provides the delicate finesse required to steer the canoe. Each position a beautiful practice in masculine and feminine energy.

Ashley Bredemus and her dog sitting in her canoe on a Minnesota lake in early winter

Canoeist and wilderness camp co-owner, Ashley Bredemus with her dog, Arlo

Of course, any gendered person can paddle a canoe, bow or stern, but I think women have much to gain on many levels with little barrier to entry compared to other sports like mountaineering or downhill skiing.

Yes, paddling is physical exercise and it can also be a meditation, or an avenue for self-discovery, or a confidence booster or a way to detach from the day-to-day. That being said, every time I've paddled long distances in the BWCAW, I have remarked at how few women I see—so consider this my invitation to all women readers!

Dee Kaminski: Owner of and Guide for Reel Kayak Fishing Charters, Florida

At a young age, I learned to fish out of a canoe with my parents who were avid fishermen, fishing the lakes of Canada on vacations. After moving to Florida in 2007, I learned to fish saltwater from land but I felt frustrated because I was not able to get to where the big fish were so I decided to buy my first kayak.

I found my perfect kayak in the Native Watercraft Ultimates. They are lightweight so I can carry and load them without help and a quick rinse of the kayak is the only maintenance it requires. I pair my kayaks with Bending Branches paddles for the same reasons. They are lightweight and very durable.

I decided to start my own kayak fishing charter business, Reel Kayak Fishing Charters, after doing some research about women kayak fishing guides. I found none. This was back in 2008. I had found my niche and am a successful guide into present day.  

 Dee Kaminski in her kayak with a big fish

Kayak fishing guide and business owner, Dee Kaminski

I teach to young and old, covering everything from basic paddling skills, kayak rigging, and techniques specific to fishing from a kayak. Also covered is fishing techniques, lure lure choices, fish habits, how to locate fish and how to handle fish properly.

It’s not always all about fishing though. A fishing charter is also an Eco-tour wrapped up into one. I also love the Zen part of fishing and what it can teach about life. I think most women would agree that fishing touches, calms and can even heal the human soul.

Even if you don’t land a fish, just being in the outdoors, getting up close and personal with nature can be very relaxing and calming. It takes you away from the hustle and bustle of busy lives. It also teaches us lessons in persistence and tenacity. You’re not always going to get what you want, in fishing or in life.

Rhonda Phillips: Certified Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator and Avid Kayak Angler, Georgia

I grew up in Florida but I call gorgeous Georgia my home. My love of nature inspired me to become a Certified Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator for several years, (specializing in rabbits) before I was introduced to fishing on my first blind date by my now fiancé. Since then I've been hooked and eagerly seek new knowledge and challenges in all aspects of fishing, whether it be new techniques, gear, locations or different species.

Rhonda Phillips fishing from her kayak
Certified Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator and kayak angler, Rhonda Phillips 
In 2018, my fishing adventures around Georgia lead me to become the first official female angler to accomplish the Georgia Bass Slam (10 Black Bass Species). Not only will I attempt to use my southern sweet-talking to catch a fish, I also know how to fling a fly and is an active member of the Georgia Women Fly Fishers. Don’t be fooled by my shy, quiet demeanor because I'm liable to out fish you... or at least out fuss you when I miss a good fish (“son of a fish” is often heard over my cackling giggles). I will always attempt to be a constant encourager to all women to just get out there to enjoy the beauty of nature even if fishing isn’t their cup of tea… eh, coffee.

What paddle questions can we help you with today? Get in touch with our Wisconsin-based Customer Service Team: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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