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This past November I had the opportunity to travel to the Sand Hills of Nebraska and chase Northern Pike. On a mission for Bending Branches to capture some shots using their newly redesigned angler series paddles. Professional photographer Dustin Doskocil (Doskophoto) was in change of getting the photos Bending Branches was looking for. He was accompanied by Texas bass fisherman and NuCanoe team member Raymond Martinez. Our fishing guide was Jackson Kayak Fishing Team member Kristine Fischer. Kristine is a Nebraska local and is one of the most accomplished muskie and pike anglers of the midwest. We were all very lucky to have her knowledge of the area and quarry we were after.

The area was very remote and we saw few people other than park rangers. The leaves had all fell from the few trees there and the temperature was dipping below freezing at night. Campgrounds were barren and beginning to batten down for the long winter ahead. Winds and freezing temperatures lingered with us the entire weekend. We targeted a few hidden lakes at the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is 71,516 areas and most of the glacially formed lakes were well over a few hundred acres and very shallow. It was very different to waters I am accustomed to back in Iowa.

My Cuda HD was a great choice for exploring these large lakes! We navigated through many channels surrounded by tall reeds and and scrubby prairie growth. The maneuverability of the Cuda made it very easy to get through the maze-like areas of tall grass. Fishing was very tough and most fish we found were in very shallow calm water hidden in these maze-like channels. Kristine switched gears from fishing to bow-fishing and tried her luck with some of the large common carp hiding in the thick of the reeds. Her Mayfly was the perfect standing platform to sight and shoot carp from.

The new Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon was absolutely amazing! It is the lightest paddle I’ve ever laid hands on and although we had to battle against strong wind, the wind was no match for the Cuda HD paired with the Angler Pro Carbon. The new shape of the paddle made deep strokes effortless and the 60 degree feathering angler made in easy to deter the strong headwind. We were all using the new 2017 paddles and all of us loved them.

All of my fishing success during the trip was at one particular lake, all around one reed covered island. I caught around a half dozen pike, a few of which were over 36″ but lost many more. The water was very clear and we saw many pike follow us right next to out kayaks. I used one large discontinued Rapala the entire time and that was pretty much all the Northern Pike wanted. The Cuda HD was perfect for handling the pike although I could have used a much larger net. The pike did powerful gator rolls in my net and I nearly lost a 40″ pike because it kept rolling out. Fortunately it held on long enough for Dustin to get a few quick shots. Kristine found a nice pack of fish that hit back to back casts. She even had two pike hit two rods at the same time and that was a sight to see. Raymond caught a feisty pike that was out of control. He had to give it a little hug to contain it while Dustin made his way there to get a shot.

Although the fishing was tough and the weather was against us, we all had a blast. I highly recommend the JK Cuda HD! The Bending Branches Angler Carbon Pro is a great paddle to match! If you ever make it to the Sand Hills of Nebraska, prepare to find large northern pike!