This season we started working with the folks at Bending Branches to test the question, are all paddles created equal? While I had our informal answer to the question pretty quickly I am glad I waited a little longer to write up my official review on the topic. It’s worth the extra time with the chain of events of the summer. I have now logged several hours on the Angler Ace and feel like I can produce a review that’s going to help you if you’re on the fence about an upgrade. I was the stereo type angler like most of you researching paddles saying; “I don’t need that”, “It doesn’t matter” and “I go to the gym, who cares about a little extra weight”. I’d spent 2 years using a standard aluminum shaft paddle from a different company just because it was cheaper. It’s what was most available to me at the time and honestly I did not know any different because I was under the assumption all paddles are the same, right?
First off, picking up the box the day of delivery I was wondering if there was anything even in box. The box was feather light and with a quick shake of the contents I had my first “holy cow” moment. Unboxing you could tell things were packed and wrapped well to insure safe arrival. Everything looked crisp and clean just like you want all your new toys to look when they arrive.
On first lake trip I could feel the difference on the stroke right away. I felt like I was getting a good bite on the water. The carbon shaft felt good and ridged on the back stroke. A buddy of mine and I did a little paddle swap to compare as we worked around the lake. Instantly I wanted the Angler Ace back in my hands. The other paddle felt heavy with just a few strokes moving across the water and you could tell the advantage of the weight savings with the Bending Branches.
Fast forward from there to Memorial Day when out having a little off the water fun I managed to face plant on my mountain bike leaving me with a non dislocated fracture in my elbow. Six weeks of no kayaking or fishing. Down time that is any paddler’s worst nightmare and in an important joint we use A LOT for paddling. So how is this important to the review? Well, you tend to lose a lot of muscle when you are healing and not using your arm at all and a heavy paddle is definitely going to lead to some fatigue issues pretty quickly.
Starting in July I was able to get back in my Jackson Kayak Big Rig with limited action. A lot of the strength in my injured arm was pretty well used up as expected. The Angler Ace really saved the second part of my season. Without that light weight paddle I would have been dealing with some major issues moving the heavier kayak around. For the record I did still have some fatigue issues because after all I did break my arm, it was far less than it would have been with a heavier paddle though.
After 9 months I have pushed off wood, rocks, mud bottoms and paddled who knows how far. I’ve taken trips out 2 miles on the lake before casting and pushed up plenty of moving river water at this point. My Angler Ace still looks great. The carbon shaft doesn’t pop or creak and the blades have not chipped. I liked this paddle enough to purchase the Angler Classic just to see how the next paddle down compared. To be honest I love it to. It’s a touch heavier but the same quality and craftsmanship as you get with the Angler Ace.
Do I need a high end paddle? Yes, a good paddle is the best tool you have on the water. If you’re a lake guy me you're going to have it in your hands about as much as your rod and reel. The finer tuned blade is going to push the water better. The light weight shaft is going to help with fatigue. Trust me you will not believe the fatigue factor until you give it a go. The difference is mind blowing, it really is. I am really glad I started with a lesser paddle and I am “kind of” glad I broke my elbow. I feel like that adds some good information to this review that you might not get from someone who’s just getting started or has been using the product for years. A Bending Branches paddle is exactly what you see these guys posting on social media about, amazing.