Native Comes To Town 2009
Hosting Native Watercraft’s designer, kayak pro, and living legend Jimbo Meador, Wilmington’s Hook, Line, and Paddle Kayak Outfitters put on an action-packed weekend May 16-17. Meador, a 67-year-old who’s been using kayaks to take him places other watercraft can’t go for over 20 years, now resides on the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama, but he lived in the Wilmington area for several years.
On Saturday, Meador conducted on and off water clinics for anglers interested in getting into or further into the world of kayak fishing, offering instruction in basic kayak fishing, fly fishing from a kayak, stand-up paddleboard fishing, throwing a cast net from a kayak, and more.
The participants who showed up at Hook, Line, and Paddle’s Wrightsville Beach Rental and Tour facility on the sound side of the Blockade Runner Hotel got more than Meador’s easygoing, self deprecating wit and his expertise in virtually every aspect of kayak fishing, hunting, and use. Each had an opportunity to test out a variety of Hook, Line, and Paddle’s Native Watercraft Line, from the ultra-stable Ultimate Series to the versatile Magic and the speedy Manta Ray, along with several different paddleboards and prototypes of new designs.
The Ultimate is the boat Native chose to introduce their Multisport system, a propulsion system that lets anglers interchange between paddling or pedaling their craft, harnessing the power of the wind with a sail kit, or stepping up to the Volt electric motor system. One of the prototypes available for Saturday’s test paddlers was Native’s new Mariner, a kayak that will be able to take advantage of the Multisport system, but be a complete closed bow sit-on-top design capable of taking on rougher water than the Ultimate.
Available in 12 and 14.5′ lengths, the Ultimate is Meador’s personal favorite boat. A purpose-designed fishing kayak so stable one can stand up, pole along, fly fish, and even throw a cast net from it, he uses one for everything from crab potting, cast netting, and fly fishing to turkey hunting.
On Sunday, I was fortunate enough to tag along with Meador, Native pro-staffer Phillip Ruckart, Ultimate 12 owner and fly-fishing aficionado Shanna Chastain, and Hook, Line, and Paddle’s Chris Tryon and Ryan Meddock for a morning kayak fishing trip behind Masonboro Island.
After a quick meet up at the Trail’s End launch ramp, the six of us headed into the marsh behind Masonboro on a quest for fish and fun. As soon as we crossed the ICW, Jimbo, Shanna, and Chris were on their feet in their boats, paddling and poling along and fly-casting to points, deep pockets, creek mouths, and oyster bars along the marsh edges.
The only person there not in an Ultimate, the utility of being able to stand up in the boat was immediately apparent to me, as the raised vantage point gives an angler a definite edge when looking for signs of fish in the shallows where we were prospecting.
I also like the idea of poling a kayak, and apparently Jimbo does, too.
“I just like to pole,” he said, as the lackadaisical smile ever-present on his face began to widen. “A lot of times I don’t even get much fishing done; just pole along and see what’s down there in the water.”
Not only does he apparently enjoy poling the boat, the rest of us noted almost immediately that he’s stellar at it, using a paddle pole (one side a paddle and the other pointed in order to stake the boat out) to cover a tremendous amount of water.
Each time I’d make a few casts and look up, Jimbo would be mid-cast, arcing his fly line towards another target, yet somehow be 50 or more yards where from where he’d been just moments before. Obviously, experience counts in this game.
After deciding we needed the flood tide to donate a little more water to our fishing cause before it would be worthwhile to keep at it, we decided to take a stroll on Masonboro Island, and Jimbo promptly stripped down to his shorts and took a swim in the sea, something he does every morning when at home.
“How was it?” the sextet remaining on land asked.
Again we were treated to a wide grin as Jimbo replied, “I feel like a brand new person!”
A glance back at the mainland soon after revealed some pretty intimidating thunderheads, and we collectively decided to make our way back to the launch point before the weather beat us there.
Fortunately for the reds and flounder in that marsh, the weather chased us off before we could return to casting. Again on the way back, I was humbled by Jimbo’s seemingly effortless poling that left me and everyone else in the dust despite the fact that my kayak is supposedly faster than the boat he was in.
Perhaps it has something to do with what Shanna said to the five guys present when Jimbo was taking his swim. “If you guys want to look that good when you’re 67, you’re going to have to work on it every day.”