Making a Difference…

Why do we get involved on another level with the hobbies and sports we participate in? What drives us to get sponsors,
represent a myriad of companies, put logos on our jerseys and gear, and generally want to be something more than just
a person out kayaking and having fun in our kayaks? For many of us this isn’t a simple answer and if you ask several
people, you could very well get several very different answers. For me, I’ve always loved the Jackson Kayak family and
how they have represented our sport for several years and I desperately wanted to be a part of it. I also feel a
responsibility as a an angler with sponsors to use my resources to help grow this sport and get as many people involved
in the sport as are willing.


As many of you know, I moved back to my home state of Kansas in mid-2015 to be closer to my family and to help grow
the sport of kayak angling in my home city and surrounding areas. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have met so many
nice people and new kayaking friends since my move back. This article is about my friend Kolby, the first kayak angler I
met when I moved back home, and one of the best young anglers in our area, and how my sponsors stepped up to the
plate and made a difference in a fourteen year old’s life.

I met Kolby, and his mom Kathy, after I backed down the boat ramp at Lake Lenexa, just a couple days after moving back
to Kansas City, in July. I couldn’t move into my new place for a couple weeks, so I got into my moving truck that I
strategically packed for ‘optimal kayak extraction’ (because we all do things like this right?), and yanked out one of my
kayaks so I could go fishing. I got out of my vehicle and pulled my kayak off the top of my SUV and introduced myself to
Kolby and his mom. It turns out that Kathy would drop her son off at Lake Lenexa since they only lived a few miles away
and Kolby would spend most of his summer evenings on the lake fishing in his first kayak that he got from a local
department store. I got to looking at his fishing gear and he explained what everything was and why he picked out the
rods and reels that he did and how he had saved up for them. I was absolutely blown away that a fourteen year old
knew as much as he did about rods, reels, and the tackle he had in his kayak. I suggested that he and I go fishing for the
evening and he agreed and his mom waived Kolby goodbye as we paddled of. School was now in session….. But
somehow I was the one that got schooled, haha. We paddled over to some standing timber and while I was getting one
of my rods out to fish with, Kolby stood up in his kayak and pitched a jig next to a tree and pulled out a bass within a few
seconds of us getting to our spot. He proceeded to do this for the next twenty or so minutes, pulling in seven bass to my
one. As we continued to fish, and as I continued to get schooled, I got an opportunity to chat with Kolby and find out
what he was about and what he does in his spare time. It turns out that Kolby pretty much just goes to school, plays his
organized sports, doesn’t really play video games, and how he saves his money to buy fishing gear and to save up for a
new, more stable kayak. I learned a lot more about Kolby that day too, and it made a huge impression on me….


I don’t want to go into too much detail about Kolby, as he’s only fourteen and I don’t want to write this young man’s
entire life story out for the internet to read, but I feel a little background about Kolby and his family is necessary. Kolby
lives in a nice neighborhood, he and his friends work on their bicycles together, and they explore the creeks around their
homes together like a lot of friends their age do. He’s a great athlete, stays highly active in sports, and plays baseball,
football, and wrestles. He excels at wrestling because there are weight classes to divide the competitors, however it has
become increasingly more difficult to compete in baseball and football for him because the other kids his age keep
getting larger and he is just simply not growing at the same rate as everyone else. He weighs in just over eighty pounds,
so he’s quite a bit smaller than the other boys his age at this point in his young life. Kolby also has fraternal twin siblings
that are a couple years older than him and while he and his sister do very well in school, his older brother has gotten
into some trouble and has recently been removed from their household and to live with his dad. Kolby only lives a
stone’s throw from his dad, but his dad does not keep an active role in the kids’ lives on a regular basis, so Kolby figures
a lot of things out on his own or with the help of his mom or grandfather. A very fortunate aspect of Kolby’s life, though,
is that his mom continues to raise him well and his grandfather keeps an active role in his life. Kolby gets excellent
grades in school, he’s polite and considerate of others, and he’s got an amazing amount of perseverance, and a
willingness to work hard for the things he wants. He works hard to get better every time he’s on the water, while still
having fun, and he is hoping to land a spot on the local high school fishing team next year, in his freshman year. He also
went so far as to work odds and ends jobs to earn money so he could contribute to getting into a Jackson Kayak for the
2016 tournament season here. He occasionally works on a small farm, locally, and walks dogs in his neighborhood to
earn whatever money he can to put towards a new kayak.

After meeting Kolby and talking to him for an evening, it was pretty clear that he didn’t have a plethora of male role
models in his life, and he had a few family things going on in his life that could easily distract him from staying on the
right track in life. Kayak fishing has been one of Kolby’s major motivators over the last couple years and I feel it’s
important to encourage him to do constructive things with his life and be involved in activities that may lead to being
around the right social encouragement that many young people don’t in their lives. So back to this ‘sponsor’ thing I was
jabbering about at the beginning of this article. I love being a part of the Jackson Kayak family and I love being a part of
the other companies I represent in this industry. Being able to use my sponsorships to help give back to the community
and help grow our sport is extremely important to me, so at the beginning of October, I reached out to Drew Gregory
and a couple other people within the Jackson organization about helping Kolby get into a Jackson Kayak to keep Kolby’s
interests on something positive and constructive, rather than playing video games all afternoon or getting into other
activities that could potentially not be so constructive. Every single person that was involved in the emails, phone calls,
and planning of this was amazingly positive and beyond excited to help. After several emails back and forth, and with
the help of Drew, Eric Jackson and his amazing family of employees decided to unconditionally help out and a new
Jackson Kayak Cruise 10 was on its way to Kansas to make Kolby’s holiday season extra special. In addition to Jackson
Kayak making a huge impact in a fourteen year old boy’s life, YakAttack and Bending Branches also stepped up in a
major way to make sure Kolby had the right accessories to be safe on the. Andrew Stern from Bending Branches was
on-board from the beginning and once he knew which kayak Kolby was getting, he had the perfect paddle, a Bending
Branches Whisper, in the mail to make sure it was here in time for the holidays. John Hipsher and Luther Ciphers from
YakAttack went out of their way to make sure Kolby had the best safety light and flag in the industry, the VisiCarbon Pro,
and a new BlackPak, Rod Holder, and LeverLoc Anchor Trolley Kit to make sure Kolby doesn’t go floating away on
tournament day!


After the kayak and accessories showed up here in Kansas , the next hurdle was figuring out how in the world do you
hide a kayak and give it to someone as a surprise? Well, Kolby’s mom came up with an amazing idea. The lake we
originally met at just happens to have a nature trail around it that many people hike/walk. With a little coordination
from Kolby’s mom and sister, I parked in one parking lot and brought Kolby’s new kayak to a bit of a hidden picnic table
area on the trail, while Kolby’s mom parked in another parking lot for what was supposed to be a routine hike around
the lake that they typically do on the weekends for exercise. Kathy works in Physical Education, so Kolby and his sister
get plenty of exercise, haha. It was windy that day and this was supposed to be a surprise, so between trying to stay
stealthy behind a wall, the wind blowing the kayak all over the place on top of the picnic table, and a tall orange
YakAttack flag whippin’ all over in the wind for the world to see, I had a minor challenge on my hands. As planned, Kolby
came walking down the trail and stumbled upon me hangin’ out with a kayak on a picnic table. His mom was right
behind him. Another reason I really like Kolby is that he saw me, saw the kayak, and still didn’t ‘expect’ anything. I
believe his comment was ‘Oh, hey Jason, what are you doing here?’, and after a short pause, and noticing the kayak, ‘Oh
cool, is this your new team kayak for next year?’ I believe I responded with a ‘Yeah man, I’m just chillin’ out here in the
cold and the wind with my new kayak on a picnic table.’ After a few awkward moments of Kolby checking out ‘my new
team kayak for next year’, he asked what kind of Jackson it was and after I told him it was a Cruise10 (I had previously
told him that the Cruise 10 would be the best fishing kayak for him), it finally dawned on him that this might be his new
kayak. It was great to see the look on his face and watch him checking out his new rig. I was especially happy for his
mom too, because Kolby had been relentless in his pursuit for a new kayak for quite some time so his mom could finally
breathe a sigh of relief and excitement too. We took the kayak down by the lake so Kolby could sit in it but he was too
busy taking pictures of it and walking around it, checking it out. After a couple minutes, he finally settled down and he
got a chance to sit in it and enjoy it for the first time. It was a perfect fit, the perfect color, and it totally made Kolby and
his mom’s holiday season!


Now that we are past the holidays and we are sitting around here in Kansas, freezing, and wishing it was spring time so
we could get back out and do more fishing, I’ve had time to reflect on this awesome adventure. I have not been in the
kayaking industry as long as some, but I feel fortunate to have been lucky in my journey so far. I have been incredibly
lucky to have found the fishing friends I have from all over the country, to be able to surround myself the best sponsors
in the business, and to be involved with the best companies and people our industry has to offer. A huge Thank You to
everyone at Jackson Kayak, Bending Branches and YakAttack for being such a great support system for anglers of all ages
and abilities in our industry!

I’m starting a new kayak tournament series in my area for 2016, and along with a standard division of anglers, I will
feature a youth division for anglers under eighteen. Kolby will be one of those anglers competing this year and I can’t
wait for you all to meet him, follow his progress as a kayak angler, and check out all of the cool pics and videos we’ll be
posting for the 2016 season!

Comments on “Making a Difference…”

  1. Derald wilson
    February 7, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Well done! Jackson Family.
    It’s stories like this, that makes me proud to own a Jackson Kayak! She is a Cuda 12, equipped with Yak Attack anchor trolly and rod holders and a Bending Branches pro Paddle, Raymarine 4 pro, Ram Mounts. And Love it.
    Keep up the great work everyone, you are making a deference!


  2. Derald Wilson
    February 8, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Dear Jackson Kayak Family, it’s stories like this that make me proud to say “I am a Jackson Kayak owner” this is a great example of growing the sport.
    I love my 2015 Cuda 12, and I realize I am now part of something bigger than myself. The Jackson Kayak Family.
    Thanks for all the great work you do,

    Stay safe,
    Derald Wilson

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