*Quick disclaimer- my nice Canon had a massive malfunction right before this trip, so I was forced to rely on a GoPro and my iPhone.
The Jackson Kayak Dealer Summit was held on Oct. 12-14 at Rock Island State Park in Tennessee. Personally this was my first time attending, as Tom, our GM, had attended previous events. I was psyched to head down south and get my JK learn on. But first, I took Friday off from work and went kayak fishing.
A storm was coming in and I made a quick trip to Briery Creek Lake before it hit. After searching some shallow spots, I headed to an old familiar point. It's a secondary point that extends out into the lake. You can paddle up, tie off to a stump and just start slinging along the point. I'd been out here before, right as a storm was approaching, and the bite was red hot. This day was no different.
Once again, I had a blast throwing a PTL Sick Stick on a drop shot rig and letting it shake around the point. In the next photo you can see the smaller bass waiting for me to release his buddy.
On Sunday I loaded up the ARC truck and headed for Tennessee. I arrived after dark on Sunday evening and found a spot at Rock Island State Park. Luther, from YakAttack, had called earlier and we'd agreed to meet up. He rolled in shortly after me. A lot of folks were at the Jackson Family Ranch, but Luther and I posted up at the campground, cracked open some beverages and caught up on each other's travels. Our businesses are only 20 minutes apart, but with the hustle and bustle, sometimes these events are the perfect time to reconnect and hang out. It was great. Luther is someone who's perspectives on family, kayak fishing and business, I always appreciate.
The rain arrived as we headed to bed and stuck around until the morning.
The rain burned off a bit and the Jackson Kayak Dealer Summit officially opened. We headed down to the water for some Marketing seminars, lunch and on-the-water fun.
The seminars were fantastic. If there is one thing JK rocks(the rock a lot of stuff), it's brand marketing. These guys make it look effortless.
Following the seminars, we had lunch and then headed to the water. The next day's weather looked heinous, so the Jackson Kayak team decided we'd spend maximum time on the water the first day. In true fanboy fashion, I had to snag a photo with a couple of legends in whitewater and kayak fishing, Eric Jackson and Jim Sammons.
The wind was whipping up a little, but that didn't stop us from having a blast on the water. Rock Island State Park is a beautiful place.
I got to paddle the new Coosa HD, Cuda LT and the Kraken. Each of them was impressive. The Coosa HD was very impressive from a freshwater fishing standpoint. Jackson made a lot of awesome improvements. The stability is drastically improved, as is the overall tracking. The bow sat down in the water much better and on a day when the old Coosa bow would have been blown all over the place, the HD shined. The Kraken was fast! It was also very stable for a sleek fishing rig. It really shined when you tried to attain up river into the strong current. It was immediately apparent that the Kraken is a big, rough water performer.
I had the most fun watching the Jackson Kayak whitewater team guys playing on the fishing kayaks.
After the day's activities we headed to a local restaurant, the Foglight Foodhouse. The food was spectacular, as was the ambiance. I spoke with the owner and we waxed poetic on making it in beautiful, small southeastern towns. He has a good thing going in Walling, TN. Check him out when you're down that way. Following the drinks and camaraderie, Luther and I headed back to the campground. The next day was the JK factory tour. I was excited to see, first hand, how kayaks are made in Sparta, TN.
"Build It Like It's Yours" - Jackson Kayak
Luther, of YakAttack, brainstorming with the Jackson crew in the factory.
Jim Sammons, of Kayak Fishing Show with Jim Sammons, filming some segments for his show and speaking about his baby, the Kraken.
The first thing you realize walking into the Jackson Factory is that they hide nothing. We were able to snap pictures and amble about talking to the great folks who work there.
Jase Bouldin, in the hat, right background, is the first Jackson Kayak employee. He's still there doing amazing work with the Jackson molds. Here is the Coosa mold that's made upwards of 7000 Coosas and will make many more. That is a lot of fun times rolling out the door off this one mold!
While at the factory, I also got the chance to see the new venture, Orion Coolers. These coolers are made in the Jackson factory and come stock with a ton of features, including standing pad, bottle openers, cool colors, reinforced handles, etc. Below you'll see a 65qt. Orion next to a Yeti65. Only one of these is a true 65 qt. cooler.
Also got to check out the new Jackson Kayak Kilroy with Reeltree Camo. This is going to be the ultimate sportsman's paddle craft.
Following the factory tour we all headed to the Jackson Kayak Family Ranch for the end-of-summit party. If you're unfamiliar with the Jackson family, they are all great people and great whitewater competitors, from Eric down to his children and son-in-law, Nick. I stumbled across this example of their winning ways.
I had a great time at the party visiting with all the other dealers, reps, athletes, etc. It was a great atmosphere with good food, good beer and good music.
I walked away form the Dealer Summit with an increased respect for what they do down in Tennessee and across the world. From Eric Jackson - founder, Dave Olson - Finance , Marty Cronin -VP of Sales and his wife, Sonia, Damon Bungard - Product Manager, James Mcbeath - Marketing, Emily Jackson - Marketing/ Athlete, Ian Stewart -Dealer services, Jase Bouldin - Welding, etc., David Blanding - Rep, Brooks Beatty - Team Manager, Drew Gregory - Fishing Team, etc, etc. Everyone is awesome. I could go on and on about people I met and hung out with, and I'd be able to recite their names, because it's important at Jackson. The intimacy and camaraderie of the paddle-sports lifestyle is of utmost importance there, and that sentiment permeates the culture through out the Jackson family.
That was my biggest takeaway, family. Jackson Kayak started with the Jackson family. Eric, his wife Kristine and their two kids Dane and Emily are the core of what the kayak brand has been about from the onset. That feeling of family is prevalent throughout the company. I saw it on the floor of the factory as people shouted greetings and the smiles were abundant. Cruising the factory, one thing stuck in my mind more than anything else, it felt like home. It is the same sense of family I get working at Appomattox River Company. Jackson Kayak has husbands and wives, mothers and sons, best friends, etc all working in the company. It's the same here at ARC. The family atmosphere is one fostered not only by actual family relations, but a sense of duty to each other and the brand. Both Appomattox River Company and Jackson Kayak started as true small businesses and have grown into major players in the industry. We've both done it with a strong sense of family, a dedication to strong customer service and big passion. My father-in-law, Bob Taylor, started ARC in the basement of his house in 1977. My mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and my wife were the core support group for ARC in the early years, much like Kristine Jackson and the kids were for Jackson Kayak. ARC like Jackson Kayak has also grown to incorporate other, very important, families into the fold, and those members continue to drive the original mission forward. What is that mission? To spread the joy of paddling. Pure and simple. Jackson Kayak does that. Appomattox River Company does that. I'm proud to be associated with both.
See ya on the water!
P.S. Oh, and I brought a few of these back with me. Release the Kraken!!!
P.S.S - Look for me to post all my photos from the trip to our Facebook Page this evening.