Growing up so close to the James River, my buddies and I spent many seasons floating. Year after year, smallie after smallie. Our vessel of choice was a Sears Roebuck john boat. Many times though, we opted for the lighter, quick tracking canoe. I loved the ease of maneuvering they allowed in the water. The only thing that sucked was the lack of space and balance. We were constantly fighting for leg room between the gear and cooler. Of course, we needed every single piece of fishing gear we owned. With the humid Virginia summer, the cooler was a necessity. So we were either cramped up like the center passenger on a pudder jumper, or attempting not to fall out standing up.
It’s always funny when you see a new idea that makes you say, “Crap. How did I not think of that?” A couple years ago my brother-in-law and I were fishing on the James and ran into some guys I’d met in Botetourt dove hunting on our community ‘s local Jeter Farm. They had rigged this crazy contraption that was strapped across their canoe. It looked like wings with coolers on each side. I sat back, making my observations. My brother-in-law, being the social butterfly he is, began the 20 questions bit. It was a really great idea that, like most inventions, should have been executed long ago. They didn’t have a name for their creation at the time, but their prototype looked promising.
Fast forward a couple years. This idea has become a product, and is looking like it’s here to stay. Enter Wingman Outfitter. Last weekend, I was at the Roanoke Go Outside Festival voluteering for Orvis teaching people how to tie flies. The guys from Wingman Outfitter were there, so we got to talking about getting together and hitting up the James for a Dead Drift Outfitters test run. They had a canoe set up for people to test the Wingman out and man, that thing’s stable. I was impressed with the development they’d achieved with the product. I’m all about supporting local, so I got with co-owner Austin Bousman and suggested a product review.
The idea was conceived while planning a January camping/hunting trip down the Bitterroot river of Montana. Guns, bows, camping gear, and dogs were all piled into the canoe for the Wingmans first test run. Partner Bernie Lipke came up with the concept. From there, Austin helped develop the product to its current state. Co-owner Drew Arney did the business development leg work. The business was launched in June of this year, and these guys haven’t looked back.
The Wingman is best described in their own words: “The Wingman increases usable space and provides additional seating capacity by placing your coolers, dry boxes and gear outside of the canoe. It provides families with children peace of mind when floating due to additional stability. It allows your dog to comfortably join you by utilizing the platform as a great place to sit or lie down.”
“It adds additional dry or cold storage and allows for all season camp floating without fear of flipping your boat into cold water and losing expensive gear.”
“The platform gives fishermen a better point of view and can convert to a camping table. If you stay off the water in the colder months because you cant afford a raft…no problem. Attach a Wingman to your ol’ trusty canoe and kick back and relax.”
Winter waterfowl hunting on an unstable canoe can now be stress free.
This thing is even adjustable for wider canoes or added stability. Pure awesomeness. Need to see it in action? Check out the video at the end of this post. Ruggedness is an understatement.
Wingman Outfitter’s short term goals are to continue to improve design in an effort to make the most diverse canoe outrigger system on the market. Long term, they hope to take the many accessory ideas they have into production. I was glad to hear of their determination to keep their products set at prices that us good ol’ blue collar folks can afford. Expect a store ready product by spring of 2016.
I cannot wait to get out on the water with the folks at Wingman Outfitter this fall and have us a good ol’ fashioned cast and blast. There’s not a doubt in my mind the platform can handle the recoil of a 12 gauge talkin’ to some waterfowl. Be on the lookout for the Wingman this spring. But in the meantime, help them out and visit their social media to support their business and to stay up to date on development and upcoming expos. Go to their Facebook and Instagram pages and follow them. And tell your friends to. Just tell everybody to.