A year or two ago, I linked up with Wes Widrig via social networking on Facebook. He was regularly posting pictures of big Virginia smallies and other species. Eventually, I started to notice some sweet video footage as well. It did not take long before folks started recognizing his hard work and enthusiasm. Wes is quickly building an impressive fishing resume, and recently added the title of Wilderness Systems Pro Staffer. Now, he is even more eager to share his passion for kayak fishing with anyone interested.
Take a look at what Wes had to say about a variety of fishing topics, and if you are interested, give him a shout, and I bet he would be willing to chase trophy smallmouth or muskies with you on his home river - the New River in central VA.
Anytime I get a chance to fish I'll target any species, but for me the smallmouth bass is my favorite. Their predictable, yet "unpredictable" behavior presents the challenge that I can never get enough of. Plus they are acrobatic all the way to the boat.
2. I recently learned that you are a bit of a road warrior when it comes to tournaments. Walk us through what your tournament season looks like – events, dates, locations, how far they are from home, etc.
This years tournament season is a busy one. I am fishing with 3 different organizations covering 3 different states. Carolina Kayak Anglers, Mountain State Kayak Anglers, and the newest trail here in Southwest Virginia and Southern West Virginia, The Gillbilly Tournament Trail Series. Each series will feature lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. The season started March 7th and runs late into October. Most of the tournaments are within 3 1/2 hours, including some that are less than a half hour away - The New River in my hometown of Pembroke, VA and Claytor Lake in Dublin, VA to be exact.
3. I know that, like me, you are a river rat at heart. How did you first choose a river fishing kayak and what do you currently paddle?
For me getting into kayaking was as simple as shopping at the local sporting goods store for a reasonably priced fishing kayak. I fished from a sit inside kayak for about 6 months before upgrading to a much more suitable fishing machine, the sit on top. It just so happened to be a Wilderness Systems Ride 115, and I have been paddling it to this day since February of 2012.
4. You are allowed to pick ONE go-to bait for each season (spring,summer, fall, winter). What are they and why?
It's got to be a jig! I like a swim jig with a beaver style trailer in the spring, summer, and fall. One that resembles a blue gill preferably. As far as winter goes a compact football jig is hard to beat when those cold water temps really set in.
5. What places are on your fishing wish list and why? Give me a top 3 in the US and 1 international.
Lake Erie for giant smallmouth on a drop shot with light line is top of the list. Mainly because those smallies are huge and catching them on light line is such a difficult challenge.
Catching big Amberjack in the Gulf has always been a favorite past time for me. My grandfather used to charter out of Panama City Beach Florida and we would catch Amberjack 100 feet down on artificial reefs. I would love to charter a kayak offshore and attempt this style of fishing.
Third would be another Northern fishery. The great Susquehanna River. Any hardcore smallie guy knows they grow big in PA.
I've always wanted to catch a Tarpon. Florida would be the suitable destination, but if I had my choice either Trinidad or Puerto Rico.
6. What is your favorite fishing technique and why?
I've always been a soft plastics guy. Floating worms, senkos, tubes, and grubs. Whenever fishing currents, these baits can produce year round. Especially in clear water, where a finesse presentation is necessary. My favorite has to be a 3/16 oz finesse jig twin tail hula grub in green pumpkin.
7. I’ve seen a number of your videos pop-up in various places online over the past year or two. What do you think are the most important parts of a good kayak fishing video? Any do’s or don’ts?
Have fun with the videos. Everyone's technique is different and videoing skills are not easy. Find what works for you. I like over the shoulder action and underwater shots. For me it best tells my story on the water.
Do's: Film as much as possible. Short increments can help in quicker editing. For better slow motion captures, record in 720.
Don'ts: Most videos are shorter in length packed full of action and thrills. Keep the video's length reasonable. 20 minutes of sitting while fishing isn't that entertaining.
8. I recently found out that your girlfriend is also a kayak angler. Be honest, how often does she out-fish you?
That's funny, because it really only took her a couple times on the water to out fish me. It seems like every time we make a wager, especially the whole loser cooks dinner bet, I lose. She always wins those!
9. Out of all the gear you carry on your kayak, what is the one thing you wouldn’t leave home without (excluding kayak, paddle, rods, reels, and baits)?
I'm a trophy smallmouth hunter, so I always have my hawg trough for length measurements and a boga grip for measuring weight. I'm constantly looking for that next personal best fish.
10. Have you ever had or been around for a scary kayaking moment? If so, what happened, and if not, what types safety precautions do you take/use?
There's been a couple times where I had to perform a rescue while kayaking. Drew, you know in this sport it can go from good to bad in a matter of seconds. And while paddling flows like creeks and rivers, current can play a big factor in misguiding the boat or simply getting swept sideways into a rock. Learning to read water does help in avoiding these occurrences. I've seen boats pinned to rocks and overflowing with water on the river bottom. Another time a friend of mine didn't make a hard left thru a channel swing on Walkers Creek and wound up in some brush that had been pushed up against the bank from the faster water. Luckily both times turned out OK and no one was hurt. Staying calm in these situations, for both the victims and the rescuers, is mandatory. Sometimes its as easy as leaving the boat and gear and floating out. It is another reason why your PFD is a must.