Virginia’s Yoan Lopez comes from an area with some outstanding fishing the New River Valley. In this Dock Talk 365 interview, we talk to Yoan about his kayak fishing and his favorite places to fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass in Virginia.
When did you start fishing?
I was born in Cuba and started fishing there at a very early age. My dad loved to fish, and he worked at a fishing port. He would take me to the docks where the shrimp boats were. We would fish from the docks or the back of a shrimp boat. We didn’t use conventional tackle like we use today. We hand lined. We used home made yo-yo reels and mono. That’s how I learned the basics of fishing.
What got you started into kayak fishing?
There were a few things that really drew me to kayak fishing. Having the ability to fish the local creeks and rivers in the area being one of the biggest one. Southwest Virginia has some really good small bodies of water ideal for a kayak that have excellent fishing.
You can also be very competitive in a kayak. I really like fishing tournaments. The tournament seen around here is really good with a lot of very good anglers.
The thing I love the most about fishing from a kayak is the fact that you can really take in the world around you. It lets you appreciate the sights and sounds of the outdoors that some people miss when they are too busy zooming around out there.
It also allows you to really break down the area you are fishing. Many times the difference between catching and not catching is noticing subtle details you might otherwise miss if you get in a hurry.
The other thing I have really come to appreciate out of fishing from a kayak is the kayak community. Fishing with people that are just as passionate about fishing from a kayak as I am has been really rewarding. I have learned a lot fishing with some of these guys and with kayak fishing becoming so popular it’s not hard to find a local club around you.
Tell us about your Ascend kayak.
My Ascend FS12T has been an excellent fishing platform. It has plenty of room for gear and is very stable which allows me to stand up and fish. It is very easy to maneuver both on the river and on the lake. It’s a bit on the heavy side so it is slower than some other kayaks out there but that’s not a big deal to me. For the price point it’s an excellent option for someone looking to get started in kayak fishing.
What accessories have you added to the Ascend to maximize it for you from a bass fishing perspective?
The most important thing I have done to the kayak so far has been to raise the seat. It was very easy to do and has made for a significantly more comfortable ride. Allows me to stand up a lot easier. It’s made a huge difference and it took about 30 minutes to do.
I keep everything else simple. I have a crate for tackle with rod holders and I run a kayak anchor from the front handle to a Yakattack GT cleat. Less is more sometimes, especially when it comes to fishing.
Living in the New River Valley, you fish the New River. What do you like about this river?
The New River is an absolute gem. Flowing north out of North Carolina and snaking it’s way through the Virginia mountains into West Virginia with some amazing views along the way. The smallmouth fishing is phenomenal. Especially in the Giles County stretch before it goes into West Virginia. The river is full of quality smallmouths and in some stretches you might even hook into some big largemouth.
There are some dangerous sections of the river so it’s always important to do your homework before paddling certain sections but for the most part it’s easy paddling. Always always wear your PFD. The river is very healthy and full of life, you will find a large array of game species to chase. Big muskies and walleye, strippers and catfish all have good populations of the New River.
You seem to be a bit of a tackle junkie. What are your three favorite baits for catching New River smallies?
When the water temps start to rise in spring and the smallmouths start moving from their wintering holes into spawning areas, a half once chartreuse and white War Eagle spinnerbait is the deal. I will throw it all spring and when the water gets up throughout the year. They absolutely hammer it. I concentrate on rocky ares close to fast water and work the banks. Many times you will also find them in that fast water.
As the water temps get up and the crayfish start getting more active I really like a PowerTeam Lures Food Chain Tube. Just giving it little hops or dragging it on the bottom.
A bait that I have been really trying to dial in this year had been a Ned rig. I have had lots of success with a Z-man TRD. Craw color crankbaits, jerkbaits and vibrating jigs are also very effective.
What are your other favorite largemouth and smallmouth bass area waters to fish?
Claytor Lake, which is part of the New River, is another body of water I spend lots of time on. Even though the lake gets a lot of pressure, it can be very good in the spring. There is a large population of spotted bass and good largemouth as well along with some really nice smallmouth. The nice thing about it is you don’t have to paddle too far to find good fishing.
Smith Mountain Lake is only a little over an hour from me, and it’s definitely one of the best bass fishing lakes in Virginia. And it’s only getting better.
You are fishing Enigma Phenom rods. Beside being quite bright, what do you like about fishing these rods?
The best thing I like about my Engima Rods is you get the sensitivity of a very expensive rod at a very affordable price point. They have a model to fit any kind of pattern you’re fishing and they come with microwave eyes which really give you better casting along with the improved sensitivity.
One bait that I am very curious about is a pic that looks like you had a football jig with a TRD bait as a “trailer”. Did you throw this? Did it work?
The TRD trailer definitely did the trick on that little jig. I found the best retrieve was just a slow drag with a long pause. Most of the bites came on the pause.
You have some other fun baits like a bat and a Sierra Nevada bar bait. What is the craziest bait that you have caught a fish on?
I do some saltwater fishing down in the gulf coast of Florida. Couple of years ago I picked up some DOA Shrimp and I was talking to a guy from Wisconsin how he said he loved them for bass fishing up there. So I tried them on the river and sure enough the smallmouths will definitely hit a shrimp.
Do you have any pro staff companies?
I am on staff with Enigma, Powerteam lures and Osprey fishing tackle. Powerteam in my opinion makes the best tube on the market. The Food Chain Tube is a killer on the smallmouth and they have some fantastic colors.
Their Sick Sticks are also a must have. I wacky rig them on a very light weighted wacky hook. Good all around stick worm.
Osprey makes a really good underspin. I match it up the a Swing Impact Fat and do really well in the spring. Their swing head is also really good. What I like best about it is the paint job. I have drug that bad boy though some nasty rocks, and it always holds up well. That’s hard to find sometimes.
Thank you Yoan. I need to get down to the New River soon! Until then, will be following all of your catches on Instagram.
Read more Dock Talk 365 interviews about New River Bass Fishing.