Virginia Bass Anglers

Wes Smallwood Interview Part I: The Power of the Wilderness Systems Ride

I reached out to Virginia’s Wes Smallwood after seeing his impressive kayak fishing results. I love all of the information and detail Wes provided to us. I have divided his interview into 2 parts. In this part, we focus on his Wilderness System Ride 115x. We learn why he bought this kayak as well as how he is rigging it to fit his fishing needs. We also learn about something not covered in most reviews of the kayak, its towing power. Keep reading to find out what I mean.

I love the fact that you are such a die-hard kayak fisherman. What kayak are you fishing out of? And what is your review of the kayak for your fishing?

I currently fish out of a 2015 Wilderness Systems Ride 115x Max Angler edition. This is my first “fishing kayak,” and I did a lot of research on various kayaks around the $1,500 price range to find one that I felt fit my needs. Buying a fishing kayak can be a pretty daunting task, so my suggestion would be to make a list of things that are “must-haves” and then eliminate models that don’t fit those needs. For me, this kayak fits everything I need and offers a lot of room for me to rig it to my heart’s content the more I go.

My thoughts on the kayak as far as review goes are this: At 11’6” and a bit over 80lbs is plenty size for me and still is manageable enough for me to handle putting on/off my car. I “car-top” my kayak, as I do not have a truck/SUV, or a trailer, so having a big enough kayak that I can feel comfortable taking on various types of water, lakes and rivers, while still being able to load and unload on my own was the most important factor for me.

Since I do a lot of day-long outings, the next thing I looked for was a very comfortable, sturdy seat. The AirPro Max seat that comes on this model fits the bill perfectly. It’s adjustable from a low setting, easier paddling, to a high setting, elevated for better casting, and it also has a reclining position as well for those lazy summer days floating down the river. The seat also can be adjusted forward or backward to alter the boats trim while paddling based off of the gear I’m bringing along, and this really comes in handy at times when I’m fully loaded and need to paddle a good distance.

Since I decided to take part in kayak bass fishing tournaments, I also wanted a kayak that offered a removable console designed for electronics/fish finder units. The removable console on this kayak is perfect for me. It comes Lowrance Ready, and the unit mounts easily. All the wiring and battery fits inside the console, while the transducer mounts underneath in a protected portion of the boat’s hull. Yak Attack gear tracks are installed throughout the boat, giving me plenty of rigging options for my fishing needs.

The foot braces are of great quality as well, and adjust according to height and paddling preference. Plenty of hatches for storage as well, with a large tankwell in the rear for crates/tackleboxes, etc.

Another feature I have thoroughly enjoyed with this kayak is the overall stability. I’m a short, stocky guy about 5’8” 225lbs, and I have no problem standing and fishing from my Ride 115x. A stand-assist strap comes pre-installed to help balance getting up/down from the seat, and once you get used to it, standing becomes quite easy. It’s a lot of fun seeing people’s reaction to me standing and fishing from my kayak, and most people are quite surprised with how stable this kayak is when they see it in action.

wes-s-03What is your review of the Lowrance Hook for kayak fishing?

As mentioned earlier, one of the key components I needed to enhance my kayak fishing experience was a quality fish/depth finder unit. Being budget-conscious, I did not want to spend more than $200-$250 on a unit, which led me to the Lowrance Hook Fishfinder/Sonar line. I had previously used Lowrance units over the years on bass boats, so I was more familiar with that brand. I eventually decided to purchase the entry-level unit: Hook 4x. I really do love having this unit, as the CHIRP sonar and the Down Scan Imaging both provide amazing images and information. The 4” screen size is somewhat of an issue since it’s a little harder to see than larger screens, especially when you have both the Sonar and Downscan windows going at the same time. To me, this unit works well for those anglers looking to purchase a good, quality unit without breaking the bank.

One feature I would recommend saving up for is the Chartplotter feature, which costs an extra $100. The “x” means it does not come with Chartplotter, so marking way-points and seeing the lake’s map is not possible on my Hook-4x unit and is something I will definitely purchase on my next unit.

What other modifications have you made to enhance your kayak’s fishing power?

I’m still pretty early on in my rigging of my fishing kayak, which my wife has named Ol’ Agnes. She said my new girlfriend/kayak couldn’t have a pretty girl’s name…lol. But I have added a few things to it so far. In my opinion one of the key components to successful kayak fishing is to have a good crate/tackle storage system. That was my first rigging project. For starters, I kept it simple, and cheap, by getting a free milk crate to use as the central storage option for my Plano boxes to fit inside.

On the milk crate, I attached a Yak-Gear Build A Crate Triple Rod Holder, which mounts easily to the crate and allows for me to store tools such as pliers, fish grips, etc., along with three of my rods. I usually bring at least four rods with me out on any long trip on a lake, but I have other rod holders, Yak Attack’s Zooka Tube, that I use to store rods with as well. I am slowly expanding my rigging plans, and next on the list is a good anchor system, as well as a lighting system for when I fish at night.

I’m also preparing to begin shooting videos from my kayak, and I have the Yak Attack Boom stick set-up for a GoPro camera that I will begin using here in the near future. The options for rigging a fishing kayak are virtually endless, inhibited mostly by the angler’s own imagination.

wes-s-01Looks like you had to use the kayak to tow your dad in after his trolling motor went down for his boat. How much grief did you give him about needing a kayak angler to “rescue” him?

Oh man, we got a big kick out of this story! We were fishing on the lake at Fairystone State Park here in Virginia, and I wanted to fish from my kayak. My dad currently does not own a kayak, so he was fishing from his small 14’ jon boat. No gas-powered motors are allowed on that lake, so he was using his trolling motor while fishing. The wind was whipping pretty good that day, so he used a lot of his battery to maintain his location in order to fish certain spots on the lake.

By the time we needed to be getting off the lake, I noticed he was barely churning water trying to make it back to the boat ramp. Being the good son that I am, I offered to have him tie his rope onto the rear carry handle of my kayak and I would help tow him back to the ramp. It was quite a sight to see, and we laughed pretty much the entire way back to the ramp.

The best part was me almost causing him to fall overboard when he moved from the front of his boat to the rear. I was in the middle of putting quite a bit of torque into my forward stroke while paddling when he decided it’d be a good time for him to move to the rear of his boat to balance out the weight distribution a bit better. My forward thrust sent him lurching backwards, but he somehow managed to stay dry and fell right into his seat at the rear of the boat. We laughed til we cried on that one, and I still give him grief for running out of battery juice and having me tow him back to shore. That’s a perfect illustration though of some of the advantages of kayaking versus relying on electric/gas-powered motors! I most definitely got my cardio work-out for the day.

If you are considering a Wilderness Ride, you now have a great description of how it fishes. Thank you Wes! In the next interview, we discuss his Virginia fishing. Part II is just as good as Part I. So, check back in tomorrow. Check Wes out on Instagram and YouTube.