We had such a great time talking with Wes Smallwood, that we had to put the interview into two parts. If you haven’t read part I, you can read it here. In this interview, we start where we left off talking about Wes’ dad and the positive memories created by taking his son fishing. Thank you Wes’ dad! We then get into some Virginia fishing discussion including the fish story behind Wes’ Trophy Citation Smallmouth Bass. Fantastic reading from this young up and coming competitive kayak angler.
What has your dad meant in your life as an angler?
My dad was the first person to take me fishing. There are pictures of me in a diaper with my little green Zebco rod in my hand down near a local lake where I grew up. My dad took my brother and I fishing frequently as kids, teaching us the basics of fishing, and some of my fondest memories as a kid revolve around those outings with dad.
He has been a big support to me throughout the years, and there’s no better place to go hang out and enjoy quality time together than out on a lake fishing! During high school and college, I did not get to fish as often as I would have liked, but since that time we both have fished quite a bit together. We usually have a lil’ friendly competition when we go to spice up the competition a bit, but the biggest focus is having a good time together out on the water catching fish.
When I decided to delve into the kayak fishing tournament aspect of things this year, dad was one of my biggest supporters. He tagged along with me on my first in-person event this year, and he is a big encourager along the way. My immediate goal is to get him into a kayak of his own so he can join us on the tournament trail!
This year you caught a Virginia Trophy Fish Award Smallmouth. Tell us the fish story on this one
Ah, this fish is most definitely my favorite of the year so far! I was fishing with a good buddy of mind Dustin (@outdoor_va_madness on IG) on the South Fork Shenandoah River in early September. I fished the Shenandoah with Dustin virtually every day since June, with most of our big fish being Largemouth bass. The Smallmouth bite was mostly a numbers thing, where we would catch a good amount in the 14-16” range, but had not hooked into anything close to the trophy size, in Virginia it’s 20” by length.
The outing started out on a bad foot when I realized I had left my contacts at home and would not be able to wear my Costa Fantails while on the water on a bright and sunny afternoon. We had fished for a few hours, and the sun was beginning to set. I had been alternating between fishing a Ned Rig, Senko, and Whopper Plopper 90 for most of the afternoon, but when the sun started getting low in the sky I went exclusively to my all-time favorite topwater lure: Whopper Plopper 90 by River2Sea.
I was focusing on an area just above a class I rapid, and I had caught two 15” Smallmouth bass nearby. On this cast, I threw the Plopper up from the current and let it drift slowly down, barely moving the lure in the water. When that fish blew up on the bait, it looked like an Atom Bomb was dropped in the river it was so vicious! I knew I had something big on, but I wasn’t sure just how big until it came flying out of the water a few seconds later, kicking and screaming like a demon. When I got a full-body view of the fish, I had a good feeling it was a trophy-sized fish. The fish was hooked solid, and after fighting through another two jumps/shakes and having her run directly between my legs, I was wading next to my kayak, and somehow managing to keep her buttoned up, I netted my first Certified VA Trophy Smallmouth Bass. It measured 20.5” long and came in just under 4lbs at 3lbs 14oz on my digital scales.
I have caught several trophy Largemouth bass in lakes and private ponds, but this was my first landing of a trophy Smallmouth. There really is no comparison between the amount of fight a Smallmouth puts up versus a Largemouth; they absolutely fight like the devil!
What are your favorite Virginia kayak fishing waters?
Virginia has a plethora of great fishing waters, and I have not been able to fish them all yet…there’s a bucket-list item for me. It’s hard to choose which body of water is my absolute favorite places to fish, so I will give you a few different ones.
My favorite river to fish would have to be the New River, although the Shenandoah is a close second. The New River is absolutely loaded with fish of all species, with great opportunities to catch trophy-sized fish throughout. While I have not been able to fish the New as much recently as I would like, we usually do at least one float each year.
My favorite public lake that I have fished would be Philpott Lake. People will probably wonder why I chose that lake, as it is notoriously tough to fish, but this is the lake I have spent more time on than any other and is the one I have the most knowledge and confidence to find and catch fish. There’s just no place like home. It’s also an absolutely beautiful place to fish, with practically the entire shoreline being undeveloped and in its natural state.
Now, that being said, there are a lot of other great places to fish in Virginia that I will be getting to in the near future. Virginia has a wide variety of quality bass waters, and I encourage everyone to come check us out!
What are the three critical talents/skills/attributes that make you a successful kayak anglers?
Patience, persistence, and practice! My three “P’s” of fishing. They call it fishing instead of catching for a reason. It can be very frustrating at times, but with a lot of patience, persistence, and practice, an angler can gain confidence in themselves to turn an outing into a successful fish-catching adventure. If you get frustrated and start getting too much “into your own head” about things, you will find yourself all over the place on the water without much success.
Having the ability to be patient and stay focused on what the fish are telling you will enable you to make the necessary adjustments to put fish in the boat. Persistence is important because you have to understand there will be plenty of times you go out and get skunked. I view those days as more of a puzzle that I have to solve, and continue to push ahead at getting better. Lastly, as with anything else, if you don’t practice on a regular basis, you cannot expect to improve. Sure, some people have a natural ability to do certain things better than others, but if those people never practice, they will never reach their full potential!
After we did this interview, Wes learned that he qualified for 2017 Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship on Kentucky Lake next March. What an honor! Great job Wes! And thank you for all of the information you shared with us.