Werner. Check it out...
With the fall fishing season upon us and the "Kayak Fishing Boondoggle" in Florida just a few weeks away, we caught up with Werner Paddles pro-staff Richie Bekolay. A recent transfer to the Florida Gulf coast finds him in the perfect position to take the lead at the event with sales and marketing representative Megan Kieninger. Let’s see what he had to say about the Florida heat, chasing sharks, some advice on paddle length for raised seat boats and the "Boondoggle" with the Werner crew.
Werner - "You’ve recently moved to the Florida Gulf Coast. How do you like it?"
Bekolay - "I love it! Being active duty Air Force and on a controlled tour in Virginia, I could have went to plenty of places with no water to paddle in. It’s a huge blessing for my family and I to be stationed in an area that I can do my job yet still purse my passion."
Werner - "How’s a kid from Wisconsin dealing with that heat?"
Bekolay - "I’m not going to lie; it is a little rough at times. I can deal with the heat; it’s the humidity that gets me. I try and acclimate myself to it by driving with my windows down instead of always cranking the AC. I also try and spend a lot of time outside which helps out with conditioning for long days on the water."
Werner - "What species of fish do you see yourself targeting most each season?"
Bekolay - "Good question! I love targeting the flats for speckled trout and redfish, so I will try and do that throughout the year. Early in the year, I will go for big redfish and sheepshead, then turn my attention to cobia during their migration. As spring gets in full swing, I will spend a lot of my time offshore going for snapper and other bottom species. Then it’s on to chase mackerel, mahi, and other pelagics throughout the summer and fall months. Making it full circle, I will lastly go after the big redfish again. There is never a dull moment!"
Werner - "The Gulf has its share of sharks. Any thoughts on trying to land one bigger than Rob Choi’s 75" Black Tip?"
Bekolay - "Whew, that was an awesome catch by an awesome angler. Rob has my respect as one of the best I’ve had the privilege to know and fish with. He made that catch look more attainable than it really is. I may go after sharks in the near future, but I have not really thought it out yet. I will say that I have seen a couple in my short time hear that would come close to the class of shark that Rob landed. Who knows, the competitive spirit in my bones might want to go after his, ha-ha."
Werner - "Do you see some patterns that you picked up from the Tidewater region of Virginia crossing over to the Gulf, or is it pretty much starting from scratch?"
Bekolay - "I look at it this way, for the most part, fishing is fishing. When you break down the basics and fundamentals of each region, it’s somewhat relative. Once the angler finds out the local forage for the fish they’re going after, it becomes much easier. For example; to me a redfish is a redfish. But the redfish you’re targeting in Virginia feed on a lot of crabs and mullet and not shrimp, compared to the redfish in Florida that love shrimp."
Werner - "How long have you been on the Pro-staff for Johnson Outdoors?"
Bekolay - "This October is 2 great years that I will be on their Pro Staff. Hopefully we can continue working together for many more."
Werner - "I ask because we saw that your new Old Town Predator 13 showed up. How is that boat going to handle the open water of the gulf?"
Bekolay - "I just took it out recently into "less than desirable" conditions. I had to punch through a few good sized waves to get out of the surf. The Predator handled it remarkably well. I took on a ton of water into the cockpit from the surf but I was amazed on how fast the water drained out of the scupper valves. The kayak tracks very well without a rudder and handles very nice. The boat is very stable which means it’s a little wider than the popular open water kayaks. You will sacrifice a little speed for stability which there is no way around. Also, the sidewalls are a little taller than some of the other popular open water kayaks which mean the wind is going to be more of a factor. What you’re gaining in return is storage, stability, and comfort. It’s a great kayak!"
Werner - "Have you found any changes in your paddle length with the high seat option?"
Bekolay - "There has been so much buzz around this lately, adjustable length and what not. I just don’t see it. I’m way too busy out there fishing and paddling to be messing with changing paddle length, and for what, a few centimeters? I’d rather just stick to what works, a simple, solid ferrule system. My Werner has a nice smooth shaft and nothing gets hung up on it. I size my paddle to work in the high-seat and it works just fine in the low seat position. For my height, in that boat, 240cm is perfect. I use the size charts from your site to find the exact paddle length for my paddling style. I will say the charts are spot on!
Werner - "I know you love catching some large mouth, especially in tournaments. What’s the scene like in Florida?"
Bekolay - "The largemouth bass scene is pretty awesome down here. There are a lot of farm ponds as well as lakes that are known throughout the country. The only problem for me is the saltwater scene for kayak fisherman is world class and it’s hard to chase bucketmouths when there is an array of saltwater species to target. I just need to find some balance between the two."
Werner - "So we are stoked to be having you on board for Boondoggle, what are you expecting?"
Bekolay - "I expect a great time with a great atmosphere. The whole purpose behind this event is to get kayak anglers together from around the country to fish with no strings attached and no tournament pressure. Everybody just fishes together for pure enjoyment. Along with the fishing is the social atmosphere. My favorite part about big events is getting to catch up with old friends as well as making new ones. Since I will be there with Werner Paddles, I expect to get other anglers excited about paddling a Werner just like I am. I know there will be fishermen that are ready to make the next step in upgrading their paddle. My goal is to show as many people as possible that a great paddling paddle makes a great kayak fishing paddle."
Werner -"Any advice for anglers travelling to Florida for their first kayak fishing experience?"
Bekolay - "My advice is take what you know and apply it to your new adventure. If you’re a saltwater fisherman from the Northeast or a musky and walleye fisherman from the Midwest, it’s all related. Do your homework ahead of time, well ahead of time. The internet is loaded with "how to’s", local reports, weather conditions, and any other reference to help the angler be successful. I believe this… those who put it most work ahead of time reap the biggest rewards when it counts."
Werner - "As we wrap this up, I am sure readers will want to know how to keep up with you now that know a bit more about you. Tell us about your Blog, "Hook Line and Sinker."
Bekolay - "HookLine-Sinker.net (HLS) is a site where a reader can get entertaining information and fishing reports. I try and write about a little bit of everything. There are posts about gear choices, tactics and techniques, "how to’s", and product reviews. I try and write about every outing, either good or bad. Now, I don’t give exact spots or gps coordinates because I also believe in anglers finding their own honey holes and putting time on the water. On the flip side, I will always try and point somebody in the right direction if they want advice or a helpful tip. Also, I like to try and post sharp, creative pictures on HLS. You can have the best day on the water, but it makes it that much better when you can capture your catch through photo and video. My goal for HLS is to attract anglers that want to get a good laugh while learning something new, along with making somebody say, D@#n, that’s a cool photo!
Thanks for the time today Richie, we certainly had fun it and we know our kayak anglers are going to enjoy reading it.
Richie has been an inspiration to us at Werner Paddles and a key reason for the success we are having with the Hooked line and reaching out to the kayak fishing community. He is never short of energy, laughs or the willingness to help others. It’s an honor to call him a friend and have him on our pro-staff.
If you’re at the Boondoggle stop by the Werner booth and say hello, or give "Hook Line and Sinker" a follow. Above all, thanks for your service to our Country.