Guillermo Gonzalez is Werner Paddles pro staffer and a tournament angler–maybe the most succesful tournament angler that you’ve never heard of in fact. After an amazing 2015 season, Werner Paddles’ Danny Mongo tracked the angler down to catch up and find out how his passion for kayak fishing is helping his podium finishes throughout the Texas tournament scene.
Werner Paddles: Give us a little back story.
Guillermo Gonzalez: I’m 25 years old and live in Forth Worth, Texas. I was originally born in San Juan, Puerto Rico but when I was 8 years old we moved to Miami, FL where I spent most of my years growing up. Along with proudly being a part of the Werner Paddle’s family, I am also sponsored by Diablo Paddlesports, Xcite Baits, Somethin’ Fishy Custom Rods, Backwoods Forth Worth (a Werner Paddle’s dealer), Shiner Energy and SeaDek Marine.
WP: How did you start kayak fishing?
GG: I started kayak fishing when I was about 13 years old. A family friend of ours had an old tandem kayak that they didn’t use too often. I called constantly, asking for permission to take it out. Usually my main targets were snook and baby tarpon in the mangroves.
WP: What tournaments were your most memorable this season?
GG: Well I have to be honest, they are all important to me because of how I prepare and test myself. Sometimes you work super hard, but the cards just don’t line up, but I have had some great finishes this year as well. Among some other great memories, here are my personal bests for 2015:
- Kayak Anglers Tournament Series (KATS) Lake Naconiche — 1st place
- Kayak Anglers Tournament Series (KATS) Wildcard on Lake Athens- 1st place
- Kayak Anglers Tournament Series (KATS) Angler of the Year Ranking — 2nd place
- Kayak Anglers Tournament Series (KATS) King of the Fish Ranking — 4th place
- Mariner Sails Series event at Lake Fork-1st place
- River Bassin Tournament Trail — 1st place Team — 3rd overall
- Backwoods sponsored fly fishing event / Brazos River — 1st place
- Backwoods sponsored event / Trinity River — 2nd place
- Kayak Anglers Tournament Series (KATS) Gibbons Creek Reservoir — 2nd place
- Kayak Anglers Tournament Series (KATS) Lake Fayette — 2nd place
- 2nd at a Mariner Sails series event on Purtis Creek.
Photo: Guillermo holds up a monster 8.5 pound Texas largemouth bass.
WP: What was the most memorable moment this tournament season?
GG: The KATS Classic win this year is hard to beat. Especially with the great day of fishing I had on the second day. If I had to pick one moment though, it’d be the last regular season event at Gibbons Creek Reservoir. Going into the final KATS stop, I knew that however unlikely, I had a chance at winning angler of the year. Greg Blanchard (AOY winner, and probably one of the nicest guys in kayak fishing) is a great angler who needed to have a pretty bad day in order for me to win. On top of him having a bad day, I had to have a great day.
In pre-fishing I found several schools of smaller fish and one school of larger fish. The catch was that my bigger fish wouldn’t eat till the sun got high in the sky. I had to save my best spot for literally right before the weigh-in. On tournament day, I had a decent limit going into the afternoon but certainly nothing that I felt was capable of helping me pass Blanchard in points. Mildly frustrated, I paddled to my last spot hoping to make a few culls.
The fish were there but they were not fired up. I didn’t get a bite in a whole hour of fishing it. This heightened my frustration a bit. After about an hour, I started to notice increased fish activity on my graph. Those fish that had just been sitting there began moving around. I switched over to a 6XD in hopes of putting some of those newly active fish in my boat. It was on! I caught about 8 fish and made 4 culls in about 10 minutes. My final cull during that flurry was the most memorable moment of the season. I’m pretty sure the whole lake heard my sigh of relief when that fish made it into the boat.
While it wasn’t the biggest fish I caught in a tournament this season, It was a 22.5″ that culled 17.25″, and under the circumstances, it was necessary. Greg had a great day on the water, and deserved every bit of the AOY winning trophy. But it was good to know I at least gave my self a chance if Greg had faltered.
WP: With all the tournament trails in your area, why put so much emphasis on KATS this year?
GG: I decided to fish KATS this year to challenge myself. While all the tournament trails in Texas have highly skilled anglers, I viewed KATS as having the most well-rounded in terms of competition. I believe that this year the total participation for KATS was about 236 anglers, with more than one tournament bringing over 130 people.
I also wanted an opportunity to compete in the KATS Classic. Next year, KATS is planning on hosting a Classic Elite Series. Instead of one tournament to crown the Classic Champion, there will be three. I recommend KATS to anyone considering getting involved in the kayak fishing tournament scene.
Photo: Guillermo Gonzalez took the win on Lake Naconiche at the KATS tournament, taking home prizes and of course the BIG check.
WP: What’s the secret to your success?
GG: The biggest reason for my success this year is my ability to pattern fish. In the past few years all of my non-tournament related fishing trips have been about learning and understanding what’s below my kayak and how the fish relate to it. This includes understanding current, forage, bottom contour, bottom hardness, and other bottom characteristics. The majority of my success this year has come from being able to find subtleties on the bottom and figuring out how fish relate to them based on the surrounding conditions.
WP: What fishing kayak are you using and how do you feel it has been a key piece of your success?
GG: I fish out of a Diablo Amigo and Diablo Adios. The ability to stand is extremely beneficial when fishing structure. I find that while standing I’m more alert and I can gain a better understanding of what the bottom is like. A graph doesn’t always tell you everything. Sometimes you have to drag a bait around to gain a better understanding for what’s down below the boat.
Standing up also makes sweeping a big hookset easier. While dragging a carolina rig or a football jig out deeper it’s usually better to reel up slack and sweep across a hookset as opposed to making one big yank. In a seated position hooksets tend to be awkward anyways. Plus, if I am sitting and fishing the Diablo allows me to stand up quickly and make a solid hookset. Being able to stand is a HUGE asset while fishing shallow as well, especially when making precise presentations.
WP: What paddle have you been using this season and how is that helped?
GG: This is a difficult question to answer because of how much I love both my Camano: Hooked and Kalliste: Hooked paddles. The Kalliste helped me this year in situations where I had to conquer the wind or make longer runs. The Camano is hands down the best work horse paddle on the market. It can take an absolute beating on the tournament trail and still get you to where you need to go with as little effort expended as possible. This helps me stay focused less on my energy levels and more on putting a limit in the boat!
Photo: Guillermo Gonzalez spends his off-season hunting waterfowl from his Diablo Paddlesports kayak.
WP: Can you give us some insight on how you are tricking these HUGE bass to hit your baits, even during hot Texas summers?
GG: They certainly don’t call it the dog days of summer for no reason. The fishing gets tough in Texas when the temps reach the sky. It has been my opinion that while the heat does make fish more lethargic, the primary reason that the fishing gets tough, is the dispersion of forage and bass. Bass can be found, shallow, deep, and suspended. This can make pinpointing a particular pattern difficult. With that being said, summer fishing can be fairly straight forward too.
I think a big part of being successful in the summer is patience. Personally, I like to look for summer fish out in deeper water, usually near the thermocline. Quite often this summer I found myself frustrated, knowing I was on top of fish, but not getting bit. The best way for me to handle that frustration was to open up a cold bottle of water and KEEP CASTING. Usually, just when I felt like I’d about had enough of that area or pattern, I’d catch a good one or two! In the summer, bite windows tend to be short, but when they start to eat, you can rack them up real quick!
This applies to fishing anywhere in the water column. If you know you’re on fish, don’t abandon a pattern after 10 casts. Fish patiently and methodically. At times when the bite gets slow I lose focus and my presentation suffers. So long as you’re not fishing a pattern that makes absolutely no sense and you stay focused, trust your gut and fish that pattern through, you may be pleasantly surprised!
WP: Do you give any thought to nutrition, hydration and fitness for paddling strength?
GG: I am not a fitness expert by any means. For me, preparation for a hot day of fishing begins days before the outing. I try to drink at least 90oz of water a day. For those that are familiar, that’s about three Nalgene bottles. I bring them to work with me and try to knock two of them out during work hours and one after work. I also try to eat a breakfast with protein. The protein keeps my mind working properly throughout the day. To keep my mind off food I tend to keep bars in my boat at all times. Thinking about food definitely affects my fishing productivity.
WP: We’ve seen you on the bass tournament trail, are there other species you like to target?
GG: During the winter off-season I love to hunt waterfowl. Aside from hunting waterfowl however, I love to fly fish for just about anything that swims. Whenever I am fortunate enough to visit my family in Florida, my old friends and I will hit old stomping ground and chase snook, tarpon, redfish and peacock bass. If you haven’t caught a big snook out of a kayak, do it. That’s all I have to say!
Photo: Besides largemouth bass, Guillermo Gonzalez also likes to get after inshore species like big snook, with a fly rod.
WP: With an amazing 2015 under your belt, what are your goals for the 2016 season?
GG: Aside from becoming a better angler, hands down my goal is to win KATS Angler of the Year. I certainly have a lot to work on as an angler, but I know I am capable and will do my best to accomplish that goal.
Not long before this interview was published, Guillermo started making good on his push to improve in 2016. Mid-March he made the trip all the way to chilly Kentucky and ended up with a second place finish at the KBF Open and 11th in the KBF National Championship. The future is bright for this young man and we are certainly excited to be a part of it. Beyond his talent as an angler is his positive attitude, working with our staff and shops in Texas everyone has a kind word about him, something that makes us even more proud to call him part of the Werner Paddles family.