Combining his best five events, with a grand total of 483 points, Guillermo Gonzalez was crowned the KATS 2017 Angler of the Year at the final KATS event in our regular season at Lake Travis.
We caught up with him to chat about this season and what we can expect from him in the future in both fishing, and life.
How long have you been fishing KATS?
I fished my first KATS tournament in 2014 on Lake Bastrop.
How did you get started kayak fishing?
I actually didn’t own a kayak of my own until I was in college. Growing up back in Miami, FL, I had a family friend that owned one. I would bother them constantly as a kid to let me take it out. It was a tandem ocean kayak and my friends and I would wreak havoc on Snook and Tarpon in the Biscayne Bay backcountry!”
What is one memorable experience you have from kayak fishing?
I’ve been blessed to have a lot of amazing experiences out on the water in my life. Perhaps the most memorable ones though were back in the bay with great friends growing up Snook fishing. I had an obsession with those fish. I can remember each and every sleigh ride like it was yesterday.
As far as KATS memories are concerned it’s hard for me not to remember my final battle against Greg Blanchard in the 2015 AOY race and how my day unfolded on Gibbons Creek Reservoir. The reason this was so memorable to me was because of the day I was having and how a little faith in my strategy and own ability allowed me to overcome an otherwise mediocre day. Below is an excerpt from an article written about me on Kayak Angler Online magazine about that day.
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 the 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 myself a chance if Greg had faltered.”
“Perhaps the most memorable ones though were back in the bay with great friends growing up Snook fishing. I had an obsession with those fish. I can remember each and every sleigh ride like it was yesterday.”
What is your favorite lake to fish and why?
LAKE FORK HANDS DOWN. I love this lake primarily because of what it’s capable of. I also love it because it is challenging and rewards hard work. All of the best days of bass fishing I have ever had have been on Lake Fork; along with some of my worst. Just a few months ago I had a day out there where my combined best 5 were over 113”.
Do you have any tips or tricks for beginners and/or other anglers?
My biggest piece of advice to up and coming kayak tournament anglers is to diversify yourself as much as possible. The more tricks you have in the bag, the easier it is to get ahead on a tough day of fishing. A big part of diversifying yourself is putting yourself on lakes that are challenging to you. These are the lakes that force you to fish outside your comfort zone and ultimately become a better angler. The more I have done this the more my weaknesses have become my strengths.
What is your must have fishing accessory?
As simple as it may seem, to me, having a lightweight, well designed paddle is a must as a paddling tournament angler. Those who have fished around me know that I like to cover a lot of water quickly. Unfortunately in tournament fishing you can’t choose the conditions the lake is going to throw at you; you can however choose your equipment. My paddle of choice is a Werner Kalliste 240 cm. This paddle is perfectly designed for a low-angle paddler like me. Since switching I have noticed that I have greater range and can carry a slightly higher cruising speed than I was able to previously. One of the cool things about KATS is that they offer paddlers the ability to rent high-end paddles during a tournament. I would encourage anyone to take advantage of this program and see the difference for themselves!
“As simple as it may seem, to me, having a lightweight, well designed paddle is a must as a paddling tournament angler.”
What was your strategy this season heading into KATS?
This season my strategy differed a little bit from previous seasons. I was only able to actually pre-fish one event. As a result, I made it a point at each tournament to fish my strengths according to the conditions. Luckily on a lot of the repeat lakes from previous years, I was able to fish a little bit of history and get by. Not being able to practice usually meant I had to cover a lot of water fast before I found stumbled into some fish; which is another reason why I feel like my Kalliste was such a valuable piece of equipment for me this year. Above all though, I really tried to stay open minded this season. I think not pre-fishing actually helped me stay open minded this year on some bodies of water
Who comes to mind when you hear the word “mentor”?
My goodness! A lot of people come to mind! Of course, my father taught me a lot about fishing. But most importantly I learned a lot about the value of hard work from my father. Those are the lessons that I feel have been much more valuable to me as a tournament angler.
As far as mentorship as a whole is concerned I feel like one can learn a lot from their peers as well. One of neat things about KATS is that it gives us an environment in which we can learn from each other as anglers. A cool thing that came into being this year, (thanks to Ryan Herzog) was the “Ask the Pro” segments on the KATS Facebook page. This is just one of many examples of how KATS provides a platform for tournament veterans to mentor new tournament anglers.
Beyond titles/awards, what does your involvement with KATS mean to you?
Everyone that fishes KATS wants to win; including me. If this was the only reason I had for fishing the series though, I wouldn’t fish it. Being from North Texas and traveling to fish a primarily Central Texas series can very exhausting. I do it though because it gives me the opportunity to connect and fish with some incredible people. Over that last few years I’ve gotten to know and become to close to a lot of the KATS crowd; some of which I can honestly call lifelong friends. I think fellowship is an important part of kayak tournament fishing; and with the dynamic group of competitors KATS attracts; I’d say KATS does fellowship right!
Favorite fish dish?
If I’m back home in Miami it’d be whichever fish dish my mother is whipping up next. Otherwise, it’s between a well made ceviche and grilled Wahoo!
What’s next – in life and in fishing?
I recently passed my real estate exam and I’m hoping to put my foot in the door in Farm and Ranch Sales. I don’t quite know yet how that is going to affect my tournament fish for next year, but I am hoping to run a similar schedule to the one I ran this year fishing KATS, the NTXKC, as well as other national kayak fishing tournaments. Hopefully next year I’ll also have the opportunity to fish in a few boat tournaments with my good friend and former TCU fishing team partner Joseph Sanderson!