Blake Gill

 

A New Orleans resident by way of Florida and Hawaii, Blake Gill is a talented angler and manager of Massey’s, one of Louisiana’s largest outdoor outfitters. Having grown up in the ocean, Blake has parlayed his lifelong fishing passion into a string of impressive tournament finishes, including the 2011 Paddlepalooza’s 1st place Leopard Red and the 2010 IFA Cocodrie’s Big Red. A truly passionate ambassador of the sport, Blake can often be found chasing local reds and honing his knowledge of his vast product line.

 What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?

I had kayak fished as a hobby while growing up in Florida (since 2003), but spent less than 10 days a year doing it, mainly because I always had access to a boat. When I moved to Louisiana in 2008, it became my only way to get out on the water, and that’s when I really became entrenched. These days, I’m spending around 65 days a year in a kayak and I still have my full time job. It doesn’t take long for it to become an obsession.


Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?

Honestly I don’t. I grew up fishing the surf and back bays out of canoes and kayaks in South Florida, so it was a while ago. If I had to take a guess, I’d say probably a Mangrove Snapper. That was always the target species for us growing up because they were always around and they eat great.


So, you are a manager at one of the biggest outfitters in Louisiana, tell us how you got into the retail outdoors industry?

I fell into it as much as you can fall into a job. I had moved to New Orleans from St. Augustine, FL one month prior to walking into Massey’s, and was looking for a job somewhere in advertising or PR in downtown New Orleans (I have my undergrad degree in Public Relations). After no luck, I needed some income and retail fit the bill just fine, especially because there was a fleet of demo kayaks that I was free to use. Massey’s brought me on for retail floor sales staff, and I quickly discovered that I was the only employee in a company of 50 that had a lot of experience fishing from a kayak. I spearheaded growing our kayak department, and after a few months of solid sales growth and community outreach, the cards fell in my favor. One manger left, then another, and I was there to pick up the pieces. After a year, I was allowed to help with buying and split my time somewhat. I’m now our New Orleans manager, paddle-sports buyer, cycling buyer and outreach coordinator. We have some other projects on the back burner, and it’s exciting to be a part of a company that has like minded people and is focused on growth.



 

What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?

When it comes to music, I listen to everything except pop-country and mainstream rap. I’m a big Grateful Dead fan and that’s always rotating through, but I guess I listen to a lot of reggae on the way to the water…that always puts me in the right place before I head out.


Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?

I might be a little biased, but I think the Gulf Coast kayak fisherman have a lot to do with advancements and developments in kayak angling products, and are some of the most skilled in the states. Down here, the fishing is so strong, year-around, and so competitive, that you really have to be a good fisherman to make some noise. I also think that the rapport among all the guys and gals that fish down here is really welcoming and friendly. Every day on the water, whether it be tourney or not, is treated the same and everybody has a great time fishing together.


With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?

Growing up in a state with really strong fishing regulations (size and bag limits) and a big problem with over fishing, I’ve always believed strongly in the conservation of species for future generations. Since moving to Louisiana, where coastal erosion is such a huge issue, I’ve really become a strong believer in that. Overall, I guess a cohesive mentality towards conservation is what is most important to me when it comes to angling in general. I see Louisiana today as being what Florida was 50 years ago (an incredibly prolific fishery) and I don’t want to see the same thing happen. We need to be proactive today, so that we don’t have to be retroactive later.


 

 

Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?

My dream is a long distance kayak fishing trek along the Florida Paddling Trail. I’ve always hiked and backpacked, and loved the feeling of being out in nature with no cares. While I get to do that all the time for short periods in a yak, I’d love to take an extended trip, circling Florida, catching every major species that lives along the coast on the way. At 1550 miles, it’s the longest paddling trail in the US, and will remain on my tick list ‘til I can knock it out.


Being in the outdoors industry in management and working as a buyer, you get to travel to some great destinations and events; where are some of the coolest places you have been to? Did you get to squeeze in some outdoors time such as kayak fishing, surfing, hiking etc.?

I definitely try to get in as much outdoor time as I can while on business trips, but one of the best parts of this job is that it is understood that most people work in the outdoor industry because they like to spend time outside. Because of that, I have the freedom to travel and spend time outdoors while I maintain my responsibilities at work. Last year, I was able to take trips to Hawaii, Lake Tahoe, northern Alabama, Alabama Gulf Coast, South Florida, Florida panhandle, northern Georgia, and a ton of spots in Louisiana and Mississippi.


What’s in your milk crate?

4 rods, Fish Grips, Boga Grips, Nippers, Mirrodines, Super Spooks, Marsh Works Gold Spoons, Saltwater Assassins and TTF soft baits, jigheads, 17lb Flourocarbon leader (shhh!), Headlamp, Sunscreen, Buff.



 

Tell us about your best day on the water.

My best day on the water, in recent memory, was definitely at the most recent IFA Championship. While it was a tourney, and I’m not the biggest fan of the tournament hustle (even though I fish a lot of them), this day couldn’t have been any better!  It started at sunrise, at a launch that I’m very familiar with, with some guys also fishing the tourney that I didn’t know that well at the time…Jeff Suber, Rory Gregg, Justin Carter, Chad Skeeles, Clint Barghi…just to name a few. We all headed out at first light, not knowing it would turn out to be such an incredible day of fishing. As soon as we put lines in the water, it was on. Everybody started landing quality fish and it never stopped. By 8:30am, I think everybody had their 2 solid fish, and it was hootin’ and hollerin’ each other on for the rest of the morning. Everybody was fishing within a 200 yard stretch of rocks and the reds were dragging us in circles around each other. It was awesome. We all were grinning from ear to ear for 6 hours and you would never had known there was any kind of competition going on. One of those once in a lifetime days that I’ll always be happy to have been a part of!


What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

Just like any passion that you’re really committed to, kayak fishing quickly becomes engrained in those that it gets a hold of. For those of us that have salt in our blood, the kayak fishing lifestyle isn’t just a choice, but a necessity. It’s the outlet through which we express our love of the water and enjoy what makes us the happiest. It’s a passion.



 

Tell us a story, any story.

There are two things that are my favorite things to see while in a kayak, and last year on a trip to Grand Isle, LA, I got the chance to see both. First was pulling out of a pipeline canal into a large pond and coming straight into a school of bull reds (all 30-36in). They were on the surface in a “V” formation, charging across the pond hungry and angry. For the next 30 minutes, a friend, Jared Serigne, and I followed them around the pond catching one after another until our arms were tired…it was great. After the bulls moved on and we took a quick break, we decided to continue through some broken marsh for a little sight fishing. The first large set of broken marsh we came to, the tails started popping up. Every 10 feet or so was another tail and we once again had the opportunity to catch as many reds as we wanted. All around an incredible trip!


Working at Massey’s you are exposed to all of the best products and are on the front line between manufacturer and consumer. With that said, every brand out there wants you to use their products first; what are the challenges with staying brand neutral? Do you demo or test out just about every brand that you sell?

I try to. One of the most difficult parts of my job is determining the product mix that will work best for our stores. There are a ton of companies out there that make great products that are absolutely worthy of use by any paddler. Unfortunately, we can’t carry all those products. I do my best to pick the products that work the best for us and our customers, based on factors like usability, appeal to the customer, margin, terms, etc. Retail is an every evolving business and keeping up with all the ins and outs is a never ending process.


 

 

What does the future hold for you?

Right now, I work for a family owned outdoor outfitter, Massey’s Outfitters, and couldn’t be happier. I get the opportunity to interact with customers that love to get outside and come in to our stores so that we can help them get the most out of any trip they take. It’s an incredibly rewarding job, in an industry that is amazing, and I love it. Beyond work, my wife, Charlotte, and I are loving living in New Orleans…great food, great music, GREAT FISHING…and for now, I’m happy to roll with what life throws my way.


 

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