Kevin Whitley

Known amongst internet denizens as Kayak Kevin, Mr. Whitley is an adventurer, a filmmaker, and true inspiration. Combining a love of kayak touring and angling, Kevin has logged thousands of miles in search of amazing catches. Though the recently crowned Angler of the Year has behind him a slough of successful DVD and multimedia productions, Kayak Kevin exudes an approachable and humble persona – one that has earned him a rightful place within the sport’s highest caliber of role models.

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

IIn 2001, I started looking at kayaks to go on a mid life challenge. I took a rod out while I was learning to paddle, catching small fish. I saw the Ocean Kayak catalog with a picture of Jim Sammons getting pulled by a big fish, and I realised the full big fish possibilities from the kayak. I didn’t have a computer until 2006, so my only exposure to anyone else catching a fish from a kayak was in 2004, when TKAA was formed, and meet Ric Burnley. We teamed up with a mission, to target the big fish in our area in kayaks. He had the fishing knowledge and I had the kayak knowledge. Together we basically blazed the trail of kayaking for big fish in our area. Once we learned how to catch decent fish, I realised it was so much more fun than fishing from a boat, shore, or anywhere else.


 

 

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

It was a croaker on a bottom rig using squid.


Within the world of sport-specific media, discussions often turn to names of people personifying both the contemporary and future states of kayak angling. Your name often tops the list. You have thus become a mentor and inspiration to countless throngs of anglers that you have, perhaps, never met. What does this mean to you?

It means everything to me!!! When someone says that I motivated them to get into a kayak, that’s huge to me! Honestly it’s what is keeping my ball rolling. Because I will always paddle and fish as long as I physically possibly can. Taking pics and posting a report isn’t alot of work and takes a afternoon, but the level of work I put into making videos and the DVDs is unreal. It is a full time job. But the responses that I get and the enthusiasm from the fans and my peers – its completely worth it. I have reached a lot of people with the simple positive message of getting outside. Having a positive influence, reaching folks, and getting them exited about something is all a man can wish for with his work.


 

 

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

I don’t eat as well as I should; I am a sugar addict. My favorite on the water grub right now is the fruity pebbles rice crispy treats.

I like talk radio a lot; we have a local radio station that plays 24-7 comedy. I listen to that on the way and on the water with my shower radio.

The bands in heavy rotation right now are The Chariot, Every Time I Die, Underoath, Protest the Hero, the Mars Volta – stuff that is intense but intricate and unpredictable, sometimes chaotic.


 

 

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

I think the guy who fishes every week and can post an entertaining and informative blog or videos is who is shaping this sport. Yeah the catches and achievements are awesome, but how it’s presented to the online world is the entertaining side. This sport exploded from the availability of online information; the future online will be shaped buy the regular hardcore guy who can write and post up some cool stuff.

The inventors like Luther at Yakattack. He has invented incredibly stable mounting gear for kayaks. He’s a kayaker that makes gear for kayaks. Those are the guys who now, as this sport basically is just a decade old, are going to shape the next 10 years.

Josh Tart, who is the first sit on top fishing kayaker, who has paddled the great loop, is a great example of new guys fully pushing themselves and the sport into new territory.

I can add Rob Choi into that category, from my perspective anyway. He was a new guy working his way up the right way, by spending a lot of time on the water. I watched his obsession and progression grow through his site. I remember the time I knew Rob “had it”, Lee and I were heading back in from the 1st island after it had gotten windy and the conditions crappy. We saw Rob heading out into the mess, and when he posted his report, he had gotten into the tautog that we had left biting.

One thing that I’m getting into is watching technique, boat control, fish control, fighting, and landing technique. From watching videos of myself and the crew, I’m really into the seeing the practice of the technique. That’s what I’d like to see with more and more folks filming themselves. I know that I have been able to sharpen the techniques I use by watching my fights.


 

 

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

As for angling, conservation works! If you want a better fishery, stop killing your fish. Period.

As for kayak angling, I see and hear alot of is regional chest thumping. I’m not talking about we got bigger fish than yours, I’m talking about anglers putting down other anglers (in other areas) skills. You are only as good as your fishery allows. Like pelagic fish – there are only a few places in the world that you can paddle out for them, and yeah, that’s bad ass! But don’t cut down the guys who want to experience that and have to mothership out.

The way I look at it is I’m no better than the guy who is an expert in his pond, the guy that became so obsessed about learning how to be successful with what he has to target. He might only have small fish in calm waters to go after, but he’s the same as me even though I have big fish in crazy water to target. Your skill set develops to what you have to deal with to fish your area.


Upon viewing your kayak angling resume, one cannot help but deduce that your greatest accomplishments are derived from the conquering of near insurmountable self-issued challenges. It is as if modern day restlessness has met the kind of determination found only in the days of old; your drive to succeed, if only for your own satisfaction, is truly an admirable trait. Tournament victories, state-spanning kayak tours, media appearances, and citation-worthy catches appear with great frequency, and are filtered through a humble air that dispels any notion of self-promotion. It begs to be asked, though, if Kayak Kevin can find himself enjoying a simple day at the lake, sans cameras or hopes of record breaking miles or poundage caught.

Absolutely! I do often. My home inlet is that spot to me; I just go to fish. I don’t ever write about or show it in the background of any pics. The kayak that I wheel down to the end of my street doesn’t have any of my video camera mounts on it. But I always have a still camera with me.


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

Barring time and money, my dream tour would be from Brownsville, Tex to VA.


 

 

What’s in your milk crate?

My milk crate is like the desk of a room. It’s got the stuff that I need for the day, all in it’s place so I can get it without looking – I can just reach back. Food for the day, am/fm radio, vhf radio, iPod with radio transmitter. Scissors and pliers. Extra sunglasses. Athletic tape. Sunscreen, still camera. The bag with my wallet, dry rags for cleaning lenses, gum, BC powders, lip sunscreen, and stuff like that. Anything that I need to get to without digging for it.


Tell us about your best day on the water.

Man, that’s a hard question. I have had a lot a days on the water.

Probably the day I landed the last fish I needed to make the VA expert angler. It was a year long tournament and I was getting close to the end, and I needed one fish, broke one off and nearly had a nervous breakdown, then landed the one I needed, and it was the biggest relief that that quest was done.


 

 

What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

It’s the fishing lifestyle with a kayak. Someone who lives for it, constantly thinking about what’s coming up next, the next species, the next plan to get to them. Someone who is running through all of the possible fight scenarios at night as he’s going to bed and as he’s paddling out. Full obsessiveness about kayak fishing and who’s life is scheduled by the tides, winds, and fish movements.


Before becoming forever affixed to a kayak paddle, your hands once channeled your creativity into, and through, an electric guitar. Today you place your artistic tendencies into video production, writing, and radio. Do your current endeavours speak to the same creative urges that you drew upon as a working musician?

Its completely the same thing.

My musician friends would ask me if I miss being on stage. I do, I miss performing live, playing on stage, hammering out mean music with my friends. But I still am able to get my live performance fix with the seminars. I don’t just stand and talk, I amp up my animation and try to entertain and inform.

I’ve always hated writing – hell it took me over six months to finish this and get it back to you. I don’t know how to type, I type with two fingers and a thumb, but I write every month for a regional magazine. I’ve written an article or two for Kayak Angler mag and others. I keep doing them because people like them and get some info out of them. I like writing my fishing reports; it’s easier than the creative writing that articles demand; fishing reports just tell the story of the week.

I love working with video; the creative process comes from the exact same place as making music. It’s not all fun, and I run the cameras for hours at a time; on a good week I can have well over 100 hours of footage to cut up. I use Sony Handycams so I can edit on the camera before I upload it. Just clearing the cameras can take me a full day.

The editing is the fun part. Making a video is just like writing a song, and making a DVD is like writing an album. I love the editing, creating the timing and pacing through a piece, getting the emotion of that moment, and creating a visual and hopefully an emotional escape for the viewer. I do feel like everything I’ve ever done in my life creatively, from being in school plays for years, writing and playing in bands for half my life, even writing articles, has led me to this. The artistic side of me is feeling pretty good; it makes me very happy that people enjoy what I put out there.

Editing the fights is the most fun -technically, I get into the editing on a frame by frame level. On a visual level its the most exciting. I really try to show what it’s like to be in these fights. I edit the way I see it out there; when I do a slow motion part, it feels like that when it happened. Plus, I’ve got a bit of a short attention span so I am always trying to edit so I could watch it. If I get bored at anytime watching, I know someone else will.


 

 

What does the future hold for you?

This past year I have taken time off from the big DVD production to get back into making YouTube videos. When I’m editing the DVDs, I cant do anything else and my online videos get neglected. So I’ve been steadily filming and trying to put some cool videos up. This coming January I’ll start to put together the next DVD. This one is going to be on the cold water species – tautog and big stripers; that will hopefully be ready by Christmas of 2013.

After my truck is paid off, I want to do a tour from Miami to Norfolk, and film that for another tour DVD. One of my favorite places is the Georgia bight area – with its 12 foot tides and alligators everywhere, its a burly place. I love it; I’ve paddled it twice, and cant wait to do it again.

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