Stewart Venable

JK river bass


Simply labeling Stewart Venable as an ambassador is an exercise in gross understatement; rare is the kayak angling arena untouched by his passionate hands. The co-founder of Southern Kayak Anglers, College Kayak Fishing, and a developing HOW chapter, Stewart has brought new life to many of our sport’s most important cornerstones. A man with numerous citation catches to his name, and a recent role in the award winning film, Flying Fish, Stewart is most widely known for the positive and humble ways in which he inspires his fellow anglers.

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

I was first introduced to kayak fishing while I was in college. I grew up with a dad who was a tournament fisherman, so I basically was raised in a bass boat. While in school I didn’t have the room to store a bass boat on the deck of my apartment. I also did most of my fishing by myself, so lugging a large jon boat, or even a canoe, was pretty much out of the question. A kayak fit the bill, and the budget.


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

The first kayak I bought was a 9’ sit-in from the local sporting goods store. It was a “scratch and dent” they sold me for %30 off of 200 bucks. Let me go ahead and point out that at the time, as far as I was concerned, it was the best kayak ever made! My first outing was at a local lake that was stocked with trout, bream, and bass.  I had never had much luck there fishing from the bank so I hoped  the kayak would make a difference. That afternoon I landed at least a dozen trout, one of which was a citation brook trout. Needless to say I will always remember my first fish, or day of fishing, in a kayak.


You were a production member for the Jackson Kayak/College Kayak Fishing video, Flying Fish.  Recently crowned victorious in the Kayak Angler Choice awards, this film transcended the typical with regard to cinematography and innovation.  Tell us a bit about your involvement in the project, and what it was like to work on a film now considered to be a true game changer.

I can honestly say that video was one of the coolest things I’ve had the chance to be a part of. Brooks Beatty, Drew Gregory, and all the guys in the video are great people to hang out with anyway, but something like this just amplifies the fun factor. It was a lot of work bringing all the gear, people, and ideas together in one place and at one time. The guys you see in the video came from all over the southeast to be a part of it, and without them it would have never happened. I can’t possibly say how talented the guys at Yonder Blue Films are! The stuff they can do with a remote controlled helicopter (calling it a “toy” would be a mistake!) is like nothing I have ever seen. I think the key to this video being so successful is the fact we all worked together so well. It wasn’t work; it was fun.


 

Sunset Cuda

 

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

Oh man…a question about music is always a tough one. I listen to so many different types of music it’s hard to say. I guess my best answer would be more like a playlist of songs. I have spent literally hundreds of days on the water with my best friends Mark, Jon, and Matt, and we always listen to some of the same songs. Rodney Atkins’ “The River just Knows” or maybe some Chris Knight. Eric Church is pretty popular, especially since he went to App State like all of us. You could just as easily hear stuff like Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepard, or Stevie Ray. Me personally, I have a deep appreciation for nature itself and always try to fit in a worship song, or two, just so I never forget who created the outdoors I love so much. The food part is easy; I only have one mandatory food for fishing trips. I always stop at a gas station and grab a sleeve of chocolate donuts.


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

We recently had out year-end tournament for Southern Kayak Anglers (SKA). A young man named JR Young was there. He is 13, and fishes like he’s 23. He is very knowledgeable about not only fishing, but kayak fishing. He spent the weekend talking to us “old” guys and you could tell he had the mental notepad slap full by the end of the tourney. He also had ideas of his own about kayak rigging and future kayak fishing trips. These young men and women are the ones shaping the future of the sport, and it’s great!


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

One of the cool things about kayak fishing is that you can go anywhere a power boat can go, if you have enough time. What’s even cooler is that we, as kayak anglers, can go places they can’t go. However, one issue facing kayakers is the access to many of these “special” places. It’s important to fight for our access rights to many of the smaller waterways, especially rivers. With all the posted signs eating up the river banks and shore lines we have to make sure our towns, states, and government remember the paddling folks.

The other issue that’s always harped on but cannot be stressed enough is safety. With so many people now joining the sport, there are more and more chances for accidents and mistakes. I have a close friend who had a VERY close call least year while fishing. He’s more than happy to tell you about the importance of a PFD. Since his incident, I’m pretty much a stickler for everyone wearing them all the time.


 

crew

 

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

Actually it’s not so much the destination, as it is the company. A lake or river full of hungry, dumb, monster fish would be awesome. But for it to be a “dream” trip I would have to have an army of my friends and family with me. All my close fishing buddies would have to be there -my fiancé, brother, dad, and uncle, also. And if we are really setting all reasonable hindrances aside, then you better believe I’m bringing back both my granddads and my close family friend, Gary,  for the trip, too!


It can be reasonably stated that your involvement with the sport is both diverse and intimate.  On a competitive level, you are considered among the kayak angling elite, and have to your name 9 kayak-derived citation catches and three first place finishes.  It is, however, your propensity to develop new avenues within the sport that truly brings to you the title of ambassador.  You co-founded Southern Kayak Anglers, College Kayak Fishing, and are working to develop a new chapter of Heroes On the Water. From where do you attribute your passion and talent for propagating the world of kayak angling?

Man, that’s a deep question. You need to write my next resume! Well, really you just kind of answered it. It’s a passion.  I mean, you can “like” something, but unless you have a true passion for it you’ll never do much with it. My involvement with Southern Kayak Anglers and College Kayak Fishing both come from my passion to share the sport with others. I feel that it’s my mission to help grow the sport every way I can. Heroes On the Water has such a great purpose and I’m just hoping to be able to do my part.  As far as any talent or prowess for fishing that all comes from men in my family. My grandfather, father and uncle all taught me how to “study” the sport. They all believed in a scientific approach to nearly every aspect of fishing, and less on good or bad “luck” on the water.


What’s in your milk crate?

Some extra tackle and a rain suit. Figuratively, I would say it’s important to always pack some enjoyment, appreciation, and optimism in there, too.


 

boat ride

 

Tell us about your best day on the water.

My best day(s) on the water are when I get to fish with close friends or kids. I get jacked up when I can help a newcomer to the sport catch a “big” fish. I have been lucky enough to help one of my best friends, Jon, catch many of his biggest fish. The first day I took him trout fishing he kicked my butt, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Shortly before his deployment to Afghanistan, I was able to help him land his personal best smallmouth. Anytime I can be part of something like that, it’s my “best” day on the water.


What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

The kayak fishing lifestyle is all about pure attitude. Not in a bad way, but a determined motivated kinda way. We are certainly not the fishing norm. When you’re driving to a Christmas party and you see a guy or gal out on the half frozen lake in a kayak you think, “What in the heck is wrong with that guy!?”  That’s US, and it’s awesome!


Tell us a story, any story.

Well, my favorite kayak fishing stories usually have nothing to do with the fishing. I get a kick out of the crazy stuff nature throws at us while we’re out there.  Recently my buddy, Evan Howard, and I were on the Catawba River, and having a slow day of fishing.  Evan is a “swim bait” guy and loves throwing the Bull Shad. What we didn’t know is that birds of prey love the bait almost as much as he does.  Out of nowhere an Osprey drops out of the sky and hammers his bait. Thankfully for both parties the bird missed.  We had a rather long laugh about it and luckily got it on video. It sort of falls into the same category as the Drew Gregory goose video.  Stuff like that is always happening to kayak fisherman, and it’s fun to see on YouTube.


 

SKA Oconee

 

You come from a long line of fishermen, and were introduced to the sport by your grandfather and father.  The later spent time as a professional bass angler, and likely instilled within you a great deal of timeless technique and prowess.  How have these generation-spanning lessons melded to your modern day kayak-bound forays?

Without a doubt I have been blessed to have these guys as my teachers. There were some aspects of fishing that did not transfer all that well from a bass boat to a kayak and my father was the first to offer suggestions and encouragement.  He has always been the first one to question my approach to any fishing situation in an attempt to make sure I have taken everything into account. Without fail, it has helped me become more successful fishermen. It also helped, a little, in life. I will say the one lesson that has been a great help in kayak fishing has been the concept of patience. There are times when you get frustrated that your technique isn’t paying off with fish in the boat. In a power boat you have the luxury of pulling up the trolling motor and “making a run;” not so much in the kayak. Many times I find myself staying put, thinking through my approach and, in the end, catching fish.


What does the future hold for you?

What does the future hold for me? Well I guess it’s whatever the good Lord has planned for me. I hope to be a bigger part of the kayak fishing movement. I would like to get even more programs started for kids and veterans. One thing I hope the future holds for the entire kayak fishing community is a larger stage to share how awesome the sport is. Whether it’s through the television with guys  like Chad, Drew, and Jim or maybe something like a national “go fish” day. I just hope to be a part of it in some form or fashion and be able to say “back in the day when we were kayak fishing…”

2 Responses to “Stewart Venable”

  1. To see the video, “Flying Fish,” go here:
    https://vimeo.com/45504449

    It was such a fun production to work on, and Stewart and all the crew were so much fun to work with.

    all the best,
    Ben Rowland
    Yonder Blue Films

  2. Evan howard says:

    Stewart is not only a great friend, but a great partner to work with. This is long belated, but congrats on the honor and the skies are truly the limits for us!

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