ProStaffer of the Month: Marcus Villanueva
Our ProStaffer of the Month for October 2018 is Texas native and kayak angler, Marcus Villanueva. Let’s meet Marcus…
BB: How did you get started in kayak fishing? What do you love about it?
MARCUS: Oddly enough, my wife got me involved in kayaking. She convinced me and some friends to take a 6-hour trip down the Frio River here in Texas. It was amazing! The water was crystal clear, cold, and the scenery was beautiful. We had no idea what we were doing and weren’t prepared for a trip that demanding at all. Luckily, we made it back fine.
Shortly after we had planned to take a vacation trip, but ended up using that money to buy two kayaks, PFD's and paddles. Shameless plug—we actually purchased two Aqua-Bound Manta Ray Carbons, and 90% of the time that's what you’ll find me using to this day.
For me, the thrill of kayaking really comes when I'm on new water—be it a river or a lake, salt or freshwater. Discovering new sights and scenery is just a flat-out thrill. Since I was a kid, I've always loved "discovering" the outdoors. Being able to do this on the water adds a whole different dimension to what I can explore. It also gives me the chance to chase fish, my other passion!
BB: How do you give back to the fishing community, generally?
MARCUS: A few years back a friend of mine, Chris Pierce, started a weekday summer fishing tournament he dubbed Thursday Night Tournaments. The idea was to give people a chance to fish in a fun competitive environment during the dog days of summer.
Central Texas has a huge tournament scene and anglers take it very seriously. It can be intimidating for a first timer to show up to a tournament where 100+ anglers compete. This has been a good way for new kayakers to get their feet wet in the tournament world at a low cost, with a more grassroots feel.
Best of all, no money is held back, so anglers get 100% payouts. The entire thing is run by volunteers. Anglers offer tons of help to each other in the form of fishing tips, gear reviews and occasionally repairing gear.
In the first season, 10-15 anglers showed up. The second season I began to help him run the events. At the same time we slowly began to grow to 15+ participants per event. This was mainly accomplished through word-of-mouth.
Each year since, participant levels have grown. Unfortunately, we've had to hand over the reins to the events due to work and growth of the events in general. However, we laid a solid foundation. The group of fisherman who run Thursday Night Tournament, known as YakUSA, has done a tremendous job growing it to 30-40 anglers per event.
I’d be lying if I said it doesn't feel great to be a part of a grassroots event that has helped so many young, new, inexperienced anglers—and even veteran anglers—spark a passion for bass fishing.
BB: Are you involved in your local fishing scene? How?
MARCUS: In addition to the Thursday Night Tournaments, I’ve been a veteran of the Kayak Angler Series (KATS) for 7 or so years. In that time, Austin Canoe and Kayak has taken over the series and we've seen participation grow from averaging 25 anglers per event to over 100. I can honestly say the local fishing scene here is amazing.
But be warned—it’s really competitive! I'm still looking for that first 1st Place! I’ve come close a few times.
BB: Is there a local Aqua-Bound dealer you help out?
MARCUS: You can generally find me at the Demo Days that Austin Canoe and Kayak hosts. Four weekends a year you can catch me talking paddles, fishing, kayaking, camping and football at the Aqua-Bound/Bending Branches tent. If you're ever in the area during one of these free events, swing by and try out any of the amazing Aqua-Bound paddles.
BB: Do you introduce new anglers to kayak fishing? How?
MARCUS: I think I'm similar to most kayak anglers in that we like to brag that we're kayak anglers by the stickers all over our vehicles. I get stopped fairly often in parking lots and gas stations just because of all the kayak-related stickers on the back of my truck. The people who talk to me are generally boaters interested in getting into kayak fishing.
The same goes for work. I work at a high-tech company and our campus is 300 acres with about 3,000 people. I've come to be known as The Kayak Guy at work. I get lots of people asking me about kayaking because they’re interested and don't know where to begin.
For someone completely new, narrowing down a kayak and a paddle can be more confusing than doing taxes. Some people really don't understand how much a good paddle makes a difference when you kayak. I love that I can say, "Hey I'll bring you four paddles. Use them for a month and bring them back.” It really helps them decide which paddle they like.
Bonus: It's also helped me network at work and get my job done faster and easier, since people know me!
BB: Are there any “how-to” events or conservation measures you're involved in? Tell us about them.
MARCUS: Through my job and the City of Austin, I volunteer for a group called Keep Austin Beautiful. The organization focuses on cleaning up around the downtown area with a heavy focus on the lake that runs through the city, Lady Bird Lake.
Once a quarter, they host trash pick-ups, and we do our part to keep the waterway clean and litter-free. It's not exactly fun, but without volunteers the entire ecosystem would be impacted, so it makes it worth it in the long run.
BB: Where can readers connect with you?
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