Photo: James Overstreet - bassmaster.com
Byron Velvick, winner of the recent Elite Series event on Clear Lake. He is a king of swimbait fishing and one of the best at sight fishing. What are the keys to his success?
10 Questions with Byron Velvick:
TB: First off, congrats on the win! That was awesome to win it with a swimbait again. How has swimbait fishing changed in the last 10 years between your Three Day Record catch at Clear Lake in 2000 and this year’s Golden State Shootout?
BV: It has changed exponentially, from black to white, night to day. It’s a whole different game now. Back then swimbaits were seen as a novelty and nobody took it seriously. Baits that were over six inches were shocking, everyone was just fishing traditional baits and then when the baits started getting bigger than eight inches, people just kind of blew it off as impossible that a fish would bite it. But they worked! The fishing was so great on swimbaits back then because nobody threw them I mean fish would eat them at the boat. They had never seen anything like it.
TB: Now everyone has a swimbait tied on at places like Clear Lake, the baits are getting better and better; tell me about the Rago BV 3D Hitch you were using.
BV: I have been fishing with Jerry Rago’s baits for years. Guys like him and Bruce Porter (Basstrix), Alan Cole (AC Plug), Ken Huddleston (Huddleston baits), these guys deserve props. They started the whole swimbait thing.
I did have some input on the design and helped test it out. This bait is new and different. One of the best things about it is that is really weedless and swims the right way; you can almost swim it like you are swimming a jig.
TB: I know you are a two time US Open Champion. Are you fishing it again this year? And how bad do you want to win another?
BV: The U.S. Open is a great tournament. The atmosphere surrounding the event is so much fun and I fish it every year. This year I have to check the dates to see if it conflicts. But it’s timed right this year, right after ICAST. I have won two but I can’t count how many close finishes I have had, I’d really like to win one again.
TB: You have always been a star on the West Coast, but up until recently you have struggled on the national tour, what’s changed?
BV: The biggest change is I now have more time. It feels good and I’m more relaxed. The Bachelor stuff is over, BassCenter is done and I film Going Coastal in the fall so it doesn’t interfere with the tour.
Another positive thing for me on the Elites is the change to no co-anglers. I welcomed the Marshall program with open arms. It makes it a lot easier to stay focused and not have to worry about someone else catching fish in the back of the boat. I can do my own thing and not worry.
This sport is really mostly mental and I am getting more confident. I used to beat myself up when I had a bad practice but now I get excited about it. I had three Top 12 finishes last year where I found all of those fish during the event.
TB: What is a bigger goal for you, Angler of the Year or the Bassmaster Classic?
BV: I get asked this one all of the time. My goal is to win AOY. I feel like it much harder to do. Where the Classic is just having one good tournament, Angler of the Year is consistency and having a great season.
TB: Now I noticed you have a new sponsor in Tightlines Fishing and their UV plastic baits. I saw them at ICAST and was impressed, but what really makes them different?
BV: Awesome baits! It’s a new plastic and a whole new look. The baits actually reflect UV just like a baitfish does under water. They did a lot of research and so did I. I was fishing them at the Classic and I caught my fish on these baits. They are becoming my primary soft plastics. What Berkeley did for scent, Tightlines is doing for sight.
(note: tbrinksfishing.com Product Review coming soon!)
TB: Since you now call Lake Amistad home, what do you expect the fishing to be like for the Bassmaster Central Open that starts tomorrow?
BV: It’s going to be crazy good. My 3-Day record (83lbs 5oz) is in danger of being broken this week. They just caught a 13.5 pound fish yesterday and two Share Lunkers (Fish over 13lbs in TX) recently. The fishing is really good and a little of everything will work. This lake is so diverse, it could be won out deep with jigs like when Remitz won it or up shallow sight fishing like when Ish won. It’s going to be a great tournament.
TB: Now what do you expect for the next Elite event on Smith Mountain Lake?
BV: Exactly like last year, sight fishing and swimbaits. I did well last year because the lake really fits my style.
TB: I know you’re a swimbait expert, any advice for people just starting to fish with these baits?
BV: I think the mistake a lot of people make when using swimbaits is not knowing how to fish them. These baits work best when you slow roll them, pause and hover them. A lot of guys just cast and reel like a rattletrap, sure that will work, but you need to fish them slow on a slack line to get the best action.
Another thing I like to do is “match the hatch”. When I go to a new lake, I go to the local bait shops and see what kind of live bait they sell. I ask them what the top guides’ request. I want to know everything from the size, shape, and color of the baitfish so I can find a swimbait that matches what the locals use.
TB: What advice do you have for fisherman aspiring to become a Pro?
BV: Rick Clunn said I am the poster child of tenacity. A lot of these guys started off like rockstars in their 20’s and I took a little longer. I did well on the West Coast but I got my brains beat out on the National Tour. My advice is to be prepared to take your lumps. Stay with it and believe in yourself. Don’t give up. What a lot of people don’t know is that sure I won two U.S. Opens, but when I started fishing them I was still in college. I saved up all of my money all year so I could fish them and I finished dead last in my first three U.S. Opens, I didn’t even catch a fish, I didn’t even make it to the stage. You really have to learn how to lose as well as to learn to win.