THE “10 QUESTIONS” COLUMN HIGHLIGHTS A KBF Partner Trail or Club and its Director. Featuring established clubs as well as new clubs from across the country, the column showcase the variety of people who tirelessly devote themselves to growing our sport through their work with KBF.

In this edition we feature Mike Ortega from Northern Virginia. He served for 10 years in the U.S. Army, is an accomplished kayak fisherman and the Tournament Director of North Virginia Kayak Bass Anglers (NVKBA), one of the longest running KBF partner clubs in the Mid-Atlantic region. Conditions permitting, NVKBA will host the KBF Trail on June 13 & 14, 2020.

  1. How did you get into kayak fishing?
    I bought my first kayak when I returned home from Afghanistan in 2015. While stationed in Tennessee, I met Anthony Shingler via social media, now the tournament director for CAKFG (Clarksville Area Kayak Fishing Group). He introduced me to the world of kayak tournament fishing, and I’ve been hooked since! He, along with the folks from KBFTN (Kayak Bass Fishing TN), influenced me to start my own club when I moved to the Northern VA area.
  2. Tell us about your club – when was it founded?
    NVKBA was founded in mid-2017. Although we are a younger club, we grew rather quickly. Northern Virginia has a multitude of different types of water to fish, and if it was done right, I knew it would be a great opportunity to showcase these waters via kayak tournaments. Anglers get to experience tidal bass fishing, big lake fishing, reservoirs, and river fishing all in the same area.
  3. Do you work alone as a tournament director, or with a team?
    I do not work alone. I am blessed to have some very special people help ensure the club stays a well-oiled machine. Jason DeMott, Gary Howke, Andy Ray, Cilla Johnson, and Brian Dillon all help in their own ways as club admins, whether that be judging fish, event setup/teardown, social media expertise, web-design, member services, community outreach, sponsor outreach, photography, you name it – someone has it covered.
  4. How many events do you run each season, and what is the NVKBA tournament format?
    Over the years, we made some adjustments to our trail. In our first full season (2018) we experimented with several types of events. We held 6 trail events worth AOY points, a Classic, a local monthly exhibition event, a charity team tournament, and a youth event! Since then, we’ve slowed down and fine-tuned the trail to 5 events (including a charity) plus a Classic, 3 monthly exhibitions, and a youth event. As the club continues to grow, we are putting heavy emphasis on making sure these events are of the highest caliber and set the standard for what a kayak fishing event should look like. All trail events are CPR format, with traditional entry fee plus big bass. Most events are on a single body of water with multiple launch options. As a grassroots club, we want to continue providing a traditional, down-to-earth experience for newcomers and seasoned anglers alike.
  5. Describe the anglers who fish your trail – what do they expect from it?
    I’ve traveled to many places and met many faces over the years, but the crew here in Northern Virginia is truly something special. Considering the proximity to our nation’s capital, we have folks from all walks of life. The club is just another way for all of us to take a break from the “rat race” and enjoy camaraderie and the outdoors.
  6. I noticed that your club works with many local businesses. What can you tell us about those relationships?
    We have wonderful relationships with many local businesses! These businesses include, but aren’t limited to, local tackle shops, outfitters, and even restaurants. We feel it’s extremely important to support as many local/state-ran small businesses as possible. They are truly the backbone of our country and we owe them as much support as possible. We have close ties with our local VDGIF (Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries) game wardens and fish biologists as well and make it a point to assist in their annual youth event every year. We also enjoy setting up booths at our local fishing shows and flea markets to show off kayaks and spread the word. Last but definitely not least, we always enjoy supporting our local non-profit organization, Bravo Zulu Outdoors (BZO), that helps active duty military, veterans, and first responders rehabilitate through the outdoors. BZO also helps supply the kayaks every year for the VDGIF youth event. We have such amazing partnerships with our community, which makes everything we do that much more meaningful. We strive to engrain our club’s motto in everything: Competition, Community, Camaraderie.
  7. Can anglers qualify for the KBF National Championship through your trail? And how many attended KBF Nationals in 2019?
    Absolutely! This only adds to the competitiveness of our program and is a big deal to a lot of anglers. At the end of the year, if an angler has not already qualified with an “At-Large” KBFNC slot, they are eligible via the club’s AOY points system to earn a spot. NVKBA KBFNC slots are always merit-based. In 2019, we were able to send 4 anglers with the old slot system. In 2019 we qualified 16 anglers, not including other NVKBA members that either previously qualified, or qualified via other clubs.
  8. 8. What is your view of how kayak fishing has grown in recent years? – I think growth is great, as long as it’s managed accordingly. Like I said before, we had to take a step back after the club gained traction to ensure we were delivering the absolute best trail experience we possibly could. We accomplished this by conducting member surveys, going live and hashing out issues, and dealing with many other forms of constructive criticism and feedback. From a much larger perspective, I am a big fan of anglers having multiple options to choose from, such as KBF, Hobie BOS, or B.A.S.S.
  9. What do you foresee as the biggest goal that kayak fishing should strive to achieve in the coming years?
    Get our youth involved and fired up about it. Get them excited and passionate at an early age. If you are a tournament director, make it a point to have youth events every year. You have no idea how much this impacts a child for the better. Our club was very fortunate to be able to give away 2 youth kayaks last year. You should’ve seen their faces light up…
  10. What is the craziest thing that ever happened at one of your club’s tournaments?
    Cheating. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. I won’t get into details, but it was jaw-dropping across multiple clubs and events. Took us by complete surprise.

About the author — Henry Veggian is the KBF Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator and is on both the Jackson Fishing Team and Ketch Outdoors Team.