The Feelfree US family of brands has over 60 Team Members throughout the nation. You've probably seen us feature their pictures on social media, had a question answered on one of the group pages by them, or perhaps crossed paths at a local tournament. In this series we ask a collection of questions to help you get to know them a little better.
Featured Team Member: Rick Garavaglia
Location: Gassaway, West Virginia
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF...
I am Rick Garavaglia. I’m a Christian, husband, dad, son, brother, grandson, uncle, cousin, nephew, in-law, friend, pastor, and I just finished my third-season as a kayak fisherman. I’m trying to learn more about kayak fishing and the kayak fishing industry.
I work with a group of my friends on a project in our community called Braxton Live. We utilize Facebook and YouTube to broadcast local events. It started as broadcasting the local high school graduation and turned into live football games, and then basketball.
I’ve always enjoyed fishing. The two things that I remember wanting more than anything when I was a kid was to be a police officer and to go fishing. I remember the early Saturday morning fishing shows on TV. I don’t remember much about the shows, but I know that I wanted to catch fish like they did! I had a lot of opportunities to fish as a kid. I’d visit grandparents for the summer and rarely got out of the water. We’d do float trips in my jon boat, or to simply gather somewhere for a night of catfishing. I lived in Gassaway, WV, a little town where the Elk River winds through it and water access was just a few blocks away from my home. Jump from my childhood in the 80’s and 90’s up to 2011 when my step-dad passed away after a 9-month battle with lung cancer. My mom gave me a boat that she had bought for him just about the time they found out he was sick. “Pa," as I affectionately nicknamed him, never got to go out on that boat. Just owning that boat forced me to get serious about bass fishing. It did require me to get frustrated enough to start researching bass fishing. I purchased a few technique specific rods and, next thing I knew, I was buying more rods, reels, equipment, and trying any techniques that I could. I actually began catching some fish and even gave a bass tournament a try.
Kayak fishing came along when my friends Joe Starrett and Hunter McWhorter would tell me stories about the success they were having going out on these little plastic boats. Joe qualified for the National Championship on Kentucky Lake that year and Hunter won some money in a local tournament or two. That same year, I moved back to my hometown to work at Gassaway Baptist Church (GBC). I began organizing different events for families. One of those events was a Father/Son float trip on the Elk River. My friend Aaron Lee wanted to help. He was a member at GBC and also a member of the West Virginia Kayak Anglers (WVKA) club. He suggested we take kayaks instead of pairing up in a jon boat. I borrowed a kayak, and we did a trial run on the Elk. I caught a lot of fish! However, it was a steep learning curve for me. I wobbled a little, but quickly settled down and started fishing. It was difficult at times to manage everything. I had to switch from casting to paddling, getting fish in the boat, and freeing snagged lures all while moving in the current. It was an amazing experience! I knew I’d eventually have my own kayak. That winter I was able to purchase a 3 Waters BigFish 105 from Mountain RV and Outdoor Center and joined the West Virginia Kayak Anglers club.
My maiden voyage was March 16, 2019 on Stonewall Jackson Lake. My first official catch, photo and release (CPR) fish finally came on March 23. It was 16.5” largemouth and I knew this was something that I wanted to keep doing. That season I finished 5th in the AOY in the WVKA and 2nd in the ROY race. For a true greenhorn rookie, I thought it was a good season. I qualified for the National Championship by placing 9th in my first ever WVKA tournament and completed the season with a 6th place in the final tournament of the year that included two additional clubs. Then the NC was postponed due to COVID and since I was coaching high school soccer, I couldn’t attend the rescheduled event due to conflicts with dates. I did bump my qualification back to 2021, hoping that there may be a chance to close-out my rookie campaign with a strong finish. My 2020 season had one top 10 finish in the WVKA, but my 2021 campaign took off better than expected with a win at Lake Murray 1 on the KBF Trail Series. It was my first national level event and I won a tie breaker!
WHAT FEELFREE KAYAK(S) DO YOU OWN AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THOSE MODELS?
I own several Feelfree kayaks, but in 2022 I will be using a lime camo Feelfree Moken 12.5 V2 for rivers and a lime camo Feelfree Lure 13.5 V2 for lakes.
I chose the Moken 12.5 for rivers because it is so fun to paddle and easy to maneuver. For the money, it is easily the best all-around kayak available. I’ve used it on lakes for tournaments, and I added the trolling motor so that I can run rivers a little easier by myself and have a back-up lake boat.
I chose the Lure 13.5 because of my familiarity with the Lure platform. I have had so much success in the 11.5 that I figured that a 13.5 would be even better with more room to better organize all the gear I carry with me.
I utilize a transom mounted trolling motor and steer with my Beaver Tail foot controls. I attach the trolling motor to my kayak with an Idea Werks LLC motor bracket. Idea Werks has developed a bracket specific to each model Feelfree kayak that does not require any drilling.
I’ll add lights (to my Lure 13.5), an anchor trolley, Anchor Wizard, a fish finder, Micro PowerPole and of course have enough room for a lot of rods and reels!
- Bending Branches Angler Pro carbon paddle
- YakAttack leverage net, rod holders, paddle holder, and cup holder
- RailBlaza camera arm
- Tactacam Fishing camera
- YakGadget crate
- Dakota Lithium batteries for the trolling motor and for my Garmin Echomap Plus 9SV.
- FeelFree 8 Ball Steering System
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT KAYAK FISHING?
The thing I enjoy the most about kayak fishing is the challenge of figuring out what the fish want to eat. It’s always a challenge in tighter confines and with less ability to cover an entire lake to gather all the clues necessary. There is something about figuring out what they want and catching a bunch of fish!
WHAT KIND OF FISHING DO YOU PREFER AND DESCRIBE SOME OF YOUR MOST FISHED WATERS?
I really prefer bass fishing the most. It’s always fun to hook into a big musky on Stonewall Jackson lake and get towed around for five minutes! And the walleye on the Elk River are a pleasant surprise, but both largemouth and smallmouth bass have my undivided attention.
The local water I like fishing the most is Stonewall Jackson Lake, Burnsville Lake, and the Elk River. Stonewall Jackson Lake has been on Bassmasters Best Lakes in the Country list several times. It is a lake that has been known for really big largemouth bass and produced my best 6.9 lb bass from a bass boat and few of my own 20”-plus bass from a kayak. Musky have towed me around many times in my kayak. It’s a lake where your next bite could be your personal best every time!
Burnsville Lake is a smaller lake that produces a lot of 18” bass. It’s close to where I live now, and even though I’m less than a mile away from Sutton Lake, I’ll go fish Burnsville for an hour before work consistently. Burnsville Lake is the lake where I put my time in getting comfortable in a kayak. My first fish from a kayak was caught there, and with a large no wake zone on both ends of the lakes at launch areas, it’s a safe place for kayak fishermen and women to enjoy this great sport.
The Elk River is one of the best kept smallmouth bass factories around. My personal best smallmouth (20.75”) came on a crankbait one morning before work. I actually won a Feelfree Big Fish Summer Slam weekly contest with that fish and received a Feelfree T-shirt and drybag.
Nationally, I will return and fish Lake St. Clair in Detroit someday. Think sheer numbers of fish. Largemouth, smallmouth, white bass, musky, walleye, and much more could make you a memory of a lifetime many times over in just a single day.
WHAT'S IN YOUR KAYAK FISHING GEAR BOX?
- I have my NRS Chinook PFD on at all times! It is a tackle box and Catch, Photo, Release management dream on the water!
- My customized Red KetchX measuring board is attached by a string and carabiner to my assist strap at all times while on the water.
- I typically run 12 rods on a tournament day. I carry a pretty good variety of lures too.
- I’m on the Sixgill Fishing Products Pro Staff and sport their reels exclusively. They are moving some of their production to the U.S. with their Texas Projects. The new “Arrival” baitcaster will be here soon. It’s made in Texas and materials come from Ohio. It will have a cerakote finish and laser etched graphics for durability. I can’t wait for it!
- I’m going a different direction with rods this year though. I’ll still be using some Enigma Rods, but I’m going to be trying a few custom rods built by a friend of mine Philipp Backus and mixing in some Sixgill Fishing Rods to see how that goes for me this season.
- I love crankbaits! Mostly Strike King KVD 1.5s to 8XD and everything in between.
- Rapala Jerkbaits
- Softplastics- 4” Yamamoto Senko, Zoom Speed Worms and Trick Worms too.
- Ned Rig- Zman Plastics Craws can’t be beat on the river!
- M4 Custom Jigs, Swim Jigs and Ned Rig heads.
- Whopper Ploppers
ANY TIPS OR ADVICE YOU CAN OFFER THOSE GETTING INTO KAYAK FISHING?
First, People. Build relationships. Surround yourself with quality people. People that will support you, encourage you, and make you better. And be that kind of person to those around you too. By doing so, you will get better, and help those around you be better too. Do not always take, but be more willing to give. Competition sometimes robs this. People are tempted to cheat when they lose sight of people.
Second, Time. When you first start kayak fishing, spend as much time on the water as possible. Short trips, half-day trips, and all-day trips. You’ll learn the basic things really fast. Learn how to manage your rods, tackle, net, measuring board, fish, paddling, etc. My first year in a kayak I’d go fishing before and after work. I would spend time organizing gear in my truck and trying to figure out a better way to pack crate, rods and my paddle until I figured out what was best, fastest, and safest. Short trips with time limits help you figure out how to manage your time on tournament day. You will know how long it takes you to pack up if you have packed up 100 times and know where everything goes. You are less likely to make mistakes that way too. Mistakes that could cost you a fishing rod and reel, a measuring board, paddle, seat, or even a kayak. Time on the water also allows you to get better without ever catching a fish. Just being out on the kayak gives you the opportunity to practice standing up, maneuvering in the kayak, tackle management, falling out and getting back into the kayak. You’ll learn how to move your kayak over 3’ to the right without making a lot of noise and without taking your paddle out of the water. Time is valuable and will gain you so much if you will invest it properly.
Third, Goals. Set goals. Goals help you stay focused and driven. Set a reasonable goal like, "compete in x-number of tournaments this season, finish in the top 10 of at least one tournament, and finish in the top half of my club." Set goals that push you a little more like breaking your personal best bass monthly. And set a more extreme goal like getting rookie of the year in your club, or winning a tournament or online challenge in KBF. Each year revisit those goals and begin figuring out what you need to do differently the next season. Goals are measurable and extremely important to your success.
Finally, Fun! Keep things fun. If it gets to be more like work you won’t enjoy it. The grind will rob any satisfaction and you may quit, or fish less and less over time.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR KAYAK FISHING TOURNAMENT RESULTS & ROSTER...Fishing Club
- I fish the West Virginia Kayak Anglers Club and have fished some KBF Trail Series Tournaments.
2019 Tournament Results
- I finished 5th AOY and 2nd in ROY in the WVKA. (165 members)
- Having a 9th place finish in my first ever tournament (Summersville WVKA) and a 6th place finish in the last tournament of the year (Battle of the Bluestone with all three main clubs in WV.)
2020 Tournament Results
- 9th place, Elk River/Sutton Lake WVKA Tournament.
- 2nd place, Online Challenge Series AOY WVKA.
- Qualified for KBF National Championships
2021 Tournament Results
- 1st Place, Lake Murray, KBF Trail Series Tournament
- 4th place, Summersville WVKA Tournament.
- Qualified for KBF Nationals Championships
2022 Tournament Results
- Qualified for the KBF TENvitational
2023 Tournament Schedule
Written by Rick Garavaglia, Feelfree US Pro Team Staff Member
Edited by Bobby Ulrich, Feelfree US Pro Staff Team Member