Martin R. Villa, is 39-year-old mason that loves competitive bass fishing. His home base is Crozier, just outside of Charlottesville and he’s made some waves recently fishing the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. We caught up with this long-time regional angler, husband and father of two boys (six and eight) that appears to have hit the big leagues for this month’s W2 Profile and asked him about how he got started.
“My entire family from my mother’s side were fishermen and being around it all your life you become one,” he said.
How did he get started in competitive bass fishing?
“My hometown had a local jon boat club, and I was always a competitive person since playing youth sports. Once I learned there was competitive bass fishing by watching it on TV, I wanted to be one of them.”
Villa has truly worked his way to near the top. He started at the electric boat level fishing Wednesday night tournaments on nearby Beaver Creek and the Rivanna Reservoir, then moved up to local gas powered boat tourneys, then regional events around the state; Lake Anna Friday night and Sturgeon Creek Elite Series events, then from there to the BFLs and then jumped to pro level qualifying circuits like the Toyota Series to make a cut – you have to finish top five in each division and then fish on a truly professional level – the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit.
For the Toyota Series last year he fished the Northern Division on Champlain, St. Lawrence and Potomac River. He’s also fished TWPC events on Lake Guntersville, Pickwick, the Harris Chain of Lakes, Sam Rayburn Reservoir and the James River.
“In order to make it you need to seek out the hardest competition. If you can compete in a team tournament by yourself, you can compete against the pros.”
Villa told W2 that what he did in his 20s is what carries him now.
“There were 10 years of fishing every chance I got three to four tournaments a week. When you are in your 20s is when you prepare. You cannot wait until your 30s when you have kids and a real job. My experience in my 20s is what carried me here.”
We asked Villa about how difficult it is to work and fish competitively.
“I compete against full time bass fishermen. I still work. These guys leave where we are fishing and then go to the next place. I go home to work. These guys are five days a week fishermen. I‘ve been blessed with the ability to compete and not being one of five day a week fisherman,” adding, “You either have to be well enough off to just fish or you have to cut checks. Your wallet has to be right.”
So, what was it that pushed Villa to where he is now?
“Local fishing buddies. I was a just a fisherman and they were bass fisherman. My early fishing partner, Jeff Gibson, was one of the drivers of my career. He’s still a great fisherman. Timmy Gardner, too. I was actually ready to get out of bass fishing. I was thinking about just fly fishing and saltwater fishing. He talked me into fishing the Priority Series on the James River and going to the National Championship. That taste of competition rekindled the fire in me. A decade of the weekly tournaments had burned me out, but that event was when I started getting serious again. I was jumping off the ship, but Timmy held me on.”
So what is it that drives Villa? What compelled him to not jump ship?
“I would much rather use a fly rod to catch Atlantic salmon, but the competition is what drives me.”
Of course we had to ask what is the Charlottesville angler’s favorite fishing or go-to tactic?
“My favorite tactic is the way that nobody else is catching them. You are not going to out flip these guys. The most unused way is the best way,” Villa explained. He did go on to name a few of his favs.
“Who doesn’t love topwater? Big swimbaits are good. I love finesse fishing – drop shot, can’t beat that.”
We also had to ask him about live sonar and his opinion on it.
“I’ve had the technology on my boat as long as you could buy it. As soon as I saw the technology, I said ‘that’s not good’ – any little kid with money can dominate you. I personally think the brass of bass fishing is scared of those kids.”
“It’s great technology, but on a lot of the higher pressure lakes the fish are getting finicky to it. It’s more effective on places it hasn’t been used. When I’ve made my cast, I turn it away. I don’t want to watch them eat it. They definitely know it’s there.”
As far as his tips for using live sonar, Villa had this to say: “If you have an arc that comes and stays under the trolling motor a bit you can catch that one. But if the arc comes and goes, that’s one not to mess with. The St. Lawrence was like [the first example]. They were using the boat for shade.
Villa fishes out of a 21’ Ranger rigged with a 250 hp Mercury 4Stroke, a Minn Kota Ultrex and Garmin Livescope units. He is sponsored/supported by Splicing Glass, Douglas rods, EDF Renewables, Sturgeon Creek Marina and Bricks & Stones Masonry.
For 2023 Villa plans to fish the Tackle Warehouse and Toyota Series events. The hope is to make the MLF Bass Pro Tour by ending up in the top eight. He’s currently in 10th.
Villa’s favorite place to fish is Lake Champlain. His favorite Virginia fishery is Lake Anna.
“I drove all over the country and have come to appreciate Lake Anna.”
Check Villa out on his YouTube channel fishingthingsnthangs, a channel that features bass and fly fishing and catch and cook segments. Follow him on Instagram at MartinVillafishing@Instagram