‘Wizard of Rods’ saluted for influence on fishing

It’s always interesting to see people acknowledged for their hard work, especially when those efforts reach above and beyond the norm. I enjoy learning about these extraordinary people and discovering what it is that drives them to do whatever it is they do. And when the person being recognized is someone you know, that learning process takes on a whole new meaning.

I first became acquainted with Ken Whiting in the summer of 2004, just after he was recognized with his fourth Best Freshwater Rod award by the international fishing tackle industry. By July 2007, Whiting had won that award an astounding six years out of seven, and he did so with two different companies — Airrus Rods and E21 Fishing. His efforts have earned him the title of the Wizard of Rods among his industry peers. Not bad for a psychologist-turned-inventor from Las Vegas.

Now Whiting has another honor to add to his growing list of accomplishments. The folks at Outdoor Life have named him one of “25 people who have changed the face of hunting and fishing.” As a member of that elite club, Whiting joins people such as Bob Munson and Charlie Decker, founders of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; Karl Malone, former NBA All-Star-turned-conservationist and hunting advocate; and U.S. Sen. John Testor (D-Mont.). Also on the list are the not so famous, such as Howard Beeson, an 82-year-old archery advocate from Alabama, and Howard Robinson, a longtime hunter education volunteer from Arkansas.

Among the honorees, Whiting is the only representative from the fishing side of the outdoor world.

During our first meeting, Whiting spoke with me briefly about his accomplishments in the world of fishing rods, then redirected the focus of our conversation to two young anglers, junior staffers he then sponsored through Airrus Rods. He told me their story was more important than his.

Now, four years and numerous awards later, Whiting remains humble. When I spoke with him about this latest accolade, our brief visit followed a similar path as our first, as he redirected our conversation to the junior staffers again. Only now they are no longer boys but college-age young men, and they are still winning bass tournaments.

Always up for a new adventure, Whiting is now working with pro angler Boyd Duckett, champion of the 2007 Bassmaster Classic, on designs for a new series of fishing rods that will debut in 2010. Duckett plans to use the new rods under tournament conditions at the Bassmaster Classic in February.

SEASON FOR BIG STRIPERS — The Nevada Department of Wildlife began its annual trout stocking program at Lake Mead and Lake Mohave in mid-November. They haven’t shown up yet, but it shouldn’t be long before striped bass start keying in on the stocked rainbows, and fishermen should start seeing larger stripers as they come up to feed on the trout. In the meantime, anglers are finding good fishing for rainbows following the plants.

When the stripers do show up, go with a swimbait in a rainbow trout imitation. The Spro BBZ1, AC Plug and LA Slider are generally productive. At about $5, the LA Slider is an affordable option that has good action in the water.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at dougnielsen@att.net.

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