Q&A With Emil Wagner: ‘I’m definitely not letting up any time soon; it’s full steam ahead' - Major League Fishing
Q&A With Emil Wagner: ‘I’m definitely not letting up any time soon; it’s full steam ahead’
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Q&A With Emil Wagner: ‘I’m definitely not letting up any time soon; it’s full steam ahead’

Image for Q&A With Emil Wagner: ‘I’m definitely not letting up any time soon; it’s full steam ahead’
October 30, 2023 • Matt Naber • Bass Pro Tour

The winner of the 2023 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine All-American wasn’t born in America, but his journey from across the pond to REDCREST 2024 is about as American as it gets. Emil Wagner was born in Denmark and moved to the U.S. as a toddler, where he became the first in his family to get into fishing. Now 25 years old, Wagner has established himself as a skilled regional pro through the BFLs and Toyota Series (17 Top 10s), then hit a new level of success when he won the 40th All-American on Lake Hartwell in June.

That seems like only the beginning for the Marietta, Georgia, angler as he heads into the Toyota Series Championship Presented by Simms on Table Rock Lake.

Belated congratulations on winning the All-American in June. You not only won the 40th edition of a grand old tournament but took home $122,300 and an invite to REDCREST 2024. How do you sum up those things and what they mean to you? 

EW: REDCREST was big. The money is awesome, but the trophy and REDCREST is what I was there for, and I’m jacked up for REDCREST. I grew up watching those guys fish, and to fish against them is incredible. I don’t know much about Lay Lake since I’ve only been there once, but it has spotted bass, and I’m super excited for that.  

Has it really hit you yet how much potential that big cash prize and those two championship berths might mean to you? You told MLF editor Jody White that you want to fish for a living. I can’t think of a better boost than winning the All-American? 

EW: This is excellent. I guide full time, so I have that five to six days a week, and when I’m not guiding, I’m at a tournament. The (All-American) money is huge; I invested some of it and it will help keep me going. REDCREST will be awesome just for getting sponsors, and I hope to do well there with decent publicity and coverage. I’ve had some sponsors step up to the plate after the All-American, and it’s done nothing but good for me, that’s for sure. 

Do you have a timeline in mind for hopefully being a full-time touring bass pro?

EW: I feel like it’s almost impossible to have a timeline. I’m fine with where I’m at now, fishing for a living. This was my first year doing the Toyota Series, and I expected to win a check or two, but I only missed one, and I’ve learned a lot, too. My goal is to go full time as soon as possible, and I’m just enjoying the process. I’ve been going to different lakes and meeting a bunch of people. I’m definitely not letting up any time soon; it’s full steam ahead. 

The 2023 Toyota Series Championship is on Table Rock Lake in Missouri, and REDCREST 2024 is on Lay Lake in Alabama. How much do you know about those fisheries and how do you like your chances to compete on them?

EW: I’ve never been to Table Rock, but I’m excited for it because I know it’s deep and clear and has smallmouth and largemouth and all the stuff I love to do – so I think it’ll fit my style. I’m super jacked up for Lay Lake, too. I’ve learned more about river systems, and I’ve seen so many lakes in the last year or two that I think I have a good chance. For example, if it was at Guntersville, I would be excited, but not as excited as I am for Lay Lake or Table Rock. Overall, I think Table Rock fits my style the best. 

You’re a guide on Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona and Lake Hartwell. How long have you been guiding? 

EW: I’d say 90% of my guiding is on Lanier and the rest is Hartwell, and just a few are on Allatoona. I’ve been doing this since last May. I graduated from Ole Miss in May 2021 with a degree in digital marketing and then worked for Pure Fishing for a year. I enjoyed it, but I can’t be in front of a laptop for eight hours a day, and I wanted to be a guide, so I figured I’d try it out and fish some tournaments and practice.  

They say the best way to learn something is to teach it. What have you learned as an angler from your experiences in teaching others to fish?

EW: From the guide route, my job is to put people on fish 24/7, and there’s a stigma where people think it will mess you up for tournament fishing by going to holes and getting numbers instead of adapting and learning. Everyone I guide wants to do something different, and I try to cater to everyone’s style. So, I’m fishing new water and learning from different people. I’ve learned things from people I wouldn’t have expected to learn.

What’s a typical monthly/weekly guide schedule for you? 

EW: A typical bit is I’m booked all summer and I don’t guide on weekends. I’ll go Monday through Friday with (trips) that are 4, 6 and 8 hours, and even some that go from sunup to sundown. 

Lake Lanier has become one of the favorite “stopover” fisheries for multiple Bass Pro Tour pros traveling through to tournaments. You’re probably a little partial, but would you rate Lanier as the best spotted bass fishery in the country right now? 

EW: It was ranked fourth or fifth in Georgia, but they don’t know what’s been happening here. I almost don’t want to say it, but it’s unbelievable how good it is. You need at least 20 pounds, and in the winter it’s 21-22 pounds, to win a tournament – and it’s all spotted bass. It’s a true gem, and not a lot of people have caught onto that yet. 

If you could describe a picture-perfect lake and the best conditions for you to win a tournament, what would those be?

EW: It would be any herring lake from May to October with clouds and wind. I can deal with all types of weather. 

On the flipside, what are some fisheries and conditions that you feel like you could use some improvement on (or flat-out just don’t like to fish?)

EW: I could use some work on offshore grass fishing like Guntersville. I was scared of Chickamauga and the TVA in the summertime – not that I don’t know how to do it; it’s just somewhere I need improvement. For instance, I’ve done well on Florida lakes before like Harris and Okeechobee.

You moved to the U.S. from Denmark as a toddler and have a large family. What was it like growing up with two older siblings and four younger siblings in a first-generation immigrant home in Georgia? 

EW: It was fun. We had a packed house and it made me good with people since I had to deal with siblings all the time. It’s nice when you get older and appreciate having a big family more and more since it’s nice having a bunch of them to reach out to. I’ve done interviews with some Danish fishing magazines, and a lot of people there don’t know bass fishing is a sport. Fishing is huge in Denmark, but it’s for pike and sea trout, since there’s no bass there. So, to have someone from there win the All-American is super cool to them. 

You’re the first in your family to get into fishing. How did you first catch the fishing bug, and who/what helped you get from the neighborhood pond to where you are today?

EW: I’m the only one who fishes in our family, and I don’t know how I got into it. I’d pond fish when I was young, and my earliest memories were walking to the pond. My dad fished before back in Denmark, but nothing crazy, just did it a few times. He got me a rod and reel and I’d catch bluegill and use that as live bait for some giant bass. Then in middle school I met my buddy William, and we’d fish out of his canoe every weekend. Then I got a bass boat in high school, and we fished every week. 

You’re multi-lingual, so what languages do you speak? And what are some fishing phrases in English that just don’t translate – or sound pretty goofy – in other languages?  

EW: We speak Danish at home all the time and I’m fluent in that and English, then I took Spanish in high school, but that’s more basic. Danish and English are my main languages. I don’t know of any fishing phrases that they would have in Denmark, but there’s a lot that don’t translate well in English.