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Fishing for success: 21-year-old launches charter and reels in clients

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 2:04 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Two years ago, Weston Hartman was getting ready to start his higher education at Roanoke College.

“I was there for one and a half semesters, mentally there for one,” remembers Hartman, as we wait for a striper to bite on his boat, a Sea Fox 240 XT.

Nowadays, the 21-year-old is the youngest captain on Smith Mountain Lake.

In his second semester at Roanoke College, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“It was actually kind of a blessing to me in a way because we were sent home, and it made me realize what I really wanted to do,” says Hartman, who decided he no longer wanted to pursue a degree.

He spent a month thinking about his future, and while he was thinking, he was fishing.

“For a very long time I’ve wanted to guide, but that is what sent it home for me was literally being sent home,” explains Hartman. “I’ve fished my whole life; this is what I breathe is striper fishing.”

Hartman says he’s owned a boat since he was 15, but his biggest leap of faith in himself was taking out a boat loan for a larger vessel to start his business running charters for striped bass and white perch.

Hartman Guide Services’ first trip set sail in August 2020.

One year later, Hartman is booked with four to five trips per week, and fishing is his full-time job.

The lake as a whole saw a jump in business during the pandemic, with more people working from home and moving closer to the water.

Hartman says this helped build up his clientele, in addition to the tourists during his peak season in the summer.

“People got cooped up, got cabin fever, and being outdoors, it’s a great way to treat cabin fever.”

Hartman is now booking trips into fall and winter of 2021.

For more information, or to book your trip, click here.

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