Drew Gregory

 

A charismatic Southern blend of passion, determination, and creativity, North Carolina’s Drew Gregory is an angler familiar to many within our sport.  With many roles to his name, including those of brand ambassador, speaker, television star, and mentor, Drew is well-immersed in the kayak angling life.  As the founder of RiverBassin.com, Drew has built a community that has contributed greatly to the pool of online kayak angling resources.  This trend continues with his recent launch of College Kayak Fishing, a tournament series aimed at garnering interest and participation from the sport’s younger set.

 

What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?

It was 2003, I was living with my parents back in Atlanta attending grad school at Georgia State University. I would walk down to the river with my dad and do some fishing like my dad and I did while I was growing up there. I really started to fall back in love with fishing that river and wanted to explore even more rivers in the area. I did some research online and stumbled onto a small, friendly website called GeorgiaRiverFishing.com. Soon became a member of the forums there and started noticing trip reports from some of the guys that were fishing these rivers in kayaks. I thought, “What a perfect tool for the job!” In 2001 I had learned how to whitewater kayak on the Ocoee River while I was attending Lee University, so I knew what a kayak was capable of doing, especially when you need to get to places that other boats cannot access. I immediately did my research and headed up to The Outside World in Dawsonville, GA to purchase an Ocean Kayak Caper. I soon bought a second one a few months later so my dad could join me. From there, the rest is history…my appetite to explore had to be fed and the rivers and creeks, in the state of GA especially, were what my Caper and I feasted on for the next 3 years.


Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?

To be honest I can’t remember the exact first fish, but I know where I was and who took me. My friend, Randy Woodhead, let me join him on a trip in his kayaks before I even owned one. We fished a small creek south of Atlanta, and the first one that I caught was either a bowfin or a largemouth bass. I know I caught several of each on that trip, and I just can’t remember technically which one was first. I wonder if he still has any photos from that trip? I’ll have to go ask him!


 

 

Media sources often tout the generalized demise of the sportsman, and make the case that younger generations lack the interest necessary to sustain a solid fishing demographic. You discovered the sport of kayak angling while in college, and have parlayed your passion into a program in which you enable other young people to do the same. College Kayak Fishing, a catch-photo-release tournament series geared toward the 18-22 year old set, features numerous well-targeted and high profile sponsors such as GoPro and Jackson Kayaks, and is advertised through a well produced video starring yourself. Explain to us what it was that compelled you to get involved with this cause, and what it is that you believe the organization will accomplish with regard to the aforementioned media claims.

I’ve always had a passion for young people, and want to make a positive impact in their lives. In fact, my undergraduate degree is in youth ministry from Lee University, and then I actually went on to get my masters in Sports Management (GA St.). Working on a league for college students puts my experience/education to good use, and gives this group of anglers a chance to really get involved in something that will positively impact their lives. When I was in college, fishing is what kept me out of a lot of trouble and taught me a lot of important life lessons. In fact, growing up my dad would take me fishing and while on the boat together he was able to impart a lot of life experience and wisdom into me. I’d love to see these college kayak anglers get into this sport, which makes more sense for them to be a part of because it is inexpensive, simple, gets them outside, and allows them to burn off some energy and steam that can build up when cooped up in a classroom all day! To me kayak fishing is (whether you’re young or older) a young, cool, and hip way to fish, so it all just fits perfectly with the college lifestyle, and it was about time they get a website where they can all come together and compete for some cool prizes.


What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?

As far as music goes, I listen to a little of everything, to be honest. I could be rolling down the road singing some country, like Eric Church, or throw on a top 40 station or even listen to some positive and encouraging Christian tunes. Much of the time however I am either A.) on the phone or B.) listening to sports talk radio or a fantasy football podcast (hey, you don’t win without doing some homework!) or even an audio book.

As far as food goes, I am a big dork and finally have learned to “most of the time” eat what I know I should and not what I know may taste better, for the sake of my body. We all know an apple is better for us than a doughnut, but for some reason I never could make myself eat the apple! Now, the older I get, the more I A.) feel it and B.) don’t want to feel it! Haha, so I have thus changed my diet a good bit and really try to eat a lot of what our bodies were intended to eat – fresh, raw fruits and vegetables, wild caught fish, seafood and meat that has not been pumped full of hormones and raised in a cage/barn instead of on the range. Like I said, I know, I am a dork, but I’ve been in better shape because of it so I am sticking to it…well, the best I can.


 

 

Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?

I would say the consumers are shaping it. Manufacturers produce what they think will sell, right? And, since the kayaking industry is a tight knit, small bunch, they are smart enough to solicit feedback from the consumers to hear “what they want.” Therefore, the consumers are shaping it all together, as one whole. There are very different anglers who fish in many different water types and when a certain “niche” gets big enough, the boat designed for their craft will be made.

The next thing that is impacting kayak angling is the simple fact that so many of us are filming while on the water because it is so easy to do, and more importantly share, these days. GoPro cameras have made it too easy and affordable for those who are into sharing trips with friends.

Lastly, the economy is shaping the sport because it is an inexpensive way to get on the water and gas guzzling boats are no longer as affordable to the middle class as they used to be. Kayaks are affordable to everyone!


Through a combination of demonstrative angling talent, glossy media exposure, and southern boy charm, you have, in many regards, become one of the more public faces of kayak angling. As such, and especially amongst the youngest practitioners, you have become a true ambassador for our burgeoning sport. What does this responsibility mean to you, and how has it impacted the public side of your persona?

Yeah, good question. Life changes a lot when you do become more of a public persona because you certainly lose a lot of the privacy you had before. You know more people, but in a weird way you also feel more alone, if that makes sense. Sometimes people or friends that see me in magazines, on TV or radio and say “you’re famous,” and I just laugh and say, “Look, if there are A-list celebs and B-list etc., then I must be so far down that I am beyond Z! In fact, you know that button on your phone that allows you to get to all those ‘extra symbols’…yeah, I’m way down there somewhere.” I just laugh it off because it is not something I am trying to be (celebrity) but rather is just something that can be a bi-product of success in the career I chose. However, I am not ignorant to the fact that there are certainly a lot of people in the kayak fishing world that have come to know me well and that there is a responsibility that comes with that platform. It reminds me of a great proverb in the Bible – “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked,” Luke 12:48. I only hope to use whatever recognition, big or small, this sport allows me, to make a positive impact on people’s lives because the talents I have all came from God anyway; I just hope to use them to the best of my ability so that at the end of my life I can feel good about the fact that I used all that I was given to the fullest – in sports lingo…”He left it all on the field!”


 

 

With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?

1. Right to access water will always be an important issue for all paddlers, not just paddlers who fish. As our numbers grow, so does our voice and that is making a big impact on new bills being proposed, and a big impact in general to those decision makers in our government. We need to keep growing, but grow with the right people who are being good stewards of the resource and not abusing it.

2. Catch and release is also an important issue, especially in those inland rivers, small lakes, and ponds because regulations are still based on the fact that not many people fish these waters. However, if we all kept our limit each time we fish these places, they would be depleted in a heartbeat because the kayak is allowing more anglers to fish these waters. So, it is up to us, since the governing bodies won’t make specific limits for these smaller waters, to sort of help govern them and encourage catch and release.


Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?

I can’t even tell you an exact location, but just that it would be a remote section of river, any river, that is loaded with bass that has no public access for 20 or 30 miles. A true remote, wild water, kind of trip where you don’t know what’s around the next bend, but there is no turning back anyway so you gotta go for it! It would likely have big rapids as well, making it even more of an extreme adventure.

Having said all that, any place that has clear water, Permit, and Bonefish on flats is pretty nice too!


 

 

What’s in your milk crate?

Well, lately my “milk crate” has been full of new product decision with Jackson Kayak for 2014 and finalizing some videos showing off what anglers can expect to see in stores soon for 2013 from Jackson. We have a barrage of cool new boats coming out, so it should be a great 2013 on the water. I’ve also been working a lot with filming more on the water and hopefully just being on the water more these days. 2012 was as busy as I have ever been with the demand and increase of the Jackson brand and it had me traveling every which a way to try to do all I could for our great customers and dealers.


Tell us about your best day on the water.

Best day on the water happened in, I believe, 2007, when I floated one of my favorite Georgia rivers with a few friends. I started the day with a nice 7lb largemouth bass and ended up catching a total of 9 bass over 4lbs! Most of them were shoal bass ranging from 4 to 6lbs, and by the end of the day, boy was my arm and thumb sore!


 

 

What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

I really believe the kayak fishing lifestyle is actually probably different for everyone of course, but for me it is a mix of the following – fitness, simplification, exploration and exhilaration! Kayak fishing is interesting because it is a mix of a laid back, almost surfer like attitude with a typical angler’s intensity and appetite for hunting these finned creatures thrown in.


Tell us a story, any story.

I was fishing about a month ago for bass in a local river testing out the new Cuda 12. The water was muddy and I hooked a nice 6.5 or 7lb largemouth bass. Upon landing it I removed my spinnerbait out of its mouth and tossed it over the side of the kayak with about 2 feet dangling off the kayak. I made a couple paddle strokes over to some rocks to get some photos when all the sudden my rod starts jumping off my kayak! WHAT!!! I grabbed it as fast as I could, lifted it up and lo and behold I had a 3.5lb largemouth on the end of my line! So, I guess in a way I got a double without even trying! The larger fish was my priority and I put the smaller one back and got some good photos of the big girl. I still can’t believe it happened!


 

 

Take us back in time, perhaps by a decade or so, and allow us to chat with the college-age Drew. Did he have any idea as to what his future would entail? Had he any idea that he would soon have to his name numerous television appearances, kayak design credentials, and a highly-attended public speaking circuit?

Oh wow, haha, I don’t know if I can let you guys give me credit for all that! On the kayak designs, I just design the “concepts” of some of the Jackson boats, but there is an elaborate team behind these concepts that contribute to their success. I’ll always get more credit than I deserve since I am in the public spotlight, and they’ll never get as much praise as they deserve. Allow me to use this time to say how amazing all the team at Jackson Kayak is, especially R&D manager, Tony Lee, Scott Henderson, our product manager, Damon Bungard, plant manager, Brad Sisqo, and of course our VP of sales, Marty Cronin, head coach Joe Pulliam, CFO, Dave Olson, and of course president, Eric Jackson, and everyone else.

Now, would I have thought any of this would be where I am today – NO WAY! Haha, and that is a good thing for any high school student, college student or post graduate student out there that is currently thinking “I don’t know what I want to do with my life, where I want to go.” I didn’t know until I was about 28 years old and some people may not know until they are much older, or some younger, but it isn’t about figuring it out as soon as you can necessarily, its about finally ending up where you need to be. I do know that I have always been an outgoing, passionate, and entrepreneurial kinda guy who was always going to end up doing something totally unique/different. I never once thought “I can’t do that,” and truly believed my parents when they say what all parents say, “you can do anything you want when you grow up if you work hard and put your mind to it.” The last thing you ever want to say to me is “that can’t be done” because the second someone says that regarding an idea I have, I’ll go do it! It is just the way my brain is wired. If I set a goal to fly, it wouldn’t be just to fly, but it would be to FLY TO THE MOON!


 

 

What does the future hold for you?

I suppose just more cool kayak designs and hopefully some more on-the-water time! Also, a lot more work to be done to build CollegeKayakFishing.com so we can start to really reach a demographic that needs to be in a kayak more than they are. I’ll likely try to do more with TV as well, so that should be interesting.

Leave a Reply

*