As the son of famed Hobie Regional Pro, Frank “The Mayor of Chicopit” Gregg, Rory Gregg was seemingly destined to be a waterman. An accomplished professional angler in his own right, Rory has demonstrated a true dominance in numerous tournaments, including a top ten finish on the IFA Kayak Fishing Tour. When not chasing the next redfish slam, he can be found spending time with his family, penning articles for Void and GAFF magazines, guiding clients, and promoting both the Hobie brand and kayak angling lifestyle through seminars and online forums.
What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?
My father, Frank “The Mayor of Chicopit” Gregg, started taking me fishing pretty much from the time I could hold a fishing rod. I have been a fisherman and a surfer my whole life. I grew up in and on the waterways of Jacksonville, Florida. During my youth, I played just about every sport possible, and mainly focused on baseball and soccer. During college, I traveled around the world between semesters on surfing trips chasing the biggest and best waves I could find. Be it that I lived in Florida, the waves aren’t always plentiful, and fishing became my way to stay on the water during the flat spells. My dad has an extensive resume as an accomplished tournament angler, and has been fishing various inshore tournaments over the past twenty years. As I began fishing a couple tournaments here and there on the flats boat with my father, and tasting a bit of success, my stoke for fishing began to tilt the scale on chasing waves. When my dad won the 2006 Jax Kayak Fishing Classic, now the largest kayak-fishing tournament in the world, he was approached by Hobie and became the Regional Pro for the Hobie Kayak Fishing Team. I had an old blue beater kayak I got from a college buddy of mine that I fished from here and there, and then my dad put me in a Hobie Outback one day and I never looked back. Having my hands free with the Mirage Drive, and with all of the accessories, rod holders, milkcrate, the ability to be hands free to focus on fishing gave me a new sense of fishing freedom on the water similar to the solidarity I got from surfing. One-man-one board one-wave at a time became one-man-one kayak-one pedal drive one-fish at a time, and then some! Kayak fishing became a new way to target our inshore slam of redfish, trout, and flounder, and gave me a new sense of utilizing my natural athletic ability along with all of the skills and attributes of inshore angling my father has taught me over the years. I entered the 2007 JKF Classic, and took 6th place in the Slam out of almost 400 anglers! This was the turning point for me, and Hobie asked me if I wanted to join the team. Just as anything else in life, my father has made me earn it, and he told me that to be a Pro you have to “pay your dues”, and there was a responsibility that came along with that beyond just fishing from a Hobie. Pretty much from that point on, I spent every weekend, and every chance I got on the water perfecting my skills as a Professional Kayak Angler, and contributing to the kayak fishing community and the growth of the sport of kayak fishing wherever I could.
Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?
The first “real” fish I caught from a kayak was a 33” redfish that weighed over 10lbs! What a pig that fish was! It pulled me across the creek and back, giving me my first legit sleigh ride in the Hobie Outback my dad put me in. That moment I was hooked, no pun intended. I will never for get it! Gives me the chills just thinking about it now today!
Your published articles, and in particular those focusing on the how-to genre, feature a writing style that is refreshingly specific. Instead of glossing over the truly valuable details, you take the time to explain techniques in such a way that renders the lesson quite useful. From where do you attribute your writing style as it pertains to kayak angling?
I wrote my first article when I was in high school for my school paper in the sports section. It was a straight forward sports editorial, and I never knew my passion for writing would grow, but I recall getting compliments from other teachers and coaches around the school. When I got to college, I had a friend of mine that was a local surfing photographer, and by then I was surfing all the time and traveling here and there. He let me borrow a small lens and camera to go and shoot at an NSSA College contest, for which I was competing with on my UNF Surf Team, between my heats I was shooting the action and lifestyle on the beach. Some of the images turned out really great, and getting deeper into my PR major, I was doing a lot of writing, presenting, and had to pick a minor, so I chose photography. During college, I also worked as a surfboard and apparel rep for an Australian company, and was attending trade shows twice a year building relationships with athletes and people in the industry. I started writing in blurbs and sending a few pics here and there into Eastern Surf Magazine. The next year I got out of being a rep, saved my pennies and bought a big camera, and began shooting free surfing, travel, and competitions coast to coast. As I got to know the editors, and the relationships grew, I told them of my writing experience, and they gave me a shot at 400 words for covering a major event in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. My first article and photo was published during my junior year of college and I was stoked. I was able to not only cover the event photographically, but editorially as well, and my photojournalistic drive grew. For the next couple years, I traveled up and down the east coast and abroad, covering surfing events, athletes, and travel stories. Over time I started to realize that I was spending more time on the beach and less time in the water. Once I graduated college and began working in corporate America, my time to cover surfing events became limited, but I continued to cover a select event here and there, and possibly one trip a year. By this time, my passion for fishing was growing, and, with the mentoring of my father, my experience as an angler as well. Fishing gave me a higher sense of lineage, and the relationship between my father and I grew with my passion for angling. The opportunity to learn from his wealth of knowledge, and awesomeness to be able to share in these experiences together drove our spirit of competition in the sport. Being able to share my experiences in professional kayak angling has given me a new editorial horizon I had never had the chance to explore before. Until the last couple years, I had only ever been able to write and cover events from a 3rd person journalistic view, including athletes, products and lifestyles therein. Being able to reach one angler at a time through my expertise in kayak angling, and aiding and assisting kayak anglers with bits and pieces of knowledge to hone their skills, and catching more fish from their kayaks, will in turn help drive kayak anglers to share this knowledge with others growing the excitement of the sport. I believe that there is a lot of tradition in fishing, and building on the lineage through the growth of kayak angling will expose the sport to the next generation, and that’s where we can sustain growth for kayak anglers and the industry. I think I have found a niche, and am enjoying writing every evergreen article more and more.
What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?
When I wake up at 4:30am, I reach for a coffee – black. My cooler bag is always packed with a big jug of water, 2 sugar free Red Bulls, a peanut butter Cliff Bar, and sometimes a Dandee chicken salad sandwich (made locally and delivered daily) for the long missions. I’ll grab a chunky egg salad sandwich for breakfast from my local bait shop, B&M. They make them homemade on the weekends and they are deeeelish! On the drive to the launch it really depends on the mood and the day; every day has a different sound track. If I am guiding for the day, I might listen to something mellow like Thievery Corp to help me focus and visualize my float plan and strategy to put the customer on some fish. If I am going free fishing solo or with friends, I will crank up some Frank Black, and get in a cruise control mode. On tournament days I like to jam out to a local band called Aquaveeda, a good friend of mine is the lead singer/guitarist, and they have a song that absolutely rocks titled “Coming Down The Road,” which I find fitting as I am driving to my launch point near my favorite honey hole, Chicopit Bay!
Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?
I would definitely say that Hobie is on the forefront of shaping the future of kayak angling. They have revolutionized the sport with innovation, engineering, and design of their line of kayaks built to be human powered fishing machines! They spare no expense from a product development standpoint, and are constantly asking us for feedback from the field, really listening to the Pro Staff and the end users in the general public to enhance the boats performance, and the innovation of accessories to go along with them. I feel very fortunate to be able to aid and assist in this progression by providing valuable feedback from the trenches, and they take note to the wants and needs of every angler. Secondly, I would say that the accessory designers and developers in the industry are pushing the growth of the sport to new levels. Companies like YakAttack, HOOK1, and KBF just to name a few are producing and distributing top of the line accessories while also partnering with some of the best boat manufacturers to help in their innovation of stock accessories as well. The media is playing a huge part in elevating kayak angling to the forefront of fishing focus. Print and online publications, such as you guys here at Milkcrate, and Kayak Angler Magazine, are producing relevant media that specifically covers our sport and all facets of it. The traditional angling publications are also dedicating page space and sections in pretty much every issue focusing on travel, tips and tactics of kayak angling! Tournament trails are a major movement in legitimizing the genre of the sport of kayak angling in the fishing world. With major tourneys such as the JKF, FCKA, plus many more, and the growth of the IFA Kayak Fishing tour, tournaments are a paving the way to major corporate sponsorships, and major sponsors such as Hobie are going even bigger with the World Championships held in 2011! Beyond the industry, and the media, the real people shaping the future of the sport of kayak angling are the kayak anglers themselves. Kayak anglers are some of the most industrious anglers in the world. I don’t think I have ever met a single kayak angler that hasn’t modified or customized their kayak or accessories to fit their own needs, and some of them take their ideas and run with them to produce cottage businesses or sell their ideas to companies to mass produce for all kayak anglers to use. Like the old saying goes “necessity is the root of invention”, and where there is a will, a kayak angler will find a way!
You have been featured on the Watermans Applied Science blog, which has become a popular destination for readers seeking information on a variety of aquatic pursuits. In doing so, you have joined the ranks of a legendary set of athletes, including Chuck Patterson and Jamie Mitchell. How did you become involved with the Waterman’s crew?
Well, to even be mentioned in the same sentence as those guys is one of the most flattering statements that has ever been said to me. I have a long way to go to be considered legendary status, and short of pedaling my Hobie Pro Angler to 10 World Titles, or dropping into 50-foot waves on a Hobie SUP, I am proud to represent a brand that represents the best athletes in the outdoors industry. I approached Watermans over a year ago, after getting some samples from a friend of mine, who is a former rep of theirs, and they also carry the brand at my Hobie dealer, Black Creek Outfitters. It was the best sunscreen I had ever used, and since I have been working with Watermans, I have never been sunburned since. Being a kayak angler and a surfer, I have always considered myself a waterman, and being a true waterman is having a passion for your core sport(s), but also being driven to try other waterman sports just for the sake of being on the water. Spending countless hours on the water throughout my life, I use a ton of sunscreen, and being a fair skinned Irish guy, having the right sunscreen has always been crucial to staying on the water for hours on end. Watermans has the perfect match of protection and quality as a brand, and the people at Watermans Applied Science are passionate about all water sports and the protection of the athletes driving them. When I first spoke to Pete Sterling there, he was intrigued with the opportunity of representing a professional kayak angler as they hadn’t really made a push into the kayak angling arm of the outdoors industry yet. It was a win-win partnership, but the proof had to be in the pudding, and as with any sponsorn you have to earn it and then reciprocate to your sponsoring brands by driving exposure to the brand. Through my consistent tourney results, seminars and events, and editorial endeavors, their support has been outstanding, and at the end of the day being protected from skin cancer will keep me on the water for decades to come!
With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?
For the most part, kayak anglers are a conservation minded community of anglers. Using our system of CPR, (Catch Photo Release), I can now see that a practice that has been pioneered in kayak angling may be taking shape toward the boat tournaments in the future. Conservation is always top of mind, and people need to respect the waterways, whether motor or non-motor, to preserve our fisheries for many generations to come. There is nothing better than a piece of blackened redfish, but there is nothing more saddening than showing up at the launch or boat ramp to see multiple illegal sized fish carcasses floating in the water. People just need to learn not to have a “full cooler or full stringer” mentality. The local wildlife and game commissions are spread thin as is, so it is up to us to self-police the community at times to raise awareness of conservation. Another major issue that is the #1 priority beyond conservation is safety. Kayak anglers need to wear PFDs, have a whistle, and a communication device on the water at all times. Things can go from zero to really bad in a blink of an eye, and you always have to be prepared for any situation. Along with safety comes respect on the water. Many accidents happen to kayak anglers by boaters on the water just not looking out for kayak anglers, or simply not caring or respecting kayak anglers. Many times a boater cannot see a kayak angler when they come burning around a corner through a marsh, either swamping the kayak angler or, worst case scenario, colliding with a kayak angler. Hence the whistle, or even a safety flag, is important to stay visible. There unfortunately is still a ways to go with the mutual respect between boaters and kayak anglers, but I do believe it is getting better annually. True avid anglers respect the waters and the people on the water, whether in a motorized or non-motorized vessel. Again, with law enforcement being spread thin in every area of the country, it is up to the community to be self-policing at times to report safety and conservation issues in a timely fashion.
Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak-angling trip?
I have 2 bucket list trips that come to mind as “dream kayak angling adventures”. The first would be to travel to Christmas Island! After seeing the article that was published last year in Kayak Angler Magazine, there is only one word that came to mind: epic! How cool would it be to travel half way across the world, puddle jump from Hawaii to a remote archipelago giving you the best of both worlds of fishing – inshore flats, and offshore reefs all within reach in the same day. Plus you are in the middle of the South Pacific, on a tropical island, no crowds, beautiful weather, and the ability to wake up in the morning and hit the flats for bonefish, then after lunch, head offshore within a mile or less to catch big game fish like tuna and grouper…sounds epic to me! The second would be a trip to Cuba. I can just imagine how good the fishery is there being just 90 miles from the Florida Keys. As good as the keys can be for catching a variety of species both inshore or offshore, Cuba is relatively untouched as far as we know, and it is the largest island in the Caribbean. There are hundreds of miles of shoreline, and I can bet there are many rivers, lagoons, and flats to explore as well. One of these days the government will make peace with Cuba, and once the borders are opened, I may have to take some time to explore the whole island, find my favorite flats, build a kayak fishing lodge, and live happily ever after!
What’s in your milk crate?
My Hobie fishing bag with safety whistle clipped to the side, with 2 Hobie tackle boxes. One with hooks of all kinds, both weighted and un-weighted, Slayer jig heads in 1/4 and 1/8 oz., a variety of egg and bay sinkers, a pocketknife, fishing license, Watermans face stick and lip balm. The other box is full of hard and soft plastics such as my favorite Badonk-a-Donks by Bomber Saltwater Grade, paddletails and shrimps by Bomber, Slayer, and Fishbites. I also will have my fish-grip on my T-reign clip, hook pliers, braid cutters, measuring stick, rubberized gloves, and a yak rag (which I make from old cut up T-shirts). In one pocket I keep all of my leader spools from 15-20lb. fluorocarbon, plus 17 & 30lb. monofilament. In the other pocket I keep my Watermans sunscreen 55, bug spray, binoculars, and my cell phone. I keep a small cooler bag with my snacks and hydration. Underneath the fishing and cooler bag is my Gulp buffet tray, just in case. Mounted to the back of the milkcrate is a rod holder with 3 rods and reels. One – 7’ medium heavy T. Allen bait-casting rod with a Daiwa Coastal bait-casting reel spooled with 10lb. FINS wind-tamer braid, a 30lb. mono leader and a Badonk-a-Donk 4” LP in bone/orange throat by Bomber Saltwater Grade. The second combo is a 7’ medium T. Allen spinning rod with a Daiwa Ballistic 2500 spinning reel spooled with 12lb. FINS wind-tamer braid, a 20lb. floro leader and a Slayer 1/8oz. jig head. The third combo on the back of the milkcrate is a 7’ medium heavy T. Allen spinning rod with a Daiwa Ballistic 3000 spinning reel spooled with 12lb. FINS wind-tamer braid, a Paradise Popper by Bomber, and 17lb mono leader with a Life-Like Shrimp by Bomber. Ready to head into battle!
Tell us about your best day on the water.
It’s hard to describe just one “best day” on the water, but many of my best days would play out like this: my best day on the water would be putting together the perfect float plan and catching a slam. Timing out the perfect day, the perfect tide, and being fortunate enough to have the weather and all of the elements come together. My best day would usually include my father or a friend to share in the action. It would start off with an early morning high tide, in late spring or fall, with clear skies, and light winds. My whole float plan mapped out, and working a high tide top water bite, with float fishing and then jigging into low tide. As a top water junkie, I am most excited about the early morning dog walking with my Badonks, hoping to catch a nice slot red and maybe a gator trout in the mix. Once the morning progressed, I would work some oyster rakes, ledges and eddies around ambush points float fishing drift and retrieve style, which is my dad’s signature style of fishing that he taught me. Upgrading my trout, and possibly my redfish, in the process. Toward low tide, I’d be moving into some shallow flats and mounding oyster rakes exposed to the heat of the day, and teaming with big flounder to round out the slam – throwing jig heads on the edges bouncing the bottom for strikes. Knowing there’s still a good chance more reds and trout could be in the mix. At the end of the day working the first of the incoming at some remote spots in between for some last gas action. As I head for home to my launch point closing out the day with a successful slam, or two, in bag limit numbers, with maybe one nice keeper to bring home to momma to throw on the grille! This is about the best day you could have on the water in a kayak, putting together the perfect float plan, targeting all of your prized species, and succeeding in your strategy – paying off making it all come together!
As a columnist for Void Magazine’s fishing focus, you have added the practice of kayak angling to a mix of popular and well-documented pursuits such as surfing and skating. This has, in essence, placed you in a position to raise the levels of relevance and awareness amongst the general public, and, as such, has made you a de facto ambassador of our sport. What does this responsibility mean to you?
A couple of my good friends of mine, Tye Wallace and Aaron Meisenheimer, are outstanding designers and entrepreneurs. They grew a boutique website agency and one of the most popular surfing websites on the east coast over the last decade. Looking for a new challenge, and to fill a “void” for North Florida, they launched Void Magazine, and have had great success. Having built a working relationship with them over the years with surfing images for their website, and doing some editorial pieces for them in ESM, they also knew of my passion for fishing. When the magazine was launched, and their prior knowledge of my professional fishing experience, they invited me to help out with the growth of the magazine by becoming their fishing editor, while also occasionally writing a few other color stories as well. Void is focused on outdoors, action sports, music, art, gear, and lifestyle in the 904. North Florida also happens to be one of the best fisheries in the world, and kayak fishing is a huge with sports in general, (especially in the greater Jacksonville area), so it was an easy fit in the magazine, as many outdoors enthusiasts participate in everything outdoors in our demographic. Once the magazine went month-to-month after year one, I began writing the local saltwater fishing forecast, which has brought me even closer to all the elements of every genre of fishing. Kayak angling has a major presence in Jacksonville, and be it that we have the largest kayak-angling tournament in the world here, North Florida is a Mecca for kayak anglers. The responsibility as an ambassador of the sport is bigger than self; it is the opportunity to share in the excitement for the sport, to teach people to be better anglers, have an active voice for the kayak angling community, and be a part of the overall growth and awareness for the people, products and the industry. This is a responsibility that I am proud to take on, as an ambassador for the sport of kayak angling.
What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?
The kayak angling lifestyle is a laid back, becoming lifestyle of fishing with a huge sense of community, and a humble pride being a part of something growing and nurturing into a world-renowned genre of sport fishing. There is a different sense of camaraderie in the sport of kayak angling, and it evokes passion of a different style with people from every walk of life. A greener more conservationist minded style of fishing with most endeavors geared towards charity, community kayak angling accessibility, and overall expansion and awareness of the sport.
Tell us a story, any story.
The best kayak-angling story that I keep replaying in my mind on a regular basis was my November journey to the 2011 IFA Kayak Fishing Championships in Chamlette, Louisiana. I hooked up with my good friend, and Hobie Kayaks Pro Fishing Team colleague, Justin Carter, from Charleston, South Carolina. He drove down to Jacksonville and rendezvoused with me at my house in Atlantic Beach, Florida. We loaded up the Hobie Pro Anglers on the trailer, organized our gear and hit the road driving straight through the night to the bayou. On our way, me met up with Jeff Suber, President of the FCKA, and carpooled all the way 10 West. After 9 hours on the road, we pulled up to Hopedale, Louisiana and were on the water to begin pre-fishing for 2 days before the official start of the championships, to get a lay of the land and organize our float plan for the tourney. We knew going into the first leg of the journey that we were going to run into some incumbent weather, and Jeff decided to have a lay day at his campsite, but that didn’t stop Carter and I. We put on the rain gear and charged it. Battling high winds, rain, and fatigue, we managed to find some fish the first day in not so friendly conditions, launching and re-launching at 2 different location to get a good bearing on the locale. After being up for 36 hours straight, we crashed hard the first night at the Marina Hotel, host location for the tourney. Knowing the next day was going to be a washout, we mentally and physically prepared ourselves, befriending another tour angler from Pensacola, Florida, Chad Skeeles, to head out at first light the next morning. We scouted another spot to the south near Delacroix, and found out quickly that 25-30mph winds blew the water out of the marshes of Louisiana just as they will on the flats of Florida. We headed back to our first launch the previous day to find some protection from the wind, knowing that we had found fish there the day before and going with our instincts to stay on the bite. The weather cleared in the evening, letting us know that Mother Nature was going to give us a window of opportunity for 2 nice days of tournament angling for the crown. Captains meeting, networking, and interviews went down that evening, and off to bed knowing exactly where we going to fish for day one of the tournament was top of mind. We hooked up the next morning at first light with Skeeles, Suber, and Blake Gill from New Orleans. With camera crew in tow, we knew the pressure was on in more ways than one, but we knew going into the journey that no matter what, we carried the attitude that we were going to have a great time! What ensued to happen was 2 of the most epic days of tournament fishing of our lives, all culminating during a major championship for the sport of kayak angling being able to be well documented for broadcast on national TV. We all proceeded to fish on the same bank for 2 days straight in sunny skies and 65-70 degree weather, slamming out by 8am each day, and sleigh riding in circles around each other on one hog sized Louisiana redfish after another, and a plentiful trout bite as well! The camaraderie and sportsmanship, overall trash talking, and fun that took place just added to the experience. In the end, we all placed in the Top 10, and Carter took home the IFA Championship and Angler Of The Year by catching a monster redfish away from the pack while searching to upgrade his trout on a random structured bank nobody had really fished the previous days. We finished off our epic journey with a New Orleans celebration in style, meeting up with Brendan Bayard, Hobie Kayaks Fishing Team colleague and Runner Up in the IFA Championships, and Blake Gill for a night on the town with food and fun on Bourbon Street before heading back home to close out the tournament season the next day. One of the best times ever, kayak angling with a crew of great guys, and being hosted by one of the most epic fisheries in the world at Chalmette, Louisiana! I can’t wait to go back there again, tourney or no tourney - it was just that good!
What does the future hold for you?
It’s going to be a busy exciting year, and beyond this year the sky’s the limit for me, and kayak angling! Watching my son grow bigger day by day, and looking forward to the day he can take his seat in the front of my Hobie tandem kayak. A full slate of tournaments annually, which include the IFA Kayak Fishing Tour and various other local and regional tournaments in between. The organization of a local tournament I have began planning with my local town to raise money to enhance kayak fishing launch points in multiple locations throughout the coastal parks. Hosting multiple seminars locally and regionally with various kayak federations on every subject from top water, to safety on the water. Take part in mother ship trips to remote locations to target some fish in areas that have been fished next to none. Filming more and more video GoPro footage, and creating a Youtube channel. Finish launching our new website to increase the visibility of our sport, and also generate more volume for kayak fishing charters, sponsor visibility, and seminars. Attend regional and national fishing expos such as iCast. Work with my sponsors to aid and assist in product development, sales/marketing, and field-testing while developing our own signature brand of products. Continue to grow as an angling editorial writer for Void, GAFF, and various other publications. Develop a new pilot show concept with my father for WFN, and other local media opportunities. Travel and document kayak angling expeditions for print and digital media, and possibly getting just the right footage for a great color story or two along the way. Working towards my career goal to parlaying 10+ years of corporate PR/Sales/Marketing experience, coupled with my professional angling knowledge and editorial experience, by landing a fishing industry job with a major company in product development, and driving revenues to push the sport of kayak angling as a true ambassador of the industry, and the sport.
You can contact Rory Gregg in Jacksonville, Florida, for your next kayak angling adventure, and he can also be reached for editorial, seminar, and sponsorship opportunities at 904-208-8900, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new website www.ChicopitBay.com will be launching soon, and will be an informative place for kayak anglers, events, products, and guided kayak angling charters.