Anglers fish Catawba River from kayaks in eco-friendly tourney

About 55 anglers from the Carolinas and beyond set out on York County creeks and rivers Saturday for an eco-friendly kayak fishing tournament.

Pro fisherman Drew Gregory of Charlotte, host of the River Bassin Tournament Trail result show, has pioneered the sport of kayak fishing in freshwater rivers.

“It’s a little bit easier on the fish,” said Gregory, who said that anglers release the fish they’ve caught back into the river after taking a photo and measuring the catch on their kayak.

In other tournaments where fish are kept longer, Gregory said, the fish sometimes die even after they are released because of the stress of being handled.

Gregory said river fishing from kayaks makes the sport more exciting for the anglers, because of the challenge of dealing with river currents and the skill needed to maneuver a kayak.

The all-day bass fishing event began at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. Many competitors chose to fish on the Catawba River below the Lake Wylie Dam, he said. Anglers could submit up to three fish for the competition. The lengths are added for the longest total.

Jordan Marshall, 20, from Knoxville, Tenn., decided to fish on the Broad River instead of the Catawba. Marshall has been fishing from kayaks for several years and said he enjoys it.

The fish “will drag you around in a kayak,” Marshall said. “It makes the whole fight more difficult. It’s much more rewarding when you catch a fish.”

Darrell Olson, 61, of Charleston, has been fishing from kayaks for years, but this was his first bass fishing tournament. “I believe we need to help with sustaining our fisheries,” he said.

Robert Patterson, 31, who came from Uniontown, Pa., said such tournaments are a good place to make friends. “I grew up fishing, but never from canoes and kayaks,” he said. “The last four or five years, I’ve gotten more into it.”

Gregory said the tournament’s top competitors caught fish measuring more than 20 inches, for total length of more than 60 inches. Family members and spectators enjoyed activities based at Ebenezer Park, where the awards were given.

The event was co-hosted by the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau. More than $10,000 in cash and prizes were given away. A kayak was given away in a raffle.

For tournament details, go to www.riverbassintrail.com.

Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077