Lake Wylie plays host to two kayak bass fishing tournaments in April, fielding anglers from throughout the region.
The River Bassin Tournament Trail is April 2 at Ebenezer Park in Rock Hill. Kayaks n’ Greenbacks is April 30, returning to Hunt Fish Paddle on Charlotte Highway in Lake Wylie. Both are returning events.
Lake Wylie and surrounding waters last year hosted River Bassin super regional event drawing 15 teams and 49 anglers. Total caught was more than 1,000 inches of bass.
Dan Mullane fished both upcoming kayak events in the past, taking second overall in the River Bassin event last year. Kayak anglers — like many power boaters — are conservation-minded. Environmental awareness and sustainability are a big part of what they do. Mullane, for example, is also head of Lake Wylie Covekeepers, the local arm of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.
Mullane has fished power boat bass tournaments, too, but now leans toward kayak events.
“In the past I’ve done it all, but life has made it crazy to where I’ve had to pick and choose,” he said. “The kayak events are a little different. It’s a lot more of a family kind of social gathering feel to it.”
Kayak tournaments measure fish by length, not weight. There’s no meeting at the scales to see who brings in the biggest fish. Kayak anglers catch and release, snapping a picture of fish against a ruler first. Kayak tournaments may allow fishing throughout tributaries many miles from the home lake, but kayak anglers also are more limited in how much water they can cover.
“You can choose where you fish, which is different,” Mullane said. “You’ve got to be a little more concise on where you want to spend your time.”
Kayak fishing isn’t as popular as traditional tournament series, but its niche status brings in a wide range of anglers for events. It wouldn’t be unusual to see people from Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Alabama or Missouri on the lake in coming weeks.
“There’s a tight-knit group of folks,” Mullane said. “This group of people is more spread out, but we always seem to find a reason to get together.”
Because anglers come from so far, Mullane said, locals often help identify good fishing spots or techniques, which isn’t common to competitive fishing.
The 2016 River Bassin trail is broken into four regions covering Texas to Maine, the Dakotas to Florida. It also includes online tournaments where anglers can upload fish photos. The Southeast region began March 5 in Florida. Lake Wylie will host the second Southeast event safe light to 3:30 p.m. Other tournaments will be held in Tennessee and Georgia, along with an online regional event.
In his virtual captain’s meeting, tour director Drew Gregory described a move this year toward bigger payouts and prizes at each event rather than a focus on season points finishes.
“No more local events,” he said. “They were fun, they were smaller but this year, let’s face it, everyone wants the really big events, the regional events with the bigger prizes, where the cash is.”
Prizes include $1,000 for first place and cash for top finishers. Kayaking and fishing gear will go to winners, and a drawing will be held for a new kayak. Prizes are available to the top finishing dog owner, youth anglers, collegiates and woman. There even are prizes for bass caught at a randomly picked time and anglers who volunteer their best stories from the day.
Kayaks n’ Greenbacks launches at 6 a.m. April 30. Hunt Fish Paddle hosts the wrap-up event at 3:30 p.m. The event features 100 percent payback format.
John Marks: 803-831-8166