Editor’s note: Elite pro Greg DiPalma won last weekend’s Bassmaster Kayak Series with 189.75 inches. Read more of DiPalma’s reasons for pursuing kayak fishing for the 2023 season.
Growing up in southern New Jersey, Greg DiPalma would search for bass in a small johnboat that he would take to the trolling motor only lakes around his home. Those small boats provided him a foundation to perfect his craft and ultimately jump start a professional career.
This season, DiPalma is going back to his roots. To supplement his Bassmaster Elite Series schedule, DiPalma will be fishing the majority, if not all, of the 2023 Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series powered by TourneyX schedule. He made the announcement on his Instagram on Jan. 20.
“I have been thinking about it for a little while,” DiPalma said. “I love that style of fishing. Here in south Jersey, typically we have trolling motor only lakes so I feel right at home fishing out of a kayak. It is a hand-to-hand combat style of bass fishing. It is you and the fish for the most part, and it is quiet and nimble. The fish nowadays are so pressured, and I think stealth is a big deal.”
DiPalma will compete against the likes of Drew Gregory, Garrett Morgan, Justin Largen and Kristine Fischer, just to name a few, for the Dakota Lithium Angler of the Year title.
He will also become the second Elite Series pro to compete in the Kayak Series after fellow New Jersey pro Mike Iaconelli competed and won a Kayak Series event in 2021 on the Upper Chesapeake Bay.
For the past couple years, DiPalma fished the Northern Opens, but with the format change in the Bassmaster Opens, the New Jersey pro decided it was time to try something he had been considering for several years now.
“The main thing is, I can see the growth of the kayak tournament trail over the last five years. There is an avenue for professional kayaking, and it is a whole other side not only to win money, but open up doors for different sponsors.”
This will be the first year DiPalma has fished out of a kayak. The 2020 Classic qualifier will be fishing out an Old Town Sportsman Autopilot 136, which has a Minn Kota trolling motor integrated into the hull.
Unlike the johnboat and Crawdad style boats he’s used to, the kayaks are super stable and will help him succeed in any condition. His setup will be complete with two Humminbird units with Mega Live capabilities.
“From front to back, the complete layout for Bassmaster tournaments is a no-brainer,” he said. “There is no adding additional parts, it is pretty much plug and play. Having Spot-Lock technology on a kayak is huge.”
Upon announcing he was joining the kayak tournaments on his Instagram on Jan. 20, DiPalma was met with an overwhelming amount of support from kayak anglers, and he said he is looking forward to being part of that community.
“The bass fishing community is really tight, but I think the kayak community is even tighter,” he said. “Once I posted that I had nothing but good things come back to me. I have had so many messages from people who kayak fish. I have clubs around here who have reached out to me and said I am welcome to fish in any of their events.”
DiPalma is committed to fishing at least four of the five events: Guntersville, Hartwell, the Mississippi River and the Susquehanna River event in October. However, if he does not make the cut for the Elite Series event on the Sabine River in June, he could make it to Possum Kingdom to compete in all five kayak events.
DiPalma will also be entering several Hobie Bass Open Series tournaments throughout the year.
Along with the catch-photo-release format of kayak events, one of the biggest adjustments he will have to make — but one he is looking forward to — is not having a big motor to move across the lake.
“The ability to not run around like you normally would in a bass boat, it makes you plan your day out differently. I can see as a bass fisherman how that can actually help you. Going back to when I fish at home, you really have to hunker down and fish differently. It’s not like you can run a pattern around the lake because you can’t physically do it.”
DiPalma believes other bass boaters will jump into the kayak tournament world, and as a whole, the kayak side of bass fishing will continue to grow.
“I think the reason the kayak side is so appealing, there isn’t much overhead. You don’t put any gas in it. You charge a battery, and you just go,” DiPalma said. “I think you will see more bass pros in the future doing this. I think the money is pretty good for what you put into it, and the opportunities with sponsorship are available if you market yourself properly.”