Every venue on the 2022 Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series powered by TourneyX slate was a lake that Drew Gregory had either never fished before or had only fished once prior to this season.
But with meticulous study and preparation, Gregory found waters that suited his strengths all year and won the inaugural Old Town Bassmaster Kayak Series Angler of the Year title. With three wins and a top seven finish, Gregory accumulated 994 points to earn a $5,000 check as well as a brand new Old Town kayak.
Virginia angler Justin Largen finished second with 972 points, and Larry Edwards was third with 970 points.
“I grew up with Bassmaster, and when they announced they were going to have an AOY, it is one of things I put highest on my priority list this year. It is very humbling and overwhelming,” Gregory said. “I am old enough now to know that the ones who have been pioneering the sport for the last 15 years, and now in the high end tournament scene, we are the Bill Dances, Jimmy Houstons, Roland Martins and Rick Clunns of (kayak fishing). There is a legacy that gets tied into this.”
“I am just proud to help take this sport to a cool level and help share it with the mainstream population so they can fall in love with bass fishing out of these plastic boats too. It has done a lot of good for my life, my family and my health just being in touch with God and nature. I want to give back the best I can through this AOY and be the best representative for Bassmaster as I can.”
Gregory’s inaugural title sets an incredible standard for future AOY champions to meet. While the Ohio resident missed the first event of the season at Lake Fork for the birth of his child, Gregory notched a seventh-place finish at the Harris Chain of Lakes before rattling off victories at Grand Lake and Lewis Smith Lake.
Coming into the final event of the season at Pickwick Lake with two wins, Gregory knew all he needed to do was catch two solid limits to clinch the AOY title. Not only did he catch solid limits, Gregory won his third event of the season and emphatically closed the door on the competition.
“Once I got seventh at Harris Chain, I knew I could keep going and then the win at Grand Lake really put me in the hunt,” he said. “At Lewis Smith I only had 70 inches, and I replaced all fish in the last hour and a half of the tournament. You can get right quick in fishing. You see it time and time again, and it happened to work out. That was the turning point. All the guys in the hunt knew it was my AOY to lose at Pickwick.”
Similarly to how John Cox has always operated and how Keith Poche excelled in the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens presented by Mossy Oak Fishing this season, Gregory loves to go shallow into areas where the bass don’t get a lot of fishing pressure.
His success is in the details with hours upon hours of map study and researching bass species and bass behavior.
Gregory knows there are 19 different species of black bass that occupy tournament waters across the country and has caught all of them too. He knows the difference between an Alabama bass and a regular spotted bass and where they live. His research ahead of the Grand Lake event kept him from chasing smallmouth bass in the rivers.
“I love going to new fisheries,” Gregory said. “As a river fisherman at heart, I want to be fishing rivers and creeks and backwaters. I am obsessed with exploring these places. I do a lot of map study and research. When you see something on the map and then visit it in person and then you start to put together what looks good and what habitat is right for the situation.
“For example,” Gregory continued. “The smallmouth in Grand Lake are the Neosho strain, and they do not get big like the Tennessee River or Great Lakes strain. That helped me to know I shouldn’t chase smallmouth. But if you don’t know that, you get trapped.”
But research only has a small part of his success while execution becomes very important.
“Knowing all of this and which rivers are flowing into lakes and what the watershed (is like) is a huge key. But you have to have all of it,” Gregory said. “You have to have accurate casting, kayak control and the right kayak setup. So much goes into it, and that is one little part of it that gives me an edge.”
His overall strategy will no doubt come into play during next year’s National Championship on Lake Chickamauga, a fishery he has only been to once during the final event of the inaugural 2020 season.
With this season in the rearview mirror, Gregory and the other Kayak Series competitors will look forward to the 2023 regular season, details of which will be announced at a later date.