Fresh off an epic season, angling legend Drew Gregory opens the vault of knowledge
Drew Gregory is the first to admit that his stealthy, off the beaten path approach to kayak fishing is becoming something of an exception in the sport’s early culture. It’s an interesting twist on the irony: that a game created to give anglers access to wild and remote fishing spots has lately turned high-tech. Yet while competitors on the national kayak circuits increasingly rely on live sonar and kayak-mounted motors to reach offshore structure and deepwater shallows, Gregory often clings to their roots from small boats powered by people, paddling in coves, feeder streams, and straits. backwater bays that rarely harbor human encroachment.
Winner of the last three Bassmaster Kayak Series tournaments and the 2022 Angler of the Year title, Gregory’s performances have been off the charts, quite literally. His most recent win at Pickwick Lake, Tennessee, showed drew-isms galore. Way to row, and we mean road!—
on a feeder creek on his self-designed Crescent Kayaks Shoalie, Gregory cast a variety of Z-Man® baits. Chief among them, a CrossEyeZ™ Power Finesse Insole with a Pro CrawZ™ trailer anchored 175.5 inches of largemouth bass, beating second-place angler Guillermo Gonzalez by 8 inches. Also noteworthy is the inventive way in which he fished the Goat ToadZsurface bait ™ (stay tuned).
But before spilling the beans, Gregory wiped the record of how he got to the tournament-winning location, another one of those ‘special remote locations’ he prefers.
Stealthy ships and wild places
“When you win three in a row, for the integrity of the game, you have an obligation to stand up and explain your approach to the entire field of anglers,” Gregory noted, after a thorough investigation of his fishing spot. “Although it has been a difficult few weeks for my family and I, waiting for the result, it has actually been great to see BASS work so honorably and transparently towards the correct result, the way all tournaments should be run. ”.
Initially disqualified on allegations that he fished outside the legal limits of the tournament, photos and video provided by Gregory revealed that his fishing area—12 miles down a creek arm— was, in fact, accessible by kayak and therefore within legal fishing limits.
Although it initially appeared that a fallen tree was blocking travel upriver, Gregory snuck his boat through a small passage, paddling safely around a small opening between the bank and the overturned root ball of the tree, without ever leaving his boat. “Pre-fishing, I scouted this creek and checked its accessibility, so I knew I could get through it in my Shoalie, no problem.
“I run into fallen trees and other obstructions in these remote and wild places all the time. It’s just part of the deal, maybe even the point. I work hard for situations like this, whether it’s constantly improving rowing skills or physical strength and endurance training. The kayak itself is also key: the one I used at Pickwick takes out just 3 inches of water.
“I see this as a sport that allows me to push my physical limits to get to fishing spots that others might not want to or can’t get to,” explains Gregory. “As kayak tournaments have opened up to the use of motors and new electronics, anglers feel the need to add these tools to remain competitive. I’m certainly not above the use of technology. I won other events this year fishing the top spots on the lake with trolling and sonar. But I also feel like the new gear takes more anglers away from the water I prefer to fish in. To me, the beauty of kayak fishing is that it allows everyone to participate, without spending a ton of money on the fanciest boat or all the new motors and electronics.”
Sink Rate Recalibration
In keeping with his low-profile, minimalist approach, Gregory routinely carries enough Z-Man hooks, ChatterBaits® and ElaZtech® soft plastics for a day’s fishing. The extraordinary resiliency and longevity of each ElaZtech bait, he says, means that a few packs in key colors get the job done throughout the tournament.
“Throughout this year, one of my favorite baits was a CrossEyeZ Power Finesse Jig dressed in a Pro CrawZ trailer,” says Gregory. “Cut ¾” off the bait nose for a perfect, compact blend into the jig. It stuffs the bait very well, but the ElaZtech material is super malleable, pulls out of the way and allows for easy hooks with a 30 pound braid.
“The good thing is that the natural buoyancy of ElaZtech baits allows you to adjust the rate of fall of your lure, whether it’s on a jig or a ChatterBait like Project Z™ or MiniMax™. Add that Pro CrawZ to a 3/8 ounce Power Finesse Jig and you can slow down your sink rate. It casts like a 3/8 but performs like a lighter ¼ ounce jig. At rest, the buoyancy of the bait also means the crop stands up and looks natural.”
Gregory noted that the compact Power Finesse Jig and ChatterBait MiniMax played straight into the season’s shallow, clear waters and hair-raising bass. “As the water cleared up this summer and fall, these little floating jigs and trailers were perfect for gliding through shallow water. At Pickwick, I caught a 20.5-inch Alabama Bass from less than a foot of water, hidden under a clump of pine needles. Seeing that bass create a wake to crush my jig is the kind of thrill I live for.”
Getting closer to Earth
Months before the tournament seasons launch, Gregory already has a number of potential fishing spots. “One of my best exploration tools is Google Earth Pro, which allows me to click and look at historical images of lakes at different water levels,” he explains.
“You can learn a lot about a reservoir by studying the terrain with little water. A stream, for example, is only as good as its water level during the driest parts of summer. Is the water deep enough to support a resident population of fish? Can larger bass travel freely in and out of the creek? Do you have deep holes? And finally, are there hotspots nearby? Even a small piece of off-road public land may be enough to get in with my microlight.”
“The way I see it, when the summer bites get tough, you can take a dip in the main lake or paddle in a creek. The cooler incoming current provides a shelter, it feels like a fan for the bass. In the fall, tarpon begin to migrate down these rivers and the bite improves as fish from the resident streams are joined by larger predators from the main lake.”
A perceptive surface fisherman, Gregory’s aquatic observations led him to a truly unique (sub)surface pattern. “When a frog jumps into the water, it doesn’t swim on the surface, but immediately dives down and slides under the water,” he explains. “Between kicks, you’ll see the frog come back up, with its eyes and head above the water, before diving back down and swimming several more feet under the water.
“When I started fishing Z-Man’s Goat ToadZ bait last year, I immediately tried different hooks, with and without weights attached. I found that the ToadZ’s buoyancy allowed it to stay on the surface, even with a weighted frog hook. but i found a hook with just enough weight to sink the hook and allow me to swim slowly, under the surface, kicking like a hook. Speed it up a bit and glide back to the surface. At Pickwick, a large fish followed the bait to my boat and ate, just as I stopped and let the ToadZ flutter by. Just one of many sweet tricks, only possible with ElaZtech.
About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic company based in Charleston, South Carolina, Z-Man Fishing Products has been fusing cutting-edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been one of the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits, and other lures. Creator of the original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovator of ElaZtech 10X Tough soft baits, quickly becoming the most coveted baits in fresh and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest growing lure brands in the world.