Gregory takes Kayak Series Championship victory at Tenkiller

Drew Gregory won the Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series Championship scored by TourneyX on Thursday, but he had to wait a full day, and a few additional hours for good measure, before his victory was confirmed.

That’s because the championship’s big reveal was saved for Friday and the throng of fishing fans gathered at the BOK Center in Tulsa for Day 1 of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors.

Gregory, a 44-year-old resident of Kent, Ohio, clinched the championship with a total of 10 bass measuring 180.5 inches during the derby held Wednesday and Thursday on Tenkiller Lake. Competitors could slip into Tenkiller from any approved launch on the 13,000-acre fishery, located about 90 miles east of Tulsa.

“There’s a lot of anxiety waiting more than 24 hours to know if you’ve won or not,” Gregory said. “I didn’t sleep too well last night. Some people told me I was ahead when the (TourneyX results page) was turned off (on an hour before Day 2 ended. But you still don’t know. I’ve been in tournaments before where the guy who wins didn’t have phone service and couldn’t enter his fish. So, he goes from looking like he has nothing to being the winner.

“I was hoping it didn’t happen like that here, and when it didn’t, it was a big relief. It’s just a great rush of excitement.”

Gregory collected $25,000, part of a $56,350 total cash purse split among the Top 16 anglers in the tournament. In all, 164 competitors representing 30 states and Canada took part. They qualified by either placing in the Top 5 from any Bassmaster Kayak Series tournament in 2023, by finishing among the Top 50 in the 2023 Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Kayak Series Angler of the Year points race or by placing in the top 10% of B.A.S.S. Nation state kayak championships. The field also included last year’s champion, Tennessee’s Rus Snyders.

After close finishes in previous championships, Gregory closed the deal on Tenkiller. He caught 90 inches on Wednesday, which was good enough for fourth place. He fished a slough on the northern end of Tenkiller with a Z-Man CrossEyeZ Power Finesse Jig and a Z-Man Pro CrawZ trailer in the green pumpkin color. His catch came early, and some key late upgrades got him within 2.75 inches of Day 1 leader Guillermo Gonzalez, who led Day 1 with 92.75 inches.

“By the time I left that slough, I had five fish, all of them over 16 inches,” Gregory said. “One of those was a 19 3/4-inch fish, and it was still early. So, I felt pretty good from the start.”

Gregory was strong again on Day 2, starting with a 22-inch largemouth that was the Big Bass of the Tournament and good for an additional $500.

“Catching the fish of the tournament early is a great feeling,” he said. “I started in that same slough for it, but as I made my way up the slough, the water was getting more clear, more shallow, and I got worried again. I caught a couple of spotted bass to get me to four fish, and the fifth came on a Bass Mafia Daingerous Swimbait.

“I threw it against a log in the river and she hammered it,” he said, speaking about the 21.25-inch smallmouth that completed his Day 2 limit.

Gonzalez, of Fort Worth, Texas, finished second with 178.25 inches — good for $9,000. Bennett Nall, of Anderson, S.C., placed third with the same total length. Gonzalez, 33, won the second-place tiebreaker with his opening-day haul, one of the biggest of the tournament.

“The fish were congregated around bait and they put the feedbags on,” Gonzalez said. “If you could find the bait, you caught feeding fish really quick.”

Gonzalez used a white Megabass Magdraft 6-inch swimbait to catch his best bass — one rigged with a treble hook for shallow-water bites and another with a heavy-belly weight to spark deep-water bites. He said all but one of his bass on Tenkiller were largemouth, and they bit in anywhere from 5 to 40 feet of water.

“It was the pattern,” he said. “I knew I was getting bigger bites than most people with that big swimbait.”

Nall, a 20-year-old Clemson student, won $5,000. He fished concrete blocks only yards from where he launched on Day 1. When that bite disappeared on Day 2, he moved to a different launch, found similar structure and caught another limit there.

He finished with 90.75 inches on Wednesday and 87.5 on Day 2. He used a shad-colored Fluke for his best catches, working the lure over the fish and drawing them away from the blocks where they’d eventually bite.

“It’s a whole new pattern to me,” he said. “Most people don’t look around the boat ramps, but sometimes they can be some of your most productive areas.”

California’s Damian Thao finished fourth (177.25 inches), and Missouri’s Lance Burris placed fifth (173 inches).

The event was hosted by Explore Cherokee County, Oklahoma, Tour Tahlequah and the Greater Tenkiller Area Association.

Official results for this tournament can be found here.