River Bassin Tournament Trail Comes to an End…for Now

 

It is with much sadness, and yet joy at the same time that I write this today. As many of you know the River Bassin Tournament Trail has been a project of mine for the past few years that I have truly enjoyed putting it on for all the river bass fishing kayak anglers out there. It has really been a success, and grew to become the largest kayak fishing tournament trail in the world in terms of number of stops (12 last year from Texas to Wisconsin over to Virginia and in between) with large sponsors such as Bass Pro Shops, GoPro, Discount Tire Company, Jiffy Lube, Gorilla Glue Co., Jackson Kayak, NuCanoe, Diablo Paddlesports, RAM Mounts, Bending Branches/Aqua Bound, Kokatat, “Roanoke Region of Virginia” etc. However, there comes a time in life when you have to realize that sometimes less is more and more is less, and that you simply cannot do everything, or please everyone. Even if you somehow tried to do everything, then all those things will certainly not get done properly. If I learned one thing from my dad it was, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” Over the past few months we’ve been preparing the trail behind the scenes, to run in a more efficient, less “Drew intensive” manner, but it just appears that it will be too much to for my staff and I to handle this year. However, in lieu of the trail we’ll be working on other similar, less “Drew intensive” projects for kayak anglers and they are listed below.

 

  • We’ll get back to properly managing my favorite site, RiverBassin.com, the way it deserves to be and continue to set up more of its popular “River Bassin Rodeo” events that will be managed by Brooks Beatty, who was coordinating the tournament trail with me. These are laid back events where those deeper friendships are formed between members of the RiverBassin.com forum and last throughout a weekend that involves camping, fellowship, food and fishing with no “competitive” element. Check back often to see the update schedule of rodeos. I personally am looking forward to attending some of these like I used to and not having any responsibility to put on an “event” or “show.” Not to mentioned I am looking forward to getting to fish a little myself!
  • There is one lone River Bassin Tournament that will still take place this year, because it was already set a couple months ago, and that is the stop in the Chicago, IL, area (Aurora) through Paddle & Trail on July 28th. For more information on this tournament please contact them at 855-752-9688 or visit paddleandtrail.com
  • I’ll also be announcing some new kayak fishing projects soon that Brooks Beatty and I will be working on, that should be pretty exciting and unique.
  • I hope to be able to be more available to speak at local churches through their outdoor ministries, youth groups etc.
  • I’ll be starting a blog category on my site (DrewGregory.com) that I’ll write once a month to encourage young adults in regards to all the numerous issues that they’re going through. I am certain this will really help so many who are in that most exciting phase of life where they have the ability to go anywhere, do anything and seemingly have the world at their fingertips! However, at the same time that freedom comes at a price where you can also put yourself in a big hole in life due to the decisions we make. I really want to help young people make those right decisions through this blog, and all of my endeavors.

Now, to those that fished the trail, were hoping to fish it, who are a little closer to me or who sponsored the trail, the following may be of some interest and continues to explain why in the world we’re not continuing this cool thing? Warning: This gets kinda personal, and even sappy, but how can it not given how much we poured into this trail with an insane amount of determination, intensity and passion.

I’ve learned that life is a constant cycle of experiences, then learning from them, more experiences, then learning, repeat. During these experiences over the past couple years I’ve learned that just because something has potential to be great, and you know you could make it great, doesn’t always mean you should do it, especially when doing it causes you to neglect things in life that are truly the greatest. The good news for me in regards to all this is that maybe I’ll get to spend that more time focusing on those things that are the greatest, such as spending more time with my mom and dad, brother, sister & brother-n-law, and be a good influence on my niece and nephew as they grow up. Maybe I’ll get to meet up with some old friends and catch up, go fishing and talk and laugh about old times; maybe I’ll actually get to pursue a good woman with the respect and attention that a good woman deserves; maybe I’ll get to join some River Bassin Rodeos with the anglers who attend without that pressure to “perform” or put on a “show”; maybe I’ll get to serve more at my local church; maybe I’ll be able to do some of these things which matter more in life!

It’s no secret that some of the endeavors I’ve been working on over the past few years have done well (Jackson Kayak designs, RiverBassin.com, the tournament trail etc.) and have grown. Naturally, my roles in these have grown too, putting me in this difficult position I find myself. I am truly humbled and grateful that so many people have been a part of all of these endeavors and it is you, the people, that have been the catalyst in making them so GREAT! Thank you so much.

This is not easy for me to let go of, however, and it is because of the people. The number of relationships and friendships I’ve developed throughout the trail are so precious to me and I love every one. However, the fact is the more relationships you have (especially now with facebook and other social media), means that you no doubt have a higher number of shallow relationships and fewer “deeper friendships.” This is not always a good thing either.

This is one reason I am excited about getting back to putting on more River Bassin Rodeos because it is about the people. For those that don’t know the rodeos are no more than camping and fishing get-togethers that are formed organically by the members of RiverBassin.com and require little to no time on my part to manage. Some sponsors may still chip in some raffle prizes at these events and I’m sure the Jackson Kayak dealers will still be a part of them as well because, well, they epitomize what these events are all about – community & family – because they are all family run, independent businesses themselves. However, we won’t be “looking” for sponsors or any of that stuff, but of course if someone sends Brooks or I an email and wants to donate some prizes to sponsor the events, then we will of course take them up on it. These events may not get the same national attention the tournaments would, but who cares because they aren’t meant to. They are meant to really be the opposite, a place where the “business” of kayak fishing is out of our minds and we can just relax and enjoying fellowship and food around a campfire with friends, and maybe wet a line or two during the day.

The saddest part of ending the trail is that I’m going to miss spending time with the anglers at the tournaments, and miss seeing their smiling faces on stage, creating the drama that went along with so many great finishes by so many truly good, fun, classy people. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m tearing up a little as I write this because you guys all have no idea how you’ve touched me and made my job running this trail so much fun. Many probably have no idea the time and investment involved in developing it either, and this is why it is especially difficult for me to let go of because I do have so much time, energy and money invested.

For all the fans of the trail here is an interesting inside story about some of my investment that really will help you empathize with how hard this decision has been for me. I remember during the first year when corporate Bass Pro Shops told me they would sponsor the trail, but that they would not require any of their stores to host one if the store did not want to. Well, for whatever reason the Birmingham Bass Pro Shops wouldn’t respond to any of my emails when I was trying to set up dates that first year. I had to make something happen soon because we really wanted Birmingham as one of the stops during the first year, because the area has so many good streams for river bassin and many anglers that kayak fish those rivers. I decided if I wanted to make this trail happen I could no longer send emails or make phone calls; I had to literally drive to Birmingham to get an answer. I did just that, and upon arrival I asked for the manager I’d been sending emails to. When he came over, in my best attempt to “act,” I said, “Hey, I was just passing through the neighborhood and was wondering if you guys have seen my email about the kayak fishing tournaments that I would love to have you guys host?” Then, after getting a brief conversation that ended in a, “No, we’re just too busy, sorry man,” I drove around frustrated and dumbfounded because there was very little work involved on their part and they had just come out with a line of their own fishing kayaks, so it seemed like a no brainer event to promote them. I wasn’t sure what to do because at this point I only had three stores committed. I asked God to help show me how to proceed and He told me to go back in and talk to the general manager of the store and fight for that stop. So, I walked right back into that Bass Pro, borderline demanded to talk to the general manager, and with my most convicting plea I let him know how much of a success this trail would be, and why Birmingham was critical to its overall success. He said, “I like your passion, we’ll do it.” Alright, now I had four yes answers, out of the five stores I was hoping for, so I then drove down to Macon, GA, to pull the same “I happened to be in the neighborhood” act. I think I even had to spend the night there because the manager wasn’t in until the next day. Anyway, they agreed as well and it was a good ride all the way home to Greenwood, SC, where I was living at that time.

I could go on and on with so many other similar examples (especially regarding lining up sponsors, oh brother!) like this that no one knows about, but you probably get the idea of how hard this has to be for me to let this thing go, given that I fought so hard to establish these hosts and sponsors just make the trail a reality. Those moments, combined with the moments of those on stage and the look on the winners faces have me torn, but I know I am doing the right thing because I do feel such a peace inside about this decision.

I know so many of you who have sent messages letting me know how much fun you had and how you want a stop closer to you and want the trail to expand even more and have pleaded for this trail to continue. Those kind of messages are also what makes it so hard to end because I love to do things that I know will bring joy to people. One would think that ending it makes all that investment seem wasted to me, but for the ones who participated, and especially the kids who took part, won some awesome prizes, and fell in love with the sport of kayak fishing through it, it was all worth every ounce of effort and investment. I know it will certainly disappoint many out there, and I am sorry, but believe me if some entity wanted to do all the time consuming logistics (sponsor development, scheduling, driving to events, on site logistics, book keeping & accounting, web work, marketing and PR) and just allow me to fly in on tournament day to hang out with everyone and be on stage to put on a great show like we did, I’d take it in a heart beat! Unfortunately, that’s not the case and someone has to do all those other tasks in order to make the entire thing go – for me it is just coming at too great a cost. Even though I am going to miss these events, keep in mind I’m still going to be around at all the shows I go to with Jackson Kayak and our dealers, as well as participating in more River Bassin Rodeos as well. I’m not going anywhere, just making sure my schedule is a little more free from places I “have to be” in case I “should be” at something important like my niece or nephew’s birthday party, or spending time with my mom and dad on some other days that aren’t Christmas, Easter, Mothers Day or Thanksgiving; and maybe if I’m fortunate I’ll get to take a special lady on a kayaking trip down my favorite river…hey, we can’t have it all I suppose but a guy can certainly dream, right…

Drew Gregory

“Because in the beginning there were rivers”

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Special thanks needs to be sent out to the ones who really worked hard with me behind the scenes to make these past few years a blast.

Mike Dickerman: business partner, friend, teacher of so many important values that are more priceless than 2 college degrees. Not only did he teach me so much, he invested so much additional setting up the websites, doing graphic design work, and for the first year helped me score the events and put together the presentations, and of course he did so much more.

Also, Jason Springs: Jason deserves a lot of credit as well as he helped with the websites that first year, especially when Mike was laid up for some time after surgery.

Wylene Dickerman: Office manager, check writer, book keeper and everything else she did for us, thanks!

David Rodrigue: who build the program we used that helped us quickly score the tournaments during the second year. He spent countless hours working on the program and mid way through the second year it was like a well oiled machine and we were getting into the presentation before 6pm at times.

Brooks Beatty: who helped travel the country with me to most of the stops during the second year and took over the behind the scenes role of setting up, tearing down and preparing the presentation and helping with scoring.

Greg Hughes: formerly of Sedan Communications (currently VP or Communications at NBC Sports), Jason Brown and Heather Thompson of the Hope-Beckham PR Firm. They were the driving force that got the trail so much non-endemic press in 2011 and because of them this tournament trail was in all the major newspapers, and I was also able to promote it on numerous radio and television shows across the country.

Kristy Rutter: who, thanks to her incredible organization skills, had all of the prizes and give-aways in order in the containers ready for Brooks and I to take with us on the road before we left for each tour stop.

Tommy Wilkinson: who without him I could not have made a connection with Bass Pro Shops. It just goes to show that even if you are working a job when you are 18 years old, you’ll want to work as hard as you can for whoever you’re working for and never burn bridges because I only knew Tommy from working for him as an 18 year old associate in freshwater fishing at the ATL Bass Pro Shops. I’m sure had I not worked as hard as I could for him each day, my reaching out to him to help me, 10 years later, would have fallen on deaf ears.

Tom “PawPaw” Reese: for just being a cool dude and always helping out whenever we needed something done on the site or RiverBassin.com.

All of the individuals who volunteered at each stop, you know who you are and I truly appreciate your passion for River Bassin.

Of course my family who came to some of the events when they could and helped out however they could.

And, once again, all of the sponsors and hosts of the trail, you were all awesome~

 

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