River Bassin' event comes to Kiskiminetas
Fishing on the Kiskiminetas River is going to get competitive this weekend.
The River Bassin' Tournament Trail, a national kayak fishing series, is holding one of its seven regional championship events on the river Saturday in a tournament being hosted by The River's Edge in Leechburg.
It is the first time the series will be making a stop in the area, and The River's Edge owner Neill Andritz — who has competed before in River Bassin' events — played a big part in bringing the event to Leechburg.
“I attended two of these in North Carolina and Tennessee, and they're a lot of fun,” Andritz said. “Drew Gregory is the one who started the tour, and I met him at those events. He's a friend, and over the last four years, I just kept bugging him trying to get an event here.”
Gregory, a professional angler and kayak developer who hosts his own web series, has appeared on dozens of television programs, including ESPN's “SportsNation,” NBC's “The Today Show” and the Animal Planet/Discovery Channel program “Off the Hook: Extreme Catches.”
The tour has 36 stops in 2014 after a brief hiatus. Gregory has worked to introduce technology such as real-time scoring to events in hopes of growing the sport by making it more accessible.
“(The tour) took 2013 off, and this year, we kind of refined things with smart phones and other technology,” Gregory said. “Kayak fishing is a small niche as it is, and then you narrow it down more to fresh water rivers. We wanted to give the industry time to grow and catch up to other types of fishing before we came back to relaunch.”
Gregory has won awards for his design innovations for manufacturer Jackson Kayak, and the Leechburg Regional's grand prize is a limited edition Jackson Kayak Coosa, one of his designs. That kayak is valued at $1,400, which is part of more than $5,000 in prizes that will be up for grabs Saturday.
Anglers in the event will be on the water from approximately 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and scoring is based on the top three fish that each competitor catches. Competitors will have the equipment to measure, photograph and then release their fish, which allows for updating of the live scoring.
The tournament had 30 entrants signed up as of Wednesday, Andritz said, and with walk-up entries before the captains' meeting Friday night usually accounting for half the field at River Bassin' events, this regional could be the tour's largest of the year.
“The regional stops have bigger prizes, and usually get anywhere from 30 to 60 people. If there's 30 with two days until the event, I'm expecting it could be the best turnout we have, short of our national championship,” Gregory said.
“Neill and his team have done a great job marketing it, and they have a great shop to host this. It should be an incredible event.”
Andritz, who is also involved with the Armstrong County Tourism Bureau, hopes the tournament is a success for more than just his own shop and will become a regular event in the area.
“I'm hoping this provides a regional boost, and I'd love to have another event like this in the fall or next year,” Andritz said. “It is a national tour, so people will be coming in from all around the country. I hope people like what they see in Armstrong County and come back with their family and friends.”