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Shiloh grad Gregory brings fishing tourney to Gwinnett

Photo: David McGregor . Drew Gregory, a 1997 Shiloh graduate, poses with his kayak and fishing gear on the banks of the Yellow River. Gregory developed his own kayak and is the host of the River Bassin Tournament Trail.

Photo: David McGregor . Drew Gregory, a 1997 Shiloh graduate, poses with his kayak and fishing gear on the banks of the Yellow River. Gregory developed his own kayak and is the host of the River Bassin Tournament Trail.

Drew Gregory grew up around creeks and rivers.

As a child he waded in the waters at nearby No Business Creek and the Yellow River in Snellville.

Gregory honed his fishing skills in those waters with his parents Lewis and Lue, never realizing the success and fame it would bring him nearly 20 years later.

Gregory will bring his River Bassin Tournament Trail to Gwinnett County today. The 12-stop event will be hosted by Bass Pro Shops in Lawrenceville. The tournament has expanded from five stops — including visits to North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin — making it the largest paddle-powered fishing tournament in the world.

“I’ve been doing this since my childhood and loved it,” Gregory said. “I started the tournament to help the sport grow. Someone had to just like in football or other sports.”

Gregory is a pioneer in the sport of kayak fishing. He began the tournament last year and it has more than doubled in year-two. The all bass tournament is unique in that it is an eco-friendly trail. Fishermen use the catch-measure-photo-release format. Anglers will fish in surrounding creeks and rivers in a 60-mile radius, take a photo of their catch on a measuring board, then release the fish.

The results are brought to Bass Pro Shops and put on slide show with the top three bass counting for the total inches.

“It’s kind of cool to see someone to win out of a small creek, but they used the right strategy,” Gregory said. “It’s pretty fun, man.”

The tournament will be in Birmingham, Ala., on July 23 and will finish in Roanoke, Va., on Sept. 10.

“It’s a very laid back sport. No one is hard core competitive,” Gregory said. “They are competing for a kayak, not money. It’s a very family-friendly kind of sport.”

Gregory graduated from Shiloh in 1997 and he received his bachelor’s degree in youth ministry from Lee University and his master’s from Georgia State in sports management. Gregory realized he had a knack for fishing after college. He would routinely catch bigger fish a lot more often than other anglers.

“I started to realize I had some talent for it and God opened some doors for me,” Gregory said. “I figured I could make a career out of it. I’m flying by the seat of my pants every day.”

Gregory started a website where he posted tips and answered questions for other fishing enthusiasts. The site quickly became popular in the fishing community.

“I was catching fish left and right and people started asking me questions,” Gregory said.

That was nearly 10 years ago. Since then Gregory has been on a skyrocket to fame. He has worked with Jackson Kayak to develop a custom signature series kayak called the Coosa. It’s the equivalent of having your own sneaker line in basketball.

Gregory’s big break came last year when he gained national fame on a fishing trip in early 2010. He was fishing in his kayak when several geese were hanging around his kayak. All of the sudden, one of the geese jumped in his kayak and on his back. Gregory knocked him off and fell in the water.

The best part was that it was caught on video.

“I was trying to catch a big bass and get it on video, but God had other plans,” Gregory said. “It’s just a funny video.”

The video went viral on YouTube and a month later “The Jay Leno Show” called to say it was going to air the 3-minute video. From there it spread and Gregory became a national star. The video was shown on “The Today Show,” Fox and Friends, ESPN’s “SportsNation,” “The O’Reilly Factor” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

“I don’t feel any different. I’m like a big kid,” Gregory said. “There’s a lot of work, but I don’t feel like I’m famous. It’s nothing I can control. My goal is to share the sport with people.”

The goose video has helped Gregory with his career ambition. The casual paddler or angler was drawn to kayak fishing and it only helped promote the sport.

Gregory, who now calls Charlotte home, has logged more than 700 river kayak fishing trips and landed more than 175 citation-sized river bass. He’s been featured in numerous national media outlets from Men’s Journal and Bassmaster to ESPN.com and the Discovery Channel. Gregory even has his own television show tentatively in the works.

It’s a quite a rise to prominence for a guy that grew up fishing on Gwinnett County creeks and rivers.

“When you have the opportunity and a talent to fish for a living, you have to go for it,” Gregory said. “I’m pretty fortunate to go for it.”