The folks who rally under the banner of the Upstate Kayak Fishing Club decided to create the best of both worlds. Josh Swaney, who directs the club's tournaments, explained that for his club, members decided that less was more, more or less.
"We kind of got started after a kayak bass fishing tournament that Grady's of Anderson put on last May," Swaney said. "Several of the anglers were standing around - Danny Burrel, Brad Knight, myself, and Robert Galloway - and we started talking about how we needed to form a club, not just a tournament trail, but a real club with regular meetings."
A date was scheduled to hold the first meeting and fish. Since the Upstate anglers were actually spread out across the entire Upstate and parts of North Carolina, it was agreed that to meet in Greenville at Lake Saluda, a small impoundment on the Saluda River known for housing some big fish.
"We fished a while, and we talked a while," said Swaney. "The lake isn't very big, so even when we were on the water, there was somebody within talking range, and it became apparent to everyone that this was something we needed to continue, mainly because it was a lot of fun."
The club's meet-and-fish outings are just that; no competition, just fishing, fellowship and a chance for anglers who are just breaking into the sport to see how other, more-experienced anglers rig their boats, what gear they use and just ask questions about kayak fishing in general. The meetings also allow anglers to chase whatever fish they want. Since kayak tournaments tend to focus more on bass fishing, a meet-and-fish lets bass anglers, crappie anglers, striper anglers, and catfish anglers all get together while pursuing their individual interests.
The club has no president and a governing board of only four members, and it charges no dues; nobody wanted to fool with handling money. The only stipulation is members must attend meetings. The club printed vinyl decals, you if a member attended a meeting, he received a sticker for his boat. If you have a sticker on your boat, you are a member.
But with this many anglers in one spot, a tournament trail was bound to break out.
"We held a tournament trail last year, but it didn't get the participation we were hoping for," Swaney said. "One of our guys, Robert Galloway, headed that up, and we fished mainly smaller lakes in Greenville and Spartanburg. They were great events, but we knew there were more people out there who would fish with us."
For 2013, Swaney took over as tournament director, and locations were expanded to include both large and small venues so there would be something to fit everyone's palate. Entry fees are a modest $25 per boat, with a $5 big fish pot and a 100-percent payback. Like all kayak tournaments, fish are measured and the winners decided based on photographs taken of fish on a measuring board.
Between the meet-and-fish outings and the club tournaments, there's something for everyone, except those who can't make it to the lake on Saturday. The club recognized that not everyone could fish on Saturday but still needed a way to be connected.
"The Upstate guys have always been real involved in the online challenge tournaments that were posted on the South Carolina Kayak Fishing website," Swaney said, "but those kind of phased out last year so one of our members, Brad Knight, who is a moderator on that site, has started doing the online challenges. Anyone can fish one of our challenges."
Swaney gave an example of how the club welcomes new members. His father purchased a kayak shortly after Swaney caught the bug a few years ago. The elder Swaney dropped in on a meet-and-fish and was literally hooked on the club.
"My dad's a real sociable guy and will talk your ear off," Swaney said. "Dad could only stay a couple hours, but the other guys came to me and said we need to get that guy back at the next event; that's the kind of friendly people they are. Now Dad doesn't miss a meet or tournament."
To connect with the Upstate Kayak Fishing Club, you can post on their forum on the SCKF site at www.sckayakfishing.com. You can also follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UpstateKayakFishingClub, or you can contact Josh Swaney at 864-314-9191 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTES: Anderson County Parks and Recreation will hold its annual Saluda River Rally on June 1-2, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Dolly Cooper Contest. For information, call 864-231-7275 or email@example.com.