Kayak fishing clubs are becoming increasingly popular across the country, and South Carolina has several that are about as active as clubs get. Many clubs realize that anglers fishing together for fun or competing in tournaments is a great way to enjoy fellowship, introduce new anglers to the joys of paddling and catch fish.

The Upstate SC Kayak Fishing Club has been an active club for several years, offering a newly renovated website, bass-fishing tournament trail and monthly meet-and-greets, but how long could they stand each other? There’s only one way to find out: road trip.

A week-long fishing outing in mid-September was the brain child of board member Brad Knight of Belton, who has traveled extensively with his kayak and has been telling stories about the great fishing he’s discovered on Florida’s Gulf coast. It wasn’t hard to convince club members to take the plunge and head down to Port St. Joe for a 6-day kayak fish-a-thon.

“A lot of the guys have done a lot of freshwater fishing, but not a lot of saltwater fishing,” said Knight. “We’ve talked about it a lot and decided this year we’d head down to Florida and try out some of the great inshore and nearshore fishing on the Gulf coast.”

The first part of the trip was explaining to those who had never tried saltwater fishing, much less Gulf coast kayak fishing, what to expect.

“Brad posted a lot of information on our forum board starting about a month before we left, so we’d all know what to expect, what gear and tackle we’d need, and what kind of fish we’d be after,” said Barry Davis of Spartanburg, one of 12 club members to make the trip.

“Then we had a club meeting at one of the local lakes, and he stood up and gave about a 30-minute talk on what to expect,” said Davis.

A lot goes into planning a multiple-day outing, and one of the first things on the list was where to stay. Billy Lewis, the club’s website coordinator, figured out pretty quick that a dozen guys staying in multiple hotel rooms would be both expensive and too spread out. He came up with the idea of renting a house together, right on Mexico Beach.

“We got offseason rates, and it cost each member who stayed there about $160 for the week,” he said. “Everyone could set their own schedule and come and go as they please, but for the most part, we fished together all day and into the evening, then met up on the beach and fished for big sharks half the night.”

The target for the week was literally anything that swam. During the outing, members caught speckled trout, redfish, black drum, tripletail, king mackerel, Spanish, triggerfish, gray snapper, red grouper, blacktips  and bull sharks.

“The best fishing was in the evenings, because it tended to get hot during the day,” said Knight. “I went down a few weeks before and scouted out the locations and kept up with one of the local fishing guides that I know throughout the week. I was real proud of the club; these guys caught fish everywhere we went, from the creeks and canals inshore to 8 miles offshore.”

Of course, the Florida trip wasn’t the first time the club has traveled together. Earlier in the summer, several club members journeyed to Beaufort together to try their luck on sharks in the salt. 

“The Beaufort trip was a lot of fun,” Davis said. “We didn’t catch a lot of big sharks, but we caught a ton of smaller bonnetheads back in the creeks.”

Just getting to Florida was part of the adventure. Davis said the original plan was to caravan down together, but Knight and his buddy Lowell Brannan left way before daylight, then Lewis had a group leave around 7 a.m., and Davis’ group wasn’t able to leave till about 9:30 for the 8 ½-hour trip.

“We enjoyed the trip down,” said Davis. “I picked up Michael Allen and Josh Wilson, and we loaded everyone’s boat into my utility trailer and rode down in my (truck). We did the normal road-trip stuff — ate at Waffle House (and) got stuck in Atlanta traffic — but it was still a great way to start a fishing trip.”

“The first day out, we paddled 8 miles out looking for tarpon,” said Lewis. “The next day, everyone was wore out, so we stayed in close and fished the creeks. Living in the same house, there was always somebody wanting to go fishing and somebody sitting around tying up rigs for the day. We stayed together for the most part, and nobody wanted to fish alone, which was the safe way.”

“One evening Brad put us on some black drum,” said Davis. “I caught four of those fish that went from 44 to 50 inches apiece. That’s some hard-fighting fish, and then when you’re done, you have to paddle back to the landing. I think by the end of the week, everyone was about wore out, but it was a good trip with good friends.”