West Virginians Fishing From Kayaks

The State Journal
28 April 2016
By Mike Ruben

West Virginians are apparently getting hooked on the sport of fishing from kayaks.

In just three years, Mountain State Kayak Anglers has grown from 10 members to more than 150. Promotional Director Chris Schafer said the club already has crowned a national champion and will be hosting one of six national qualifying tournaments.

The organization was founded by Dan Smith and Jeremy Smith, who are the president and vice president. The Smith brothers shared the concept with a few friends and the organization began to expand.

“It started as a way for them to get out and meet other people in the kayak and fishing community,” Schafer said. “What started with a few friends has grown to become the largest trail of its kind in America.”

There were approximately 50 members in 2014 and 100 in 2015. April’s season-opening Jackson County Shootout attracted more than 140 competitors from five states.

“These are people who love to kayak and love to fish, but what brings them back is the camaraderie,” Schafer said. “We see fathers and sons, husbands and wives and brothers who fish together. It’s a family atmosphere.

“Our members are competitive and they want to win, but it is not cutthroat,” he added. “They want to see their friends do well, too.”

That was obvious during the Ripley-area tournament’s preliminary meeting. After reviewing tournament rules and handing out door prizes, club member Matt Ball was introduced to a boisterous greeting. He is the sport’s current national champ, winning the $32,700 first prize.

“I’m honored to be a part of this organization,” he told the gathering at a picnic shelter of Cedar Lakes Conference Center.

The actual tournament began at 7 a.m. the next day on Elk Fork, O’Brien and Woodrum lakes.

The participant’s objective is to catch three fish that out-measure those of the other anglers before the 3 p.m. deadline. A “hawg trough” measuring stick, identifying wristband and computer software are then used for the judges to determine the winner.

In the meantime, the contestants enjoyed concessions sold by local Special Olympics volunteers.

“We try to promote West Virginia and to support the local communities where we fish,” said Schafer, alluding to the bait, gear and boat sponsors appearing on the tourney logo.

MSKA’s season continues through October at lakes and rivers across the state, culminating with an awards banquet Oct. 22 in Fayetteville.

MSKA officials anticipate more than 200 participants at the national level event Sept. 3-4 at Hinton.

Visit www.MSKAWV.com for information.