Ed and 10-year-old Mason, who live in Graham in Alamance County, are the newest members of the Great Outdoor Provision Co. (GOPC) Kayak Fishing Team. They bring their enthusiasm, award-winning fishing prowess and experience as both tandem and solo kayakers to an already strong six-person team. The kayak team represents GOPC at company events as well as at fishing tournaments and industry-sponsored shows across the state.
Come spring, Ed and Mason will be exploring fishy areas of the Piedmont, mountains and coast in the new Old Town Predator kayaks that are designed with serious kayak anglers in mind. They might not even wait for spring. “We’ve been known to go out in the winter if we have a warm day,” says Ed.
For close-to-home outings, the two head out to the Haw River or a pond or Lake Mackintosh on the Guilford/Alamance County line. As for coastal waters, Mason loves Sunset Beach, where he can hunt for red drum, black drum, trout and flounder. When the family heads to the mountains, it’s usually to the New River near West Jefferson, which Ed considers his favorite haunt. There, they fish for smallmouth and redeye.
The Parrishes’ interest in kayak fishing began several years ago. Mason’s grandparents gave him and his older brother, Bryson, kayaks one summer, and they loved it. Soon the family pitched in to get Ed—who grew up waterskiing and worked as a lifeguard during high school and college—hi s own boat. As for fishing, Mason was the most enthusiastic angler of the four Parrish children, so his interest in kayak fishing evolved naturally.
And kayak fishing appealed to Ed on many levels, especially the lower cost compared with gas-guzzling motor boats, the ability to access shallow tidal creeks and other fishy habitats, and the ease of getting off on sandbars, coastline or lake banks for some exploring, shell collecting or crab-catching.
Plus, as Ed puts it, “As part of the natural progression of things, I was looking for something active but less ‘painful’ that I could do and be with my kids.”
As for Mason, he was hooked before he even landed, at age 9, his first “target species,” a 19 to 20-inch red drum that attacked his “trout magnet” jig head baited with a grub off Sunset Beach. Mason battled the fish for about 15 minutes before landing the prize, which he and his dad promptly released, as they do with nearly all of their catches.
Mason used that experience to help in the competitions that he and Ed began entering. In 2013, he took first place in the junior division of the Oak Island Fishing Classic, an annual tournament sponsored by the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA). The winning catch? A 20 ¼ inch red drum Mason snagged between the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway using finger mullet on a red fish rig.
The NCKFA also honored Mason with its 2013 Junior Angler of the Year Award. He’s the youngest member of the association and an effective youth ambassador, says Mark Patterson, founder and president of the NCKFA.
“Mason is great,” Mark says. “He is so good for the sport. What we’re really focused on is the youth, but unfortunately a lot of them are online or playing video games—we’re trying to get them out there on the water. That’s why we need more people like Mason, who can help spread the word to his classmates and friends. What Ed and Mason bring to the organization is that a lot of people are hesitant to bring a kid out there, and they see that it’s possible, as you can do this with younger kids if you use a tandem boat.”
Mark also praises Ed’s other contribution to the NCKFA: Serving as a scorekeeper during tournaments.
“When we first joined and Mark was asking for volunteers, I said, I’m a banker, I’m a numbers guy, I can help with that,” says Ed, who is an area supervisor for Fidelity Bank.
He’s been helping the NCKFA keep accurate records—including for the nine-month-long online tournament, the only one of its kind in the country—ever since.
“Ed is excellent,” Mark says. “He’s reliable–he always does what he says he’s going to do.”
So what adventures does 2014 hold in store for the Parrishes? For one thing, they’ll attend the NCKFA’s “meet and greet” May 31 at Fort Fisher (check out www.nckfa.org for more details), an event to introduce people to the sport. They’ll also participate in all five of the organization’s fishing tournaments.
But they’re not in it for glory. Mason says he is just as happy catching a carp or little crappie as he is snagging a game fish, and their approach is “quantity of quality,” according to Ed.
As Ed puts it, “We do it for the fun of it.”