You’ve seen them on TV, in the magazines and online. You thought, how do they do it? How can Jim Sammons, Drew Gregory and Kayak Kevin Whitley spend their lives paddle fishing? The answer isn’t skill, talent or good looks, it’s their lucky fishing hats.


Famous Kayak Anglers Dish on Their Lucky Fishing Hats

Kayak Kevin Whitley

As one of Kayak Kevin Whitley’s longest fishing buddies, I can tell you no one is more superstitious. From his boat to his gear to his food, Whitley doesn’t hit the water unless the fish gods are satisfied. You bet his fishing hat is lucky.

kevin whitley holds up a large fish while wearing his lucky fishing hat
From his boat to his gear to his food, Whitley doesn’t hit the water unless the fish gods are satisfied. | Photo: Kevin Whitley

“Seven years ago, I got an AFTCO visor with a redfish on it,” Whitley starts. That season, the hat proved lucky. “Even when I would wear a hat from a different sponsor, I kept the redfish visor hanging from my camera mount.” Eventually, Whitley collected silver-dollar-sized redfish scales and stored them in a small pouch. “I pinned the pouch to the visor and now the fish are part of my lucky fishing hat.”

Whitley doesn’t even wear the hat anymore. “It doesn’t fit with my long hair,” he laughs, but the hat still accompanies him on every trip. “If I forget it at home, I’ll go back and get it.”


Drew Gregory

Drew Gregory and his lucky fishing hat hit the tournament trail at the same time. “I designed the green trucker hat as a prototype for the River Bassin’ Trail,” he recalls. The hat has accompanied Gregory all over the world on some of his most significant catches. “I was wearing the hat when I caught my first 10-pound river bass,” he remembers.

Drew Gregory holds a fish up to the camera while wearing his lucky fishing hat
Drew Gregory’s lucky hat has accompanied him over the world on some of his most significant catches. | Photo: Drew Gregory

Gregory defines a lucky fishing hat as one that keeps coming back. “I’ve lost it and recovered it so many times,” he chuckles, “A branch will knock it off then I’ll miraculously find it downriver.” He’s even jumped into rapids to recover the hat. “A few times I thought it was a goner, but it ended up coming back to me.”

Observant viewers will notice that Gregory’s green trucker has been missing from recent episodes of Hooked on Wild Waters, but you can be the hat is safe. “If I start fishing tournaments again,” Gregory assures us, “I’ll bring the hat out of retirement.”


Jim Sammons

Probably the most famous hat in kayak fishing is Jim Sammons’ floppy brimmed canvas chapeau. “I’ve been wearing the same style hat for 20 years,” he brags. The hat is a special-designed, custom fishing hat by Ocean Design out of Hawaii.

Jim Sammons fishes while wearing his lucky fishing hat
Probably the most famous hat in kayak fishing is Jim Sammons’ floppy brimmed canvas chapeau. | Photo: Will Richardson

Sammons, host of The Kayak Fishing Show, has been through a few of the hats. “I lost one in the Arctic Circle,” he laments, “and I gave up a marlin to save my hat, once.” The production crew was speechless as they watched Sammons sacrifice a hard-won marlin bite to save his sinking hat.

“Replacing one is hard,” he tries to explain, “you have to season it right.” That means lots of time on the water without any time in the washing machine. “The closest I get to washing it is jumping in a pool,” he laughs.

This article was first published in the Fall 2016 issue of Kayak Angler. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.


Is this fishing hat lucky? You bet. | Feature photo: Kayak Kevin Whitley

 

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“Thank God my dad wasn’t a podiatrist,” jokes Ric about following in the footsteps of a famous outdoor writer. After graduating from Radford University and serving two years in Russia with the Peace Corps, Ric returned to Virginia Beach and started writing for The Fisherman magazine, where his dad was editor. When the kayak fishing scene exploded, Ric was among the first to get onboard. His 2007 book, The Complete Kayak Fisherman is one of the first tomes to introduce anglers to paddle fishing and hundreds of articles and seminars have brought countless anglers into the fold. When he’s not chasing every fish that swims, Ric teaches English at a school for at-risk teens.

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