A Decade of Dominance: Ricky Rowland, CKA Angler of the Decade

It’s only fitting that we conclude CKA’s 10th anniversary season with this final award. Why? Because while the club has sent many a great angler out into the world of tournament kayak fishing, none compares to Mr. Ricky Rowland. A carry over from the Carolina Yakfish series that preceded Carolina Kayak Anglers, he quickly became a force to be reckoned with in CKA. Over the span of ten years he has consistently been one of the most dominant anglers in the state of North Carolina.

And what he has accomplished outside of the state has been equally impressive. In the early years of Kayak Bass Fishing, Rowland put North Carolina on the map when our sport was gaining national attention for the first time. Some might make the case that North Carolina anglers Jamie Denison (KBF Angler of the Year, 2017) and Cory Dreyer (The TEN champion) were just as good over that same period. And it’s a fair case. But Rowland’s national dominance, combined with his local renown, is unmatched.

Rowland on Kentucky Lake in 2017

Rowland’s list of accomplishments in Kayak Bass Fishing events is long: he is a KBF Open Champion, he has won multiple KBF Trails and he qualified for KBF the TEN. If the trophies and big paydays were not enough, in 2017 he came very close to winning the KBF National Championship on Kentucky Lake (he finished in 3rd place).

It’s fair to say that no matter where he fished, he was feared.

And where Rowland has most often fished has been with Carolina Kayak Anglers. I used to say “CKA is the forge, because that’s where we make the hammers.” Anyone who knows the history of kayak fishing in North Carolina knows of all the great competitors who started with our club. Some move on, some move away, and others slow down. Rowland never really stops.

That competitive spirit has been a source of inspiration for many CKA competitors. It has also been a source of heartbreak (for example, I lost an Angler of the Year race to Rowland on the final day in 2021). When you fish against Rowland, you can’t be good. You have to be perfect.

When this once-in-a-decade award was founded for this anniversary, we wanted it to go to the angler who showed the most consistency over a decade. We knew it might not work out that way, because Bryan Tsiolkas has had a renaissance of late. After not winning an event for seven years, Bryan won two in 2022. He began the 2023 season with three wins, a long way from Rowland’s seven career victories in CKA. If anything, an angler like P.C. Hawj (6 wins) or Bob Dainton (4 wins), who show up and fish every so often, had the best chance of catching Rowland.

But Tsiolkas made a run at it, winning three events in 2023 to close the gap – a feat no angler had ever accomplished in a single year. Heading into the 2023 Gate City Classic, Tsiolkas had six wins to Rowland’s seven. With two events to go, it could have happened. It did not (Tsiolkas took home a second consecutive Angler of the Year title instead, and can try to match P.C. Hawj’s three-peat in 2024).

Rowland took home the award. Looking back over his decade of dominance, the variety and range of his wins is nothing short of amazing.

Rowland, CKA AOY, 2021

Rowland’s first win came in 2015, and was followed by two more victories in 2016 (one of those events – his win at Randleman – held the attendance record for the biggest event for several years). Rowland won another tournament in 2018, and followed that with two more in 2020. Finally, in 2021, Rowland added his seventh win on the way to becoming CKA Angler of the Year. That’s seven wins in five seasons. While Rowland has been consistently dominant, he has also been consistently victorious on very different bodies of water. Each of his seven CKA wins came on a different fishery. He has won on huge impoundments (Falls and Jordan), on small lakes (Reese) on rivers (the Cape Fear River and the Yadkin River) and on mid-sized reservoirs (Mackintosh and Randleman).

That’s seven wins in eight full seasons. And those seven wins are spread across five different seasons (no other angler has won events in more than three separate seasons). He did not fish many tournaments in 2019 or 2023, so imagine what the numbers might have been if he fished a full ten seasons, instead of only eight full seasons and portions of two more.

While other anglers have great runs, Rowland’s dominance has lasted an entire decade.

On a personal note, I have fished with and against Rick Rowland all over North Carolina and the United States. Over the course of one dozen years, I’ve beaten him and he has beaten me, and at the end of the day he is always the same man. Win or lose, he always extends his hand to say congratulations.

Dominance – it’s a combination of versatility and consistency, determination and skill. Rocky Rowland has them all. And he also has the respect of his fellow anglers who have come to know him as a gentleman as well as a fierce competitor.

Congratulations to Rick Rowland, the first ever CKA Angler of the Decade.

Additional Info

For a full list of CKA’s tournament winners, visit the CKA Hall of Champions.

CKA’s Angler of the Decade trophy was designed by Ross Myer.

First Published November 12, 2023

All content and photos © Carolina Kayak Anglers LLC, 2023.

The author of this article was not assisted in the composition of it in any way by a machine.

Related posts

Leave a Comment