Since 2009, Chad Hoover, host of WFN's Kayak Bassin' TV Show and pro-staff manager for Wilderness Systems kayaks, has directed Kayak Bass Fishing, an online kayak fishing tournament series specializing in largemouth bass. These online tournaments allow anglers from all over the country to compete during a specified, month-long time frame, using photographs of fish and accumulated measured inches to determine the winner.
The nearly 6,000 forum members of the Kayak Bass Fishing website have begged for a live event so that members who have competed head-to-head in cyberspace could fish and fellowship in person. Hoover heard their pleas and designed a plan to give them what they wanted.
The culmination of the 2012 Kayak Bass Fishing Challenge Series will be a four-day, live event out of Blacks Camp in Cross. The first two days, March 14-15, will be an open tournament fishing both Santee-Cooper lakes that any kayak angler who registers before the March 1 deadline can fish. The third and fourth days, March 16-17, will be an invitational tournament held at nearby VIP Adventures in Summerville, a private, intensely managed series of bass-fishing impoundments that top bass pros often visit to test new products as well as shoot media events for television.
"The average person has a hard time understanding what these kayak anglers, these fishing fanatics, are like," said Hoover. "Already, we have booked solid every room, every camping site, every available space that Blacks has, and the waiting list is a mile long. We're expecting more than 300 boats to fish in the Open tournament."
Along with the camaraderie and uniqueness of the events, including the filming of two episodes of Hoover's TV show, Kayak Bass Fishing is offering one of the richest purses to date in the world of kayak tournaments. A total purse of up to $10,000 in cash is expected, in addition to all kinds of kayaking gear and accessories.
"We're paying $500 each day of the event for the biggest fish caught," said Hoover. "There's a $1,500 purse for the biggest overall fish of the event. Aside from our pay-out structure, someone could never win or place in the event and still make $3,500 if they caught big fish each day."
Hoover was introduced to the incredible bass fishery at VIP Adventures while filming an episode of his show, which aired on both the World Fishing Network and the NBC Sports Channel last May. He knew shortly after he landed a 10-pound monster that he had found the venue to hold his Invitational tournament.
"My guest on the show was local Wilderness Systems staffer Tommy Samuels, an inshore guide who admitted he was a rookie at freshwater fishing," Hoover said. "During the filming of the show, Samuels caught an 8-pound largemouth."
The Invitational will include 50 anglers: 20 winners from last year's KBF Challenges, six regional winners from other KBF Challenges, four winners of affiliated club tournaments, each day's winner from the Open event at Santee-Cooper, and 10 special invitations to past AOY winners and qualifiers.
Marc Deschenes, who manages the impoundments at VIP, said this will be one of the most unique tournaments he has seen.
"We've got eight ponds here that total more than 650 acres," Deschenes said. "Every foot of it is prime bass habitat. It's all catch-and-release, so every big fish that's caught here, stays here. All of our ponds were specially designed; it's like a golf course for bass fishing. Our main pond has over 200 brush piles that are visible from the surface and 15 to 20 rock piles that will hold a lot of bass during the prespawn period here in March."
Justin Carter, who owns KayakFish SC in Charleston and has fished dozens of major kayak events around the country, is excited about the prospect of fishing in the KBF Open.
"Every major name in the kayak angling world will be here," he said. "On top of that, this is one of the - if not the highest - paying event I've ever heard of. A lot of anglers in the kayak-fishing community know each other through social media or talking by phone. This is going to be one of the biggest events in the sport to date. There will be some really good kayak anglers out there competing."