The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is the epitome of passion in competition. Without even suiting up to play, we all find a way to participate in the excitement.

What if there was a way to not only ignite that same fire in your fishing exploits, but also build long-lasting friendships and gain knowledge from some of the best anglers in the state?

There is.

Kayak fishing tournaments are an ever-increasing sport, mirroring growth in recreational kayak angling. What began as clubs charging small entry fees with little more than bragging rights to the winner has turned into an event with thousands of dollars in money and merchandise being handed out to the competitors.

Carolina Kayak Anglers (CarolinaKayakAnglers.com) ran its first bass tournament series last year, taking up after the four-year run of the Carolina Yakfish series ended. As with most kayak tournaments, it is a Catch-Photograph-Release format in which the fish is landed, measured and photographed with the angler and tournament’s identifier seen in the picture. The fish is then released.

The identifier ensures the fish was caught during the tournament hours, as it is made public just before the tournament begins. The CKA tournaments allow fishermen to measure their three longest fish. Many tournaments also run side events, such as the CKA’s March 7 Jordan Lake tournament, which targets crappie as a second species.

The CKA names an Angler of the Year, based on the five best tournament finishes by each angler. A prize package that includes a custom engraved CKA Angler of the Year Yak Attack Black Pack goes to the winner.

All participants are placed in a raffle for a Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 13 kayak, with each tournament entered giving the participant one chance.

The CKA tournament schedule is as follows:

• March 7, Jordan Lake;

• April 25, Randleman Reservoir;

• May 23, Shearon Harris Lake;

• June 13, Yadkin River;

• July 25, Tuckertown Lake;

• Aug. 8, Lake James;

• Sept. 19, Gate City Kayak Classic, Greensboro municipal reservoirs.

The North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA.com) also runs a number of tournaments throughout the year. Instead of strictly fishing for bass, the NCKFA targets a variety of species in both freshwater and saltwater.

The NCKFA holds an online tournament from March through November, with a different species targeted each month. At the end of the month, anglers who caught the top three fish win prize packages. 

The NCKFA also presents an Angler of the Year award, and you can upgrade your catch with bigger fish in subsequent months. Fish can be caught at any time from any North Carolina waters as long as it is from a paddle- or peddle-powered kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard.

The Angler of the Year award is a Hobie Mirage Pro Angler kayak. Second place receives a $500 Hobie prize package and third place receives a $300 Hobie prize package.

This year, the NCKFA added another aspect to the tournament. All you have to do is “Beat Bill.” Yes, log a catch bigger than mine during the month and you are placed in a raffle for a year-end drawing for a prize package consisting of a one year subscription to North Carolina Sportsman, a Sportsman cap, T-shirt and decal, an Extrasport PFD, a Carlisle Predator Angler paddle, and a gift certificate towards a Denali fishing rod.

You can follow my catches on the NCKFA facebook page and website, the North Carolina Sportsman website, or BillHowardOutdoors.com.

The NCKFA also runs several one-day tournaments, and extra credit is given towards the Angler of the Year for participation. These events are the Fishing Fools, Midnight Madness, Smallmouth Slam, Oak Island Classic and Spots and Specks tournaments. The targeted species for each of these tournaments coincides with the monthly species.

Targeted fish for the NCKFA series include: March, crappie; April, largemouth bass; May, panfish other than crappie; June, catfish; July, carp; August, smallmouth bass; September, flounder; October, redfish; November, seatrout.

If you decide to join in the fun, check the websites for each organization and tournaments to get a full grasp of the rules. Now, get out there on the water and enjoy yourself.