Inside Events: Kayak Bass Fishing
12 Jun, 2019By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Chad Hoover, Founder and President
The mission of Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) is to engage with kayak fishing clubs and tournament trails that share KBF’s mission to increase the numbers of people engaged in the sport of kayak fishing; to be a reliable source of information on the sport of kayak fishing; and to conduct well-organized, professionally-run, and highly-rewarding kayak fishing competition(s); and to standardize competition through consistent, fair, objective, and thorough rules, standards and practices.
Kayak Bass Fishing is the fastest growing segment of the US sportfishing market. For many reasons — increasing fuel costs, private and government water access restrictions, growing appreciation for an active outdoor lifestyle, minimal environmental impacts, not to mention just plain-out fun — America is embracing kayak bass fishing. The organization offers several levels of membership to anglers (as well as a variety of alternative membership options to those in various categories such as students, the military, etc.), as well as tournament liability insurance, KBF Trail Series hosting opportunities and a national championship.
Sports Destination Management: We’ve seen more and more events specifically set up for kayak fishing. Is it a subdiscipline of bass fishing or is it its own discipline?
Chad Hoover: It is a subset of bass fishing but it’s the fastest-growing part of the market. We recently partnered with FLW and that has put us on the national stage.
SDM: How long has KBF been around?
Hoover: We started about 10 years ago, sort of loosely organizing events. Then we had our first open competition and it just a lit a fire. We paid out $16,000 and suddenly, people were paying attention to us. We were able to start making multi-year deals with corporate partners and creating RFPs for our tournaments. We were one of the first to get into this space and we have pretty good traction now.
SDM: What is it that makes kayak bass fishing so popular? It seems to be growing incredibly well.
Hoover: There are low barriers to entry. Kayaks are less expensive than bass boats and they’re easier to store and transport. Once you’ve bought your first kayak, you find out that it’s almost like being a part of a brotherhood, like Harley Davidson or Yamaha riders, maybe even the Corvette culture. There’s a lot of social media with people taking pictures of their kayaks or the fish they’ve caught, asking questions about different things – it really is a community.
SDM: It certainly is less of an investment to purchase a kayak.
Hoover: Yes and that’s one of the interesting things. Not only are they easier to purchase and easy to use after the purchase – once you get the kayak, you’re locked and loaded and ready to go – but you rarely hear about buyer’s remorse. In fact, it’s the opposite. Once someone buys a kayak, we’ll hear they’ve gone out and bought a bigger one, or one to use on creeks, or one for their kids, or whatever.
SDM: What other advantages do kayak anglers enjoy?
Hoover: You can access a lot of places much more easily than either someone fishing from the bank or even someone fishing from a motorized boat. The fact that it is a family-oriented endeavor is great as well. Spending time together, outdoors, on the water, is a huge plus for families; it gets people off social media and gets them active. You get to do something you love and you can have fun sort of competing with one another for the fish.
SDM: Are there a lot of questions from people who are interested in buying a kayak?
Hoover: Yes; we tell people to go to a dealer and request a demo so you can try before you buy. Plus, one of the number-one benefits of this group is that you can say, “I’m in such and such area; is there anyone who would be willing to let me demo your kayak?” and you’ll get a ton of responses from people who are willing to let you try theirs.
SDM: What are your goals for Kayak Bass Fishing as an organization?
Hoover: I want to break the record for registration and for payout.
SDM: That’s ambitious – but it certainly seems possible, given the organization’s growth. How many contestants do your tournaments attract?
Hoover: Anywhere from 55 to 65 people in our smaller tournaments, all the way up to 751. This year’s national championship was a little lower than usual; we had about 461 people. I would say we were temporarily hurt by the government shutdown.
SDM: KBF has an incredibly active presence on Facebook as well as other platforms.
Hoover: We do. One thing we are really strict about is what people post. We have a policy that prohibits things like personal attacks, politics, profanity and so on. We want our social media to be a place where people can ask questions, post pictures and just enjoy connecting with each other about kayak bass fishing.
SDM: When you’re looking for tournament sites, what are your criteria? Aside from the right fishing venues, obviously.
Hoover: Well, we need a place with convenient hotel access and availability. There has to be enough water to support the number of competitors; our guidelines for that are 200 acres per competitor. We need a good venue for the weigh-in and awards ceremony.
SDM: Do you do an expo or trade show?
Hoover: We did an expo this year – we had 38 vendors and we sold out every bit of space we had. We even had to add spaces outside for companies that wanted to be a part of it. We’ll be continuing to do expos moving forward. I see them becoming a very substantial part of our events.
SDM: Any idea what the economic impact of the tournaments are?
Hoover: We don’t have statistics for everything but in general, tournaments can bring in just over a quarter million dollars; it takes at least 30 days after each event to learn the full effect, though. Last year, in one of our events in a really rural area, we made $240,000.
SDM: What is the male/female split in KBF? Are kids involved?
Hoover: We have about 95 percent men and five percent ladies, which is actually super-high in the fishing space. We don’t have one tour for men and one for ladies, though. We don’t have age-group fishing either but a 14-year-old did win one of our events, and we have seen competitors as young as 11. I tell people all the time, “Whether you’re eight or 80, you can do this.”