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Huntsville reels in a lunker: Kayak Bass Fishing launches headquarters at Ditto

HUNTSVILLE – Did you hear the latest fish tale coming from Ditto Landing?

Huntsville used a double-edged stinger hook to not only land one of the fastest growing sports in the country, but Kayak Bass Fishing has dropped anchor and is casting its  headquarters and podcast studio at Ditto Landing.

KBF kayaks at Ditto Landing (256 Today)

“It is a beautiful day to be at Ditto Landing,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle Wednesday morning during the formal announcement at Huntsville’s favorite waterfront venue as the Tennessee River shimmered in the background and a comfortable breeze cut through the late summer heat. “Of course, any day is a beautiful day to be at Ditto Landing.”

The renovated facility will house a production studio, will host seminars and podcasts, and be the hub for activities for FishOPS – a non-profit charity supporting Veterans Advocacy, Public Servant and First Responder organizations.

“When we first discussed this idea by writing it down on a cocktail napkin like most good business opportunities happen, it was clear North Alabama was an ideal area for us to start,” KBF co-founder Chad Hoover said.

Imagine listening to a ballgame on ESPN and, no matter where in the country the bass anglers competition is, you will hear cut-ins, “We are coming to you live from Kayak Bass Fishing headquarters on the banks of the Tennessee River in Huntsville, Alabama!”

Kayak Bass Fishing founders Kristie and Chad Hoover (256 Today)

“Eight years ago, several hundred people met for a visioning session to discuss the city’s Big Picture Master Plan,” Battle said. “One of the goals was to make better use of recreational assets at Ditto Landing on the Tennessee River. Today, as we welcome a new company, Kayak Bass Fishing, to the Huntsville community, we see that vision coming to fruition.

“Their decision to locate their company headquarters here in Huntsville not only improves our quality of life but introduces Huntsville to a new market of people who might not otherwise know we’re the best city in the U.S. to live.”

A retired naval officer, Hoover and his wife and business partner Kristie founded KBF in 2009. The sport grew exponentially during the pandemic because it was something people could do six feet apart. In fact, it gave KBF time to build a media presence and a competitor base and get deeply engaged in the sport.

“I don’t want to call Kayak Bass Fishing the pickleball movement of the river, but this newfound popularity is the new ‘it’ sport for freshwater enthusiasts,” Battle said.

“Kayak bass fishing is an emerging sport, but it didn’t just ‘blow up’ overnight like a lot of people think,” Chad Hoover said. “I have been doing it since 1996 and we have been doing online tournaments since 2009 … pickleball, huh?

“The pickleball of fishing … another popular and emerging sport so I take it as a compliment,” he said to laughter.

Now in its 12th year, Hoover said the organization hit its stride several years ago doing live events, conducting the first national championship at the behest of the anglers who said, “We want something bigger.”

“Well, they are getting something bigger. I want to turn Huntsville into Fishville!” Chad Hoover said.

Chad Hoover and Mayor Tommy Battle (256 Today)

“This sport resonates with people,” Kristie Hoover said. “With a perfect location on the Tennessee River and the support of everyone in Huntsville, we are excited to create a headquarters facility that will help foster the growth of Kayak Bass Fishing.

“And the partnership with Ditto Landing made this an easy decision.”

Huntsville will host the KBF National Championship in 2023, 2025 and 2031, as well as one annual tour event.

Each national championship will have more than 650 anglers competing for a week to claim the top prize, bringing in an estimated economic impact of $3.5 million. The venue is expected to generate more than $16 million in economic impact through the total events scheduled over the next 10 years.

“This is a tremendous partnership that not only brings major events to our area, but it helps market Huntsville and Ditto Landing as one of the top outdoor destinations in the country,” said Judy Ryals, president and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “With the visibility in their television package and ever-growing follower counts on social media, bringing their headquarters and events to Huntsville is a big win for our community.”

There is also a conservation aspect to Kayak Bass Fishing.

“It is a really clean, green way to fish,” said Chad Hoover. “We catch the fish, photograph them, and immediately release them back where we caught them from. It’s called CPR and it breathes life back into the fishery.

“You are not killing these fish. If they die it has a negative impact on the fishery.”

And there is a huge family aspect to kayak bass fishing, too.

“It allows us to promote outdoor activity, something that is exciting – gamified fishing if you will – making it attractive to young folks but we are also giving that dad or mom something to go out and do together,” Chad Hoover said. “We had a 14-year-old win our pro series and we have a 76-year-old out there mixing it up with everyone else.”

So, grab yourself a pig ‘n jig and find yourself a good blowdown where you can do an impressive little pitch-skip before hauling in that next hogzilla!

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