GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Since there are no major amusement parks in Clay County, tourism officials decided to put the spotlight on one of its greatest assets to attract visitors – its expansive …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Since there are no major amusement parks in Clay County, tourism officials decided to put the spotlight on one of its greatest assets to attract visitors – its expansive waterways.
The county entered an agreement with Kayak Bass Fishing and Airstream Ventures to create a year-long fishing tournament.
“We’re not trying to do this as a flash in the pan,” said Kayak Bass Fishing founder Chad Hoover. “What we're trying to accomplish is a year-long promotion in Clay County for a virtual tournament that culminates with a championship at the end of the year.
“In January, we're going to start a virtual series where we pay out growing prizes based on participation, cash payouts, plus prizes from all of our amazing partners and sponsors. And we're going use that to continuously evolve how we promote Clay County, to put it on the map. This is not a one-day or one-week or one-month type thing. This is a long-term partnership where we can show people that when you're coming down the interstate headed to some of the more well-known southern destinations in Florida, you're passing some a gem. You should stop on your way down or your way back up. Or you should just make this your way.”
Fishermen will be required to fish in a kayak, and unlike other bass organizations, fishermen are required to take a photo of the fish, measure the length and return the fish into the river, creek, lake or pond.
Other organizations rank catches by weight. KBF will use the combined lengths of the monthly catches to determine winners.
Hoover said each photo of a fish has to be sent to the website, and it will be issued a virtual identifier to make sure every fish was caught in any public waterway in Clay County. The fisherman’s hand is to be included in the photo to capture a type of fingerprint to keep fishermen from sharing the same fish before it is returned to the water. Hoover’s system is so precise, tournament organizers from Lake Erie have asked for information to avoid another scandal after two fishermen were caught adding lead weights to walleyes last month.
The fisherman who catches the greatest length will earn monthly payouts, Hoover said. Then in October, KBF will bring its Trail, Challenge and Pro series national tournaments to Clay County.
Bed taxes, not property taxes, collected from county hotels will be used to pay for the program, county commissioner and Tourism Council Chairman Mike Cella said.
“The No. 1 search word on the (tourism search bar) has been fishing,” Cella said. “The good news is that visitors really want to come to Clay County to fish. The problem is we've had very little fishing content on the website.
“Something that we needed to come up with was a way to encourage both folks to visit Clay County, and at the same time, take advantage of our beautiful waterways. We believe we've come up with a pretty creative solution for adding bass fishing content to our marketing efforts and adding another unique national event to a growing list of sports and entertainment options.”
Hoover said picking Clay County was an easy choice.
“This is old Florida, right on the east coast. It's the tea-colored water. It's the Spanish moss hanging in the trees. You can catch a redfish on one cast. You can catch a bass on another catch and catch a crappie on another. You can have all those experiences right here.”
For more information, visit airstreamventures.com, kayakbassfishing.com or exploreclay.com.
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