Kayak fishing is coming on in a major way, and the Center Hill Lake region is emerging as a paddler’s’ paradise for heavy-action sport angling.

Sponsored in large part by Orion Coolers and Jackson Kayak, which is headquartered in Sparta, the River Bassin competition bills itself as “an affordable tournament trail for river bass fishing anglers of all types.” Kayaks are the preferred method of water transport, but canoes and float tubes are permitted, too. The only requirement is that the craft be propelled and navigated by the angler’s own muscle power.

Most folks around here are aware of the exciting prospects for pulling a trophy brown or rainbow trout from the chilly currents below Center Hill Dam.

delicious bassRiver Bassin competitions that served as run-ups to the national championship were held in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and East Tennessee.

But the Eastern Highland Rim’s propensity for high-intensity hookups with brawny warm-water species was highlighted in striking fashion recently when more than 75 competitive casters from around the country splashed down at Big Rock Market for the “River Bassin Tournament Trail” championship.

Big Rock Market owner Joel Martin also runs Caney Fork Outdoors, a recreation outfitting and rental store that hosted the River Bassin tournament. Having been in business just outside Edgar Evins State Park for 40 years, Martin said it is remarkable how much kayaking has grown in popularity.

In ten years kayaking has gone from being virtually nonexistent to many an angler’s preferred mode of lunker-stalking on local waters.

“It is here to stay,” Martin said. “Fishing-kayaks are becoming the hottest boat there is right now.”

[Pictured at top: Alabama anglers Lance Coley (left) and his partner Tim Perkins (right) cleaned up at the River Bassin National Championships on Oct. 24, taking home the team title and hooking the Nos. 1 and 2 spots, respectively, in the individual competition. Drew Gregory of Jackson Kayak emceed the event at Big Rock Market near Center Hill Lake.]