Cullman County will use $18,600 of its lodging tax revenue to pay for a two-year sponsorship of professional bass fisherman Kevin Hawk.

The county is using Hawk’s bass fishing boat as a floating billboard for Smith Lake Park, paying the Bassmasters Elite Series Pro $9,300 each year, officials said Monday. Hawk’s boat and competition shirt are emblazoned with a red and black Smith Lake Park, Cullman County design unveiled last week by officials at the park in Trimble.

The advertisement is expected to reaching millions when the eight Bassmasters Elite Series tournaments Hawk competes in this year are televised on ESPN, said Doug Davenport, Cullman County Parks and Recreation Director. Hawk is from Ramona, Calif., but relocated to Lake Guntersville a few years ago to concentrate on competitive bass fishing.

Cullman County Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker said the county is paying for the sponsorship with money from its tourism fund which is funded with annual lodging tax revenue. The county's fiscal 2014 tourism fund showed $206,000 budgeted, with $37,500 projected to be collected in lodging taxes this year.

“We’ve been trying to think of an unique way to advertise Smith Lake, and we think Kevin Hawk’s boat will be going so many places we could never reach before,” Walker said. “We want to bring more attention to Cullman County and bring in more fishermen but also more families to the park.”

Walker said Hawk’s boat may feature all Cullman County parks in the future.

Hawk said the sponsorship will hopefully boost attendance at Smith Lake Park as well as interest from those in the sport, generating more economic activity with local hotel stays, shopping and dining. Walker said more tourism will help generate more revenue for the county’s tourism fund through lodging taxes.

Hawk’s first tournament will be March 13-16 on Lake Seminole at Brainbridge, Ga. The event will be televised later on ESPN. In addition to promoting Smith Lake Park with his boat and gear, Hawk will also host guided trips that will be raffled off, with proceeds going toward improvements at Smith Lake Park, Davenport said.  

Tiffeny Owens can be reached by email at towens@cullmantimes.com or by phone at 256-734-2131, ext. 135.

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