Mulberry Fork kayakers

Kayakers on the Mulberry Fork.

Local kayak anglers can help raise money for cancer research by participating in the second Kayaking for a Cure tournament, which will be held on Saturday, April 10.

The tournament will be held in all north Alabama public waters, and is being hosted in partnership with Relay for Life of Cullman County and the American Cancer Society. 

Tournament organizer Gary Cornelius, a cancer survivor himself, said he has spent many years volunteering for the American Cancer Society in several different ways — including for Relay for Life of Cullman County — and after getting into kayak fishing as a hobby, he looked for a way to bring those two together. 

“I just really got to thinking a couple years ago about how my recreational sport could be used to raise money in the fight against cancer,” he said. 

In its first year of existence, the tournament saw 47 anglers take part to raise around $7,000 to benefit the American Cancer Society, and the goal for this year’s tournament is to raise $10,000, Cornelius said. 

Last year’s tournament actually took place on the same weekend that COVID-19 restrictions began to be put into place, but it was able to move to a digital format on short notice because many of the anglers were already using a virtual platform, he said. 

Going out on the water in a kayak is also one of the safer ways to get out during the pandemic because of the isolation, Cornelius said. 

“One of the neat things about kayaking is that it’s inherently socially distanced,” he said. 

Cornelius said this year’s tournament has been planned with a digital format from the start, and one of the popular digital platforms, TourneyX, has donated its use for the Kayaking for a Cure fundraiser for free. 

The move to an all-digital format has also allowed for a wider boundary for the tournament, with this year’s Kayaking for a Cure open to anyone fishing on any of the state’s public waters that are north of U.S. 80. 

He said kayak fishing continues to grow in popularity across Alabama, with five groups across just the north part of the state. 

Those clubs include the local Cullman Kayak Anglers, the North Alabama Kayak Anglers representing the Decatur and Huntsville areas, the Iron City Kayak Anglers in Birmingham, the West Alabama Kayak Anglers representing the west side of the state, the Coosa River Kayak Anglers in the east side of the state. 

There is also an active group in the Montgomery area called the River Region Kayak Anglers, and all of those groups will have representation in the tournament. 

“We will have anglers from all six of those groups fishing in Kayaking for a Cure,” he said. 

While fishers who take part will be raising money for cancer research, they will also be eligible to win prizes that have donated by some of the area’s popular stores for kayaking supplies. 

The Kayak Store in Hartselle and the Yak Shak in Pelham both donated kayaks that will be offered as prizes, Cabela’s donated a prize pack containing kayak fishing gear, and YakAttack also donated gift certificates that can be used on its online store. Cullman Window Tint has also donated a few offers for free window tints, Cornelius said. 

He said prizes will be awarded to first through third places, as well as a big fish prize. 

Kayak fishing tournaments are different than many other tournaments in that fish are judged based on their length, not their weight, Cornelius said. 

Each angler will have a measuring board with them that they will use to measure each fish they catch before returning them right back to the water, as many kayak fishers take pride in taking care of the environment and its wildlife. 

“It is truly focused on the conservation of our fisheries and our waterways,” he said. “Everything we do is catch, photo and release. We don’t keep any fish in tournaments.”

The entry fee for the tournament is $40, and for those who aren’t able to get out on the water but are still looking to support the fundraiser, there is a link to donate on the registration website, Cornelius said. 

To learn more about the tournament’s rules and regulations, or to sign up to fish or donate to the cause, visit the Kayaking for a Cure Facebook event page or visit acsbirm.ejoinme.org/KayakingforaCure.

Tyler Hanes can be reached at 256-734-2131 ext. 238.

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