International bass tourney to be held in US for first time
By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
A U.S. congressman, an Alabama state senator and local leaders gathered at Ingalls Harbor Friday. The attraction — Koto Kiriyama, a professional angler originally from Japan.
“Wheeler Lake was chosen and selected for the launch of the inaugural American Dream Tournament, marking the first time the international bass fishing tournament will be held in the United States,” announced Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith, R-Huntsville, called the tournament a recruiting tool.
State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, described it as an international relationship builder.
For Kiriyama, the competition’s organizer, the tournament is about bridging two nations.
“This is about connecting people and having more of a cultural understanding between Japan and the United States,” Kiriyama said. “I have loved fishing since I was 5. My whole life is about bass fishing. When I moved here 15 years ago, I didn’t speak any English and bass fishing helped me survive. I met a lot of good people who helped me learn the language and culture.”
Winners of the inaugural tournament, scheduled for Oct. 23 and 24, will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Japan’s Lake Biwa, linking Kiriyama’s adopted country with his native country.
Officials expect more than 100 two-man teams to compete for the trip to the lake, where an angler caught a record-tying largemouth bass weighing more than 22 pounds.
The 2010 competition will be the fourth annual American Dreams Tournament.
North Alabama’s reputation for bass fishing and the support from the area’s tourism officials landed Ingalls Harbor the hosting duties, said Kiriyama, a six-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and champion of the Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament at Lake Erie.
Originally held in Japan, the tournament awarded the winning team with a trip to fish at the BassCat Invitational in Arkansas.
“The winners come back and talk about how they are able to widen their view of life, and this is what I would like to achieve,” Kiriyama said. “I want to make Decatur an international city and help people understand other cultures.”
The tournament further strengthens an already strong relationship between Decatur and Japan, said Orr, citing the presence of Toray, Daikin and Toyota in the Tennessee Valley.
Along with cultural and industrial benefits, the tournament will produce financial benefits.
“The tournament is expected to provide an economic boost to the local economy through revenues generated by lodging, dining and retail sales, and the international exposure generated from hosting the event will further elevate Wheeler Lake into the fishing spotlight,” Reist said.
Since Ingalls Harbor opened in 2006, Decatur’s fishing reputation has climbed, capturing the industry’s attention and attracting regional and national tournaments.
So far, tournaments hosted at Ingalls Harbor have translated into an economic impact of $4 million.
For more information or to register for the tournament visit www.kotaamericandream.com or www.decatursports.com.