This week’s Bassmaster tourney is catching more than just fish
By Jason Lankford
What do you get when you combine a lake full of elusive bass, four days of competitive fishing and 99 professional anglers?
A tourism official hopes the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s Bassmaster Elite Series tournament that starts today adds up to $550,000 in economic impact for Decatur and exposure for the city’s outdoor facilities. ESPN will broadcast one-hour specials on the tournament June 26 and July 9.
“When this is televised on ESPN, people who see this are going to see Decatur showcased, and they’re going to want to come to Wheeler Lake,” said Tami Reist, Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau president. “That is something that can’t be measured.”
Reist was able to measure economic impact, she said, based on statistics from 2009’s tournament.
This year’s tournament, called the Dixie Duel, will include professional anglers such as J. Todd Tucker of Moultrie, Ga., a member of the Big Green Egg team. Tucker estimated he’ll spend $110 a day for lodging and $160 a day for fuel and food.
“What a lot of people don’t think about is that every angler will bring about seven to 10 people with them if you include their families and pit crews,” Tucker said. “All of them are going to be spending money in all these places, too.”
Nitro fishing team member David White, known as “Happy” to fellow crew members, said he and his family have eaten at several area restaurants and will “eat at them all before the week’s over.”
Evinrude E-Team angler David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., said he and his family are staying in their camper at Point Mallard Campground at a rate of $150 per week. Supplying fuel for his two vehicles and boat has been his major expense.
Walker said he has fished in several tournaments, and the set-up at Ingalls Harbor, where anglers will launch their boats, is unique compared to other places because it is located in a city and has more modern facilities and abundant parking spaces.
“Alabama as a whole has better facilities,” he said. “That attracts things like this.”
Royce Figueroa, a vendor for Berkley Fishing from Fort Worth, Texas, who demonstrates equipment at the Elite Series tournaments, is no stranger to being on the road and living out of a suitcase.
“I’m one of the few vendors who’s on the road 200-plus days out of the year,” he said.
Figueroa said he prefers to stay in smaller hotels because he likes to support local owners rather than corporations.
“I like to bring money back to the small people,” Figueroa said.
Registration for anglers was held Wednesday at the Holiday Inn. General Manager Andy Safiano said that with many reservations coming in at the last minute, it is difficult to assess how many rooms will be booked. He does not anticipate a shortage.
“But that would be a very nice problem to have,” he said.
There has been speculation about the BASS tournament headquarters moving to Alabama from its current location in the Orlando area. Co-owner Don Logan, a native of Hartselle, said that it is really a question of when and where at this point.
“We’re trying to aim for some time prior to the end of the year,” Logan said.
Reist has sent Logan a letter proposing that Decatur be considered as a site. Logan said the advantages to relocating to Alabama are its central location in relation to the tournament circuit and the amount of local interest and participation in the sport.
“There’s a lot of talent here,” he said. “More anglers live in Alabama than in any other state. We think it would be a great place to call home.”
Bassmaster Elite Series Dixie Duel
■When: Today through Sunday.
■Boat launch: 6:45 a.m. daily from Ingalls Harbor, 701 Market St. N.W.
■Weigh-in: 3:15 p.m. daily (live coverage on bassmaster.com).
■Field: 99 professional anglers will compete today and Friday. Field will be cut to top 50 for Saturday and top 12 for Sunday.
■At stake: Tournament winner will receive $100,000. Event also will determine Angler of the Year, which is worth $100,000 to points race winner. Kevin VanDam and Edwin Evers enter Dixie Duel first and second in points.
■ESPN broadcast times: June 26, 7 a.m.; July 9, 8 a.m.