In the U.S., tournament angling, especially competitive bass fishing, has seen significant growth, thanks in part to the efforts of Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) and B.A.S.S. But there is ample growth in other disciplines as well, according to Tony Forte, President of USA Bass and Vice President of US Angling.
“Kayak fishing has had explosive growth,” he told Sports Destination Management. “Bass fishing, fly fishing, ice fishing and carp fishing have also seen increased interest.”
And there’s incentive to get a younger crowd fishing. In 2011, FLW College Fishing, FLW and The Bass Federation (TBF) partnered to create the first and only national high school fishing program. The organizations now offer a high school bass fishing championship in every state plus Ontario, Canada. This financial component is attracting more students to the sport. The Association of Collegiate Anglers also offers events.
For competitive angling events, the definition of what makes a good fishing event location is rapidly evolving.
“With the advent of catch, weigh or measure, photo and release angling, there are many more opportunities to pair with host communities,” said Forte. “The large infrastructure needed (large boat ramps) to host major bass fishing events is not necessarily a requirement with Major League Fishing Events (MLF). Kayak fishing also has flexibility because you can fish in smaller venues.”
Additionally, media coverage of fishing tournaments (including on designated outdoor networks) has bumped up the visibility of the sport, and online tournaments have helped anglers keep the fire burning even in the COVID-19 era.
Anderson, South Carolina
Anderson County’s Lake Hartwell – Green Pond Landing is a 30-acre facility designed for fishing tournaments. Since opening in 2014, it has accounted for $57 million in economic impact. Green Pond Landing and Event Center is an ADA-compliant facility.
The lake has hosted the Bassmaster Classic, B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Bassmaster Team Championship, Bassmaster High School Open, FLW Tour, Ray Scott Championship, American Bass Anglers “AFT” Championship, the PBC High School Trail, TBF High School, Crappie USA and more.
The City of Anderson, located seven miles from Lake Hartwell and Green Pond Landing, offers a quaint small-town experience for visitors complete with shopping, local dining, craft beer and local distilleries. There are also destinations for history, art, agriculture and adventure. There are approximately 2,000 hotel rooms within 10 miles of Green Pond Landing, and the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport is 45 minutes away.
“Visit Anderson is happy to assist in the process of obtaining volunteers, providing assistance with lodging and event venue communication, welcome packages and any additional tasks to ensure the best local experience possible,” said Neil Paul, executive director of Visit Anderson.
Erie hosts many local and regional events year-round. Located on the shores of Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay, the area is ideal for bass, walleye, steelhead, panfish and more. The region, one of the top bass fisheries in the country, has hosted a number of national tournaments, including the Keystone Bass Buddy Circuit Classic, Kayak Bass Fishing Regional Championship, American Bass Anglers Area 9 Championship, Bass Federation Mid-Atlantic Divisional and B.A.S.S. Nation Mid-Atlantic Divisional Championship. The area has also seen a surge in kayak fishing tournaments in recent years and accommodates ice fishing in winter.
“We have a great fishery here in Erie,” said Emily Biddle, marketing and communications director for the Erie Sports Commission, “and we hope that will lead to even more opportunities down the road.”
Erie enjoys direct access to Lake Erie as well as to adjoining Presque Isle Bay – a sheltered natural bay. Presque Isle State Park is within a few miles of thousands of hotel rooms and many of the area’s most popular restaurants and shopping destinations.
The Erie Sports Commission prides itself on being a one-stop-shop for sporting events. In addition to lodging assistance, it offers volunteer support, event promotion, local support services and welcome packages, as well as the easy-to-use Hello Erie! app.
Harford County, Maryland
Harford County’s position on Chesapeake Bay makes it accessible for competitive fishing events. Competitors use Flying Point Park on the Bush River in Edgewood as a launch point.
In recent years, the area has hosted FLW College and High School tournaments. It was chosen to host a Bassmaster event in 2018 – an event that would have attracted 20,000 spectators and 110 competitors; unfortunately, the event was cancelled due to high water.
To accommodate attendees, the county has more than 2,800 hotel rooms. It’s 30 minutes from Baltimore-Washington International Airport and 60 minutes from Philadelphia and Washington airports, and close to Interstate 95.
For the off-hours, there is dining on the region’s world-famous crabs and other culinary delights, craft beers, wineries, distilleries, an ice cream trail and the historic town of Havre de Grace located right on the Chesapeake Bay.
“We can provide welcome packets including visitor guides, restaurant and shopping guides, and can put event planners in touch with hoteliers,” said Greg Pizzuto, executive director of Visit Harford! “Our Destination Harford app has all this information in the palm of your hand.”
Jefferson County, Tennessee
Jefferson County has played host to two Bassmaster Elites, FLW Tour, Bass Opens, BFL tournaments and regional championships as well as college and high school championships. In 2019, more than 3,000 anglers participated in tournaments, and these events drew over 5,000 spectators.
Jefferson County is home to two world-class bass fisheries, Cherokee and Douglas Lakes. On Douglas, most tournaments are hosted out of the Dandridge Launch, which features a 22-slip public dock with a 530-foot long handicapped accessible walkway, an event staging platform and ample docking. The TVA Cherokee Dam Ramp in Jefferson City allows for multiple boats to launch and dock and accommodates large tournament fields.
The county has approximately 400 hotel rooms plus cabin rentals and campgrounds. Jefferson County is centrally located in East Tennessee, and both lakes are accessed off Interstates 40 and 81. The region has both history and natural beauty, and is a short drive from Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
“We assist with housing for both event staff and participants, gaining volunteers and sending welcome packets,” said Lauren Hurdle, director of tourism for the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. “We also work closely with cities and municipalities to provide whatever assistance the tournament
directors may need.”
Lake County, Florida
Lake County has a claim to fame: Leesburg and the Harris Chain of Lakes were the host site of the first national bass tournament in 1928. In recent years, Lake County has hosted the FLW Pro Circuit, the FLW College Fishing Championship, Major League Fishing, the Big Bass Tour, the Bassmaster Team Championship, the Bassmaster College Series and Bassmaster Elite Series. It has also hosted the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation State & Team Championship and the Kayak Bass Fishing Pro Tour. Events have attracted between 100 boats to over 225 boats.
The Harris Chain of Lakes is comprised of eight primary lakes totaling 75,000 acres. There are over 30 public boat ramps and multiple tournament sites, but the two most prominent sites are Venetian Gardens in Leesburg and Hickory Point Park in Tavares.
Venetian Gardens is a waterfront park on the shores of Lake Harris. Surrounding the Venetian Cove, the park is the perfect site for tournaments to launch from and host weigh-in activities. In total, the park has six boat ramps, on-site utilities and parking and space for anglers and spectators. Hickory Point Park includes 12 total boat ramps, a fishing pier, pavilions and parking.
The region features 2,700 hotel rooms plus lodging rentals and is one hour from the Orlando International Airport as well as Orlando-based activities including theme parks, restaurants, zoos and golf courses.
“The Office of Visit Lake offers services to event planners including funding, site selecting, sourcing accommodations, welcome packages and event operation assistance,” said Steven Clenney, manager of sports development for Visit Lake.
Somerset-Pulaski County, Kentucky
Each year, Somerset-Pulaski County hosts the Cabela’s Crappie USA Fishing Tournament Trail, and in the past has hosted the organization’s Classic event. In conjunction with Crappie USA, the county hosts a Kids Fishing Rodeo. A partner tourism office, City of Somerset and City of Burnside, brings in the FLW Circuit.
Lake Cumberland, the ninth-largest manmade lake in the U.S. with 1,250 miles of shoreline, is the destination of choice. It features wide ramps that can launch multiple boats at a time as well as vehicle and trailer parking. Lake Cumberland tournaments attract between 25 boats and 225 boats throughout the year.
Around Lake Cumberland, there are over 1,200 hotel rooms as well as cabin, cottage and home rentals. The region is easily accessible from I-75. In addition to boating and fishing, there are opportunities for hiking, as well as five golf courses, shopping and antique stores, Flashback Theater, the Center for Rural Development and the Mill Springs Battlefield Visitor Center and Museum.
“Our office helps events with providing welcome packages, and we work with event planners to find event space, dining/cater options, and meeting rooms,” said Katie Shea, information specialist with the Somerset-Pulaski County CVB.
Stanly County, North Carolina
With over 10,000 acres of water, Stanly County has been home to many competitive fishing tournaments. Major League Fishing has held a number of major tournaments in the county, and local and regional tournaments are a regular occurrence. In addition, kayak events have also been drawing participants. Tournaments use a variety of waterways in the area depending on size and need, including Lake Tillery, Badin Lake, Falls Reservoir, the Uwharrie River and Rocky River.
“Fishing tournaments and Stanly County go hand in hand,” said Chris Lambert, executive director of Visit Stanly County.
Stanly County, which has its county seat in Albemarle, has approximately 250 hotel rooms in addition to bed and breakfast accommodations and vacation rentals. It’s a scenic area that attracts drive-in visitors and is located 37 miles from Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
For the non-tournament hours, there is Morrow Mountain State Park, a natural history museum, hiking trails and a public swimming pool. There are also museums, shops and dining areas throughout the county. Event planners can tap Visit Stanly County for assistance in supporting a tournament.
“The CVB provides welcome packages to events and large parties to welcome them to the area,” said Lambert. “We offer discounts for certain attractions and our website has all the information that you’ll need for your visit.”
In recent years, the Tri-Cities region has hosted the Wild West Bass Trail Pro/Am Open Tournament, the 2018 Northwest Bass Championship and the 2017 American Bass Association Northwest Division Championship. It has also hosted the Washington State High School Bass Team Championship, the BASS Federation National Western Divisional Tournament and the FLW Series National Guard Western Division Bass Tournament. These events have drawn several thousand spectators and visitors to the area.
Waterways along the Columbia River include 26,000-acre Lake Wallula. The Tri-Cities area features two tournament-quality marinas, Clover Island Marina in Kennewick and Columbia Point Marina in Richland. Both have multiple ramps, restroom facilities and easy access to lodging and dining options within walking distance.
There are 4,290 hotel rooms in the area with 216 rooms still to be built. The Tri-Cities area is centrally located among all of the metropolitan areas of the Pacific Northwest including Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver and Spokane as well as Portland and Boise. For the off-hours, there are wineries and microbreweries, as well as boating, waterskiing, wakeboarding and tubing. There are a variety of science destinations in the area, as well as agritourism, shopping and dining.
All services offered by the region’s CVB are complimentary, according to Hector Cruz, vice president of Visit Tri-Cities Washington.
“We want to save planners time and energy while ensuring they receive accurate information in a timely manner,” he said. “We prepare a consolidated document outlining the pricing and amenities offered by area hotels. Working with our staff will require one conversation rather than the task of making multiple phone calls to individual hotels, saving time for the planner.” SDM