Right Angles | Sports Destination Management

Right Angles

Destinations are Ready to Line Up a Variety of Fishing Events
May 01, 2024 | By: Judy Leand

As a growing and increasingly diverse participant base embraces fishing, locales are seeking to host a greater number and breadth of events. This is no mere fish tale, given that more than 54.5 million Americans fished in 2022, a 2.1 million increase from the year prior, according to the 2023 Special Report on Fishing from the Outdoor Foundation and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation.

Demographically noteworthy: fishing participation among Hispanic people ages 6 and up has jumped about 45 percent over the past decade, and female participation rose from 16 million in 2012 to 19.8 million in 2022. The study also found that new anglers are younger, more diverse and highly socially connected.


As the sport continues to evolve, replete with expanded media coverage and big-money tours and competitions, new markets and fresh opportunities await for fishing destinations throughout the country.

Anderson, South Carolina

Anderson, SC | Photo courtesy of Anderson County
Anderson, SC | Photo courtesy of Anderson County

Anderson’s Lake Hartwell is one of the top fishing lakes in the country and is known for bass fishing; however crappie, catfish and panfish also abound. The main facility is Green Pond Landing and Event Center, a 30-acre, fully ADA-compliant venue designed for hosting local, regional and national fishing tournaments and events. Among its many amenities are more than 7,500 feet of dock space, three deep water launch lanes and a 1,500-seat amphitheater, making it one of the top facilities of its kind in the U.S.

In 2023, Anderson County, Green Pond Landing and Lake Hartwell hosted the Fishers of Men National Championship, the Association of Collegiate Anglers National Championship, the Bassmaster High School and Junior National Championships, as well as the B.A.S.S. Nation National Championship.

“We’re adding new events to our lineup each year,” says Neil Paul, Visit Anderson’s executive director. “Anderson County and Visit Anderson have placed a priority on hosting fishing tournaments due to the economic impact associated with hosting bringing these events to our community.” He adds, “Since Green Pond Landing and Event Center opened in December 2014, the upstate of South Carolina has experienced an economic impact surpassing $100 million in fishing tournaments hosted, including the Bassmaster Classic (2015, 2018, 2022) in partnership with VisitGreenvilleSC.”

Crawford County, Pennsylvania

Crawford County, PA | Photo courtesy of Darl Black
Crawford County, PA | Photo courtesy of Darl Black

Bait fishing, fly fishing, bait casting, spinning and trolling are all popular here, and common species include walleye, crappie, bass, muskellunge, channel catfish, panfish, yellow perch, bluegill and pumpkin seed. While much of the competitive action takes place on Pymatuning Lake, other popular sites include Conneaut Lake, Crystal Lake, Tamarack Lake, Woodcock Creek Lake, Sugar Lake, Canadohta Lake, French Creek, Clear Lake, Conneaut Marsh, Woodcock Creek, Conneaut Creek and Oil Creek. In winter, Crawford County is also recognized for outstanding ice fishing.

“The types of events held at Pymatuning Lake include large, organization-run tournaments with 30 to 100 participants each, as well as smaller club tournaments with 10 to 30 participants. In general, all events hold their weigh-ins and awards ceremonies at the lake,” explains Darl Black, an outdoor writer for The Great Lakes Region, and the owner of Blackwolfe Communications who works closely with Visit Crawford. He notes that Conneaut Lake hosts several bass competitions, including the United Way Bass Tournament with approximately 100 anglers. Other key events are the Pymatuning State Park Bass Tournament, Canadohta Lake Ice Fishing Tournament and a fly fishing tournament in Titusville on Oil Creek.

“The Pymatuning Reservoir is one of the few locations statewide where bass and walleye are allowed to be caught year-round,” says Dan Bickle, operations manager at Pymatuning State Park. “For this reason, Pymatuning hosts the highest number of fishing tournaments in the Pennsylvania State Park System.” He notes that in 2023, Pymatuning State Park hosted 55 fishing tournaments lake-wide with 1,800 participants.

Erie, Pennsylvania

Erie, PA | Photo courtesy of Erie Sports Commission
Erie, PA | Photo courtesy of Erie Sports Commission

Located on the shores of the southernmost of the Great Lakes, Erie is a haven for freshwater fishing, fly fishing and ice fishing. The diverse selection of species includes steelhead, trout, walleye, pike, bluegill, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and perch.

“Erie County has remained a popular fishing tournament destination for years and Lake Erie has regularly been ranked as one of the top bass lakes in the country by Bassmaster Magazine,” says Sydney Dietz, events and marketing manager, Erie Sports Commission. “Our location features Presque Isle State Park, a peninsula that stretches out into Lake Erie and naturally forms Presque Isle Bay. The protected Bay, which provides easy access to Lake Erie, is a popular location for tournaments and provides tournament organizers an opportunity to fish if weather creates poor conditions on Lake Erie.”

Local and regional fishing events are held year-round, and new tournaments for different species are continually added to the schedule. The Erie Sports Commission has previously hosted the Keystone Bass Buddy Circuit Classic, Kayak Bass Fishing Regional Championship, American Bass Anglers Area 9 Championship, The Bass Federation Mid-Atlantic Divisional, PA B.A.S.S. Nation State Qualifiers and the B.A.S.S. Nation Mid-Atlantic Divisional Championship.

“We are looking forward to hosting the Kayak Anglers BASS on the Bay 9 and Kayak Anglers Shriners Team Challenge this spring, in addition to our popular PA B.A.S.S. Nation State tournament and the PA B.A.S.S. Nation Team Trail Tournament in June,” says Dietz. “These tournaments offer a great opportunity to showcase Erie’s fishing scene.”

Gulf Shores | Orange Beach, Alabama

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, AL | Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, AL | Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events

Orange Beach is known as the “red snapper capital of the world” due to the Alabama Gulf Coast having the largest artificial reef program in the country. The area’s waters teem with other species, too, such as grouper, sheepshead, redfish, pompano, triggerfish, amberjack, speckled trout and black drum.

This destination’s beaches and lakes are complemented by a variety of marinas and piers. Gulf State Park is home to Lake Shelby, one of the closest bodies of freshwater to saltwater in world, and the park’s Fishing and Education Pier is set to reopen in the summer of 2024 as the largest recreational pier on the Gulf of Mexico.

The tournament lineup for 2024 includes the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, Mobile Big Game Fishing Club Gulf Coast Masters, Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo, MBGFC Junior Angler Tournament, Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf, MBGFC Ladies Tournament, MGBFC Billfish Limited Tournament, MGBFC Labor Day Invitational and Charter Boat Billfish Tournament. In 2023, the Flora-Bama Fishing Road generated $79,350 in economic impact, while the Blue Marlin Grand Championship brought in $42,787 for the local economy, notes Michelle Russ, VP of sales, sports and events at Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events.

“Our destination’s primary audience is families, and many times we see that even when a parent is participating in an event, the family is in tow for an extended stay,” says Russ. “Some events, like the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo, allow families and children to engage in various off-the-wall categories to get them acquainted with angling.”

Hardin, Tennessee

Hardin, TN | Photo Courtesy of Hardin County CVB

It’s easy to participate in freshwater fishing in Hardin, and crappie, bluegill, white bass, stripes and sauger bite year-round. Smallmouth bass and catfish are also plentiful. The two main sites are the Tennessee River and Pickwick Lake.

Tour Hardin County has hosted fishing tournaments with Bassmaster Elite, Major League Fishing Tackle Warehouse events (professional and collegiate), Minn Kota, Bass Kayak, National Pro, Bassin, Bill Dance Tennessee Signature Lake/Fish TN, as well as multiple high school series. A catfish derby is slated for this fall at Pickwick Landing State Park, and the championship weigh-in will be on Main Street in downtown Savannah, Tennessee.

“The largest event with spectators was the Bassmaster Elite, which was a national TV, fishing and a festival-type event. Economic impact is estimated at $2 million,” says Beth Pippin, executive director, Tour Hardin County. “We have targeted the larger fishing tournaments and filming that bring national coverage for us, and we also host several that are non-pro and that get everyone in on the action. Plus, we have done well with the high school series bringing in the families.”

Pippin adds, “We have branded our area as a fishing destination. TN State Parks and the Tennessee Wildlife and Resources Agency have invested in our park with new docks and ramp improvements, and the City of Savannah is in the process of building a marina. A developer is building a riverfront hotel, restaurant and conference center to be completed in 2025, and retail and dining are seeing increased development.”

Harford County, Maryland

Harford, MD | Photo courtesy of Visit Harford
Harford, MD | Photo courtesy of Visit Harford

Freshwater fishing, Chesapeake Bay fishing, fly fishing and kayak fishing are all popular at this destination. Anglers will find such species as hickory shad, alewife herring, white and yellow perch, smallmouth bass, rockfish, rainbow trout, catfish and northern snakehead.

Key venues include the Conowingo Fisherman’s Park, Deer Creek, Eden Mill Park Nature Center and Historic Grist Mill, Flying Point Park, Otter Point, Palmer State Park, Rocks State Park, and Susquehanna State Park. The beautiful downtown Havre de Grace offers several boat launching sites, piers and slips, and there are several marinas in the Abingdon/Edgewood/Joppatowne area along the Bush River. Harford County is also part of the Maryland Flyfishing Trail.

The destination has hosted major events such as FLW in 2019 and 2020. This May, the Slingin’ on the Wingo & Bassin’ on the Bay freshwater kayak bass fishing tournament will be held at Susquehanna State Park. “We expect 500 people at the event,” says Tyler Zeisloft, Visit Harford’s marketing and communications coordinator. He adds that looking ahead, “We want to attract men ages 25-64, families of three or more, and all ability levels.”

Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lake Charles, LA | Photo courtesy of Visit Lake Charles
Lake Charles, LA | Photo courtesy of Visit Lake Charles

Here in Cajun Country, fishing is a big deal and anglers have plenty of fresh and salt water options including drum, redfish, tuna, largemouth bass, flounder, sheepshead, amberjack, speckled trout, catfish, snapper and grouper. The main venues are Calcasieu Lake, Calcasieu River, Gulf of Mexico, Sabine Wildlife Refuge, Lacassine Wildlife Refuge and Grosse Savanne.

“Although it’s been several years since we’ve hosted a fishing event, we have two major ones coming up this fall,” says Eric Zartler, senior VP of sports, Visit Lake Charles. “First is the Louisiana High School Bass Fishing State Championships in May, and then the Redfish Cup [2024 frogg toggs Elite Fishing Series Solo Tour National Championship] in October.” He also points out, “We have the ability to conduct weigh-ins at launch sites or at remote sites, and have done both.”

Zartler further notes, “Lake Charles currently has several public boat launches across the parish and is planning to add several kayak launch sites for kayak fishing.”

Shores & Islands, Ohio

Shores & Islands, OH | Photo courtesy of Shores & Islands Ohio
Shores & Islands, OH | Photo courtesy of Shores & Islands Ohio

This destination bills itself as “the walleye capital of the world,” and there are abundant fishing opportunities on the Lake Erie Shoreline. Other popular species in the area include channel catfish, yellow perch, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and steelhead. The main fishing sites are Huron Boat Basin, Shelby Street launch, Catawba Island State Park, East Harbor State Park, Kelleys Island, Put-in-Bay, and West Harbor in Catawba. Tournaments are held from April through November, and there are ice fishing competitions when the lake freezes over in January and February.

Cabela’s National Walleye Tournament Championships, the National Professional Fishing League, Cabela’s King Kat and Midwest Crappie Alliance are some of the large events that have taken place at this destination. Shores & Islands Ohio also hosts the annual Governor’s Fish Ohio Day.

“Each tournament averages 120 anglers, most are from the Midwest, and they typically stay in the area for three days,” says Tiffany Frisch, assistant director of group accounts, Shores & Islands Ohio. “We are looking to add more events to the roster and grow our current tournaments. In 2024 we are hosting the Midwest Crappie Alliance Shootout and Expo, with the Expo taking place at our indoor sports complex, Cedar Point Sports Center.”  SDM

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