Sep. 30, 2003
Bassmaster brings boost to area's economy
'Rock-star' event may bring $40 million to area
JACK HORAN. Charlotte Observer
Michael Iaconelli won the 2003 Bassmasters Classic in New Orleans.
The tournament often referred to as the Super Bowl of bass fishing is coming to Charlotte next year.
Officials of ESPN-owned BASS will announce today that it will put on the 34th annual Bassmaster Classic, its championship, at Lake Wylie, the Charlotte Coliseum and the Charlotte Convention Center July 30-Aug. 1.
The Classic will pit 52 or 53 of the nation's top professional anglers in competitive fishing on the lake, include a sports show of fishing and boating merchandise at the convention center, and draw thousands of spectators for the rock-concert-style fish weigh-ins at the Coliseum. The weigh-ins also will be shown live on ESPN or ESPN2.
Mike Mistler of the Charlotte Regional Sports Commission on Monday predicted an economic impact of $30 million-$40 million. He said uptown attractions similar to the Speed Street festivities of May are being planned for visitors, who often build in a week's vacation around the tournament.
"It's a great boom for the city," he said. "This is a tremendous family event. The city's going to make this bigger and better than anyone else has done."
The Auditorium-Coliseum-Convention Center Authority, the Rock Hill/York County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Visit Charlotte and the sports commission put up about $550,000 in cash and in-kind inducements, Mistler confirmed. He said Charlotte will gain the equivalent of $7.5 million in national advertising through promotions by BASS and ESPN.
In contrast to the laser lights and music of the weigh-ins, competitive bass fishing is not a spectator sport. Anglers in glittery, high-powered, platform-type boats disperse on lakes and rivers to fish for black bass (largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass). They must use artificial lures, no live bait.
Anglers keep their five biggest fish for the weigh-ins at the end of the day. The top 25 after two rounds fish the final day, and the heaviest total weight wins the tournament. The fish are released alive after each round.
For today's announcement, BASS officials, local officials and local pro anglers will be joined at Lake Wylie by Michael Iaconelli of Woodbury Heights, N.J., who won the 2003 Bassmaster Classic in August in New Orleans. An estimated 11,000 fans were at the Louisiana Superdome for the final weigh-in. Iaconelli won $200,000.
Charlotte officials also want the tournament for 2005. But George McNeilly, director of communications for BASS/ESPN Outdoors, said that today's announcement puts the classic in Charlotte in 2004 only.
"We make our decisions one year at a time," he said, "and we move the event around annually to ensure growth and exposure."
BASS has sponsored the classic four times in North Carolina -- three times in the 1990s on High Rock Lake near Salisbury, with festivities in Greensboro, and once on the Currituck Sound in the northeast. South Carolina hosted it once at Clark Hill Lake along the Georgia border. This will be the first time Charlotte has hosted the event.
Rival makes anglers choose
Today's announcement comes as a bit of a bass war is breaking out. The rival FLW Tour said last week that it would hold its 2004 championship tournament July 28-31 in Birmingham, Ala. -- the same weekend as the BASS event in Charlotte.Though the Bassmaster Classic is more prestigious for professional anglers, some anglers favor the 8-year-old FLW Tour championship because it pays better. This month, David Dudley of Manteo won first place and $500,000 in the FLW Tour tournament, which it refers to as the "world championship" of bass fishing, at Richmond, Va.
Dean Kessel, vice president and general manager of BASS, said in a teleconference Monday that he was "shocked and very disappointed" at the FLW Tour's action. He said for the past decade, BASS has scheduled its championship for the last week in July or the first week in August.
"We contacted FLW and asked them to reconsider," Kessel said. "They would not do so."
Later, FLW Outdoors president Charlie Hoover said his organization didn't intentionally pick the weekend to conflict with BASS, since BASS will publicly reveal its dates for the classic today. Further, he said, BASS has scheduled its championships from mid-July to mid-August.
Hoover said FLW Outdoors' first choice would have been mid-July but was locked into the last weekend because the facilities in Birmingham were available only then.
"I think both events will be well attended," Hoover told The Observer.
Dueling tournaments would prevent pro anglers such as Todd Auten of Lake Wylie, S.C., from qualifying for and competing in both, as he did this summer. Auten picked up paychecks of a combined $25,800.
Auten said he hopes Charlotte's landing of the Bassmaster Classic will raise the profile of tournament bass fishing in a city focused heavily on other sports.
"Maybe Charlotte will get more involved in it," he said.
BASS, founded in 1967 as the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, has grown to 565,000 members and describes itself as the world's largest fishing organization. Among the top 10 states in membership are Texas (No. 1), California (No. 2) and North Carolina (No. 6). ESPN, a subsidiary of the Disney Co., bought BASS in 2001.
Date of the first Bassmaster Classic.
First place award for the 2004 Classic.
High-end estimate of economic impact of the tournament.
The weight, in pounds and ounces, of the fish caught by 2003 winner Michael Iaconelli over three days.
Jack Horan: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
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