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FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2007
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Bassmaster Elite drops anchor at Ingalls
4-day event in 2008 will air on ESPN2

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

Another major fishing tournament wants to launch from Ingalls Harbor.

The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau announced Thursday that the Bassmaster Elite will fish Wheeler Lake in June 2008.

The four-day event will air on ESPN2, and the tourney organizers specifically asked to do the weigh-ins at Ingalls.

"That coverage will just stir up more people to want to come here," said Tami Reist, bureau president. "And when we get in that kind of demand, I can negotiate better contracts for the city."

Ingalls' appeal already appears to be paying off in that way.

Reist said she expected it would take a bid fee of $75,000 to get the tournament, but won it with a $25,000 bid. The bureau also must provide $25,000 in services, such as bleachers for the weigh-ins and complimentary hotel rooms for tourney staff.

Earlier this year, the bureau landed a Bass Federation tourney for October with no bid fee. It normally costs $30,000 to acquire that event.

This will be the first time Decatur will be host to the Elite series, which went to Guntersville the previous six years.

With its nearly $11 million total purse, the Bassmaster Elite Series and its 11 events make up bass fishing's most competitive and lucrative league.

The series is just what the name implies: a stage for the most elite anglers. The Decatur event will feature 108 anglers.

Reist said drawing a tournament in June is ideal because the city doesn't have any major events that month, so it will help fill hotel rooms.

The Elite tourney is about a quarter the size of the Wal-Mart FLW Stren Series Championship held here in November. It drew 400 anglers, and their hotel, food, gas and shopping purchases generated an $836,000 economic impact, bureau officials reported.

Bassmaster will use Ingalls for the first time in October when it arrives with ESPN2 cameras for the Bassmaster Open.

In January, the bureau announced four big tournaments for 2008 connected with the Wal-Mart FLW tournament trails. FLW officials called Ingalls the best tournament venue in the country.

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