Hospitality helps land bass tourney
Shortly after writing about the Bassmaster Southern Open coming to Decatur this month, I received a surprise.
FLW Outdoors will hold one of its major tournaments shortly after BASS leaves. The Bassmasters is slated for Oct. 18-20, and the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League Wild Card Regional will fish Nov. 2-3.
The BFL Series is part of the FLW world of fishing tournaments, in which anglers have the opportunity to fish in five tournaments in their division. Most of the tournaments are one-day events. The location of the Wild Card Regional had been kept a secret so anglers wouldn't know where to practice.
For anglers who fished in all five tournaments on the BFL schedule and did not qualify for any other BFL regional, this is the reward. Those anglers may fish on Wheeler Lake in the Wild Card Regional, and they don't have to pay an entry fee. The top fishermen in the boater and co-angler division have a shot at advancing to the $1 million All-American tournament on the Conneticut River out of Hartford, Conn.
"This tournament was planned out three years ago through us and your visitors bureau," said Robert Vannerson, FLW in-house tournament director.
"We were accepting bids and needed a launch site that could handle at least 300 boats. We knew then that you would have a new harbor (Ingalls Harbor) capable of handling that many boats. You might say that having a harbor like that was one of the reasons we chose Wheeler Lake and Decatur."
Vannerson made it clear that the harbor was just one reason FLW chose Decatur.
"There are a couple of other major factors why we chose your city," Vannerson said. "People and location are also a major reason we wanted to bring our tournament there. We'll have anglers coming from the Southeastern U.S. like Florida and Alabama, and Decatur makes a great central location.
"The biggest reason we wanted to come there is the people. Now, the visitors bureau was very nice with us, but, we've been to Decatur before. The people there are just absolutely great. They made us and all the anglers feel right at home. I mean it. Anglers were saying after the tournament was over that more tournaments should be held there."
Last year's wild card event was held on Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee, and 264 boats participated.
For the tournament in November, the size of the field depends on how many of the anglers with perfect attendance want to register and fish. Vannerson said that on the first day of online registration this week, more than 160 anglers signed up.
"Depending on how many want to come and fish, you can probably count on having 200 to 400 boats here," he said.
"This is always a big tournament with a lot of people wanting to fish. With that many coming, I know you have the housing, restaurants and other places needed for that many people there."
I feel quite sure that Decatur is ready to roll out the welcome mat for as many anglers and their families as want to come.
Many of the participants will bring several family members along, which means that a lot of money is going to be spent in Decatur.
Having lived in Decatur all my life, I have to agree with Vannerson: We have the harbor they need to hold such a large tournament, but more importantly, we also have people who will make every visitor feel at home.
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