Trio of tourneys bring lots of anglers, visitors and fun
How else could you explain having three major bass tournaments in three weeks on Wheeler Lake out of Decaturís Ingalls Harbor?
The neat thing about all of this is the fact that Decatur and all of the companies and people who work hard to make these bass tournaments a success were ready. The Decatur Parks and Recreation Department and the Decatur/Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau were two main groups involved in keeping the three events flowing smoothly. From my vantage point, it was a smooth ride from start to finish.
Having been at every weigh-in of each of the three tournaments, I had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of people. Of all the conversations, I heard only one negative comment, and it was aimed at a bad smell that could have been sewage, according to one angler who was pointing in the direction of the Wastewater Plant on Wilson Street. Other than that, all I saw was a bunch of smiles.
The three bass tournaments were the Bassmaster Southern Open, the Alabama BASS Federation Nation state championship and the FLW Wildcard — all major events.
The events drew more than 1,050 anglers.
Several people ask me about stress to the local bass population.
So to answer your questions, I called Doug Darr, aquatic education director for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
ďOn a lot of lakes, that could be quite a problem,Ē Darr said. ďBut with Wheeler Lake being as big as it is, it probably only had a minor impact. Releasing all the fish in one area could bring about a food problem for all the fish, but where the tournament is being held, the river really opens up there to a wide open area.
ďPlus, some of the tournaments have release boats that spread out all of the released bass. Thatís helps matters, also. Iím sure having three tournament three weeks in a row had some kind of impact, but with the abundant space and shad populations and abundant areas of structure, I feel like the impact wasnít anything major.Ē
On many big bass circuits, you will find that the anglers themselves donít attend many of the events alone. A spouse, girlfriend or family members are often found at the tournaments cheering on their favorite anglers.
That means an awful lot of people came to visit Decatur and spend money.
A headline in Fridayís Decatur Daily read, ďA full house in Decatur.Ē Not only did fishermen and their families visit our city, but soccer players and families came to town, too.
An estimated population explosion of 5,000 fell upon Decatur in just a day or two, and more than 1,250 motel rooms were put to use.
The Alabama Youth Soccer Association Division I and II tournaments invaded Decaturís Jack Allen Soccer Complex, while the FLW Wildcard with almost 300 boats and 600 anglers filled Decaturís Ingalls Harbor to its limit.
When you combine these two events, it comes out to a tremendous amount of money spent on not only motel rooms but restaurants as well. Also, you canít forget about all the gasoline and supplies that were bought, and all the shopping done at various businesses.
Yes, itís obvious Decatur benefited from these fishing and soccer tournaments.
And with the Jack Allen Complex and Ingalls Harbor still in good shape, there will be many more events at some of the best facilities in the nation.
What makes all of this so great, though, is the people of North Alabama. There definitely is no shortage of Southern hospitality here and no matter how good your facilities are, without the smiles from our friendly local people, the big events simply would go somewhere else.
I look forward to the future and the many events that will come to Decatur.
And I look forward to seeing all the smiles. I couldnít help but notice that every time one of our local people would smile, several dozen smiles were returned from visitors.
It certainly appeared that our visitors the past several weeks were having a very good time — and thatís the way it should be. After all, we wouldnít have invited them here if we didnít care. And if I know the people of Decatur like I think I do, more invitations are going to be sent out soon welcoming people back to our friendly city.
I have no doubt weíll treat them even better the second time around.
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