Fishing event means $400K economic boost

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Approximately 250 fishermen and their families are in Bainbridge this week for the FLW Everstart Series bass fishing tournament on Lake Seminole, and local officials couldn’t be happier they’re here.

For the fishermen, who will launch out of the Earle May Boat Basin on Thursday morning’s first day of competition, coming to Decatur County is something they look forward to, tournament director Ron Lappin said. Several dozen more fishermen will compete in a collegiate fishing event on Saturday.

“The fish are big and the hospitality is very good,” said Lappin, who has been bringing FLW tournaments of various sizes to Bainbridge for 18 years. “Fishermen and tournament organizers love coming to a place like Bainbridge, where everyone knows they’re here and they understand the importance of the event.”

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The Everstart series is the second-highest tier in FLW’s popular pro fishing tours and features both full-time pros and the weekend fishermen who are working their way up to the big leagues.

This weekend’s stakes are big: pros will fish for a top award of $40,000 plus a Ranger Z518 with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Co-anglers will cast for a top award consisting of a Ranger Z117 with 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard and $5,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met.

The tournament field will consist of many seasoned pros, some of whom have lifetime earnings of more than $1 million, Lappin said.

The Everstart series travels to a different place each weekend, and the top 10 pros and top 10 co-anglers at the end of the season get a guaranteed spot on the top-tier Walmart FLW Tour next year. The season champions also get invited to the FLW’s Forrest Wood Cup, which offers a one-week top prize of $600,000 for pros and $100,000 for co-anglers.

Lappin said Bainbridge offers a variety of motels, restaurants and shopping for the fishermen and their families who will visit for the three-day event on Lake Seminole.

“We’ve got folks staying at places of every price range; some are even camping,” Lappin said. “We’ve been getting calls for the past 10 days from competitors who are already in Bainbridge and waiting for the Everstart officials to get here.”

Those 250 or so fishermen, plus whatever family they bring, will have a huge impact on the local economy, said Adrienne Harrison, director of the Bainbridge Convention and Visitors Bureau, who estimated that the event will bring in about $400,000 to local businesses.

Bainbridge is considered such a good place to host a tournament, that the FLW Everstart Series is stopping here for the second year in a row, Harrison said.
“Seminole is one of those lakes where you don’t catch a million fish,” said pro fisherman J.T. Kenney of Palm Bay, Fla., who finished third in last year’s event. “It’s not just as chock-full of fish like an Okeechobee or a Guntersville, but there are some big ones in it.”

Pros are especially curious about how the fishing will be like this year after the recent rain has raised water levels and made Lake Seminole muddy in color.
“It’s a big thrill for the fishermen to think that the next cast they make on Lake Seminole could result in the biggest catch of their careers,” Lappin said.