Friday, July 20, 2012
Visiting anglers hooked on SML, and it's mutual
File | Laker Weekly
Anglers fish Smith Mountain Lake during the Bassmaster Elite Series in April 2010.
Smith Mountain Lake has gone fishing and reeled in major money and a lot of exposure.
In April, the lake played host to two tournaments on back-to-back weekends. The Carhartt College Series East Super Regional and the 2012 Oakley Big Bass Tour -- Blue Ridge Big Bass Classic brought hundreds of thousands of dollars into the area.
"It just increases our business when the tournaments come in," said Lawrence Altadonna, manager of The Lake Inn Motel in Hardy. "Ninety-nine percent of the time [when the tournaments are here], we are full, and it helps the restaurants, gas stations and the whole economy."
Total economic impact of the Carhartt tournament was more than $100,000, according to Debra Weir, Franklin County Tourism and Special Events manager. On that weekend, 56 anglers traveled to the lake to compete. The following weekend, 502 competitors came to town for the Oakley Tournament. That number far surpassed the previous year's total number of 269 anglers. The total economic impact of their visit was about $45,000.
Franklin County officials surveyed participants at both tournaments, asking them how long they stayed; how much money they spent on lodging, food, fuel, ramp fees and souvenirs; and how many people were in their group. The impact figures are an estimate based on the input of the surveys.
"The college guys typically do not spend a lot of money because they don't have it," said Weir. "But at the tournament we had, they really spent a lot of money on bait and tackle. Of course they had to spend money on gas. That is a necessary evil."
ESPNU televised the college tournament, which drew more than 1,000 spectators daily to the weigh-ins at Bridgewater Plaza, Weir said. Based on the survey, each college student spent approximately $202 per day for the two-day tournament.
Many of the anglers were in the area for three to four days to pre-fish the lake. Pre-fishing is one way these tournaments bring in extra money to lake-area businesses.
The Bass Masters Weekend Series Northern Regional comes to Smith Mountain Lake in October. The tournament is three days, but James Clayton, the manager of Parkway Marina, said many will stay six or seven days to get in some pre-tournament fishing.
"Typically the tournaments come at a time of the year when there's not a lot going on - spring and fall," said Clayton. "So it is a helpful economic impact. It brings people into our store for drinks, food, and gas."
The televised tournaments also expose the hundreds of thousands of viewers to the beauty of Smith Mountain Lake. And once they see it, apparently, they want to fish it.
ESPNU, for example, which reaches 73 million households, showed the Carhartt College Series East Super Regional nine times. Fox Sports covered the 2012 Oakley Big Bass Tour -- Blue Ridge Big Bass Classic, which is scheduled to return in April.
On Fox Sports South, 12.9 million households watched, and on Fox Sports Midwest, 5.9 million households viewed the show. Both of those are new markets for Smith Mountain Lake. Weir said she is certain new anglers from those regions will be participating in the future at Smith Mountain Lake.
"The World Fishing Network, WFN, televised the Oakley tournament last year," said Weir. "We had two anglers from Canada come in April. They were stuck inside all winter and saw the tournament on WFN and decided to come here. They could have gone anywhere but they came to Smith Mountain Lake."
The lake is not only a hit with the anglers; the television producers seem to love Smith Mountain Lake, as well. Weir said the fishing tournaments have a rock-concert atmosphere with the pro anglers playing the roles of rock stars.
"The television crews love the people, the crowds here that come out and support these televised fishing events," said Weir. "The restaurants and hotels are very accommodating and make these guys feel comfortable."
"At some lakes [the anglers] go to, if they get too close to someone's private dock, they get an earful," added Clayton. "But they say here at the lake, they actually have people come down to the dock to greet them and talk fishing and offer cold drinks. Smith Mountain Lake is becoming a fishing destination."
"We're the only game in town," said Weir. "There is nobody else hosting televised fishing tournaments in the state. So we have a fine niche right here at Smith Mountain Lake."