“Anytime you bring 350 professional anglers into our community, the trickle-down effect will be substantial,” says Linda Lewis, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County. “They stay in our hotels. Eat at our restaurants. Purchase gas at our service stations. That revenue and tax dollars go directly into our economy.”
In tourism slang, that equates to the old adage of “Heads in Beds.”
Since we have no Conventions and Visitors Bureau (CVB) like many other markets our size, the local chamber is responsible for spearheading such tourism-based events.
Lewis takes the bull by the horns, so to speak, when it comes to organizing volunteers for such an event. “We all have to work together,” she says.
And we do.
Jasper Police Chief Connie Cooner Rowe and her department stepped up patrols throughout the city as professional anglers and their families arrived here last weekend. There are 434 hotel rooms in the City of Jasper. They were sold out!
In fact, several lakefront homes had to be rented to accommodate the influx of anglers that showed up early to find hotspots for the elusive bigmouth bass on Smith Lake, known for its clear, deep water.
Members of the Walker County Sheriff’s Department provided excellent support each morning at the launch site. They helped an army of chamber volunteers who have become professional fishing tournament hosts since filling that niche on our local lake several years ago.
And all the teamwork did not go unnoticed. As I helped direct two lines of fishing boat rigs to the launch site in freezing temperatures before the break of dawn Thursday, I cannot count how many times an angler rolled down his window just to say, “Thank You.”
One experienced angler from Illinois told me that he expected the first-morning launch to be chaotic. Much to his surprise, the hosts from Jasper and Walker County were ready.
In fact, all 169 boats were in the water prior to the tournament’s scheduled 7 a.m. start. And the rigs did not show up in masses at the launch site just below the earthen dam until after 5:30 a.m. Sgt. Tim Thomas and his crew wasted little time divvying up amped anglers to one of three launch ramps.
Perhaps the best story I heard of our community embracing the FLW event was when one angler needed sponsor patches sewed onto his fishing shirt earlier in the week. He took them to Economy Cleaners in downtown Jasper. Not only was he immediately served, the service was offered free of charge!
I give kudos to Jasper and Walker County for rolling out a red carpet of southern hospitality. It will go a long way in securing future economic-boosting angling events to our neck of the woods.
By the way, you can catch all the action of this week’s FLW tournament when MSNBC airs the event April 14; check your local listing for times. Forrest L. Wood, founder of Ranger Boats, is the namesake of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour for sportfishing.
Jack McNeely is publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.