The Bassmaster Southern Open, which is expected to draw some of the nation’s most popular professional anglers, will be held on Smith Lake beginning Thursday and lasting through Saturday.
The tournament is the second of the 2014 season in the Southern Open series. Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla., hosted the first 2014 tournament Jan. 23-25.
The Opens Series consists of nine events — three tournaments each in Southern, Central and Northern divisions — covering rivers, natural lakes and man-made reservoirs and running from January to October.
For the fourth season in a row, Opens tournament winners who compete in all three events in a single division will earn a berth in the Super Bowl of bass fishing, the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
Linda Lewis, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, said the tournament will be an economic boon to the county, with anglers from across the United States spending most of the week in the county. Lewis said 350 anglers — 175 in the pro division and 175 in the amateur (or co-angler) division — will spend money in the county at hotels, gas stations, restaurants and other businesses. In all, she said the tournament could have an economic impact of more than $1 million.
“We’re looking forward to hosting this event, and once again the chamber sees the economic impact that this draws into our community.” said Lewis, who was on hand for last weekend’s Classic in Guntersville. “When you see a tournament of that magnitude, you can really understand what kind of economic impact a tournament can have. You get to see how much money is really in a sport like fishing. It will be easy to say that this will exceed $1 million in what it brings into the county.”
Jasper’s David Kilgore, who finished eighth in last weekend’s 2014 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville, is slated to be among the pros fishing in the tournament. There’s also expected to be a number of local anglers competing in the co-angler division.
The 175 boats that will take to the lake beginning Thursday will launch at 6 a.m. each day at Smith Lake dam.
The full field of anglers will weigh their fish at the dam beginning at 2 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, when the field is cut to the top 12 anglers in each division, weigh-ins will take place before large crowds of fans at the Bass Pro Shops in Leeds.
“We’re really looking forward to the Open series coming to Smith Lake,” Lewis said. “We’ve got great, avid anglers and their families coming in to the city.”