Among the Elite

Lake Martin will host the Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament Feb. 8-11. Photo by Kenneth Boone

Lake Martin hits the big time as Bassmaster Elite Series opens 2018 season here with the world’s best professional anglers

Volunteers are still needed for a local crew that will help to pull off the most prestigious fishing tournament Lake Martin has ever hosted.

The Bassmaster Elite Series season opener will launch Feb. 8 from Wind Creek State Park with the worlds best 111 professional anglers, a nationwide media crew, sponsors and fans. B.A.S.S. is the world’s largest fishing organization, and the Bassmaster Elite Series is the highest level of competition. In addition to top-name national sponsors that include Toyota, Humminbird, Mercury, Yamaha and Carhartt, the event will be recorded for later television viewing on ESPN2.

“We expect 100 percent occupancy in our hotels. Already, we’re seeing people coming into town in preparation for the tournament,” said Alexander City Chamber of Commerce President Ed Collari.

The population of the local area could swell by as much as 15,000 to 20,000 people during the tournament, Collari said, as many of the anglers travel with their families, sponsor representatives and crews. Fans also follow the tournament, taking to the lake to trail their favorite sportsmen, and the B.A.S.S. organization is expected to bring a large support crew to town for the event.

Local businesses are invited to take part in the Lake Martin Elite Series Expo, which will showcase lake area communities, products and opportunities, on the last two days of the tournament at WCSP.

“We are looking for any and all vendors,” Collari said. “The event is geared toward being a family-friendly event, so we’re specifically targeting crafts, food vendors, kids’ events, anyone with a business locally.”

On expo days, WCSP will be open to the public, and half of the expo will feature Bassmaster partners, such as companies that specialize in fishing rods, ATVs, lures, fishfinders, boat motors and more.

“Because the Bassmaster Elite Series has their own sponsorships and own partners, we can’t bring anyone in that conflicts with those,” Collari said. “As long as they don’t conflict with those, it’s open to anyone else. We’ll have all kinds of stuff for kids.

“The tournament itself just draws so many spectators. You’ll see boats out there trailing fishermen to see how they fish and what they’re using. People also come for the weigh-in, so it’s just a way to capitalize on all that traffic. It’s a good way to get the community involved and draw more traffic and awareness to the event and create exposure.”

In addition, volunteers are needed to help local aspects of the event run smoothly.

“We will be out there every day to provide anything they need from us in the way of logistics or support, and we could utilize volunteers for some of that,” Collari said. “We need to make sure each angler, each visitor, has a fantastic time here.”

Chamber volunteers might help with set up, run errands or provide local knowledge.

“This is part of our contract with B.A.S.S., and it’s important that we go above and beyond to fulfill our obligation,” Collari explained. “There are a lot of residual benefits to bringing in this tournament. It gives us nationwide visibility and brings in a lot of tourism. Since it was announced that the Bassmaster Elite Series would begin the 2018 season here, we’ve seen people coming in, and they will keep coming after the tournament is over. People want to fish the same place where the pros fish.”

The economic impact of the tournament could exceed $1 million, Collari said.

Anglers will launch from Wind Creek State Park at 6:15 a.m. and return for weigh-in at 2:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The field includes Lake magazine fishing columnist Greg Vinson, who offers a personal perspective of the event on page 66.

The Bassmaster Elite at Lake Martin is presented by Econo Lodge and marks the 14th time B.A.S.S. has held a tournament here.

To take part in the Lake Martin Elite Series Expo or volunteer on the ground at the tournament, contact the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce at 256-234-3461.