Tournaments & Tourism

Alabama Bass Trail anglers wait at dawn for the launch. Photo by Cliff Williams

Though actual figures are not yet in, indications are that last month’s Alabama Bass Trail held true to economic impact projections for the Lake Martin area. For a $10,000 investment by the City of Alexander City, the conservative estimate was a projected return of $375,000 to the community, including some 500 hotel nights.

With 225 pre-qualified boats – along with spectators, media coverage and ABT administration and support – the research behind the numbers appeared to be on target.

“Everywhere I went, there were trucks and boats,” said Alexander City Chamber of Commerce Director of Marketing and Special Events Kim Dunn.

The tournament, a southern division event for ABT, drew anglers from Florida and Georgia, as well as Alabama, with some participants arriving in town days before the contest to practice the lake.

“The room nights add up quickly,” said Alabama Bass Trail Director Kay Donaldson.

The ABT event was one of more than 20 tournaments scheduled this season at Wind Creek State Park, and while most of those contests are not on the scale or media stage of ABT, all of them generate economic benefits to the lake area.

Local fishing tournaments play a role in the overall tourism economy at Lake Martin, said Alexander City Chamber President and CEO Ed Collari.

“Tourism is an untapped industry, and the lake is our economic engine,” Collar said.

To make the most of tourism opportunities, the chamber has established a 12-person board with diverse representation from around the community to identify existing tourism draws in the community and to expand and promote other opportunities. The tourism board is part of a five-year strategic plan that was launched early this year by the chamber.

“Our goal in developing this tourism initiative and the lake tourism association is to make Alexander City and Lake Martin a destination and not a drive-thru to other areas,” explained Donna Gabel, chair of the chamber’s tourism initiative. “We want to focus, as well, on the wonderful opportunities the city has to offer to visitors who may be coming for a fishing tournament or a softball tournament. We want them to know about other things going on here at the same time, so they can take advantage of those activities. ”