Hosting a fishing tournament takes a village

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B.A.S.S.

Lake Hartwell

Have you ever attended a Bassmaster event? Or maybe you’ve watched Bassmaster LIVE recently on ESPN2 and wondered: What goes into hosting a tournament? Does B.A.S.S. show up at a random lake with anglers in tow and just hold a tournament?

In reality, it takes a lot of work from the team at B.A.S.S., which has never been more evident than this year. B.A.S.S. has been able to deliver a full schedule of events during a worldwide pandemic. However, these events also take a tremendous amount of support and planning from the host community. It takes a village.

We’ve been extremely blessed in Anderson County, South Carolina, and at Lake Hartwell. When the sun sets on 2020, our community will have hosted every event that B.A.S.S. has to offer from the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series to the Bassmaster Classic. Most recently, we hosted the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series, and this week, we will host the BassProcom Bassmaster Eastern Open which is set to launch on Wednesday.

To start, a host needs a championship-caliber fishery which we have in Lake Hartwell. Named a Top 100 Bass Lake in America, Lake Hartwell boasts 962 miles of shoreline — more shoreline than the coast of California — and at 56,000 acres, the lake offers enough space that competing anglers can fish their strengths without crowding each other.

In addition to the lake, the area needs a facility equipped for hosting large numbers of anglers with ample parking for trucks and trailers. Green Pond Landing and Event Center on Lake Hartwell is an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, 30-acre, multimillion dollar facility designed specifically for hosting fishing tournaments. Green Pond Landing features more than 200 paved spaces for trucks/trailers and more than 100 spaces for spectator parking along with non-paved parking areas. Green Pond includes a state of the art restroom facility, the deepest launch lanes on Lake Hartwell and more than 5,000 square feet of dock space.

We recently installed a cell tower and Wi-Fi which are critical to hosting tournaments from a media perspective. Future construction phases will include additional dock space, an amphitheater, more launch lanes and a small event venue. Organizations tell us we have a top five facility, nationally, with Green Pond, but hosting a tournament is much more than a lake and facility.

Lodging is another critical element in hosting tournaments. The area needs a variety of lodging options for anglers, the visiting organization and spectators as well as sponsors and media. We’re fortunate to have roughly 2,000 hotel rooms, a half-dozen campgrounds and numerous rental homes within 15 miles of Green Pond Landing.

Green Pond sits on a hill, and at 30-acres it can often be a challenge to walk after a day of fishing or getting in the water each morning to begin a day of competition. For every tournament we host, we contract with a local golf cart dealer — R&R Golf Carts — to provide carts which are driven by staff and volunteers to move anglers and fish throughout the facility.

Security, staffing and volunteers are among the most critical elements in hosting tournaments in our community. We receive a tremendous amounts of support from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and Show Pros Event Staffing. The sheriff’s department provides security, which ensures the safety of the event. Our security team is led by the Director of Emergency Management for Anderson County, and he is able to access any emergency resource necessary should the situation arise. The team at Show Pros, many of whom are anglers that like to fish, assist us in managing the traffic flow, parking and launching boats during a tournament.

We’ve hosted the Elite Series where you’re launching 85 boats. However, when you host an event like a Bassmaster Open or the Bassmaster College Series, and you’re launching 200-plus boats, having the Show Pros staff to manage that process is critical. Their success has been validated by the fact that we’ve done this for more than five years now without incident on the ramp or in the parking lots.

Food and beverage is very important to a successful tournament, and we always contract with local restaurants to come out and provide breakfast and lunch for the competing anglers, staff and volunteers. We choose to contract with local businesses when we host tournaments in order to strengthen the local buy-in and create a significant local impact.

We’ve been blessed here in Anderson County with Lake Hartwell and the Green Pond Landing, but we’re not the only community with a great lake. Folks that have lakes always have ways to launch boats. We continue to host tournaments from all levels each year because of the experience that anglers and organizations have when they’re in our community. As a host, we take a tremendous amount of pride in providing the best possible experience for the anglers and organizations.

Having a community that supports fishing is something we do not take for granted here. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake kindness and genuine hospitality.

I’ll leave you with a story that took place when we hosted the 2019 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. A competing angler from out of state was in our community making some last minute stops for supplies prior to checking into the boat yard when he experienced trouble with his truck. He pulled into a local repair shop for help. Realizing that he was an out-of-state angler competing on Hartwell, the manager of the shop gave the angler the keys to his personal vehicle to complete his errands and instructed him, “Take my truck and when you return, I’ll have yours ready to go.”

It takes a contract and a lot of support to host a fishing tournament, but it takes a village to host a successful tournament time after time.

Neil Paul is the Executive Director of Visit Anderson in Anderson, South Carolina.