Elite Series Mystery Lake reveal

GREEN BAY, Wis. — After months of speculation, the wait is finally over. The “Mystery Lake” now has a name. B.A.S.S. today announced that Green Bay, Wis., and Lake Michigan will be the site of the seventh Bassmaster Elite Series event of the season, June 28 through July 1, 2012.

“We wanted the Mystery Lake to not only be a surprise to our anglers, but also a body of water they had no prior knowledge of,” explained Jerry McKinnis, co-owner of B.A.S.S. A major Bassmaster tournament has never been held on Lake Michigan out of Green Bay. However, one Elite Series angler, Travis Manson, is from the city of Green Bay and is familiar with the adjacent waters.

The fishery was placed off-limits to Elite Series anglers beginning immediately after the official announcement at 1 p.m. CT Thursday.

“What makes this such a neat format is that it got people talking about where the event might be, and it puts the best anglers in the world on a lake that they have to figure out in a couple of days. And fans benefit from watching these guys find fish in short order. You get a sense of how good these anglers really are,” McKinnis continued.

The Mississippi River Elite Series event out of La Crosse, Wis., will conclude on June 24, a 210-mile drive from Green Bay. Once competitors arrive, they will have three days to find schools of big bass on Green Bay and the Fox River. Weigh-ins will be held in Green Bay, Wis., the host city. Additional details will be available on Bassmaster.com.

To win local bass tournaments on Green Bay in late spring/early summer has required as much as 30 pounds per day (for five bass). The Elite Series tournament will be a little past the prime big-bass period, but fishermen familiar with the area expect outstanding fishing, weather permitting.

“This is a world class fishery,” said Mark Zona, cohost of The Bassmasters TV show and an outstanding bass angler with tournament experience on Lake Michigan. “The only enemy it has is also what makes the Great Lakes so special — Mother Nature.” High winds can make boating and fishing brutal experiences, “but there are plenty of places to hide from the wind,” he added.

“It was quite a challenge keeping this a secret for so long,” said Michael Mulone, B.A.S.S. Event Partnerships director. “In trying to secure accommodations for anglers and staff, we couldn’t tell anyone who we were with. When talking to park officers, we had to remain unidentified. And we secured permits for four different lakes, two in Minnesota and two in Wisconsin, just in case folks started snooping around.”

Now that the announcement has been made, there’s a lot of work to do to prepare for this tournament.

“Only two of us at B.A.S.S. knew the location of the Mystery Lake until very recently,” McKinnis said. “Now, our folks have to do all that they do to make this event happen, from television crews and staging to securing Marshals for all competitors. It certainly adds excitement to the process!”

The Mystery Lake concept, which was scheduled this year to pay homage to the early days of the Bassmaster Classic when the destination was not announced until anglers were in an airplane, was a success.

“Not only did it allow us to look back at the rich history of B.A.S.S., but it also presents the most equal playing field in all of fishing,” McKinnis said. “It will simply be a test of putting the best anglers in the world on an incredible fishery and being privileged enough to watch it play out.”

The site was revealed in simultaneous announcements Thursday in a press conference by Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt and on a special edition of The Livewell Web TV program broadcast on Bassmaster.com. Additional information as well as live coverage of the event next month also can be found on Bassmaster.com.

“We are excited to be the Mystery Lake host,” said Schmitt. “With our revitalized downtown and beautiful bay, this promises to be the best event on the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series tour! We look forward to welcoming the Bassmaster anglers, staff and visitors.”

Brad Toll, CEO of the Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, added, “This is an exciting opportunity to highlight our region and our wonderful natural resources, the Fox River and Lake Michigan.”

Even though it was kept secret until a month prior to the beginning of the tournament, the event is expected to be popular with a large and passionate group of fishing fans in the Lake Michigan area. Previous host communities have reported over $1 million in economic impact from expenditures derived from Elite Series tournaments, noted Mulone.

The Green Bay tournament is crucial to the careers of the 99 Elite Series anglers as well. At stake in addition to the $100,000 first prize are berths in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic in Tulsa, Okla., and the Bassmaster All-Star event in Decatur, Ill., later this year. And with only one more Elite event remaining in the season, Green Bay will play a pivotal role in determining the 2012 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

 Hosts of the Bassmaster Elite Series event at Green Bay include the Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, Wisconsin Tourism and the City of Green Bay.