November 12 is 100 days prior to the biggest event Marshall County has ever hosted. Yes it is a fishing event, not that anyone should be surprised by that. After all, Lake Guntersville ranks number 4 in Bassmaster Magazine's 100 Best Bass Lakes for 2013.
The lake has become our bread and butter, the economic driver that keeps our hotels booked and our tax base flourishing. In 2012, tourism alone brought in 47 million in revenue to the county and employed more than 1900 people.
Many of the events hosted on the lake are related to fishing, and the Bassmaster Classic is the granddaddy of all tournaments, the one that all the pro anglers hope to qualify for and dream of winning.
It’s also the event that generated 26 million in revenue for Tulsa, Oklahoma for three days in February of this year.
While we aren’t receiving all the revenue, we will see a boom to our local economies county-wide. Birmingham will share the economic benefits with us, as they are the host for the weigh-in and expo –both shows you won’t want to miss.
The Blast-off will take place February 21-23 at the Guntersville Harbor, complete with music, media and fanfare. For fishing fans, it will be the place to be to get up close and personal with their favorite anglers. Pro anglers will be competing for the chance to win $300,000 in cash and the opportunity to be a champion.
For us it means 8,000 to 10,000 visitors coming to check out our small lake community that generates record breaking catches for those who understand its secrets. We expect that while they are lured in by the fishing, they will see beyond the clear waters of the lake to our beautiful downtowns, our unique shops, and our delicious restaurants.
We hope to reel them in for a second, third or even annual visit once they have a little taste. That is, after all, the tourism business. The Classic will get them here. It’s up to us to keep them coming back.
So, we are asking for your help. Treat this event as if the person you most want to impress is coming for a visit. Sweep off the porch, stock the fridge and wear a smile. After all, what’s a few days of added traffic and crowded restaurants, especially when the dollars left behind can pave roads, improve infrastructure and provide jobs.
And, just because your city doesn’t physically touch the lake, don’t think that you won’t be touched by this event. With only 800 hotel rooms county-wide and folks looking for the shortest route to and from Birmingham, all of us will be impacted. Hotels will be packed from Arab to Boaz and all cities in between. Gas stations will be covered up with cars and drive through windows will do a brisk business.
Don’t underestimate the power of tourism and the determination of sports fans. We promise you this: they are coming! Let’s be ready!