Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fishing Frenzy..Bham News 3/18/09

Columbiana is home to area’s seventh event

Wednesday, March 18, 2009MIKE BOLTON

News staff writer

The Bassmaster Classic, a professional fishing event that officials say brings in tens of millions of dollars to Birmingham, returns to the Magic City again in 2010, BASS officials confirmed Tuesday.

It was first announced in 2008 that the Classic would return to Birmingham in 2010. Missing from the puzzle was what lake would host the event. BASS filled in the blanks Tuesday, saying the event will be held Feb. 19-21 at Lay Lake.

Lay, located primarily in Shelby County, was the site of Classics in 1996, 2002 and 2007. The launch site for the 2010 Classic will take place at the Beeswax Creek Boat Ramp in Columbiana. Previous Classic launches on the lake have taken place at Paradise Point.

Birmingham, voted the “Bass Capital of the World” in an ESPN online poll in 2006, is a favorite site of the Classic. It has played host to the Classic six times, more than any other city. In addition to the Classics at Lay Lake, Birmingham also hosted Classics held at Lake Logan Martin in 1992, 1993 and 1997.

Alabama has hosted the event 10 times with other Classics being held on Wheeler Lake in 1974, Lake Guntersville in 1976 and on the Alabama River in 1981 and 1982.

Birmingham has also played host to the FLW Tour World Championship on two occasions. The FLW Tour is a rival organization to BASS.

More than 50,000 people attended the Birmingham weigh-ins, launches and Outdoor Expo at the 2007 Classic on Lay Lake.

Birmingham officials estimated that tournament brought an economic impact to the city and surrounding area of more than $19 million.

BASS is owned by ESPN and the television network provides hours of coverage of the event, city and the lake.

“Shelby County is excited about the opportunity to showcase our natural resources and attract an international audience as we host our fourth Bassmaster Classic,” said Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock. “Lay Lake continues to be a destination for anglers and water recreation enthusiasts, and Shelby County will continue to promote tourism through these types of events in our local, regional and state economy.”

Reigning Classic champion Skeet Reese, who finished second to Demopolis’ Boyd Duckett in the 2007 Classic on Lay Lake, was thrilled by Tuesday’s announcement.

“Another Classic on Lay Lake is great news,” he said. “I will get the opportunity to go back to Lay Lake and try to win. Finishing second to Boyd in 2007 was a little tough to swallow.”

By virtue of being the reigning champion Reese is the only one of 51 eventual competitors to qualify for the Classic in Birmingham.

“Birmingham is excited to host the 40th Bassmaster Classic and we anticipate another fantastic event,” said Mike Gunn, vice president of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This is our seventh time hosting this prestigious, major sporting event.”