GEORGETOWN COUNTY (News Release) — Anglers from seven states, including youth anglers, will converge in Georgetown County this month when the B.A.S.S. Nation Southern Divisional Championship comes to town. The event, which is a qualifier for the national championship, is heavily publicized and will have the eyes of sportsmen allover the country on Georgetown County as they tune in for weigh-in broadcasts.
Hosting a divisional event for an organization of B.A.S.S. Nation's caliber is a big step for the county in its goal to become a destination for sporting tournaments, said County Administrator Sel Hemingway. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala.,B.A.S.S. has been around for nearly 50 years, has a membership of more than500,000 and is widely regarded as the worldwide authority on bass fishing.
"To be hosting our first event for B.A.S.S. Nation is really an honor and we're determined that it will be the first of many more in the years to come," said County Administrator Sel Hemingway. "With this event, it's our intent to show our capability to accommodate this type of event and much larger events, and hopefully host B.A.S.S. Nation here on a regular basis."
This is a method Georgetown County successfully used last year with the Inshore Fishing Association. That group brought its Redfish and Kayak Tour to the county in August, and both the IFA and its membership were impressed enough with the county, its facilities and other attributes that plans were immediately made to come back this year. Georgetown County will host IFA tournament action on May 1 and 2, as well as Aug. 28-30.
It's an indication that Georgetown County had the right idea when it built the Carroll A. Campbell Marine Complex to be able to accommodate large tournaments, as well as daily use by local and visiting families, said Beth Goodale, Georgetown County's director of Parks and Recreation. The facility on the Sampit River, which opened in 2010, will be the base for the B.A.S.S. Nation and IFA tournaments, serving as the launch point for boats and the location for weigh-ins as fishing wraps up each day.
For the B.A.S.S. Nation event, the county will also host the Georgetown Boat Expo at the marine complex, featuring boats and other products from local businesses, including The Boat Shed, Marshall's Marine and Tailwalker Marine. That event will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 23 and 24.
The B.A.S.S. Nation Southern Divisional is scheduled for Wednesday, April 22, through Friday, April 24, but anglers should start arriving by the first of that week as April 20 and 21 are designated as official practice days. With many anglers bringing spouses and families with them for the trip and staying for the week, the economic impact for local restaurants, hotels and businesses should be significant. The Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce will be working withlocal businesses to measure that impact. Anglers in last year's IFA tournament reported spending more than $1,000 each in the county over a weekend, including fuel purchases, food and drinks, shopping and more.
B.A.S.S. Nation officials have said they are looking forward to exploring an area where they haven't previously had an event.
"It's really exciting to get to go to new places for the B.A.S.S. Nation divisionals," said Jon Stewart, director of B.A.S.S. Nation. "It's one of the many things that make the Nation unique. You never know what might happen on these new waters."
The Southern Divisional Championship will bring anglers from the Carolinas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. As is the case for tournaments of all kinds that come to Georgetown County, the hope is that participants who haven't experienced the county before will not only encourage their organizations to bring future tournaments here, but will want to return for family vacations or possibly even purchase a home.
"We have the kind of facility and the water resources these organizations are looking for, but we've also got something else these groups value — something many larger communities with more money to throw behind their efforts don't have," Hemingway said. "In Georgetown County, we know and appreciate outdoor recreation and sports on a completely different level. Fishing and hunting are more than hobbies. Here, they're a way of life."