GADSDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — As COVID-19 restrictions begin to loosen and more events are starting to pop back up on the calendar throughout Alabama, one event is in full swing this weekend in the City of Gadsden, the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite Tournament.
The fishing tournament is expected to bring in $1.5 to $2 million for the city, but the economic impact doesn’t stop there. The city said they expect an uptick in tourism this summer due to the exposure of the event.
98 competitors hit the Coosa River on Friday morning.
“I’ve always enjoyed coming here, it’s full of fish, it’s just hard to catch sometimes,” said Josh Stracner, Bassmaster Elite competitor.
But fishing poles didn’t hit the water on time this year. The tournament was pushed back a day due to the high water levels.
“We had a huge surge in our lake on Tuesday after the rain came through, luckily there were no severe storms, but it brought in fallen trees and some debris,” said Jen Weathington, Gadsden City Parks and Rec Director.
“The last few days have been dangerous with all the log debris floating and just the water is dirty. But they are still biting. I actually caught them a little better than I thought I would today,” said Stracner.
This is Josh Stracner’s first year competing in the tournament. Although, he is a native to the area. He says he knows firsthand how impactful an event like this can have on a community.
“When the Bassmaster Elite series comes to any town, it brings people to town spending money on gas, hotels, tourism side of it, you know it brings a lot of o money into these cities and these cities want Bassmaster to come in,” said Stracner.
“The economic impact is over a million dollars for a community when we come and that’s just the week of the tournament. These guys come here and practice before, and then the lasting effect of it, you know it’s being broadcasted to the world,” said Bruce Akin, CEO of Bassmaster.
With the tournament’s exposure, the park and recreation director of Gadsden says it’s going to have a long-lasting impact on the community.
“People seeing how great Gadsden and Henry Lake is being fished, they want to come out, so for months after people will be coming out just because the Bassmaster Elites were here on our lakes,” said Weathington.
The fishing tournament will continue into the weekend. On Monday, a winner will be announced and they will walk away with $100,000 prize.