Bassmaster event continues at Thurmond Lake

After three days of practice and two days of competition, a narrowed field of the nation's best pro anglers will fan out across Thurmond Lake for today's round of the Bassmaster Elite Series "Pride of Georgia" tournament.

"We're hoping for a big crowd and lots of fish brought in," said Beda Johnson, the executive director of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The event's headquarters are at Wildwood Park, which played host to similar tournaments from 2005 through 2008.

The traveling Bassmaster outdoor expo opens at noon today and Sunday, with tournament weigh-ins at 3:30 p.m. each day.

Wildwood Park manager Jeb Bell said there will be lots to do, including a program by Georgia Southern University's raptor center, equipment demonstrations, concessions and other activities.

"We've got about 40 volunteers lined up to help with everything," Bell said, adding that shuttles will help ferry fishing fans from parking areas to the weigh-in and expo area at the park's tournament ramp.

Ninety-three pros competed in the event during preliminary rounds Thursday and Friday, and the field was reduced to the top 47 for today's round.

After today's weigh-in, the top 12 anglers will compete Sunday for the $100,000 first prize, said Bassmaster publicist Doug Grassian.

The total purse is $630,000.

The tournament will be televised at 10:30 a.m. June 6 on ESPN2, Grassian said.

If you go

WHAT: Bassmaster Elite Series "Pride of Georgia" tournament

WHERE: Wildwood Park off Washington Road in Columbia County

WHEN: Expo activities begin at noon today and Sunday

WEIGH-INS: 3:30 p.m. each day

ADMISSION: $5 parking fee at the gate

MORE THAN FISHING: Features of the Bassmaster Expo include:

- Experience Pro X5 2010-Mercury Demo Tour, Yamaha VMax SHO Demo Tour

- Berkley Demo Tank

- Toyota Kids Casting Challenge

- "Ask the Experts" for tips

- SportDog Demos

- Georgia Southern Wildlife Program

- Food and drinks

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