Originally created 04/08/06

Bass fishermen flock to Columbia County site



Golf might be the sport of choice this week, but bass fishing will continue to have its place in the county west of Augusta, with one tournament scheduled in a few weeks and more later this year.

On the list of bass tournaments on Thurmond Lake at Wildwood Park in Columbia County is the Georgia Bass' Harry Hall Memorial Top Six Championship, which is planned for April 21-25 and is expected to attract 600 of the top amateur bass fisherman in Georgia.

The CITGO Bassmaster Tour is scheduled for May 4-7 and will include 400 of the world's top professional anglers and be televised on ESPN 2.

The National Striped Bass Association's Striper Fest, set for Nov. 30-Dec. 3, will feature 350 anglers.

An unconfirmed Skeeter Boat Tournament also could take place at Wildwood, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 13-14 and Oct 20-22, officials say. County commissioners are expected to vote on whether to have the tournament at Wildwood at their April 18 board meeting.

Beda Johnson, the new director of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said such tournaments bring in plenty of sales tax dollars to the Augusta area.

"These tournaments provide a significant increase in not just hotel occupancy throughout the region, but also a boost to restaurants, local bait and tackle outlets, gas stations and even drug stores,'' Ms. Johnson said.

She said that during the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster tournament, 122 visitors stayed in Columbia County hotels; 36 stayed in Augusta-Richmond County hotels; 28 stayed in Thomson hotels and 84 camped at various outdoor sites.

"When they have the Masters Tournament, they depend on Columbia County hotel rooms for people to sleep in, just like with these bass tournaments, we depend on Richmond County hotels," she said.

"So, it's one big happy family, always.''

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT

Columbia County commissioners are expected to vote at their April 18 board meeting on the possibility of a bass fishing tournament, called the Skeeter Boat Tournament, occurring at Wildwood Park in October. The bass tournament would be just one of several to occur in the county in the coming year.



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