The Bassmaster Classic – known as the Super Bowl of bass fishing – will return to Lake Hartwell in 2015, according to an Anderson County official, in a development that’s bound to put a smile on the faces of hoteliers and restaurateurs across the Upstate.
Greenville and Anderson officials are set to join Gov. Nikki Haley at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena today to announce the televised tournament’s return after a six-year absence, said Tommy Dunn, chairman of Anderson County Council.
“It’s a real big deal to anyone that fishes,” said Randy Childers, manager of Lake Hartwell Fish and Marine, a tackle store at the entrance to Portman Shoals Marina in Anderson County.
Childers recalled tournament pros shopping in his store when the Classic came to Lake Hartwell in 2008, followed by fans.
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Bass fishing enthusiasts from around the country will “wait in line just to see them and get an autograph card from them,” he said.
The Texas fisherman who won the $500,000 grand prize in 2008 was showered with confetti and flanked by fireworks in front of a near-capacity crowd of 13,300 at what was then the Bi-Lo Center and is now the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Tournament officials used the downtown arena for official weigh-ins in 2008, and displayed everything from boats to tackle at what is now the TD Convention Center. They also held a women’s tournament on Lake Keowee.
Hotels and restaurants profited from all the visitors.
Andy Cajka, a local hotel developer and operator who had helped recruit the 2008 tournament, said Upstate hotels sold about 8,000 room nights.
“It’s really well-produced, very well-executed,” he said.
Greenville restaurateur Carl Sobocinski said he hosted a party for ESPN at Soby’s, one of his six downtown restaurants, during the 2008 tournament and still gets business from the cable channel, catering for it every year at the Master’s golf tournament in Augusta, Ga.
“I was elated when I heard the other day” that the tournament was coming back, Sobocinski said Wednesday.
John Geddes, sales and marketing director at the Westin Poinsett Hotel on Main Street, said Wednesday that the hotel already had the 2015 tournament dates marked on a calendar.
The Westin sold about 400 room nights as a result of the 2008 tournament, he said, and expects a similar effect next year.
“For a weekend in February, it’s certainly helpful,” Geddes said.
While hoteliers and restaurateurs said they already knew the Classic was coming back, tournament and tourism officials remained tight-lipped or weren’t available Wednesday.
Cara Clark, a spokeswoman for B.A.S.S., the Birmingham, Ala.-based organization that sponsors the tournament, didn’t return telephone calls from The Greenville News.
Haley’s office confirmed she’d appear at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena at 11 a.m. today, along with tourism officials from Greenville and Anderson, but didn’t mention the tournament.
Chris Stone, president of VisitGreenvilleSC, formerly the Greenville Convention and Visitors Bureau, referred questions to Tara Scher, owner of a local public relations firm that represents VisitGreenvilleSC. Scher declined to comment.