We are all aware that Lake Norman is the best asset we have for many reasons.
Over the past five years, Lake Norman has become a destination for national bass fishing tournaments. ESPN Bass, Bassmasters Women's Tour, Wal-Mart FLW and many more events have been lured here. Every year, millions of dollars in prize money are at stake, and the positive boost to our economy is tremendous. More dollars are spent annually on lodging, food, gas, bait and fishing. In fact, in 2009, over $2 million poured into our region.
Fishing tournaments are held on Lake Norman almost every week of the year.
Bass tournaments are the most popular, and they range in size from 10-15 boats to the giant Wal-Mart FLW, ESPN Bassmaster events with 100-200 boats. There are probably another 50-75 small, one-day events.
Thousands of anglers, their families, event personnel and fans descend on Lake Norman for these tournaments.
Many of the anglers will spend a few days here, far in advance of their tournament, looking for bass and figuring out their strategies.
Hotels, motels, restaurants, grocery stores, sporting good stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fishing guides, marinas and even malls feel the positive effects of the thousands of visitors and the dollars they spend.
Lake Norman got on the map and became a "go-to" lake for tournaments in March 2005 when the Citgo Bassmaster Tour (ESPN) held its event here. Everybody was surprised when Kotaro Kiriyama, a Japanese angler, caught five bass weighing more than 19 pounds to take first place on day one. That catch was a huge limit for our lake. Lake Norman was mentioned on national sports networks like ESPN2. This was the first Bassmaster event since 1994.
In 2006, one of the first Women's Bassmaster tournament was held here.
The Wal-Mart FLW Tour National Guard Open, the most lucrative North Carolina fishing tournament, was held in April 2008 with 400 anglers fishing for a purse of $1.5 million. The economic impact was $1.5 million, according to Travis Dancy, sports marketing manager with Visit Lake Norman.
Wal-Mart FLW holds several events at Lake Norman every year. FLW stands for Forrest L. Wood, the founder of the Ranger bass boats. Ranger is the largest manufacturer of bass boats in the world. "We keep coming back to Lake Norman because of the fishery, and the great working relationship we have with the Visit Lake Norman staff," said Ron Lappin, the director for FLW at the Ryan Newman tournament. "They make sure all our needs are met and keep the hassles to a minimum."
This fall, Davidson College and the town of Davidson hosted the National Guard FLW College Fishing Northern Regional Championship. Teams from 12 universities competed for a top award of $50,000. A battle of the bands and other activities for anglers and fans were held on the Village Green.
One of Lake Norman's longest running bass tournaments will be held March 13 at Queens Landing in Mooresville. The Jim Ledbetter Memorial Bass Tournament raises money for cancer, and this will be the 24th annual event. The Balls Creek Bassmasters, a bass fishing club, and an army of volunteers host the tournament every year.
In 2008, according to an article from "BASS Times," "The tournament, which is becoming known as the Casting Out Cancer event, drew a record 270 teams from six states this year. The tournament competitors caught 606 bass, which broke the all-time record set last year by 16 fish, and a record 1,275.33 pounds of bass were weighed in. The charity event raises money for The V Foundation for Cancer Research in honor of the tournament's founder, TV fishing show host Jim Ledbetter, who died in 2001. The V Foundation receives 100 percent of the net proceeds from the tournament, and this year's event raised an all-time record of $40,000. Since the tournament's inception, the event has raised $716,000."
The Ryan Newman Foundation held their fourth annual tournament in December. In 2009, a record 138 teams participated. Wal-Mart FLW administrates this event every year.
In addition to these big events, many other organizations, charities and fishing clubs hold their bass tournaments here. Many are multiple-day events. In addition, Lake Norman hosts striped bass, catfish and crappie tournaments.
All of these tournaments promote "catch and release," which does not deplete the fishery. About 98 percent of the fish weighed are returned to the lake.
The "free publicity" that comes from hosting the tournaments makes more people aware of what Lake Norman and the region have to offer tourists.
How does all this happen?
Visit Lake Norman (visitlakenorman.org) works hard to recruit all kinds of sports events to the area. Sally Ashworth, Visit Lake Norman's executive director, and her staff work hard to bring the events here and work even harder to make sure they go as smooth as possible to ensure that they return.