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Angler Excitement at the Lake

April 28th, 2007 · Comment Now!

Thanks to Denise Membreno of The Roanoke Times Online for the following article of interest to all the fisherfolk at Smith Mountain Lake and surrounding areas:

R&R will be the last thing on the minds of the anglers fishing Smith Mountain Lake over the next four weeks. These guys (to be safe, make that “guys” including gals) are casting out and reeling in big bucks, tens of thousands of them. That’s a nice weekend’s work in any career.

Here’s what’s happening: Smith Mountain Lake is hosting four national professional fishing tournaments. The first of the four is the 2006 BFL/FLW Wal-Mart Open Smith Mountain Lake Regional. It opened Thursday and runs through Saturday.

Three hundred anglers from the Northeastern and North Carolina regions in the FLW Series are here for a qualifying regional event. Anglers will attempt to gain points that will allow them to proceed to the Stren and FLW tournament circuits. The final day’s weigh in will occur at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Bedford.

The ESPN/CITGO Bassmaster Northern Tour is here Oct. 26-28 and the ESPN Outdoors Bassmaster Series Second Chance Qualifier Tournament will be held Nov. 9-11. The Northern Tour event is one of 12 CITGO Bassmaster Open tournaments series held throughout the nation. Each tournament series qualifies anglers to compete in next year’s Bassmaster Classic. Each event consists of 175 professionals and 175 co-anglers. Weigh-ins will be held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Bridgewater Plaza.

The fourth event will be the most significant event ever hosted at the lake in terms of national coverage. The 2007 ESPN/Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament will be held June 7-10. Debra Weir, Franklin County tourism and special events manager, likens the tournament to a national championship tournament. The only thing bigger in the fishing world is the Classic Tournament, which could be compared in status to a world championship.

The four tournaments are projected to have a $3 million impact on the local economy. Then there’s the exposure on ESPN, which tourism officials say could attract people to the area who see the beauty of the lake on television.

“Organizers tell us that Smith Mountain Lake offers qualities that they look for in sites: proximity to large media markets, terrific scenery making for great television, large and enthusiastic crowds at the weigh-ins and outstanding fishery,” said Weir.

She said bringing these tournaments to the lake was the result of teamwork. The Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Bedford County/City Tourism Department and Franklin County Tourism Department built on the success of the 2004 ESPN Outdoors/Bassmaster Northern Tour Tournament, when more than 3,000 spectators attended the weigh ins.

These tournaments don’t just attract people to the lake on the days of the events. These anglers have been visiting the lake during the past month. Some stay here for weeks.

Mike Snead of Virginia Outdoorsman said they come to the area and visit the bait and tackle shops and pick the brains of the local fishermen. Some cruise the lake, never dropping a line until the tournament.

“They are fairly disciplined as to how they prepare,” explained Snead. “They go on the lake learning the water, where the docks are, where the submerged wood is, where the fish are.”

Snead said weather conditions, water clarity, wind and time of year are all factors that affect where the fish are on a given day. Anglers will change the kind of bait they use or the location of their boats depending on conditions.

If you think that is a lot of preparation for a weekend of fishing on the lake, consider this: The anglers are competing for a $60,000 prize package that includes a new Chevy truck and Ranger 519VX powered by Evinrude or Yamaha in the boater division. Co-anglers are vying for a $40,000 Ranger 519VX powered by Evinrude or Yamaha.

The top six boaters and co-anglers at the Smith Mountain Regional Championship will also advance to the $1 million no-entry-fee 2007 All-American championship where they will fish for as much as $140,000 in the boater division and $70,000 in the co-angler division. That makes me wish when people ask what I do for a living, I could answer professional fisherwoman.

These anglers also bring their families to the tournaments, prompting the SML Chamber to create Basstober (more about Basstoberfest on page 12). “We are providing something for the family of the anglers, and we wanted to bring the local people in to experience the excitement of the tournament,” said Carol Guy, SML Chamber event coordinator.

Now I know that going fishing is more than just a pastime. For a lucky few sitting on a boat and casting into the waters of a beautiful lake is a career — a very profitable one at that.

Denise Membreno of The Roanoke Times Online