After a rainy weekend, it looks like smooth sailing -- and boating -- this weekend on Clarks Hill Lake as the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour blasts off from Columbia County's Wildwood Park.
If there was ever any question about the wisdom of constructing the $1.1 million tournament-grade facility at the park, this tournament should put it to rest. The upgrades were worth every penny, as the glitzy production will prove.
"This is bass fishing as spectator sport," says Tammy Stout, executive director of the Greater Augusta Sports Council, who was instrumental in bringing the tournament to Columbia County.
Wildwood has been the host site for several big fishing tournaments since its completion this past year, including a couple of visits from the Wal-Mart FLW tour. But the CITGO Bassmaster Tour is the big daddy, bringing an estimated $1 million impact.
Already, more than 350 anglers have signed up for the tournament. Three days of practice end today at the lake, with competition starting Thursday. The field will narrow to 12 on Saturday; half of them will take to the water Sunday for the final, all seeking the first-place prize of $100,000.
The top money-winners on the tour earn seven figures in prizes and endorsements -- and they'll spend a lot of that money here.
The Masters Tournament, the Augusta Futurity and the barrel-horse races bring tremendous tourist and competitor dollars to the greater Augusta community.
Big fishing tournaments, such as the CITGO Tour, are the key to Columbia County making the most of its best natural resource -- Clarks Hill Lake -- while luring more tourist dollars our way.
Such events give us an opportunity to show off our community to tourists from all over the country. Expansion Management and Progressive Farmer magazines rank Columbia County among the best places in the country to live; we hope the CITGO tourists will see we're a good place to visit, too.
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