Alabama launching bass tournament for amateurs

Phillip Rawls, Associated Press
Alabama launching bass tournament for amateurs

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, left, and Tami Reist, President Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, listen as Kay Donaldson, Director Alabama Bass Trail Program, gives information about the new tournament series while in front of the Alabama Capitol on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in Montgomery, Ala.. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Lloyd Gallman)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama is launching a series of bass fishing tournaments for amateur anglers with the goal of generating tourism dollars from Mobile to Florence.

Gov. Robert Bentley and other officials announced the creation of the Alabama Bass Trail Tournament Series on Monday. The team-style tournament will be held on 10 lakes on the Alabama Bass Trial. Then the championship will be held on an 11th lake.

Program director Kay Donaldson said each of the tournaments is expected to have an economic impact of $500,000. She said participants usually arrive three to four days in advance to scout locations and spend about $300 per day.

Bentley said one of the owners of the Birmingham-based Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, Don Logan, suggested the tournament to him two years ago as way to attract amateur fishermen to the state in the same way the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trial attracts golfers. State officials worked with the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, BASS and others to make it a reality.

The state is putting $50,000 into the first year. State Senate budget committee Chairman Arthur Orr R-Decatur, said it is an investment that will bring back extra sales, gas and lodging taxes paid by competitors.

"I always call it clean money," Bentley said.

The tournament trail will feature two divisions. The northern division tournaments will be Feb. 1 at Lake Guntersville, March 22 at Pickwick Lake, April 5 at Neely Henry Lake, May 31 at Wheeler Lake, and June 21 at Logan Martin Lake. The southern division will be March 1 at the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, March 15 at Lake Eufaula, April 19 at Lake Jordan, May 10 on the Alabama River at Millers Ferry, and June 7 at Lay Lake.

Each tournament will have a $10,000 first-place prize and will pay 20 places. The maximum number of boats is 200.

The top 50 teams from each division that fished in all five events will advance to the championship, along with the top 25 student boats from both divisions that fished all five events. Those 125 teams will compete Oct. 10-11 on Lewis Smith Lake in Walker County.

All of the lakes are part of the Alabama Bass Trail, which is a series of lakes that state tourism officials use to promote outdoor activities in Alabama.