Fishing tourney makes local economic impact

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

DULUTH -- Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue closed his address to a few thousand fishing fans at Gwinnett Arena with this Saturday: "The state's enjoyed it, and go fishing y'all."

And, while not exactly what he meant, the state will enjoy the Forrest Wood Cup, the country's premier bass fishing tournament, on the economic level.

With 78 fishermen, their families, media, FLW Outdoors staff and plenty of other out-of-towners around for the tournament held Thursday through today on Lake Lanier and at the arena, the economic impact on Gwinnett County should be great.

"It's the perfect storm for an event," said Lisa Anders of the Gwinnett County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's utilizing our entire convention facilities, it's utilizing Laurel Park up at Lake Lanier ... It's the best of both worlds. Because pretty much everyone's seeing an impact."

Anders compared the event's potential economic impact to that of the PGA Championship -- yes, one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world -- which was held at John's Creek's Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001 and will be there again in 2011.

While more exact numbers for the county won't be clear for a few weeks, the state has estimated an influx of $20 to $30 million for the weekend. The total for Gwinnett should "easily" clear $7 million, Anders said.

"FLW staff and media alone have booked 1,000 hotel room nights," she said Friday.

Monetary estimates are based on an equation that approximates $221 spent per day per party, which includes hotel, food, shopping, gas and all other expenses. Each party is conservatively estimated at 2.1 people, Anders said.

Several thousand attended the weigh-in event at Gwinnett Arena Saturday evening, with upwards of 10,000 fans and enthusiasts expected for Sunday's finale.

The uniqueness of the event having two major sites more than 20 miles apart means the wealth is spread around.

"It's really from Sugarloaf Parkway all the way up to Lake Lanier," Anders said. "Not just the islands, but Oakwood and Flowery Branch and Braselton, the Mall of Georgia area, Suwanee are all the ones that are going to see the largest impact."

Gov. Perdue has drawn fire for his $30-million investment in bass fishing and his "Go Fish" initiative, aimed at kickstarting fishing in Georgia and getting kids involved.

Like it or not, the process eventually got one of bass fishing's top events to Gwinnett and Hall Counties this weekend.

"We wanted to invite the world to Georgia," Perdue said Saturday, "not only for the warm hospitality, but for our wonderful fisheries."

And, hopefully, to boost the local economy.