DULUTH -- FLW Outdoors president and CEO Charlie Evans hinted at it more than a few times over the weekend, but his words to a packed arena Sunday night were clear: "The (Bass Fishing League) Tour will be coming back to Lake Lanier. I guarantee it."
For four days, Lake Lanier and the Arena at Gwinnett Center played host to the Forrest Wood Cup, bass fishing's self-proclaimed Super Bowl.
Seventy-eight of the world's top fishermen crowded Lanier, considered one of the country's spotted bass hotbeds, Thursday through Sunday before weighing in each night in Duluth.
By all accounts, the event was a great success.
"I can tell you this," FLW spokesman Chad Gay said. "I've been to five Forrest Wood Cups, and this was by far the best one that we've had. I'm not kidding. I've gotten e-mails from internal staff saying thanks for making this the best cup ever."
"This thing was off-the- charts successful. It was fantastic."
With steadily growing crowds each evening for weigh-in, the arena was packed to the brim for Sunday night's champion-crowning finale.
More precise estimates won't be available for another few weeks, but Gwinnett County Convention and Visitor's Bureau spokeswoman Lisa Anders estimated that the tournament would create an influx of more than $7 million in revenue to the county.
Anglers also complimented both of the event's sites.
"It's just amazing how many fish there are in this lake," Larry Nixon, third on the tour's all-time money list, said over the weekend.
Added Tom Mann Jr., a Buford resident: "(The arena) is in such a great location, it's easy access, doesn't cost anyone a dime to park, it's easy to get in and out, and it's just the perfect size."
With the tour schedule already fixed for 2011, the earliest it could return to Lake Lanier would be 2012. But if the rave reviews already coming out of the FLW camp -- including the words of its president -- are any indication, a speedy return is a good possibility.
"With those facilities and that lake and that crowd that we drew," Gay said, "I think it's kind of a no-brainer that we have to look at coming back."