IF YOU GO
What: Forrest Wood Cup bass fishing championship and FLW Expo
When: Thursday through Sunday
Where: Lake Lanier, Arena at Gwinnett Center
More details: Anglers will take off each day from Laurel Park in Gainesville. Daily weigh-ins will be held at the Arena at Gwinnett Center beginning at 5 p.m. The FLW Expo -- with fishing demos, simulators, giveaways and more -- will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
DULUTH -- Bringing in a bass fishing competition may not seem like the biggest catch for Gwinnett, but make no mistake -- when the Forrest Wood Cup officially returns Thursday, the county is reeling in a multimillion-dollar economic behemoth.
The Forrest Wood Cup is the world championship of bass fishing, pitting 46 of the top pros against each other as they vie for the title and a grand prize of $500,000. It returns to Lake Lanier (for the fishing) and the Arena at Gwinnett Center (for the nightly weigh-ins and a daily expo) for the second time in three years, with official tournament action running Thursday through Sunday.
The last time it came in 2010, the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau dubbed it the event of the year. Most importantly, it brought an estimated $23.2 million to the area.
The fact that the event includes two major sites about 20 miles apart means the wealth -- through hotel, food, shopping, gas and other expenses -- is spread around.
"It's really from Sugarloaf Parkway all the way up to Lake Lanier," Lisa Anders, now executive director of the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau, said during 2010's tournament. "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."
Stan Hall, the director of the GCVB's Gwinnett Sports Commission, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The festivities include a massive FLW Expo at the nearby Gwinnett Convention Center on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, the expo will include boat simulators, interactive games, giveaways and opportunities to interact with professional anglers.
On Saturday and Sunday, rods and reels will be given away to the first 500 and 1,000 kids age 14 and under, respectively. Those giveaways are courtesy of the Daily Post.
The action, of course, will also be on the lake. Anglers will launch each morning from Laurel Park in Gainesville before returning to Duluth for the weigh-in.
Defending Forrest Wood Cup champion Scott Martin called Lake Lanier the "jewel of Georgia." He praised the local enthusiasm and said he expects a big showing the second time around.
"There's nothing better than when you stop in a gas station or the local tackle shop and everyone's amped up and knows exactly what's going on with the tournament," Martin said. "It's exciting to have everyone in the surrounding area well aware of what we're doing. I think the turnout is going to be one of the best, if not the best ever, we've had at a Forrest Wood Cup."