MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 17, 2013

Bassmaster event could be boon for state fishing


Phoenix wire reports

— The best competitive bass anglers in the world will convene on Grand Lake Friday through Sunday to compete for $500,000 and the title of Bassmaster Classic champion.

Bass fishing’s equivalent to the Super Bowl is expected to draw 70,000 visitors and account for more than 20,000 hotel nights in the region. Even more important, the Classic should pump something to the tune of $24 million dollars into the economy of Tulsa, Grove and other communities around Grand Lake.

“It really is the top prize in professional bass fishing,” said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Wildlife Department. “It’s easily the biggest fishing event that will ever come to Oklahoma.”

Fans can watch competition launch at 7 a.m. Friday at Wolf Creek Park on Grand Lake. All 53 qualifiers will launch from there the first two days. Sunday’s finale will feature the top 25 anglers, who will compete for the $500,000 first-place prize and the Classic crown. Daily weigh-ins will be at the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa. Doors will open at 3 p.m. and the entire event is free.

Additionally, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo  will take place at the Tulsa Convention Center from noon to 8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The Expo will feature a range of shopping and entertainment activities to visitors.

While expressing the magnitude of the event, Gilliland also noted that the Classic represents a tremendous opportunity for developing the region further for recreational use by anglers and boaters.

“The Bassmaster Classic is going to be a starting point for a lot of things that will be happening in the Grand Lake area and ‘Green Country’ in general,” Gilliland said. “As big as Grand Lake is and as popular as it is, it doesn’t really have big-time boat launching facilities. The City of Grove has stepped up and is cooperating with us and some other partners to try to make that possible, not only for the Bassmaster Classic, but for the future.”

Wolf Creek Park in Grove has been renovated to provide six boat ramp lanes, parking for up to 300, restrooms, pavilions, a drive-through weigh-in station, courtesy docks and more. The two-phase project will result in a multi-million dollar, first-class facility for the public to use.

Over the course of the two-phase project, the Wildlife Department will contribute about $3 million, which will be combined with several million dollars provided by the City of Grove, Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Grand River Dam Authority — which operates the lake. The second phase of the project could include other partners as well.

“I’m hoping that the folks at Lake Eufaula and at Lake Texoma and Fort Gibson and some of our other major reservoirs get really jealous about seeing all this,”  Gilliland said. “Because we’d like to do this same kind of project at those lakes and put in some really first-class facilities at other places around the state.”