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Fishing tourney brings tourism to town

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Winner Mike Reynolds signs autographs for a large crowd on hand for the Georgia CITGO Bassmaster Tournament held at Clarks Hill.
Photo by Mike Adams/Morris News Service
Although the CITGO Bassmaster tournament this past weekend was sponsored by Columbia County, Thomson landed its share of business from the fishing competition at Clarks Hill Lake.

White Columns Inn was a testament to the attraction Thomson has for anglers with boats crowding the parking lot, especially last Thursday and Friday before the tournament field was narrowed.

The motel was packed with guests, many of whom had fished the lake in the past and knew White Columns offered a convenient location with plenty of boat hook ups and ample parking. Other motels such as Days Inn also benefited from the tournament, which brought business to area restaurants as well.

"We knew the tournament would impact us, and we would get some spillover from it," said Gerald Baygents, director of tourism.

"A lot of fishermen already knew us, but we got some new people, too.

"Anything we got (from the tournament) we were glad to have," Mr. Baygents said.

Columbia County officials estimate more than 300 anglers participated in the four day event, many lured by the $100,000 first prize and hoping to land a spot in the Bassmaster Classic scheduled for Pittsburgh this July.

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Mike Reynolds won the Georgia Citgo Bassmaster Tournament at Clark Hill Lake with a total weight of 52 lbs. and 11 oz.
Photo by Mike Adams/Morris News Service
The event at Wildwood Park drew thousands of fishing fans -- 5,000 on the final day -- who came for the popular weigh-ins, and to browse the Outdoor Expo consumer show.

Mike Reynolds of California took first place on Sunday when he caught 19 fish totaling 52 pounds and 11 ounces. The fish were caught and released alive.

The tournament will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Thomson, with Clarks Hill Lake at its back door, has long been a popular base camp for casual and serious fishermen seeking bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish.

The Thomson-McDuffie County Tourism Board sponsors several fishing tournaments each year, and have a major regional tournament in the works for November. That event will generate plenty of local business while filtering visitors to other areas like Columbia County and Augusta.

Local tourism officials have discussed joint ventures for fishing tournaments with Columbia and Lincoln counties which all share a prime spot close to the lake.

Fishing tournaments sponsored elsewhere are not the only events to bring business to Thomson, Mr. Baygents said.

"We are definitely going to fill up this weekend with the race in Aonia Pass," he said.



Web posted on Thursday, March 10, 2005











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