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McDuffie reels in tourism dollars from BASS event

Arkansas angler Mike McClelland must have liked the numbers.

More than 3,000 people watched Sunday's climax of four days of fishing that netted 70 lbs., 7 oz. of largemouth bass and a $100,000 purse for the winner of the Pride of Georgia Bassmaster Elite Series event on Clarks Hill Lake this past weekend.

"We think this is one of the best final-day crowds we've had," said Beda Johnson, the director of Columbia County's Convention and Visitors Bureau.

But those in charge of McDuffie County's tourism efforts liked the numbers from the third annual Columbia County-based tournament even more. With 108 anglers, 108 amateurs, numerous family members, tournament officials and spectators piling into area hotels, restaurants and stores, spillover business in the Thomson area was plentiful.

"We've had more people here pre-fishing for this tournament more days in advance than any other group I can remember in a long time," said McDuffie County Tourism Board Member and White Columns Owner Epp Wilson. He added that Clarks Hill is a popular lake among professional bass anglers.

Though no one knew the total number of dollars making its way into the McDuffie County economy in relation to the tournament, officials did express much interest in attracting similar future events.

"They do keep our hotels pretty booked," said McDuffie County's new Tourism Intern Elizabeth Vance. "...A lot of these events we participate with other counties in the Clarks Hill Partnership, and we're going to continue to do that as much as we can."

The tournament influx not only provided a boost to the private sector, but local governments got a shot in the arm from the amount of sales and hotel/motel taxes coming into the county form elsewhere.

"We're close to the lake, close to the resource. It works well for us, and provides more sales tax revenue for the community and more jobs," Mr. Wilson said. "So it's a win-win deal. Let's go fishing."

Sales tax dollars are used to fund projects such as new government and school buildings, fire and police equipment and road paving. And government officials sing the praises of tourist dollars because they lower the burden on locals.

Hotel/motel tax money goes directly back into funding more tourism within the county. The tourism board uses a portion of the money to attract events like fishing and softball tournaments that bring more visitors to McDuffie.

Morris News Service Reports were used in this article.

Web posted on Thursday, April 26, 2007

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