NORTH EAST — A Bassmaster fishing tournament for amateurs is coming to Cecil County in June, which officials expect to bring a small boost to business along with it.
Running June 14 to 16, the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Regional is expected to draw at least 360 anglers from the East Coast region, as well as their families, who will eat, sleep and shop in Cecil County for three days.
With boat takeoffs and weigh-ins taking place in North East, the town stands to gain a bump in business. During the 2015 Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, however, many town businesses reported difficulties connecting tourists to Main Street, prompting concern from owners who had prepared for large crowds. Most of the tourists were concentrated in the town park where the ESPN stage and Bassmaster attractions were set up, a 15-minute walk from Main Street.
The Elite Series tournament drew approximately 18,000 visitors and $2 million to the county over four days in 2015. That tournament attracted over 200 anglers and co-anglers, in addition to hundreds of media members and tourists. In all, an estimated 1,200 family members, fans and media members turned out to that tournament, according to county officials.
Cecil County Tourism Manager Sandy Turner said that this year’s bass tournament isn’t on the same scale, but some level of boost to businesses is expected.
“They are both put on by Bassmaster, but 2015 was the top Elite Series pros who drew lots of fans from far and wide,” Turner said. “This B.A.S.S. Nation event is not top pros … We don’t expect big crowds to attend. The reason we wanted to host it is because it brings a few hundred visiting anglers to our county to spend several days.”
Turner said she didn’t have an estimated economic impact for the upcoming tournament, but she said that the tournament, occurring in the middle of the week, will be a boost in an otherwise slow period.
“In this case, the practice days and tournament fall on weekdays, which are typically slower days in our tourism industry businesses,” Turner explained. “They’ll come from Maine to Florida, and we welcome the spending they will generate in Cecil County.”
Hudson Benson, president of the North East Chamber of Commerce and owner of the Port House Grill restaurant, said he isn’t expecting massive crowds, but he said that business owners will see some benefits in the evening, after anglers return.
“This is just completely different,” he said. “Basically, it will be just the Bassmaster organizers and the anglers. It’s not like it’s going to be 10,000 people here.”
He said he would expect around 350 anglers and around 500 people in total, which he said would be “pretty significant.”
“That certainly will help the businesses,” he said.
North East Town Administrator Melissa Cook-MacKenzie…