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Central Mississippi a tournament hotbed

Fishing fun and profitable on Ross Barnett Reservoir

Not only is fishing a lucrative sport, but it pumps money into the economy, especially around Ross Barnett Reservoir where the catchin` is good.

And there`s serious money to be made. Robert Hamilton Jr., of Brandon, won $250,000 in one day at the BASSMASTER`s Classic. Recently, Jeff McGee of Jackson won a couple hundred thousand dollars, too, said Adam Pollock, local bass fishing and tournament consultant.

“There`s practically one fishing tournament every weekend on the reservoir,” said Pollock. “There may behundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars at stake.”

The B.A.S.S. Central Invitational Tournament, organized by the same group that hosts BASSMASTERs Classic, held the largest tournament since 1995 at the Ross Barnett Reservoir earlier this year.

“When this group comes to town, they bring 300 fishermen from all over the world, representing Africa, Japan and other countries,” Pollock said.

BASSMASTER tournament officials recently gave results of the economic benefits of a regular-season tournament, according to a University of Alabama study. About $500,000 is spent, on average, by staff, sponsors, industry support teams, anglers and their families. The turnover result has been estimated between $1 million and $2 million, according to Ann Lewis, director of publicity and information.

Publicity reaped through tournaments has been estimated in the millions, but the coverage of events through local and national media, television shows and trade publications cannot be measured, Lewis has said.

Later this month, an Angler`s Choice tournament will be held at the reservoir. Mississippi was selected over several other states because of the size and location of the reservoir, Pollock said.

Art Payne would have little reason to be in business if it were not for fishing and the reservoir. Payne, owner of Propeller Service Inc. of Ridgeland has been in business since the 1970s.

“Fishing in the Ross Barnett Reservoir is the ideal situation for a person who repairs propellers because you can`t see where you`re going,” Payne said.

Business has been better in 1998 than in the five years since the casinos opened, Payne said.

“The casinos have had a notable impact on our business,” he said. “A lot of people who used discretionary income on fishing, boating, or doing other things outdoors, took their money to Vicksburg and left it there. After three years of a steady downturn, I had, quite honestly, begun to panic. I can only attribute it to the fact that some of the gold`s worn off the attraction of the casinos. As a result, people are either wanting to get back outside or not wanting to leave that money in Vicksburg. I don`t know.”

Tournaments don`t impact his business, he said.

“Many bass tournament fishermen are notorious for expecting to get things free,” Payne said. “My bread-and-butter guys are the guys who fish for diversion and recreation.”

Payne said boat dealers are having just the opposite effect this year in boat sales

About Lynne W. Jeter

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