Shaw Grigsby preps his gear before taking off early Wednesday to practice the day before the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament starts at the Green Bay Metro Boat Launch. Megan McCormick/Press-Gazette
If you go
The Bassmaster Elite Series is open to the public at 6:30 a.m. daily through Sunday at the Green Bay Metropolitan Boat Launch, 102 Bay Beach Road. Weigh-ins begin at 3:15 p.m. each day. Other attractions include interactive displays, demonstrations and autograph sessions. All events are free.
On the Web
For more photos and video of tournament preparations, go to www.greenbaypressgazette.com.
The world’s best bass fishing professionals are finally ready to get their lines in the water around the bay of Green Bay as part of a nationally televised tournament that begins today.
B.A.S.S. has 98 competitors to Green Bay for a four-day event in its Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, with $600,00 in prize money at stake.
The competition begins at 6:30 a.m. today at the Green Bay Metropolitan Boat Launch, where spectators can enjoy an expo and mingle with the pros.
Competitor Randy Howell of Birmingham, Ala., said he was impressed by the test run offered on Wednesday and is looking forward to getting started.
“This is a great lake with a lot of big fish,” Howell said. “I know they’re in here.”
With competitors judged on their five biggest fish each day, the field will be narrowed to 50 anglers by Saturday and then 12 for Sunday’s finale. The field originally was 99, but one angler dropped out for personal reasons.
Some competitors are still upset that Wisconsin state regulators restricted the tournament to waters generally south of Sturgeon Bay, which state officials said was necessary to protect the region’s fish population from trauma or injury.
Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., said the best available fishing spots would cover a relatively small three- or four-mile area. As a result, Reese said, the tournament probably will yield average-sized fish rather than really big ones.
“I’m not overly optimistic,” he said. “But I’m not down and out.”
The tournament includes bass anglers from as far away as Texas, California, New Jersey and South Carolina.
B.A.S.S. officials announced in May that Green Bay had been selected as the “mystery lake” on a cross-country tournament that wraps up in New York in late August. Competitors had no previous knowledge that they would be testing their skills on Green Bay waters this summer.
The event is scheduled for coverage on ESPN networks and The Outdoor Channel.
In addition to the anglers and their colorful boats, the traveling tournament treats spectators to a free expo with interactive displays, demonstrations and autograph sessions with the pros. The Green Bay Yacht Club is providing beer and food concessions.
Crews were busy Wednesday transforming the city-owned boat launch property into tournament grounds, which now includes a large stage where competitors will take turns weighing their catches starting at 3:15 p.m. each day.
Eric Lopez, event operations director for B.A.S.S., said 50 or more workers would be involved in assembling various tents and stages, and outfitting the grounds with video cameras and sound systems to keep the crowds entertained.
Lopez said he was pleased with how everything was coming together.
“It’s a pretty big production,” he said. “We like to do thing big.”
Despite unseasonably hot temperatures in the 90s, sponsors and other participants said Wednesday they were happy with the tournament site and the reception they had received so far.
Mike Cox, a representative of sponsor Zeko Shoes, was impressed by his first glimpse of the Green Bay waterfront.
“The lake is beautiful,” Cox said. “I think it’s going to be awesome.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @pgscottwilliams.