Fans get rowdy during weigh-ins on the final day of the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament at the Green Bay Metropolitan Boat Launch in Green Bay on Sunday, July 1, 2012. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Professional fishing and Green Bay might have just marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
As the Bassmaster Elite Series wrapped up its four-day Green Bay Challenge on Sunday, officials already were looking ahead to a possible return engagement.
Despite state environmental limits on the event, organizer B.A.S.S. LLC said it would consider making Green Bay a stop on future tournaments, too.
“It turned out great,” said Trip Weldon, tournament director for B.A.S.S.
Weldon said competitors and organizers enjoyed their stay in Green Bay — including visiting Lambeau Field — and were pleased with the quality of fishing available here.
“Certainly this was a successful event,” he said. “We’d love to come back some day.”
Green Bay civic leaders said they are working already to lure the B.A.S.S. organization back for another event, possibly as soon as 2014.
Mayor Jim Schmitt said he would try to persuade the state Department of Natural Resources to loosen its restrictions on waters that can be fished during any future tournaments.
“I want to really get out in front of it,” Schmitt said.
The state DNR set a boundary that prohibited Bassmaster competitors from venturing north of Sturgeon Bay — a limit that was aimed at protecting fish populations but left many anglers grumbling.
Competitor Ish Monroe of California, who finished 10th out of a field of 98, said although he wished for more open waters, he enjoyed seeing the enthusiastic response of fans in the Green Bay area.
“The fans are awesome,” he said. “I’d love to have more events out here.”
Hundreds of fans turned out daily under hot, sunny skies along the Green Bay waterfront to meet some of the nation’s best professional anglers and to watch a tournament that normally is available only on TV.
Holly Lutz and her fiance, Donnie Bakken, drove from Sun Prairie to watch Sunday’s finale.
“It feels like you’re meeting your favorite movie stars,” Lutz said.
Added Shane Frish, another fan from Manitowoc: “I love it. It’s a lot of fun.”
B.A.S.S., based in Birmingham, Ala., announced in May that the organization had picked Green Bay as a stop on its Bassmaster Elite tournament, featuring professional anglers from as far away as Texas and California. The event will be broadcast on ESPN networks and the Outdoor Channel, showcasing to a national audience the quality of fishing available in Northeastern Wisconsin.
It is believed to be the first major professional fishing tournament ever held in Green Bay.
The four-day event, which began Thursday, was expected to generate about $1 million in economic impact locally, including hotel rooms, restaurant sales and other activity related to the 98 competitors and their traveling entourages.
Brad Toll, executive director of the Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, said fishing boats parked outside restaurants at night illustrated the tournament’s impact on business.
Although Toll said it would take at least two years to get Green Bay back on the B.A.S.S. tournament circuit, he said those discussions are under way already. He voiced optimism that a return engagement is feasible.
“B.A.S.S. seemed happy with the whole thing,” he said. “They were very happy, and that’s the important thing for us.”
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