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Bassmaster Elite Tournament to reel in millions for La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- When it comes to bass fishing, the best in the world are in La Crosse. While they bring their best rods and fishing secrets, they also bring national attention to our area.

For the next couple of days crews will be working around the clock to transform the West Copeland Boat Landing into one of fishing's biggest stages.

They're hoping to get everything just right before La Crosse hits the national spotlight this weekend.

Chuck Harbin, senior tournament manager for B.A.S.S, has help set up and coordinate more than 180 fishing tournaments for B.A.S.S and each tournament, including this weekend's Bassmaster Elite series, taking place at West Copeland's Boat Landing, takes a lot of work.

"This is our big stage and we've got about half of it set up," said Harbin. "We set up the fish catch station, that's what they're setting up under the tents, and the fish tanks to make sure we get these fish back into the water in good shape."


That's in addition to setting up all of the picnic tables, chairs and the fencing the entire crew of about 60 people will also be working to get done. Not to mention getting camera crews and satellites ready for La Crosse's big national debut.

"It's a pretty big production," said Harbin. "We want to showcase B.A.S.S, but also La Crosse, Wisconsin and the Mississippi River."

"I equate this to NASCAR meets the PGA Tour," said Dave Clements of the La Crosse Conventions and Visitor's Bureau. "We get national exposure from this show, which is the kind of exposure you can't buy. It's a big production, very big production."

Clements says this tournament gives the world a chance to see just about everything La Crosse has to offer.

"It certainly gives the rest of the country the understanding of what a great fishery we have here, and what the beauty of the area is, and what we offer for amenities and the whole package of western Wisconsin, eastern Minnesota," said Clements. "The whole region of what is available if you like the outdoors."

Clements said the tournament should reel in about $1-2 million in revenue for the city. With this much benefit to the tournament and the city of La Crosse on the line, crews will be working around the clock to get everything just right.

"They're all pretty much long days when you start before daylight and you set up until 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening, it's a pretty good day," said Harbin. "but we enjoy it."

The West Copeland Boat Landing will be closed to the public this Thursday through Sunday for the tournament. Anglers coming to our area for the tournament will also be able to enjoy some upgrades to the city's boat landings.

The improvements come from the $30,000 the city has collected so far in boat landing permits and fees that went into effect in March.

They include new bumpers, trash cans and lighting improvements. All of the money collected from the permits is only used for boat landing upkeep. It's a system the La Crosse Parks and Recreation supervisor, Jay Odegaard said has been working out pretty well.

"They're really working well," said Odegaard. "We've been able to make a lot of improvements to our landings already and we're really looking forward to making more improvements and making it as smooth as possible for our users."

Daily passes for the 2012 season will cost $3 for residents and $5 for non-residents. They're bought at the boat launch.

An annual pass is $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents.Those can be purchased at City Hall, the Southside Neighborhood Center or the Black River Beach Neighborhood Center.

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