For immediate release - Jan. 5, 2005
TAVARES — Leesburg is kicking off the New Year similar to the past two years, but it will be hard to find anybody complaining about the routine.
Officials from the City of Leesburg and Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce are busy making important preparations as it will host a CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail event for the third straight year . About 300 professional and amateur bass anglers will compete o n the Harris Chain of Lakes from Feb. 3-6 a t the second stop in the six-event 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour.
“They love coming here because the community really supports the event,” said Bill Deese, Leesburg chamber executive director, who is charged with event coordinating duties. “The stadium is filled to capacity during the weekend weigh-ins.”
The four-day event from Thursday, Feb. 3, to Sunday, Feb. 6, is free to the public and is held at Venetian Gardens, located at 109 E. Dixie Ave., Leesburg. Along with the excitement of the tourn ament , spectators are treated to a fishing exposition during the weekend that features vendors and sponsors with interactive booths, boats, motors and all the latest fishing technology. The fishing expositions are held at Venetian Gardens Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.
For spectators, the most exciting parts of the bass tournament come at the end of each day with the “weigh-in.” Pat Thomas Stadium, located east of Venetian Gardens at 240 Ball Park Road, is utilized for the climatic event on Saturday and Sunday as crowds fill the venue to watch anglers display their catches. The weigh-ins are held at 3:15 p.m. on Thursday and Friday at Venetian Gardens and at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at Pat Thomas Stadium.
“It’s a great event — the weigh-ins are really exciting,” Deese said. “I never realized until I started working with BASS to put on this bass tournament how exciting they can be. They drive the boats with the fishermen in them up to the stage and everybody gets a great view of the weigh-ins.”
With professional anglers competing for a total purse of nearly $500,000, the competition is heavily televised by sports cable network ESPN. One week after the Leesburg event, ESPN2 broadcasts the tournament on Saturday, Feb. 12, at 10 a.m. and then again several more times during the year.
Along with the positive national exposure for Lake County, the economic impact of the Bassmaster tournament is phenomenal. According to BASS statistics, the fishing tournament brings in nearly $1 million to local hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers.
“Just from the BASS organization, ESPN and all their production staff, that is 500 people. And then there are the thousands of spectators too,” Deese said.
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