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Bass derby reels in million-dollar catch

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What the stampede is to Calgary, the bass tournament is to Fort Frances.

That’s how Mayor Glenn Witherspoon summed up the annual three-day event in July after the results of an economic impact study, done by the Rainy River Future Development Corp., were released at Monday night’s council meeting.

It showed that about $1.4 million was spent in the community as a result of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship—and it had a direct impact on the town of some $790,000.

Geoff Gillon, community development officer with the RRFDC, felt the most important information gathered was the economic impact of the pre-fishing. The 56 angler surveys that were returned showed most of the teams spent four to eight days pre-fishing—and each spent $1,050 doing it.

And with the FFCBC expecting a full field of 125 teams this year (along with a waiting list of five more), the days leading up to the tournament could mean big dollars locally.

“The average citizen only sees the impact of the three-day tournament,” Gillon noted, adding he was pleased with the results from the pre-fishing.

"The pre-fishing by and large has the most impact on our community. That’s the real, true economic impact of the bass tournament.

“They’re not here to do anything during the tournament but fish.”

He added the 54 percent return was good from a survey point of view. And while 50 percent of the surveys returned were from Northwestern Ontario anglers, Gillon stressed much of the dollars spent came from those travelling some distance.

“At least 40 percent of the teams that came brought more than just the team,” he noted.

But one area of the survey that was lacking, and which Gillon is hoping to improve on this year, is spectator spending.

“The biggest disappointment from my point of view was that we focused on the anglers and we didn’t really focus on the spectators,” he said.

Only 58 spectator surveys were returned. And with no attendance taken during the event, it was impossible to accurately state what percent of the people there were sampled.

Conservative estimates of 1,800 people attending were used. But that means only six percent of the spectators were surveyed.

Of those, about 50 percent were from out of town. Daytime spectators averaged $175 in spending a day, including meals, refreshments, fuel, and accommodations

Meanwhile, bass committee chairman John McTaggart said the community also was gaining international recognition as a direct result of the tournament.

“We’re building an event that truly is recognized internationally," he enthused. "We’re really, really excited about the prospects and the future of the tournament.”

McTaggart was particularly pleased with the widespread media attention the tournament here as gotten, not to mention Al Lindner’s view in a recent edition of “In-Fisherman” magazine that Rainy Lake sported the best bass fishery in North America.

In related news, while no launch fees will be charged for the anglers during the three-day event, council voted Monday to absorb the pre-fishing launch fees for derby participants.

That bill, estimated to be around $1,500, will come out of economic development budget and will be paid to the Sorting Gap Marina operator.

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