Some of the biggest names in fishing took to the waters in Wagoner County Wednesday. The Tour Championship Bass Tournament is being held this week on Fort Gibson Lake. As the News on Six learned, along with the big names comes big money into the area.
At the crack of dawn, when the fog's still thick, 100 fishermen start their day on the water. 50 amateurs from across the United States are teamed up with the top 50 fishing professionals. "It's pretty exciting here," said angler Rick Elligarden. "Getting ready to go out fishing this morning against some of the best fishermen in the world couldn't have been a better dream come true."
The anglers cast out hoping to reel in the prizewinner. The Wal-Mart F-L-W Tour Championship is offering one of the largest cash prizes in fishing history. $250,000 for first place. "It's neat to be a part of it, to have an opportunity to win as much money as first place is going to pay," said fisherman Peter Thlideros. "It makes for an exciting tournament."
As anglers find their hot spot on the lake, Wagoner businesses hope the fishermen find they're way through their doors. The Steakout Grill restaurant has been extremely busy since the anglers started into town. "We're just hoping for a big turnout," said manger Kathy Moore. "Everybody has cooperated. All the businesses have cooperated, extending hours, putting up welcome signs and sprucing up their places."
City officials say they're lucky to pull in a tournament of such stature. They say fishermen started coming to town in July. It was also the city's highest sales tax revenue ever for that month. The officials say they hope all the publicity will lure people in or bring them back. "Out of 100 anglers, they say that at least 40 of those will come back into this community and to the lake to fish within a year," said chamber president Cyrina Lang. "Some will even move here or buy property here." While Lang's working to pull in more anglers, the fishermen are working to pull in the big one. The tournament lasts through Saturday.