By CRAIG FREILICH
Crowds for the weigh-ins Saturday and Sunday at the Bassmaster Elite tournament at Waddington set all-time records, according to Bassmaster.com and the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.
Meanwhile the 11th annual International Junior Carp Fishing Tournament on the St. Lawrence River this weekend has been sold out for a while.
The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) Elite Series tournaments are held at several locations each summer, drawing the best bass anglers in the country and from around the world, so to get them to stage an event in St. Lawrence County was a big boost for the county and the chamber’s FISHCAP drive, promoting St. Lawrence County as “the Fishing Capital of the World.”
“We heard we might get a good crowd, but St. Lawrence County is also sparsely populated,” said county chamber executive director Pat McKeown.
But she is expecting to hear from Bassmaster that their official counts confirm what their representatives were saying over the weekend.
“It broke every record they had,” McKeown said.
“We’re pleased as punch. They said they had never seen anything like it. They were stunned.”
McKeown herself said that as she stood at the weigh-in station at Whittaker Park, she turned around and “as far back as I could see there were people.
“It was a great four days, and there was no trouble,” she said. She praised the presence of representatives of many police and first-responder agencies, and singled out St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells for “a great job.”
Waddington Mayor Janet Otto-Cassada and Trustee Bill Dashnaw were “indispensible, nobody better” at their role in helping to organize the top bass-fishing series tournament, the first on the St. Lawrence, and the well attended festival of other events, including 120 assorted vendors in Waddington.
“We are tickled pink. We would do it all again tomorrow,” McKeown said.
“I’m happy the governor caught a fish and his daughter caught two,” McKeown said of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s visit to kick off the tournament. But she is sure “the governor misspoke about the Finger Lakes,” she said with a wry tone in her voice, referring to Cuomo’s announcement that the Bassmaster Elite series will be back with an event in New York State next year, but not on the St. Lawrence. “We have the best fishing here.”
Meanwhile McKeown said this weekend’s International Junior Carp Fishing Tournament for kids 11 to 18, also based in Waddington, is sold out.
“There were 125 slots and they’re filled,” by young people coming from Michigan, Ohio, Canada, and all over New York State. She said they have to limit the number so all competitors have a spot where they can fish comfortably from shore.