Following record-setting single day attendance, Bassmaster Elite to return to Waddington in 2018
Saturday, July 29, 2017 - 8:49 am

Above, a large crowd gathers in Whittaker Park to watch the July 20 Bassmaster Elite weigh-in. North Country Now photo by Andy Gardner.

By ANDY GARDNER

WADDINGTON -- The Bassmaster Elite on July 22 set a single-day attendance record for any B.A.S.S. (Bass Angler Sportsmen’s Society) event, and it will return to the village in August 2018, according to Waddington’s mayor.

“It’s the first time they’ve done that (returned to a town the next year). They like the community. They like the people. They get huge crowds here,” Mayor Janet Otto-Cassada said. “My view, it was fantastic. It was wonderful to see B.A.S.S. come back.”

She said the Bassmaster organization calculated 32,000 people attended throughout the entire four days, July 20 to 23. In addition to that, she said Bassmaster officials told her they had 8 million online hits on their website throughout the four days.

She said the county treasurer’s office will calculate the economic impact based on sales tax and bed tax at the end of the quarter.

“You bring 32,000 people into a county in four days, that’s got to have some impact,” she said.

Otto-Cassada said she thinks local and Bassmaster officials found a lot of common ground.

“These B.A.S.S. guys are down-to-Earth, hometown people. They’re salt of the Earth, just like us here. They fit right in with us as we fit with them and they bring so much to the area for tourism, for economic development,” she said. “Tourism is and should be a big part of it … B.A.S.S. is helping us a great deal do that.”

A Bassmaster volunteer committee raised all of the money to bring the event to town.

“To do a Bassmaster, it’s anywhere between $150,000 and $200,000,” she said, adding that anything made back through vendor fees and sponsorships rolls into a fund to pay for next year’s event. She said some of the money came from a state grant through Sen. Patty Ritchie’s office.

She said although it’s not easy to get big-name entertainment acts with a volunteer fundraising committee, she hopes it can happen at a future event.

“It would be great to do that. And wouldn’t that be fantastic for up here?” Otto-Cassada said. “We would have to have someone with the money and the means.”

She said they tried to charge admission to a concert by a bigger name at the 2013 Bassmaster Elite, but it didn’t go over well.

She credits the volunteer committee with the 2017 Elite Series’ success.

“I would love to thank all, the board the 2017 board that sat week after week after week planning this event, the countless unsung hours they put into this, the hard work An aerial shot of the Party in the Park grounds taken on July. Officials said 32,000 people showed up over the four-day event, which will come back next year. North Country Now photo by Andy Gardner.during the four days,” Otto-Cassada said. “They’re the ones that put their heart and soul in this event. People have been congratulating me and they should be congratulating them.”

VanDan Wins

By noon July 23, Kevin VanDam was already working his way back to toward Whittaker Park, where the weigh-in would be held about three hours later.

He knew it was over — and so did most everyone else.

After leading the first three days, VanDam caught five bass that weighed 23 pounds, 12 ounces to punctuate a dominant victory in the Bassmaster Elite. His four-day total of 90-3 is one of the highest ever recorded by an Elite Series angler weighing in only smallmouth bass.

The closest angler to KVD was Mississippi pro Brock Mosley, who finished 8 pounds back with 82-3.

“I fished my very first B.A.S.S. tournament here on the St. Lawrence River in 1987,” said VanDam, who earned his B.A.S.S.-record 24th victory. “Someone told me today that this is my 300th tournament with B.A.S.S., and I had no idea. So, all of that makes this really special.”

VanDam earned $100,000 for first place and $1,500 more for landing the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the week — a monster 6-5 smallmouth that bit early Sunday morning. He also won the Livingston Lures Day 2 Leader Award of $500 for leading Friday’s second day of competition and the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash Award of $1,000 for being the highest-placing angler who is registered and eligible with a client-approved product on his boat.

The cash prizes pushed his career earnings with B.A.S.S. to more than $6.2 million.

“I’ve had a couple of chances to win already this year, and I kind of let those slip away,” VanDam said. “It is hard to win one of these blue trophies — and it’s something I never, ever take for granted. This one means as much as any tournament I’ve ever won.”

Regarded as one of the top smallmouth anglers in the history of the sport, VanDam put on an incredible show all four days of the event, rotating among a variety of lures.

Other Anglers Sound Off

Following the opening day of fishing on July 20, some of the pro anglers gave their catches mixed reviews.

Greg Hackney, a pro fisherman from Louisiana, said he had a decent day and caught “probably 30” large and smallmouth on various plastic creature bait.

"It was good … probably going to catch an a little better tomorrow,” he said.

He competed the last time Bassmasters was in Waddington in 2015 and said the high water levels weren’t an issue.

“Realistically, it's about the same. I finished third last tine. I’m catching same thing I did then, everybody else is catching more,” Hackney said.

“It’s a good fishery but it’s terrible for me,” said pro fisherman Keith Poche of Alabama.

Bradley Roy of Kentucky said he tried his luck far upstream.

“I thought I did decent, middle of the pack,” he said.

Assemblywoman Praises Event

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, released a statement after the event saying the Bassmaster Elite Series was “once again showcase one of the greatest fisheries in the world.”

"This is the third time in five years Waddington has hosted the event that attracts over 100 professional anglers and thousands of visitors to the community for the four-day event," she said in a prepared statement. "It's no secret that we have to diversify our North Country economy, and our unique geographic location on the shores of the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River provides us with opportunities few other communities in North America can match," she said.

She praised Waddington Mayor Janet Otto-Cassada and the volunteers that work behind the scenes to make the event a positive experience for fishermen and visitors alike.

"Janet and her committee deserve tremendous credit for their work. It is not an accident that the Bassmaster Elite Series keeps putting Waddington on their tournament schedule. It's a reflection of the hospitality shown the professional fishermen when they are in the region and the community support for the event," Jenne said in the release.