Field narrows to 51 as Bassmaster Elite Series enters final 2 days

Elite Series angler Kelly Jordon displays two of the fish that helped catapult him to second place in the standings during the 2016 Elite Series tournament in Georgetown.

After hosting one of the most successful events in B.A.S.S. history in 2016, Georgetown will welcome the Bassmaster Elite Series back to Winyah Bay next year.

B.A.S.S. announced Tuesday that the Elite Series will return to Winyah Bay on April 11-14, 2019, and will be the fourth stop on the Elite Series tour. The 2016 event drew more than 27,000 people, one of the largest crowds in Elite Series history according to the B.A.S.S. officials.

“We are hoping maybe this year we can attract a bigger crowd. We would like to break our record from 2016,” Jackie Broach-Akers, Georgetown County's public information officer, said.

Britt Myers, a Lake Wylie, South Carolina native, took home the Elite Series title in 2016 with a four-day total of 56 pounds and 3 ounces. Some of the most iconic anglers in bass fishing like Kevin VanDam, Gerald Swindle, Mike Iaconelli and Jordan Lee will be among the anglers competing for $100,000 in 2019.

"The wonderful thing about this tournament is that kids who may be interested in fishing and parents who are fans get to see their fishing heroes in action," Broach-Akers said. 

Mike Mulone, director of event and tourism partnerships at B.A.S.S., said it was an easy decision to come back to Georgetown.

“The community support was amazing with the festival we had and all the support we got from Georgetown County,” Mulone said. “The fishing was compelling and made for a great storyline that our fans around the country really enjoyed watching. With all the success we had at that event it was an easy decision to want to go back and we are glad that we are able to partner with Georgetown County to come back again.”

Georgetown County has been hosting B.A.S.S. events since 2015, including two B.A.S.S. Nation events and the B.A.S.S. College Series.  

“They are always well attended,” Broach-Akers said. “The community is great to the anglers. They treat them like superstars whether they are the professional anglers in the Elite Series or they are the students competing in the college series. What that leads to is all the anglers want to come back and Bassmaster likes to work with us.”

Broach-Akers says planning for the tournament will begin immediately. Promotional items have already been ordered for the anglers and staff and parking plans will take form soon. The city will also host a festival for the Elite Series anglers and community members.

In 2016, Georgetown County estimated Elite Series anglers spent just under $400,000 and had an economic impact of over $661,000. Broach-Akers said in an email that this does not include festival crowds, pre-fishing trips or the value of television coverage.

In June, more than 300 anglers took on Winyah Bay when Georgetown hosted the B.A.S.S. Nation Regional, a tournament series that gives anglers the chance to fish in the Bassmaster Classic.

According to the Georgetown County Newsletter, the B.A.S.S. Nation anglers spent an estimated $1.5 million in the community and had an overall economic impact of $2.6 million.

ESPN televises the Elite Series events, putting Georgetown in the national spotlight. Broach-Akers said ESPN takes the Elite Series trophy to different locations around Georgetown, which showcases more than just the fishery.

“If they watch, they will see more of what we have to offer,” she said. “More of our attractions and not only do they want to come fish here, hopefully they want to come vacation here and their families want to come as well.”  

Winyah Bay presents unique challenges to the Elite Series professionals, according to Mulone.

“Because it’s a tidal system and because it is brackish water, it creates some wrinkles which brings out the best of the best,” Mulone said. “We do need to go to different types of bodies of water to put the best anglers on them.”

In 2016, veteran angler Davy Hite got stuck in the mud when the tide receded in the afternoon, forcing him to miss weigh-in.

Mulone believes that even though many of the anglers fished Winyah Bay in 2016, they will have to come up with a new strategy for this tournament.

“Even if we have 75 percent of the guys who had been here before, that may not mean they will be able to fish the same spot they did back in 2016,” Mulone said. “I think because it isn’t a traditional body of water- they aren’t going to fish the same ledge on a lake that always produces or a big rock piles that’s always going to be there-I think that makes it even more interesting.”