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Major fishing championship coming to Lake Wateree

Posted: January 16, 2014 5:07 p.m.
Updated: January 17, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Hundreds of anglers will descend on Camden and Lake Wateree in early October for a major catfish tournament championship. The Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail Eastern Championship could provide a more than $500,000 economic impact to Camden and the surrounding community, according to Camden Economic Development Director Wade Luther. Luther announced the tournament’s decision to bring the championship event to Lake Wateree at Camden City Council’s work session Tuesday afternoon.

He said the championship will take place the weekend of Oct. 2-4.

“That is also the same weekend as the Blues Festival, so we’ll have a lot of activity going on then,” Luther said. “Hotels should be booked solid and there’ll be a lot of entertainment going on.”

He estimated some 200 fishermen and women will be on the approximately 80 teams that should participate in the championship.

Luther said the city of Camden will sponsor the championship locally for $17,500 with $1,000 of that money already deposited. He said the city’s sponsorship will pay for an advertisement promoting the city of Camden on 100,000 tournament brochures, 50,000 tri-fold brochures and more than 12,000 direct mail and other pieces. The ad includes Camden’s “Classically Carolina” logo. Luther included a color copy of the ad, titled “Classically Alluring,” in council’s work session packet. Part of the ad copy reads “When your time on the water is done, come get hooked on Camden and you’ll discover why we say this place is Classically Carolina.”

The city would also be mentioned at press conferences and in press releases about the championship, Luther said. Camden would also gain exposure through the tournament’s cable television coverage on the Outdoor Channel.

According to Luther, the King Kat tournament has become the country’s largest catfish tournament in just two years, using a pair of championship events. Camden and Lake Wateree will be the site of the Eastern Championship. The Quad Cities area in Iowa where the Rock and Mississippi rivers come together will host the Western Championship in mid-September. Luther said participants who don’t win the Western Championship are allowed to compete in the Eastern Championship in an attempt to win there.

Also, two of the Eastern Championships’ qualifying events are taking place in South Carolina, in Manning and Georgetown. Luther said King Kat also has youth fishing rodeos and other programs to encourage young people to become anglers. He said the national sponsor, Cabela’s, is nationally recognized for providing outdoor gear.

“I think the association with that particular brand is very positive,” Luther said.

Luther said tournament organizers believe as much as 95 percent of participants will come from outside the Camden area. Seventy-six percent should come from completely outside South Carolina, he said. In addition to participants, family members and other supporters come along, drawing between 250 to 300 -- and sometimes more than 600 -- spectators to watch weigh-ins.

Luther said the 80 teams are expected to spend an estimated $162.75 per day. Those teams visit fishing sites ahead of the tournament, often multiple times. The tournament itself would count as a single four-day trip for those 80 teams. Luther said the total economic impact from the pre-event trips and the tournament itself could be as much as $514,000.

“In the contract negotiations with King Kat Tournament, we did get them to agree to only using city of Camden hotels for the tournament,” Luther said.

A visit to the tournament’s Web site specifically lists the Colony Inn & Breakfast Café as the “host hotel.” Luther said tournament organizers are also aware of the Holiday Inn Express and the Comfort Inn & Suites on U.S. 521 near I-20.

“We also made arrangements, if they choose to use food vendors or anything of that sort, that they have to be city of Camden business license holders,” Luther said. “Hopefully, we won’t have any problem keeping them to that.”

In addition to the King Kat tournament, Luther said other fishing tournament activity will be coming to the region. He mentioned a bass tournament coming to Lake Murray.

“As part of that tournament, the Bass Federation is holding its junior championships, which includes high school age students, and that is being held at Lake Wateree,” Luther said.

He said the federation requested sponsorship from the city of Camden, but were beat out by Columbia which promised access to hospitality tax funds. While the junior championship will still take place on Lake Wateree, participants, supporters and spectators will stay in Columbia, Luther said.

“So, we’ll see some residual impacts from that,” he said. “In addition, the Bass Federation … there is a one-day (qualifying) tournament that will be held at Lake Wateree which we plan on providing sponsorship for, and that occurs on June 14.”

That sponsorship will cost the city $2,000, Luther said. He said the city and Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce often receive inquiries about holding tournaments on the lake. He said the city and chamber are trying to work together to bring fishing tournaments and other nature-based events to Camden and Kershaw County.

Council members all appeared happy with the news, but Councilwoman Laurie Parks and Councilman Willard Polk both expressed concern that Kershaw County was not co-sponsoring the King Kat championship. Luther said tournament organizers only approached the county about using public boat ramps.

City Manager Mel Pearson said the county is a co-sponsor, if indirectly, by helping to fund the city’s tourism office. Pearson said some of the county’s money could be used to help fund tourism events. He also said that the “lion’s share” of the city’s sponsorship would come out of the 2015 fiscal year budget. He also said the city’s Local Revenue Fund, which includes hospitality tax (HTAX) revenues, currently stands at around $400,000. Polk suggested a line item be developed within the HTAX fund for such events.

Councilman Walter Long said he understood Parks’ and Polk’s concerns, but felt the city would benefit more from the tournament than the county would.

Mayor Tony Scully expressed a desire to market the Blues Festival to championship participants and spectators.

“There’s definitely opportunities to cross-pollinate,” Luther agreed. “You’ll see in some of the Arnett Muldrow recommendations … a clustering affect. The more activity you can generate, the more feet on the ground that you have around town, definitely creates that economic impact.”

Polk asked what attracted King Kat to Lake Wateree.

“They love any opportunity to come and fish in South Carolina and Lake Wateree, for them, is new territory. Anglers love to explore new water,” Luther said in response.

“I think the fact, in itself, that they’ve never fished Lake Wateree was the attraction,” Pearson added.


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