Tavares lures Bassmasters for fishing tournaments

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TAVARES, Fla.,None - Leaders of the Lake County city that borrowed millions of dollars to build a seaplane base and marina said they have proof it's paying off.

The city of Tavares is hosting a national fishing tournament this week, and city leaders said its new marina helped land it.

Tavares taxpayers have sunk more than $8 million into the new marina and seaplane base. While some critics have called it an enormous waste of money, city leaders say landing a string of national fishing tournaments is proof of success.

When it comes to rating a fishing tournament, they don't come bigger than Bassmaster.

"There's only nine of these events we hold every year," said Mike Mulone, B.A.S.S. event director. "Three in the southern division, and there's quite a few lakes and great destinations around the Southeast to host this."

And it was the city of Tavares that landed it.

"I can tell you, central Lake County has been hopping the last week," said Lake County Economic Development Director.
Bill Neron.

The county is hopping with 400 fishermen from all over the country, and the city's improvements along Lake Dora helped lure them there.

Since 2008, the city has hosted 10 national fishing tournaments. Prior to 2008, it hosted none. This contest alone will have a local impact of more than $500,000.

"Direct and indirect fiscal impact would be in the millions of dollars," Neron said.

Fishermen and fans have packed restaurants for the entire week -- same story with the hotels. There's even a hotel under construction across from the marina, racing to open before the next big event. And the Bassmasters have taken notice.

"The city already has a fantastic natural resource in the Harris chain of lakes. But bringing all the development to Wooton Park -- that made it easy for us to make the decision," Neron said.

City leaders said they are surveying all 400 anglers in the tournament to learn where they stayed, where they ate and how much money they spent.