LAKE MURRAY, SC (WIS) - When the FLW Forrest Wood Cup returns to Lake Murray for the third time in nine years, it's expected to bring millions into the area economy.
53 of the world's best anglers will come to Lake Murray August 11-13 to compete in Fishing League Worldwide's premier event, the Forrest Wood Cup. 2017 is the third time the world championship of bass fishing has been held at Lake Murray.
"They started out in 2008 and came here and the results were a $46 million economic impact," said Miriam Atra with Capital City/Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Bureau. "They returned again in 2014 with a $26 million economic impact."
During the tournament, FLW events are held at nine venues throughout the Lake Murray and Columbia area. Although the fishing occurs on the lake, anglers take their catches to Colonial Life Arena for weigh-in and stage presentations. During the weekend, an expo is held at the Columbia Convention Center.
"The entire community comes out to support the Forrest Wood Cup," Atra said. "This event occupies nine different venues, so it really does touch the community in so many ways."
And that community has a local competitor to support. Anthony Gagliardi won the $500,000 purse in 2014 and currently he ranks among the top ten FLW anglers.
"It's a big lake, the fishermen like it," Gagliardi said. "But not only that, it's just, the crowds we attract in downtown Columbia when we have the weigh-ins, I mean, that's the biggest thing . . . the fan participation here was outstanding . . . back in 2014, it was the best weigh-in we ever had. The crowd support was awesome."
"What an exciting time for our lake to have one of our local residents win the Forrest Wood Cup," said Atra.
FLW says there are three major reasons why it chose to return to Lake Murray: The fishery, the facilities and the community.
"Lake Murray is a world-class bass fishery," said Joseph Opager with FLW. "There is an extremely large population of fish in the lake and we've seen it in past Forrest Wood Cups. Fishing in August is tough, all over the country. In the 20 previous Forrest Wood Cups, only four times has an angler managed to bring a five-bass limit to the scale surpassing 20 pounds. Two of those four times have come on Lake Murray, once in 2008 and once in 2014."
"Lake Murray and Columbia have all of the facilities that we need to host an event of this size and they are absolutely top-notch," Opager continued. "From the efficient launch/marina facilities at Dreher Island State Park, to our Expo site at the Columbia Convention Center to the weigh-in site at Colonial Life Arena, the area has everything that we need to make it a very easy decision to keep coming back."
"Every time we've been to Columbia, the fans keep coming out in droves," Opager said. "Thousands of fans came to the Expo and jam packed the Colonial Life Arena in 2014 to cheer on hometown favorite Anthony Gagliardi. It was one of our most well-attended Cups of all time. Our anglers are treated like celebrities while they are in town – they stop for gas at a local gas station and often times spend an extra 10 minutes taking pictures and signing autographs. South Carolina loves their bass fishing and with a fishery like Lake Murray I can understand why."
This year's top prize is $300,000.
The event includes something for everyone of all ages, even for people who may not be interested in the outdoors or fishing. On August, 13, country star Easton Corbin will perform a free concert at the weigh-in stage at Colonial Life Arena.
"If you're not a fishing person, come out anyway," said Jayne Baker with Capital City Lake Murray Country.