Wild West Bass Trail will bring hundreds of sportfishing enthusiasts to Richland’s Columbia Point Marina the first weekend of summer.
Wild West is the largest bass tour on the West Coast, running tournaments for professionals, amateurs and college teams.
The Columbia River Pro-Am Open is its first in the Tri-Cities and will be held the weekend of June 20-23.
It is taking over from B.A.S.S., which canceled the Tri-City stop on the Elite Series Tournament last year, citing complaints about the cost to travel to the West Coast from the Midwest and East Coast.
Visit Tri-Cities, which is presenting the event, calculates it will have an impact of about $225,000 on the local economy through increased tourism.
Dominic Falcinelli, Wild West Bass Trail’s director of partner relations, stopped by the Tri-Cities this week to work on planning and to meet with prospective sponsors.
Wild West was pleased to take over the weekend B.A.S.S. had reserved for its high-profile event.
Organizers excited by Columbia River
Columbia Point Marina, with its generous boat ramp and access to hotels and restaurants, is a picture-perfect venue for a bass tournament, and the Columbia River is second to none, organizers said.
“It’s a great fishery,” Falcinelli said.
The Columbia River Open is limited to 175 boats. June 10 is the registration deadline to avoid late fees. June 17 is the hard deadline. Fees are $550 for pros and $275 for “co” or amateur participants. Membership in Wild West Bass Trail isn’t required.
Professionals are competing for $10,000 in payouts and amateurs for $5,000.
Organizers expect 80 percent of competitors will be local sportfishing enthusiasts.
Local pro will compete
Dave Kromm, a professional angler from the Tri-Cities, will be one.
Kromm divides his time between his jobs at Apollo Mechanical and Nixon Marine and traveling the country to participate in bass tournaments, 20 to 30 a year.
He’s thrilled to draw attention to his home river.
“I grew up fishing on the Columbia River,” he said. “It’s addicting.”
The Columbia River offers excellent habitat for the smallmouth bass that anglers pursue, and a ready diet of crawfish and northern pike minnow contribute to the healthy populations.
Competitors will keep up to five fish in live wells. After the daily 3 p.m. weigh in, the fish are released. Everyone fishes on Friday and Saturday. The Top 10 in each category — pro and amateur — compete on the final day.
The Columbia River event coincides with Cool Desert Nights, Hogs and Dogs and other summer kickoff events in Richland.
Wild West will set up kid-friendly activities at Columbia Point and is recruiting vendors to sell food and other items in the park.
The competition itself begins each day at safe light — the first moment around daybreak when visibility and river conditions are safe for boaters.
The competition will be live-streamed on the Wild West website.
A boost to the Tri-Cities economy
Visit Tri-Cities is the presenting sponsor, calling it a great opportunity to market the region to the fishing community.
Sportfishing supports $48 billion in retail sales and has a $115 billion impact on the U.S. economy, according to a 2015 economic impact study by the American Sportfishing Association and Southwick Associates.
The report broke down spending by congressional district.
Washington’s 4th Congressional District is home to nearly 117,000 anglers. Sportfishing accounted for $115.5 million in retail sales and supported nearly 1,600 jobs.
Watch for updates on the 2019 Wild West Bass Trail event on Facebook @Wildwestbasstrail.