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Havre de Grace fails to approve Bass Masters Elite fishing tournament in city this summer

Participants in the Bass Masters Elite fishing tournament scheduled in Harford County this summer won’t be launching their boats from the Havre de Grace City Yacht Basin.

After previously delaying a vote on the application by Visit Harford! — the tourism agency for Harford County — when it came time to consider the application at Tuesday night’s Havre de Grace City Council meeting, no one on the council made a move to approve it.

“With no motion to adopt, the event is not approved,” Havre de Grace Mayor Bill Martin said.

Though disappointed, the executive director of Visit Harford! said Wednesday they will look for another site in Harford to launch from.

“We’re disappointed, of course, because Havre de Grace was our first choice of a location,” Greg Pizzuto said. “We will finalize an alternative site and move forward with a reconstructed committee to support a successful fishing event for the competitors and a successful community event for the county.”

There are some options, he said, and Visit Harford! will work wit hte county administration to determine which site will be best for the launch and return of the competing anglers.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure Bass Masters comes here to Harford County,” Pizzuto said. “They have other locations around the country that would be more than happy to step in and take over the event, but it’s such a positive event we don’t want that to happen. We think we’ll be OK.”

During the tournament, the highest level of professional bass fishing, according to the website, www.bassmaster.com/elite, anglers will fish off the shores of Havre de Grace for five bass per day.

Visit Harford! had sought permission to use the boat ramp at the city yacht basin for participants to launch and return throughout the four-day tournament.

After catching their fish, they would bring in their catches and take them to Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, where they would be weighed. The fishermen with the highest combined weights of the five fish move on.

About 100 anglers are expected to open the tournament July 26 and 27. They will be whittled down to the best 50 on July 28 and then the top 12 will compete on Sunday, July 29.

The tournament will be aired on ESPN2 and will feature live streams at the weigh-ins.

Havre de Grace City Council President David Glenn said he had several concerns about the city hosting the tournament, two of which he considered show-stoppers — the weigh-in being in Aberdeen and the impact on slip owners in Havre de Grace.

“There were too many unanswered questions,” Glenn said during the portion of the meeting when council members offer comments. “And while some people might say there’s an economic benefit to the city, I didn’t see a tangible benefit, most of them are intangible.”

Boaters pay significant fees for their slips in the yacht basin, he said.

“They would basically be denied access to the yacht basin for the better part of the week,” Glenn said. “Given the size of the tournament and logistics to run such an event, I’m not sure there’s a viable solution to minimize the impact on slip owners.”

As for the weigh-in, he was discouraged to see it would be held at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, where most of the media attention would be focused.

He was not part of the discussions with Visit Harford! about where the weigh-ins would be, but on Tuesday he offered Havre de Grace venues such as the area around Concord Point Lighthouse and the vacant property on Water Street (which both have water backdrops), the Havre de Grace Community Center with its large parking lot and Bill Bateman’s on Route 40.

It was clear “we weren’t going to see much economic impact for this event, which personally for me would be an economic opportunity lost, Glenn said.

He said he supports any event “that will bring positive visibility to Havre de Grace,” provided the businesses, citizens and customers aren’t negatively affected.

Steve Lay, a member of the Havre de Grace Marina Commission and a longtime waterman in Havre de Grace, “who relies on access to the marina for my livelihood,” praised the council for not taking action on the Bass Masters Elite tournament application.

“There was no provision for the 240 slip holders access for parking,” he said during the public comment portion of the meeting before the council failed to act on the application. “The customers of our city need to be our number one priority.”

“Based on a total disregard for the basic needs of the marina,” the commission unanimously recommended the council not approve the fishing tournament.

If the tournament is not approved in Havre de Grace, he said, it’s not a major setback, since Bass Masters has a list of sites willing to host the anglers.

Pizzuto said he has been in touch with Bass Masters and the county government administration since Tuesday night’s decision.

He doesn’t see the tournament being in jeopardy of leaving Harford.

“[Bass Masters] obviously want to come here because they see this as a very rich location as far as the [Susquehanna] river and Chesapeake Bay and being in the mid-Atlantic,” Pizzuto said.

The county is also prepared to help.

“I spoke the administration and they said that whatever they can do to support this, they’ll help,” he said.

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