At its core, the essence of fishing is simple: Get your rod and reel, hook on the bait of choice, trek to a body of water and find relaxation within the aquatic pastime. If you’re fortunate enough, you’ll get a bite or two, or maybe even catch one that’s worth smiling about.
But anglers ranging from kids with worms and bobbers to professionals with mapped-out strategies and high-dollar equipment are seemingly drawn back to the sport because of its soothing nature.
“Fishing, it’s memories you have forever,” Wesley Strader, a Bassmaster Elite Series Angler, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I always tell kids, if you’re fishing, you won’t get in trouble. … You don’t have to be the biggest, strongest, fastest like every other sport. Fishing doesn’t discriminate. It’s you and your rod and you’re having a good time.”
From July 26-29, more memories are bound to materialize as the Bassmaster Elite Series visits Edgewood’s Flying Point Park in Harford County for the Huk Bassmaster Elite at Upper Chesapeake Bay presented by Mossy Oak. The four-day tournament, starting on Thursday, July 26, at 6 a.m. sharp and ending Sunday, July 29, at the 3:30 p.m. weigh-in, will attract 108 professional anglers competing for a $100,000 top prize in the backyard of every day, weekend fishermen.
“It’s huge for the area,” said Ben Cox, recreation specialist for Harford County Parks and Recreation. “Everybody is very excited. Locals, most of them who live on the water, are anglers themselves, and everybody watches Bassmasters. Everybody is excited about this. There’s a lot of anticipation.”
It’s the Chesapeake Bay’s first Elite Series tournament since the tour visited Cecil County in 2015.
Bidding for tournaments start a year in advance and is a drawn-out process determined by the Bassmaster committee. Visit Harford!, a non-profit, quasi-public tourism marketing organization that launched in 2015, working in collaboration from Maryland Department of Natural Resources, submitted a bid last spring and received confirmation last June the Elite Series would be making their way to the area at some point in 2018.
Gregory Pizzuto, the executive director of Visit Harford!, estimates the tournament will be a $3 million to $4 million boost in the local economy.
“The economic impact is huge for what they’ll return, between hotel rooms and food and shopping,” Pizzuto said. “We’re also expecting people from all over the Mid-Atlantic and across the country to come watch the Bassmasters in Harford County. We’ve been planning for a year now.”
For those unfamiliar with the Bassmaster Elite Series, the format is quite straightforward. Anglers are allowed to catch five largemouth bass per day. The bass are later weighed and scaled at designated weigh-ins in the evening.
All boats are equipped with aerated, cool live wells so fish go unharmed and can be released by DNR and B.A.S.S. once each weigh-in concludes.
“They’re very much about conservation,” Pizzuto said. “They do not kill fish. They don’t want to kill fish. Everything they catch they put back in the water.”
The field will be chopped from 108 to 50 after Friday, July 27, and then whittled down to 12 after Saturday for the final round on Sunday. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the start of the tournament, anglers competing in the event are welcome to practice and get accustomed to the 17-acre site.
Weigh-ins on Thursday and Friday will take place at 3 p.m. at Flying Point Park. On Saturday and Sunday, weigh-ins will be at 3:30 p.m. at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.
If fans want to witness the 6 a.m. launch and 3 p.m. weigh-ins on Thursday and Friday, spectators will need to park at Edgewood High School and get shuttled to Flying Point Park. All shuttles are handicapped accessible.
For those wanting to watch the weekend weigh-in can drive straight to Ripken Stadium, where a fan-friendly festival starts at noon. Admittance is free of charge.
“We’re going to have food trucks, kids activities, giveaways. Bassmaster will also have a fishing booth with lures and rods,” Pizzuto said. “I encourage [fans] to come early, get their parking. If they want to bring a chair to set-up and watch the weigh-ins — a lot of people do that at these Bassmaster events. They bring some type of folding chair and find their spot where they want to sit. And they set up and wait for the weigh-ins to occur. It's going to be a great, fun event for the whole family. The community has really jumped on board with this thing."