LEESBURG — The natural beauty of Central Florida’s Lake County is about to get filled with college bass anglers when the Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg hosts two 2020 championship tournaments this fall.
Officials at B.A.S.S., the worldwide authority on bass fishing, announced today that that college bass anglers should mark their calendars for the upcoming Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops. The championship will be held Oct. 29-31, and those securing a spot in the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic will be on the line at the Bassmaster Team Championship and Classic Fish-Off on Dec. 9-12.
The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship is expected to attract up to 130 teams of anglers representing colleges and universities around the country.
What’s the Local Reaction to The News?
Not surprisingly, Lake County officials were thrilled to land these two tournaments. Tourism, especially outdoors and recreational activities, remain a big part of the Lake County economy.
Jason Siegel, CEO & President of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission, said it was exciting to know these events were coming to Lake County, at a time when Central Florida’s unemployment rate has skyrocketed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our community is appreciative of the opportunity to host the College Championship for the first time and welcome back the Team Championship for the second time to the Harris Chain of Lakes,” Siegel said. The Team Championship came to the region in 2018. Siegel said he expects the participants to enjoy what Lake County has to offer.
“We look forward to providing a safe and enjoyable atmosphere and are confident that the anglers and their families will have a wonderful experience in Lake County this fall,” he said.
The scenic area in the Oklawaha River basin just north of Orlando includes seven interconnected lakes: Big Harris, Little Harris, Eustis, Dora, Beauclair, Carlton and Griffin. Known for their picturesque beauty that includes eelgrass and lilypads, it’s the ideal location for an outdoor sporting event like this one, said Lake County Commissioner Tim Sullivan.
“Lake County is the premier destination for visitors to experience ‘Real Florida. Real Close.’ and is home to the best bass fishing lakes in the southeastern United States,” he said.
Harris Chain of Lakes are part of the Florida Ocklawaha Basin which drains Central Florida to the north through the St Johns River, and these lakes have long been very popular with fishermen and boaters. Local bass fishing tournaments have been held on a weekly basis here, and the lakes are also known for the stunning homes along the shore, high on a hill with views of the water below. That natural beauty and the opportunity for bountiful bass fishing in Leesburg is a key reason why B.A.S.S. wanted to come back here for their tournaments.
Brandon Matulka, executive director of the Lake County Agency for Economic Prosperity, noted that Lake County offers those participating in the tournament a lot of activities off the lake as well.
“We strive to be a top destination for these events and welcome all the anglers, their families, tournament staff and sponsors to stay and enjoy everything our great community has to offer,” Matulka said.
What To Expect from the Tournaments
College Series Senior Manager Hank Weldon said he was excited to be working with Lake County officials to “offer young anglers an incredible championship tournament experience,” particularly since only one college event was held this year before the rest got postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am thrilled that we were able to get the regular season and championship rescheduled so that the majority of teams who registered for these tournaments can compete for a national title and chance to fish the Classic,” Weldon said.
The College Championship tournament will crown the national championship team as well as 2020 Bassmaster College Series Team of the Year, and The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship and Bassmaster Team Championship are being hosted by GO Sports, Visit Lake and the City of Leesburg.
The team portion of the Bassmaster Team Championship will be held Dec. 9-10 and feature anglers from 30 states and several foreign countries, with the winning duo leading the charge into the Classic Fish-Off on Dec. 11-12.
B.A.S.S. is headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., as a 515,000-member organization. The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, and Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.