Hosting a professional bass fishing tournament in rural Arizona takes months of meticulous planning and organizing — just ask any member of the FLW EverStart Payson Volunteer Committee.
During the past year, the group has been meeting almost monthly laying the foundation for what committee volunteers are predicting will be a highly successful EverStart Western Division Bass tournament Feb. 21 to 23 on Roosevelt Lake.
If hosting a pro tournament wasn’t enough of a challenge, the group has also been charged with the responsibility of scheduling a FLW College Western Division tournament on Feb. 23 at Rosie.
During the Payson committee’s most recent meeting, Jan. 8, volunteers huddled with Mazatzal Hotel and Casino officials who will assist in hosting the 300 pro anglers expected to participate in the tournament.
Jim Goughnour, an original committee member and a man who helped bring FLW to Payson and Roosevelt Lake, said the meeting was to “provide a background of how fishing tournaments are planned.”
Goughnour calls the meeting “very positive.”
For the upcoming tournament, the hotel will serve as event headquarters and the all-important pre-tournament meeting in which partner pairings and rules and regulations are announced will be held there.
In addition to committee members meeting with Mazatzal officials, the planning group has been coordinating with the Coast Guard Auxiliary to perform the mandatory boat inspections and at the pre-tournament meeting have an officer present to discuss the “keep out” areas at Roosevelt.
Also for the meeting, the committee has asked state Game and Fish officers and Tonto National Forest representatives to be present to review their rules and regulations on the lake and at nearby campgrounds.
Committee member Dennis Pirch and Goughnour have been charged with finding law enforcement officers to escort the anglers on the last day of the tournament from Roosevelt to Payson Walmart where the final weigh-in will be held.
Pirch and Goughnour might want to include some contingency plans because the last time an FLW tournament was held at Roosevelt Lake, Feb. 19, 2011, the weigh-in could not be held in Payson due to a snowstorm that blanketed the Rim Country.
At the last minute, Payson committee members moved the weigh-in to Cholla Ramp where it drew about 300 spectators.
In planning the upcoming tournament, committee members will in the coming weeks be making appearances on local radio shows and huddling with Walmart employees to plan the final day activities.
Also the committee is considering inviting 12 to 15 manufacturers of fishing equipment, tackle and baits to host vendor booths at the pre-tournament opening meeting.
Finally, committee members will ask SRP and APS to assist with banners and housing for out-of-town tournament anglers.
While planning the tournament is always a huge undertaking, there are usually some newcomers or non-anglers who might ask why so much work goes into an event as ordinary as bass fishing.
The answer lies in the economic impact the tournament has on Payson and Northern Gila County.
Records estimate that the 2011 tournament’s impact was $535,000, which is the same amount as a 2009 Stern bass fishing tournament at Roosevelt. The Stern event drew 535 visitors and the EverStart attracted 480.
A FLW college tournament held in conjunction with the 2011 EverStart drew 40 boats
A two-day Western Outdoor News (WON) tournament in 2011 drew 100-plus visitors and contributed $122,200 to the county economy.
Goughnour, who is in on the planning for many of the major tournaments held locally, has called all the events “huge successes” and important contributors to the Rim Country economy.
In addition to the tournaments showcasing the Rim Country and having an economic impact, they have spurred an interest among young anglers.
Following the first FLW tournament at Roosevelt, a Payson High School bass club was formed and a high school tournament held at the lake.
WON Bass AZ is among the organizations that offer a high school division during its tournaments.
Former PHS football players Cameron Geske and Kyle Randall, who graduated with the class of 2011, now compete on the All-Star Bass circuit and last November fished their way to a third place showing.
In May 2011 the two won the inaugural Open High School Bass Tournament at Roosevelt which qualified them for the High School World Championships on Lake Dardanelle near Russellville, Ark.