Bassmaster Elite to return

Top bass fishing organization to open 2019 season in Putnam County

The St. Johns River in Palatka will be reserved for the elite in early 2019 as one of the most popular fishing tournaments returns to Putnam County. 

Earlier this week, Bassmaster announced its 2019 Elite Series schedule, with Palatka as the opening event Feb. 7-10, 2019. The event will bring more than 100 of the world’s top anglers to compete in Putnam County. 

Bassmaster has had 20 events of different levels on the St. Johns River, according to a statement from the company. And next year’s event will be the fifth time the B.A.S.S. Elite is in Palatka, having previously been on in Palatka in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016. 

“We couldn’t be happier with the schedule we’ve put together for 2019,” B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin said in a statement. “This lineup of events will be exciting and challenging for our anglers. And for fans of the sport, it literally has something to offer from coast to coast.”

Dana Jones, president of Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, said the return of the B.A.S.S. Elite was a win for Palatka, the county and Bassmaster. 

B.A.S.S. Elite returning to Palatka for a fifth year shows the company has faith the chamber and its partners, which include the city of Palatka, Board of County Commissioners and Tourist Development Council, can produce great events, Jones said. 

Jones said Bassmaster wants host communities to have optimum fishing conditions and weather, but there are other requirements some communities can’t provide. 

“They are measuring the crowd you can produce (and) the partnerships you can build,” said Jones, who is also the coordinator for the Tourist Development Council. “They just really look for the community’s ability to help produce this event. Everybody wants (the tournament), but to get in that mix … I think we’ve proven ourselves.”

Jones said B.A.S.S. Elite events are a boon for Palatka and the county because of how many people come to area to stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, shop in stores and spend money elsewhere in within the county. 

Jones on Tuesday said most local business owners hadn’t learned of B.A.S.S. Elite returning to Palatka, but she knew the news would be well received. 

Every time the series is in Palatka, it means constant business, and business owners were happy to accommodate, Jones said.

“They’re always ecstatic to hear word we got a big event of any kind,” she said. 

With more than 100 anglers, their families, a boat marshal for each vessel, sponsors and spectators spending at least a week in the county – and with anglers visiting months in advance to practice fishing in this location – the economic impact on Palatka and the county equates to more than $2 million with an added $500,000 in media value, Jones said in a statement. 

Steve Overturf, the 2019 chamber board chairman, said B.A.S.S. Elite would be a great way to start next year. 

Such an event will boost the local economy while allowing the community to build new partnerships and strengthen its ties to B.A.S.S. Elite, he said.

“Our business community appreciates the money that anglers, sponsors and guests bring into our local economy,” Overturf said in a statement. “I feel the selection also indicates that B.A.S.S. sees Putnam County not only as a great river venue, but the community support and fan base are equally as attractive.”