Two South Carolina Cities Team Up for the Biggest Bassmaster Classic Ever

The third time was the charm for the Bassmaster Classic in the Greenville, South Carolina, region. The international fishing championship set attendance records— 143,323 people to be exact—in March. While a later-than-normal date certainly helped, all involved parties agree the seamless partnership between two neighboring communities—Greenville and Anderson—had bass-fishing fans biting to be part of the festivities. For example, nearly 500 people turned out at Anderson’s Green Pond Landing in the afternoon just to watch the anglers load their boats and begin driving toward the weigh-ins in Greenville. “The story is that one city with infrastructure assets and another city with natural resource assets came together to bring an international championship to their region,” says Michael Mulone, director of event and tourism partnerships at B.A.S.S., the organization behind the classic. “The numbers don't lie.” Anderson is home to Lake Hartwell, where the anglers went fishing for championship glory. Without the lake, which Mulone says is ideal for a large-scale event, the classic would never come to the region. But equally important are the facilities in Greenville—namely Bon Secours Wellness Arena and the 250,000-sq.-ft. TD Convention Center. “One without the other doesn't work,” says Robin Wright, CSEE, senior sales manager of sports at Visit GreenvilleSC. “It's a perfect partnership.” Neil Paul, executive director of Visit Anderson, says the cities remain close in geography and relationships. “We work together throughout the year,” he says. “Working on this project is a chance to work with friends in Greenville again.” The Greenville-Anderson region moved into elite company this year by hosting the Bassmaster Classic for a third time. By all accounts, the event’s magnitude has multiplied exponentially since 2008, when the upstate first landed the championship. The growth was most evident at the Classic Outdoor Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods. Mulone says fire marshals considered closing the convention center because of the large crowd. “We were almost out of room,” he says.

Keys to Success

Multiple factors contributed to the record numbers, the first of which is the region didn’t set a goal based on attendance figures. Greenville and Anderson focused on details, including safety, fun and engagement, and trusted the results would speak for themselves. Temperatures were also quite a bit higher in March than when the classic came to town in February 2015. Mulone says the event looks for a sweet spot between late February and Easter each year. It doesn’t want to compete with the Super Bowl, Daytona 500 or Miami International Boat Show, a major industry event held each February. Wright attributes the community’s excitement to its familiarity with the event and the fact it’s free to watch the fishers and attend the weigh-ins (at Bon Secours) and the trade show. Greenville’s recent success with other major events—like March Madness and the USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships—have energized residents to come out to support the local sports tourism economy. Wright and Paul are confident B.A.S.S. will return for a fourth time, and Mulone gave no indication otherwise. In the meantime, Paul acknowledges the good showing should also bolster relations for some of the fishing group’s smaller event series to use Lake Hartwell. “The people of Anderson understand this natural resource is an economic driver,” says Mulone. “They may not have a big convention center or arena, but they know the lake draws people in and it’s important to take care of it.”