Welcome to BASS Destinations, a blog for BASS fans who travel to cities on the Bassmaster Trail. My name is Michael Mulone and I am the Director of Site Selection for BASS.
It's my job at BASS to go and find the fisheries and cities where we host all of our tournaments the Classic, ELITE Series, Opens, Women's Bassmaster Tour and Federation Nation.
A big part of my job is the site selection and review; I check out the fishery, ramp, hotels, arenas, convention centers, restaurants and attractions. Hopefully, this blog will provide some insight on special places, people and things to do when you aren't on the water, watching the weigh in or walking the trade show floor. The other parts of my job, including negotiating contracts, will be left out of the blog, unless it's particularly juicy.
Prior to joining BASS, I was on the other side of the business, working for convention and visitor's bureaus (CVBs) and hotels. Out of college, I was a sports reporter, covering everything from high school sports to horse racing and the New York Giants. I grew up fishing the Great Sacandaga Lake in upstate New York, but I am still a novice compared to my colleagues at the BASS office. When I'm not working, I'm spending time with my family and fishing for bass in my neighborhood honey hole.
So before I begin, I say thank you. Thank you for coming along as we uncover special places around the best bass destinations in America.
Quick quiz: Name the city ...
• A rich arts community with 14 professional theaters
• Home to the second largest Shakespeare in the park festival in the country
• A philharmonic orchestra and a chamber music society residing at an internationally-acclaimed music hall.
• A path of freedom for slaves on the Underground Railroad
• Baseball at a downtown park
Here's a hint: Home of the chicken wing.
On my site visit to Buffalo last year, I was shocked. Little did I know that our gateway to Niagara Falls has so much to offer visitors and residents alike. No longer are they just the home to the Bills, Sabres, crazy amounts of snow, NBC's Tim Russert and the almighty chicken wing. Buffalo is a well rounded city that deserves more due than the aforementioned.
Thankfully, Buffalo is very angler-friendly. Hotels near the Small Boat Harbor venue for the ELITE event have ample parking. Try the Holiday Inn Hamburg, the Tally Ho-Tel and the Clarion in Hamburg. Keep an eye out for developments in downtown Buffalo, as Bass Pro Shops and the city are trying to work out a deal for a 100,000 square foot store; in the interim, there are plenty of local shops to assist.
And then there's the fishing.
Sure, we are going for the smallmouth bass, but the region is also known for musky, king salmon, steelhead, walleye and lake trout.
It had been a long time since I was last in Buffalo, and the details of those visits to see friends on the 5-year plan at SUNY Buffalo are sketchy at best. I'm happy to see the Buffalo I know now is full of pleasant surprises surprises I will see on my next visit.
Deb Wolek from the Grand Lake Association has led the community on not only bringing the Bassmaster Elite Series to Grove, but activating the community to make the 2006 event a success, also the big reason why we returned in 2007. Deb came to the Bassmaster E-50 in Wisconsin back in 2005, took what she saw and made it happen in Grove.
Bill Goldner from North Beach Development venue for the weigh in isn't afraid to get his hands dirty to get the job done. I first met Bill when he and his wife, Linda came to the Bassmaster Classic in Kissimmee, Fla. We were all dressed up at a beautiful reception at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom; there he promised me that they would do everything to make a great event.
The next time I saw Bill, he was driving a front end loader, moving dirt and transporting equipment around his property. His white t-shirt a mess with mud stains, his smile was from ear to ear, rightfully proud that his land was to host a weigh-in packed with fans.
North Beach will host another huge event this year, with many local exhibitors joining BASS sponsors at the outdoor expo.
Grove is a special place, and the residents make visitors feel at home. Interestingly, BASS will have a place in the homes of everyone in the Grand Lake area, as a picture from the 2006 event is on the AT&T phone book cover for the Land of Lakes Directory.
Many thanks to Deb, Bill, and the folks at AT&T who partnered with BASS on the book, and to everyone in Grove who welcomes the BASS family with open arms.
Anglers, sponsors, fans, and of course, BASS staff, love to drive into town for a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament and see marquees on businesses, welcoming BASS. It's one of the many ways cities wrap their arms around the event and weave it into the fabric of the community.
What's more exciting is when those local businesses go above and beyond use their product to promote BASS.
Homestead Creamery, a family owned and operated business in Wirtz, Va., has gone above and beyond. They have created "Fisherman's Treat," a special vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips shaped like fish!
Before I go any further, this isn't just any creamery. The owners of Homestead Creamer own the dairy farm, and those grass fed cows are hormone free. This is the real deal.
They have all of the traditional flavors, plus some others, including oatmeal cookie, lemon crunch and double dark chocolate (I'll have butter pecan). Also at their country store is a wide variety of fresh, homemade products, including old-fashioned glass bottled milk, cheeses and fresh churned butter. If you call ahead for reservations, you can get a tour on how things are made.
Homestead Creamery, Inc.
Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri., 11:00 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday 10:00 a.m.-5 p.m.
Closed Wednesday and Sunday
7254 Booker T. Washington Highway, Wirtz, Va., 24184
Phone: (540) 721-2045
The first Major of 2007 brings us to Greensboro, North Carolina, and for this blog entry, we are counting 4 different destinations in one.
First, there is High Rock Lake, fishery for days 1 and 2 of the tournament. High Rock hosted the Classic pros back in 1998. Great fishery, beautiful setting. If you plan to stay out at the lake, take a look at www.casuallakeliving.com. There are nice houses to rent right on the water, including one with the picture here, which shows the private dock. The web site has given some of the homes nicknames, including "No Obligations" and "Happy Ours."
On the way to the High Rock on Highway 8 is Mimi's Mini Mart (336)-798-3588. From groceries to rods and reels to bait, this place is the one stop shop. They even sell gold fish for those interested in bottom searching for catfish. Check out the brag wall with photos of big catches their version of the Lunker Club.
Lake Townsend is the fishery for days 3 and 4. A city managed lake/marina right in Greensboro, this isn't a big fishery, but everyone keeps talking about how good it is. They host a lot of night tournaments for locals, and Sue Davis who manages the marina has been a great partner to BASS. This will be a fantastic place to see the take off on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
If you are looking for night life, head down to Elm Street in Greensboro. From swanky bars to a more youthful dance club (complete with your velvet rope and queue), there's a lot of activity. If nothing else, it's just fun to walk the street and people watch.
But the most important place you need to go to is the Special Events Center at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex. Site of the daily weigh in and the FREE consumer expo, this is the venue where (new resident of North Carolina) Dave Wolak will defend his title and someone will walk away $250,000 richer. Once you enter the Events Center, the expo and weigh in show is all under one roof so come early and enjoy the show!
Flip back the history pages of BASS and look at past destinations of the Bassmaster Classic. Long before convention centers, indoor weigh-ins and thousands of hotel rooms booked, the Classic was held at great fisheries around the country. And though the Classic has outgrown many of those towns, those early places are still championship fisheries.
Lake Guntersville is no exception.
If you are coming in for the Southern Challenge presented by Purolator or want to visit to this beautiful town in the future, one of the most interesting places to rest your head at any stop on the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament trail is the Tennessee Valley Floating Condominiums. Located right on Highway 431, the condo is basically a pontoon bottom with a hotel room top. It sleeps 2 adults and 1 child comfortably, has a microwave, coffee maker, refrigerator, stove, TV with 100 channels, DVD player, and my personal favorites, shower and toilet. Those are always good to have in a room.
The best part: you can sit in the living room and fish from the couch.
Some of our staff stayed at the condos last year, but it would be imprudent to also give props to the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn, respectively. Most all of the hotels in Guntersville are angler-friendly, but the Hampton, Holiday and Tennessee Valley Floating Condos have been a great partner with BASS.
My suggestions for going out on the town:
Craw Mama's Restaurant. Craw Mama's good ol' home cookin.' Say hi to Charlotte for me she's one of my favorites in Guntersville.
Top Of the River first time I ever had fried pickles and great catfish.
La Strada upscale European with a great menu and great wine.
Bistro La Luna I didn't get a chance to go last time, but a great enough reputation to have to include in the list.
Years before ESPN, cable TV and pre-game shows that lasted longer than the games, we would have to fill out time with other shows before football on Sundays. For me, it was the holy trinity of old school comedy.
Abbott and Costello
The Three Stooges (with Curly, not with Joe, thank you)
Laurel and Hardy
"Here's another fine mess you've gotten yourself into," would be the punch line delivered by Oliver Hardy, commenting on slapstick, over the top shenanigans he and Stan Laurel would encounter. Harlem, a small town in Columbia County, Georgia host of the Clarks Hill Lake Elite Series tournament is the birthplace of Oliver Hardy (he's the big guy of the two).
The 19th Annual Oliver Hardy Festival will take place Saturday, October 6, 2007.With skits, movies, kids' activities and of course, a look-a-like contest, this town of less than 3,000 people will swell to over 35,000 for the festival.
Columbia County is also rich in American History, as it is the "headgates" of the Augusta Canal. Built in 1845 as a source of power, water and transportation, the Augusta Canal is the only intact industrial canal in the American South in continuous use. In 1975 the Canal and its mills were listed on the National Register of Historic Places and declared National Historic Landmark in 1978. Although the Augusta Canal is man-made, many areas along its banks have returned to a more natural state.
One other thing...I also heard that just south of Columbia County, they have a golf course that serves pretty good pimento cheese sandwiches for $1.50 each. I wonder if the golf course is any good...
When you come to Lakeport, bring a camera with a wide angle lens and for two reasons. First, the bass are big. Look up lunker in the dictionary and it says "see also Clear Lake."
Second, bring a camera for the view of the mountains.
Here's a little background. I grew up in the base of the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Call it cliché, but autumn in New York is as if the Lord above pulled out a pallet painted the mountains in red, yellow, gold and brown. I love the palm trees at my house in Florida, but I yearn for that view.
And then I went to Lakeport.
Set against the Bartlett Mountain Range, the region is referred as the "Switzerland of America." The Bassmaster Elite Series "Golden State Shootout" is going to set up the stage at Library Park in the historic downtown. Imagine a relaxing day, sitting on a park bench and looking across the vast waters, only to find on the other side the majestic range. It's truly breathtaking.
This eclectic city's history goes back to the 1800s and the gold rush, where miners would pass through Lake County. That charm has continued today, with an ample supply of Victoria bed and breakfast accommodations. For anglers with boats, there is a variety of limited service motels right on Main Street. For those that want a diverse experience, travel just a few minutes north to the Robinson Rancheria Resort and Casino. The hotel resort offers gaming, an RV park, a full service restaurant, and live entertainment.
If you are looking for a little noise at night, head over the Lakeport Speedway. The Northern California Racing Association (NCRA) starts its season in April and runs through October. The season opener is April 28.
Cities which host Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments hope that our fans not only come out to see the tournament in person, but come back again, enjoy the waters that the pros fish as well as the community. Stockton is no exception.
The weekend of April 27-29, 2007, Stockton would like to invite you back to celebrate the most prestigious agricultural product that inspired a 19-year festival.
According to their web site, the Stockton Asparagus Festival is a three-day, multi-event, food, and entertainment festival. The festival features two performing stages. Not to be confused with our Angler Alley, the festival hosts an Asparagus Alley with the best deep fried asparagus, a beer and wine pavilion, a craft show, plus exhibits by more than 70 food purveyors and 100 specialty merchandise vendors.
Located less than an hour south of Sacramento, Stockton is offers plenty of options for residents and visitors. A downtown arena, baseball stadium, hotels, housing, and the historic Bob Hope Theatre all add value to the city which doesn't just talk about revitalization, it comes through. Not bad for one of the best bass destinations in the country.
First, Del Rio is a great town. The people are wonderful and they "get" bass fishing.
One of the many cool things about Del Rio is a gas station. Not just any gas station, but a Chevron station, heading out of Del Rio on the way to Lake Amistad. I'll give you the directions as I heard them: " as you head out of town, it's just up the road a bit on your right hand side."
You need gas for your boat or truck, stop there. You need tackle or bait? Yup, that, too.
When I went there, I ordered two eggs over easy with sausage, toast and coffee. See, this Chevron station has a killer restaurant in the back. Seating is tight and packed with regulars who know the staff, but the fare is just what you need to start you day. Plus, how often can you get bait and eggs at the same place?
Ask for it by name locally the place is called Fisherman's Headquarters. As it should be.
Also on Veterans Boulevard is a bar and grill called TB's (this one is on the left side of Veterans heading out of town). Of course, anything of the pork or beef in the barbeque variety is a winner, but they have a signature item that is quite different. Corona Chicken.
When I asked the owner, Todd Townsend, if it is made with the famous "cerveza," he said, "No, there is no beer in that."
I had an obvious follow up: "Um, Todd, this is chicken, right?"
Townsend takes onions, jalapeños and cheese, stuffs it in chicken and then wraps the chicken in bacon. He puts the chicken in a jacked up Italian dressing marinade (he's not telling all the ingredients) and lets that sit over night. And as the case in Texas, it is grilled slowly, so don't get there and expect it to be ready in 10 minutes, but it's worth the wait. Just before it's done grilling, Townsend bastes it again, this time with Teriyaki Sauce.
This is where I order my cerveza.
TB's has live music on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night, but the big night is Friday, where Karaoke is king. And say hello to the big buffalo head behind the stage for me.
TB's Bar and Grill
3806 Veterans Blvd.
Del Rio, TX 78840
On the Web:
Del Rio Chamber of Commerce and CVB: www.drchamber.com
Every city has its own vibe. I'd describe Birmingham, Ala., as old-school cool. It is jazz and blues and Dreamland Bar-B-Que. It's rich in history, art and devoted to sports. Some great web sites are below, including the CVB site, which lists hotel/motel options.
While you should hit all of the great places around town, every day should be spent at the Classic Expo. Always a buzz of activity, the show is jam packed with angler appearances, sweepstakes, giveaways, kids interactive activities, and, oh, by the way, the best in fishing and marine equipment, tackle, apparel and anything else you can think.
But don't miss the Toyota "Prove It Tour" outside of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. This is not your typical "ride and drive," as it will include off and on-road capability of the new Tundra. I'm all over that.
After the expo and weigh in, it's time for dinner. And since this is the Classic, we need to step it up.
Rule #1: No fast food allowed.
Looking for Barbeque? Dreamland is the answer. Sure, they are all great, but if you have to pick only one, this is it.
If you need to impress or if you forgot to buy your spouse something for Valentine's Day, amaze them by going to Bottega Restaurant. Fantastic Italian fare in a warm atmosphere. Upscale but not over priced.
But if you want a little swank and to be in the hip crowd, head to the Five Points area to Ocean. It was voted Best Restaurant by Wine Spectator in 2004. If you didn't guess by the name, they serve seafood, and it doesn't disappoint.
Without having to pay an entry fee to the Classic, get out and feel the vibe in Birmingham.
posted Feb. 2, 2007
A few useful Web sites for planning your trip:
Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitor's Bureau
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Barber Motosports Park
Birmingham Museum of Art