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Fishermen area's biggest catch

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By Cindy Simpson

Rockwood’s Tom Fuller Park is often a launch location for fishing tournaments for the scenic Watts Bar Lake.

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Tournaments like the Walmart Bass Fishing League’s Volunteer Division that wrapped up over the weekend draw in fishermen anxious to get on the water and compete for big prizes.

But for the avid fishermen, Watts Bar Lake is a treasure all on its own.

“It offers an abundance of different species of fish,” said Rockwood’s James Nuckols, an accomplished tournament fisherman who loves Watts Bar Lake.

“It is a good largemouth (bass) lake, a good smallmouth and spotted bass. It is also an excellent crappie fish and catfish lake,” he explained.

The fishing can’t be beat on Watts Bar for rockfish, which Nuckols said are also called stripers, and white bass.

“It is actually world class for both of those,” he said, “one of the top destinations in the country.”

Pam May, The Roane Alliance’s director of tourism and marketing, has been involved in bringing larger tournaments to Roane, including the Tennessee Bass Federation State Tournament and National Bass Federation Championship.

“Economically this is very good for Roane County — and the reason we run an ad touting Watts Bar Lake in the annual Tennessee Fishing Guide magazine each year,” May said.

She said fishermen don’t only show up on tournament day.

Many of them pre-fish for days — and sometimes weeks — in advance.

Even those close to home may spend money on gas, food and supplies while in Roane County.

“There are many other smaller tournaments held in both Kingston and Rockwood year-round,” she said.

Those include Bassmaster Weekend Series, Heartland and B.A.S.S.

“In fact, I know Kingston has had the Heartland Anglers tournaments at Ladd Park almost every month for the past few years,” May said.

May said last week she wasn’t sure where most of the fisherman for the Walmart tournament would come from, so it would be hard to calculate the economic impact.

She said fishermen don’t typically bring their families to these types of tournaments, so she estimates each spending between $40-$100 per day, with the higher end being those who did stay overnight.

Typically there are two fishermen per boat, so she estimates there could be as many as 140 people competing. At $70 per day, that could be a possible direct economic impact of $9,800.

May said if the county were to have only 20 of these tournaments per year that could be an economic impact of $200,000 or more.

Robert Evans, tournament director of Walmart Bass Fishing League’s Volunteer Division, was expecting 70 boats last weekend.

It’s typically the smaller tournament because those fishing are vying for points with the top 40 qualifying for no entry fee in the regional tournament.

An estimate of what the first prize would be on the boat is $4,800 with co-angler first place prize being around $2,500.

Nuckols loves to fish year-round, and he said people miss out by fishing only in warm-weather months and putting their boats away after Labor Day.

“The fall of the year is one of my favorite times to be out on the water with the leaves changing,” he said.