Special to Laker Country
By Danielle Wilson
Lake Cumberland Tourist Commission Executive Director
The Student Angler Federation (SAF) High School State Championship Series was hosted by Lake Cumberland Tourist Commission on March 25th, 2023, at Halcomb’s Landing. This tournament is one of the 5 largest that The Bass Federation puts on out of the year. It brought in 219 registrants from over 55 different counties in Kentucky. Each boat hosted 2 anglers and a boat captain, totaling over 650 people on Lake Cumberland just participating in the tournament alone. Randy Sullivan, who is over this tournament stated that The Tourist Commission was very organized and prepared and that it was a very smooth launch Saturday morning and that parking 200+ boats is usually hectic no matter where you go and that we managed it successfully, with no issues.
On behalf of LCTC, we want to sincerely thank Lakewood Country Club for the donation of 2 of their golf carts that we utilized on the ramp to get boaters back and forth from the ramp to their vehicles to get the most of their time, we want to thank Michael “Toe Joe” Bray and The Russell County Rescue Squad as well as Derek Polston & the Sheriff’s Department for showing up at 4am on Saturday morning to help with traffic control on 127 to ensure we didn’t have a back up.. the Russell County High School Fishing Coach, Shannon Stephens, for donating his time to help with parking, Magistrate Zach Wilson for help organizing the inflow of boats for the morning and parking and for opening Lake Country Outdoors after hours for the anglers to purchase last minute supplies, the Army Corp’s of Engineers for keeping the commission in the loop about the availability of the over flow ramp at Halcomb’s and for ensuring we would be able to make this tournament happen, we want to also thank Russell County Schools and Michael Ford for allowing us to use the ANC for a registration on Friday Night that held over 500 anglers and coaches so that we could bring them into our town and they would eat here, purchase gas here as well as well as stay in our accommodations and Ramie Hutchison from Hutch Digital for getting great drone footage and photos of the launch and the weigh in on Saturday morning and afternoon so that we can use this to promote and get other tournaments to host at Lake Cumberland.
Also, one of our very own Russell County High School Fishing Team participated in this tournament, Will Stephens and Lucas Wray, placing 12th, qualifying them for the TBF High School National Championship in LaCrosse, Wisconsin in June 2023!
This tournament was a look into what the Tourist Commission can bring to Lake Cumberland in the future. We are in conversations with this same federation about a “World Finals” potentially being hosted here in 2026. This could potentially bring in over 5,000 people from all over the United States as well as other countries. This could have the potential to bring in over 4 Million dollars into the county for a one-week tournament. We plan to keep pushing to host this as the impact it would have could be incredible for this county!
When we host tournaments like this, we always ask each person at the registration to fill out an economic impact study that we provide that asks where they are from, where they stay, how much they spend, their age and how they heard about us, to help us gauge if bringing events like these are worthwhile to the community. This tournament, based on this report, brought in over $47,000 from outside of Russell County! They were on average in the county for 3 days! For every $100 spent at our local restaurants, $17 of that is from tourists, and the same for our retail stores for every $100 spent there, $59 of it is from tourists. The impact is exponential when it comes to what tourism means in Russell County.
Most of the anglers stayed at the Lake Cumberland State Resort Park as well as some Airbnb/VRBO homes. I hope that by doing these studies that we can use that information to help Russell County grow and show a need for a larger hotel for accommodations. We have several smaller, locally owned hotels that were utilized & by speaking with them at the registration Friday Night, most anglers in tournaments want to stay in a hotel over an entire home due to them being on the water majority of the day and just sleeping. We are a vacation destination for millions of families and our Airbnb/VRBO’s are perfect for that, but if Russell County offered a larger branded hotel, we could accommodate many more 1–3-day trips for outdoorsmen/women when our smaller hotel/motels fill up.
I am so proud of the way that our community comes together when we need help on projects like this! We cant do things like this alone and the support when I reach out to each person or business is always, “How can I/we help?” and that mentality is what it will take to continue to grow this community into a place where people want to come back for years to come. We always say that there is no “off season” here on Lake Cumberland because even when its not “boating season” we have tons of outdoor adventure such as these fishing tournaments that keep coming back! I always want you all to see a small glimpse of the things we do for Russell County and the days and hours of planning and having feet on the ground working that it takes to allow these activities to happen! We have lots of big things coming up and I hope that you follow along with us to see what’s next! You can always visit us a lakecumberlandvacation.com or share that with friends and family to plan a vacation, see all our accommodations and what we have to do! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok for other news happening around the county!