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Fishermen get ready to take on the Bass Pro Shops tournament.

Featured Article

Old Hickory Lake And Competitive Fishing - A Winning Combination

Local Fishing Tournaments Help Drive Tourism In Sumner County

In recent decades, our region has developed into a veritable mecca of tourism. With beautiful scenery, an expansive lake and welcoming communities, Sumner County has a lot to offer to visitors.

Most locals are familiar with the crowds that come along with major outdoor celebrations, such as Hendersonville’s Freedom/Sumner festivals and Portland’s Strawberry celebration. Each of these events attracts thousands of visitors and has a tremendous impact upon the local economy. From packed hotels and restaurants to purchases from local retailers, tourist expenditures and tax dollars help our community to thrive and grow.

Along with these once-a-year festivals, there are also many other happenings that occur throughout the year that also generate tourist activity and income across the county. Most notable of these events are commercial fishing tournaments. Held on Old Hickory Lake, these tournaments draw thousands of fishermen each year in search of trophies and cash prizes.

“Fishing tournaments have a direct effect upon our local revenues,” says Barry Young, executive director of Sumner County Tourism. “The larger tournaments can each generate as much as $1 million in visitor spending on lodging, dining, shopping, attractions and transportation. In addition, each tournament also produces $10,000 - $15,000 in tax revenues, which helps to keep our property taxes low.”

Each year, Sumner County plays host to dozens of fishing competitions, ranging from small fundraiser events to mega-tournaments, such as the Bass Pro Shops tournament held in 2021. By itself, Hendersonville is home to 10 – 12 tournaments each year, with most of the events being held on Old Hickory Lake at Sanders Ferry Park.

“Our fishing tournaments are sponsored by a number of different organizations,” says Hendersonville Parks & Recreation Director Andy Gilley. “Some of the key players are Bass Pro Shops, Barstool Sports, American Bass Anglers, Blue Otter, USA Bassin’ and Fishers of Men. Between the competing anglers and the tournament support crews, there can be hundreds of participants and their families in town, usually for one to two nights, but sometimes longer.”

In addition to the professional competitions offering cash prizes, there are also several amateur events held each year for middle and high school students from across Tennessee and beyond.

“We usually host five to six tournaments for kids each year, typically held at Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville or at Bull Creek in Gallatin,” says Barry. “Given the rapid growth of school-sponsored fishing teams, we anticipate that these events will only continue to grow in numbers and scale.”

Unlike music festivals and sports competitions, fishing tournaments do not require much effort on the part of parks and tourism personnel.

“We love fishing tournaments,” says Andy. “They are very low maintenance events for us. They require few resources from us due to the great planning and execution by the tournament sponsors.”

Over the coming years, the impact of fishing tournaments is only expected to grow, bringing more visitors and their dollars to Sumner County.

“Recently, Old Hickory was designated as a Bill Dance Signature Lake, and we will reap several improvements to the lake as a result,” says Barry. “There will also be a new Bill Dance tournament series coming to the lake that will be a collaboration between the TWRA, the Corps of Engineers and the TN Department of Tourist Development.”

  • Fishermen get ready to take on the Bass Pro Shops tournament.
  • Fishermen check their rigs  before their weigh-in times.
  • Anglers and their fans enjoy the tournaments.
  • TN Bass Nation sponsors a popular kids' fishing tournament.
  • Young fishermen head to the scales for their weigh-ins.
  • Local high schools compete in several tournaments each year.
  • A young angler shows off her catch during weigh-in.
  • Fishermen return from the lake.
  • Fish are measured and weighed at each tournament.
  • Record catches net top cash and merchandise awards.
  • Fishing teams await tournament results.
  • A fisherman competes during the Blue Otter tournament.
  • Fishermen look for the perfect spot to hook large bass.
  • TV personality Misty Wells brings in her tournament catch for weigh-in.
  • Cash prizes provide significant incentives for anglers to enter tournaments.