South Dundas holding off on Renegade Bass 2016 commitment

The South Dundas Municipal Center in Morrisburg, Ont. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

SOUTH DUNDAS – Despite a push for a commitment, South Dundas councillors are waiting before making a decision on whether to support a fishing tournament in 2016.

Renegade Bass spokesman Paul Shibata, South Dundas Chamber of Commerce administrator Geri Fitzsimmons and McIntosh Inn owner Tom Morrow made a presentation to council Tuesday night.

Shibata opened by saying the St. Lawrence River fishing around Morrisburg “is a resource that is underutilized” but doesn’t want to see it exploited.

After a rocky relationship with the township two years ago, Shibata said they were eager to strike up a partnership in order to fill a void in their schedule.

In a last minute move in early August, put together by various chamber and municipal representatives, Morrisburg won a draw to host the championship tournament this year, held in September.

Shibata told council he had “no misgivings” about accepting money from the municipality, realizing the return on investment would be five-to-one or six-to-one.

South Dundas gave $3,000, plus waived its boat launch fees, which possibly would have cost the municipality $1,500-$1,600. The chamber of commerce put in $2,000.

“It was very easy to ask knowing we would over-deliver,” Shibata said, noting Morrisburg and South Dundas were mentioned in 50, 12-second radio promotional ads per week on TSN leading up to the derby plus a couple feature-length radio interviews. There would be a commitment for more interviews in 2016 if South Dundas is on board.

“And though we may have spent $75,000 over the course of two days here, I firmly believe that the long term impact of people booking a holiday and realizing how incredible the fishing is here is certainly going to going to yield much greater dividends for the community in the long term,” he said.

The Renegade Bass catch-and-release championship was held Sept. 12-13, 2015.

Shibata then asked for a commitment for 2016 to be one of the locations on the tour and the financial commitment would be the same as this year.

Shibata said they want to make a decision on locations within three weeks, because many fisherman from Montreal and Toronto are making their vacation plans now for next year.

Morrisburg wouldn’t have the Renegade Bass Classic – the “Stanley Cup” championship of the tour in 2016, like it did this year – but would have one of the six qualifying events on the regional circuit.

The qualifying event is a one-day event but would have twice as many participants, Shibata said.

The event is open to anyone who buys into the fishing circuit – a $1,200 entry fee.

“Businesses in South Dundas did see a great influx in traffic, in the gas bars, the coffee shops, the restaurants. I understand the McIntosh Inn was completely full…I know of one fisherman who called who wasn’t able to get a room,” chamber administrator Fitzsimmons told council.

McIntosh Inn owner Tom Morrow said the only fallback of the event was he had to turn fishers away because other events had taken up many rooms at his inn.

Fitzsimmons shared a story where a fisherman pulled up to the gas bar and put $400 in his truck and boat. “That’s just one fisherman…and on one day.” She extrapolated on that figure, saying if that was the case for the 40 teams involved in the tournament it would be $16,000 in fuel alone in one day.

“We really want to see these fisherman come to our community,” Fitzsimmons said.

She said the chamber also spent money on local advertising, sponsor boards and goodie bags for the anglers.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Shibata said they are surveying their membership this week to find out, among other things, how much money they spent in the area.

He said their estimates from using the data are “frightfully prudent” when the final report comes out.

Despite an assertion from Coun. Marc St. Pierre that the municipality and the chamber would be getting money back, Shibata said they are not-for-profit and that’s not the case.

South Dundas councillors weren’t ready to commit to the fishing tourney in 2016 on Tuesday night, choosing to wait for a report from the chamber and also opting to put the ask forward to budget time.

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