- Cullman, Alabama

March 25, 2013

EDITORIAL: Life lessons on a fishing line

The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Bass Fishing Hall of Fame board chairman Sammy Lee left no doubt about the attraction of fishing when he spoke to a standing-room-only crowd Friday at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce’s Fourth Friday luncheon.

Through a colorful description about the joys of seeing a child catch his/her first fish, to the financial potential of drawing thousands of visitors to the area to visit the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, Lee was right on target. But the real sense of what Lee was describing hit home by the fact that some 50 people remained at the new All Steak restaurant to talk to fishing’s most enthusiastic ambassador for well over an hour after the program. They wanted to learn more and embrace the vast potential that a major tourist attraction offers.

In its simple form, the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame is about honoring a great sport. Fishing is a $45 billion industry that is enjoyed around the world. Projections gathered for this project report that 200,000 to 300,000 visitors annually will stop in Cullman to enjoy the hall of fame, staying in hotels, spending money in restaurants and visiting retail stores.

Extending the vision a bit more, the presence of a facility with national and international appeal may well attract new investors into the area. Others will discover the charm of the community and its excellent schools and recreational opportunities and decide this is the place to live and raise families.

Those are all great visions. And they have real, grounded reasons to become reality for Cullman County. But there’s even more to this project that Lee wanted to express.

As a native of Birmingham, who grew up in Jasper and discovered the thrill of fishing at an early age, Lee sees two points that shouldn’t be lost in the excitement of funding and developing a major tourist attraction. The first is that fishing is a magnet for people of all ages, but especially a young person feeling the tug on a fishing line for the first time. Lee sincerely believes that if every boy and girl, from a large inner city to a small rural community, could experience that magic moment a lot of problems in their lives could be solved. He’s on to something, which leads to the second point.

Fishing has a lot to do with establishing and maintaining healthy environmental practices. Appreciating the great outdoors, Lee notes, provides productive fishing and longterm protection of natural resources. This appreciation and active protection of the environment is a key part of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame’s intent. Negotiations are already under way with Auburn University to lead this effort as a partner in the project.

The hall of fame, with the plans that are in place, should have no problem attracting visitors and creating economic opportunities. The educational and life-building opportunities of the project are equally valuable on the grandest scale. Fishing has long been about necessity and enjoyment. Finally, those points are finding a permanent home in Cullman.