Summertime, weekend fishing tournaments have been banned from corps facilities on Lake Allatoona, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Meanwhile, a $50 special-use permit fee will be implemented at Allatoona next year, and any tournament held out of a corps facility is required to have 100 percent payback.
The special regulations do not apply to private or county facilities on the lake.
No weekend fishing tournaments are allowed out of corps facilities on Allatoona between May 12 and September 5, 2007. The corps has nine boat-ramp facilities on Lake Allatoona.
According to Robert Gentry, chief ranger for the Allatoona project, the summertime weekend restriction was implemented because visitation is so high during the summer months.
“You can still have fishing tournaments through the week,” said Robert. “That’s not a problem. We just get overwhelmed on the weekends.”
No other user group is singled out for restrictions on use of corps facilities.
Pat Robbins, corps chief of legislative and public affairs for the Mobile District, said the issue is bass tournaments “overwhelming a ramp” and precluding others from using a corps facility.
“Our facilities at Allatoona can’t handle large fishing tournaments on a weekend without disqualifying the rest of the public from being able to use the facility. There are other locations, like Allatoona Landing, that can handle that, and that’s where most tournaments go out of anyway. Our’s is just a space issue,” said Pat.
He also said that the restrictions on bass tournaments at corps facilities are not new.
“It’s been that way forever. They just finally put it in writing, and that’s what’s got people’s attention. There is a new resource manager up there who likes to have things in writing,” Pat said.
Bass clubs or groups of anglers looking to host a tournament on Allatoona must apply for a special permit and pay a $50 fee to hold the tournament. This fee, instituted beginning January 1, 2007, does not preclude parking fees for each individual user. The $50 special-use fee also applies to regattas, swimming events, etc. held on corps property.
“We aren’t concerned with four or five guys going down and having a tournament. We are looking at things like an advertised event, or a bass-club having their annual tournament,” Robert said.
The $50 special-use fee authorized by a corps visitor-assistance regulation is nothing new on corps lakes, said Robert.
“The bottom line is that we are going to have an admin fee, beginning January 1, 2007, to schedule fishing tournaments,” he said. “It is nothing new, Lanier has been doing it for years. We’re just starting to do it. The fee will be charged for other events that take place.”
Also, on Allatoona all tournaments are required to have a 100 percent payback; tournament directors cannot make a profit when hosting the event from a corps facility. According to Robert, the 100 percent payback regulation reflects the prohibition of making a profit on government property without a concessionaire’s license.
Pat Robbins said the 100 percent payback regulation applies to corps facilities on all corps lakes.
Ted Gambrell with The Dugout, an Allatoona bait-and-tackle shop and hub for local anglers, recently heard the news of the corps guidelines on bass tournaments.
“They’re killing us — businesses — I really don’t understand what their deal is. They’re taking it away and giving it to the jet skiers and pleasure boaters.”
Ted helps run the Monday Night Allatoona Team Tournament Trail, one of the largest summer pot-tournament trails in the state. Those anglers actually give money back for improvements on the lake.
“Two years ago we gave the corps $500 to have their cleanup project just for the benefit of the lake,” said Ted. “We paid to help clean the lake up, and now they won’t let us fish? I just don’t understand. People up here are tore up. Folks make money off the tournament guys; ice, cokes, gas.”
Russ Ferguson with the R&R tournament trail doesn’t host tournaments at Allatoona; however, he has several events each year at Lake Eufaula, another Georgia corps lake.
“They are pretty much banning bass tournaments,” said Russ. “This is just their foot in the door. When they start doing that at one lake… just wait and it’ll be coming around the bend.”
The R&R is an 80 percent payback trail — the other 20 percent pays for travel expenses and Russ’s time used to run the trail.
“If the $50 fee starts to apply to other corps lakes, it looks like we may go to all Georgia Power lakes. We’ll start sending money to Oconee, Sinclair and Blackshear,” said Russ.
In general, use of public boat ramps on lakes and rivers is on a first-come basis. If a ramp parking lot fills, users find another ramp. Other than the Allatoona regulation, GON is not aware of ramp parking spots being reserved for specific groups of users, or of specific user groups being excluded from use of a corps facility.