National TV Exposure Coming To MS Coast

The Mississippi Gulf Coast has landed a big one.

Thursday, organizers announced the Redfish Cup Championship Fishing Tournament will drop its lines in our waters this fall. The event could draw up to 26,000 visitors and a television audience of close to 1 million.

It's the kind of publicity local tourism leaders say could put coastal Mississippi on the fishing map.

Each year thousands of fishermen hope to be the one holding the trophy at the end of the RedFish Cup Championship. When tournament organizers went looking for a place between Texas and Florida to hold the 2005 finals, Biloxi caught their eye.

"There's so much to do here for families and for fishing," said Bob Sealy, tournament director. "Not to mention the fact we kind of feel like Mississippi is one of the best kept secrets as far as red fishing goes because there's an abundance of Redfish here."

The fishing tournament will be broadcast on ESPN 2 with an expected 700,000 to one million viewers. Organizers wanted a location that was camera friendly.

"From a TV perspective we want a location that has beautiful scenery, but also has a lot of great fishing," said David Healy. "It's the old TV formula. We need drama. We need characters and we need a final result and Biloxi just really sets up perfect for that for television."

Organizers say the fishing tournament is in the middle of an expansion. For the first time there will be an expo which will be held at the Coast Coliseum. Local tourism officials that kind of publicity is priceless.

"This is a gigantic package. It's got everything including a consumer show, a national championship, and publicity all wrapped in one. So we're excited," Tourism Commission Director Steve Richer said.

Tourism officials hope the impact on the tournament lasts after the guests go home. Tournament organizers say that has been the case in other host cities.

"We always hear from the charter boat guides and the hotels in the surrounding area that people saw it on television, they wanted more information about tourism in general," said Healy. "They wanted to bring their family there. What we can do is show the scenery, show the beaches, show a lot of the other attractions."

The Redfish Tournament is set for October 20-22. Officials say the event will be broadcast on ESPN 2's Salt Water Sunday sometime next year.