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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — Fishing enthusiasts get a treat this week. And Columbus area motels and restaurants are getting a little boost.

Almost 300 of the nation’s top crappie fishermen and their families are in town for the CrappieMasters National Championship on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

Many of the 140 two-man teams and their brightly-colored boats already are in town practice fishing before actual competition gets under way Friday and Saturday.

Those who want to meet fishermen and get some tips can do so Friday afternoon at the 4:30 weigh in or Saturday afternoon at 3 when the championship weighin will begin at the East Bank launch area on Wilkins Wise Road.

Many of the area’s hotels are filled for the event, which officially gets under way with Wednesday’s registration and tournament dinner. Thousands of dollars in cash and prizes are at stake for the fishermen.

For businesses, it means a shot in the arm in a week when Mississippi State football is on the road.

“We’ve checked and the hotels are full with either fishermen, their families are people interested in the tournament,” Columbus Convention and Bureau Director Nancy Carpenter said, noting the tournament was planned for a weekend with the MSU Bulldogs didn’t have a game to avoid conflicts and maximize exposure.

“It’s a great draw for the community and exposure for the area,” Carpenter said, noting the tournament and city will be featured on CrappieMasters national cable television program. “It’ll bring people to area restaurants and businesses that might have seen business slip a little on an off-football weekend.”

Teams have been competing all year and tournaments across the country to qualify for a shot at the national title. Originally, the CVB put up $71,500 to lure the tournament to Columbus and CrappieMasters promised at least 200 boats.

Tournament organizers say the economy and other factors — it can cost $700 to gas up the $80,000 boats — cut the number of boats to 140. CrappieMasters will refund the CVB part of the incentive money because it failed to meet its promise.

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