Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament starts Friday

Bass fishermen travel through the Sturgeon Bay shipping canal on May 15, 2014.

STURGEON BAY - Hundreds of anglers are hitting the waters of Door County this weekend.

The 24th annual Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament gets underway Friday morning.

It's an event that's big for the fishermen and the local economy.

Justin Burda and his father John Burda checked the fishing hot spots Thursday morning.

"It's wonderful. You catch big fish; you can go in here and catch six, seven pounders. Five pounders all the time," said Justin Burda, Reedsville.

The duo is one of 153 teams entered in the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament.

Volunteers put the finishing touches on the Sawyer Park Pavilion.

But one fish is still the talk of the tournament.

"Last year, we set a record as far as the biggest fish caught during the tournament, 8.45 pounds. It made national headlines and that contributes to BASS, which is Bassmaster Magazine rating us number one in the country," said Ken Ellis, Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament Director.

Ellis says that notoriety enhances the tournament's effect on the local economy.

"It brings in over $400,000 just this week alone, not counting the repeat of the guys coming back during the summer,” Ellis said.

The local AmericInn is booked.

"It is before Memorial Day weekend, so yes, it helps the economy. They're going to the restaurants, staying in the motels, and shopping in the stores," said Ron Sarter, AmericInn.

It's a smallmouth tournament with big expectations.

"It's going to take 60 pounds plus to win the event. Now that's six fish a day, per team, that's a total of 12 fish," said Ellis.

Justin Burda hopes for a good finish.

"We've been in the money a couple times, haven't won this one yet so, maybe if the weather cooperates, we can do something here," said Burda.

The catch and release tournament starts early Friday and runs through Saturday.