One of the area's biggest fishing tournaments kicks off next week. The Grand Lagoon National runs from August 20 through the 24th. Organizers want to make this America's next big saltwater tournament.
The inaugural Grand Lagoon National could be one of the biggest fishing tournaments to ever hit northwest Florida, and organizers hope it will put Grand Lagoon on the fishing map.
Bill Spann, Grand Lagoon National Champion, said, “What this tournament is about largely is reminding people the resources that we have, the seafood they serve here on the lagoon and the great fishing that occurs from this lagoon."
The event is really eight tournaments in one and Chairman Bill Spann is convinced that the unique format will appeal to virtually every kind of saltwater angler.
"We've had an open door policy, we talked to the community, found out who wanted to fish, what everyone wanted to catch and how they wanted to catch it and as we got feedback we added categories or divisions to satisfy the demand."
The tournament divisions include big game, offshore, inshore, flats, charter boats, party boats, a dive division and a kayak tournament.
"This tournament is different we have people that are fishing this tournament that have never fished before. They're gonna go out on a party boat. We have experienced big blue marlin fisherman that are gonna go out on those big yachts and you've got everybody in between from divers to kayaks.”
The five-day event is hosted by several grand lagoon restaurants and marinas. Spann knew he wanted something big, and big is what he's going to get.
"It grew faster than I anticipated. It's more complex than I anticipated but it is also more fun because there's more enthusiasm and different levels than I ever anticipated."
With more than 40,000 spectators expected to attend, Spann is already calling this "America's Saltwater Fishing Tournament."
"That's the goal we're going to achieve, and people all over the country are going to know that if you want a saltwater vacation you come to Panama City Beach, if you want to go fishing you come to the Grand Lagoon. That's what the purpose of this event is."
The event kicks off August 20th with the arrival of the Pirates Fleet and the Ms. Grand Lagoon Contest. Musical guests include country music recording artists Daryl Singletary and Billy Currington, and a host of local and regional talent.
We'll be highlighting each of the divisions over the next few days, leading up to the opening night of the Grand Lagoon National.