The benefits of improved Lake Michigan water quality are being realized. In late July Chicago hosted the 30th annual BASS Master’s Classic Tournament, the country’s largest professional fishing event. Chicago’s water attracted professional bass fishermen from around the nation. Competitors fished Illinois waters, including Lake Calumet, the Chicago and Calumet Rivers, some Chicago harbors, and Lake Michigan over a three-day period.
The arrival of the BASS Master’s Classic Tournament in Chicago demonstrates that urban areas can support viable habitats. The fishable populations of both large mouth and small mouth bass are credited to improved water quality achieved through pollution control rules. This is a large stepping-stone in the realization of Lake Michigan’s rehabilitation. Habitat restoration, such as the creation of wetlands and improved river health, can serve as the next step in the return of a healthy aquatic ecosystem.
The tournament also proved that viable wildlife populations are economically sound. It was estimated that the tournament brought $45 million to the city over the week of the tournament. Both spending dollars from tournament participants and spectators were brought to the area. Each day of fishing was followed by a weigh-in event. Weigh-ins are usually accompanied by entertainment and have attracted up to 35,000 spectators at past Classic events. As part of the catch-and-release policy, the fish were returned to the water by Illinois DNR officials.