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South Dakota community embraces National Walleye Tour, reaping economic benefits

"Everywhere you go, you see signs that are welcoming fishermen, including gas stations, hotels and retail businesses," said Tanner Jerome, executive director of the Mobridge Area Chamber of Commerce.

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Shown here are signs along the businesses in the downtown district, welcoming the fishermen who came to Mobridge for the National Walleye Tour. (Sam Fosness / Republic)
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MOBRIDGE, South Dakota — As hundreds of anglers flocked to the Mobridge, South Dakota, area the past two weeks in preparation for a major tournament, the Wrangler Hotel was ready to accommodate.

Late July is an exciting time at the hotel. It's one of the busiest times of the summer thanks to the National Walleye Tour tournament, which brings around 200 anglers to the small town that's tucked along the Missouri River in northern South Dakota.

For Jeff Jackson, CEO of the Wrangler Hotel, the two-day pro-am tournament that's put on by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's brings more than just a boost in business. The longtime Mobridge residents says it's one of the "biggest" marketing tools for the town of about 3,400.

"This type of major, national tournament gets the Mobridge and Lake Oahe name out to the country," Jackson said. "This tournament always has a big economic impact, some of it is immediate and some is long-term."

For the past 30 years, Mobridge has hosted some of the most high-profile pro-am fishing tournaments that bring a major boost to the local economy. With no large manufacturing plants and industries in the community, Jackson said tourism is one of the biggest sectors of the local economy.

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"Tourism is a huge part of our economy, and our community really embraces that. We are a farming and ranching community, but tourism is very important for our town," Jackson said.

As a member of the Mobridge tourism committee, which helps put on the tournament each year, Jackson said the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses put "a lot" of work in to keep the National Walleye Tour coming back. It's proven to be working, as this year's tournament, July 29 and 30, marks the sixth one the town has hosted. There are four regular season National Walleye Tour tournaments, with a championship event in September.

This summer, South Dakota was the lone to host two of the four regular season tournaments, with the first event in Chamberlain/Oacoma.

While Jackson embraces the tournament with open arms each year, he's far from alone.

Tanner Jerome, interim executive director of the Mobridge Area Chamber of Commerce, said the big pro-am fishing tournaments that Mobridge continues to be selected to host every year is a testament to the community's support.

"Everywhere you go, you see signs that are welcoming fishermen, including gas stations, hotels and retail businesses. Being able to host these events year in year out really is a testament to our community," Jerome said. "The tournament director always says he's amazed at the amount of work everyone in the community puts in to host a great event."

While the nearest major interstate is over 100 miles away from Mobridge, Jerome said the type of exposure the area receives from putting on these large angler events has helped bring long-term growth to the local economy.

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"We're constantly looking for ways we can show what amazing outdoor sports and activities the Mobridge are has to offer, and the big events are what keep people coming back. It may also lead to someone buying a cabin or property to vacation or live," Jerome said.

073021.N.DR.MOBRDIGETOURISM2.jpg
Shown here are signs along the businesses in the downtown district, welcoming the fishermen who came to Mobridge for the National Walleye Tour. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

073021.N.DR.MOBRDIGETOURISM2.jpg
Shown here are signs along the businesses in the downtown district, welcoming the fishermen who came to Mobridge for the National Walleye Tour. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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