Bringing New Money to Rhea County

Since launching its marketing initiative, Rhea County has added more than 6,700 "room nights" in area hotels. Leaders say the dramatic increase led to the construction of another brand new hotel, a million dollar expansion of a resort and five new restaurants. They believe a total of $10 million in new investments and 100 new jobs and will lead to even more new dollars for the community in 2017. (Graph courtesy Rhea County Economic Development & Tourism Council)

Chickamauga Lake is back on the list as home base for some of the biggest bass tournaments in the country. This week B.A.S.S. announced the 2017 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series schedule. The schedule includes an April stop on Chickamauga, based out of Dayton, TN.

B.A.S.S Opens are extremely popular as the primary qualifying events for the prestigious Bassmaster Elite Series. The Top 5 anglers from each of the three divisions (after excluding any Elite anglers who are already qualified for that tour) are invited to step up to the pinnacle of professional angling. Entire schedule here.

However that is just one of a huge laundry list of bass tournaments that will be hosted in Dayton in 2017.

“I’ve already got about 20 (fishing) events locked and loaded,” said Dennis Tumlin, Director of the Rhea County Economic Development & Tourism Council. “I’ve got an amazing 2017 coming up. I’ve got one more good [tournament] to announce that is coming in May, plus many more that will fall in. We have been averaging about 30 events per year.”

“We” is a marketing effort that Tumlin and government leaders created four years ago. was born in 2012.

Tumlin says to call it a success is an understatement, but he also says there is more to come.

Measured on a scale of 1 to 10, he said, “On hospitality we’re a 10. On infrastructure we’re probably about a 7. We’re not where we want to be but we’re way beyond where we used to be.”

Tumlin and government leaders have leveraged grants and tax dollars to make massive improvements to the Dayton boat launch and docking facilities. Tumlin says he expects the announcement of a major grant soon that will allow them to dredge the harbor in Richland Creek, creating even better launching and docking, especially in the low water winter months.

“All the permitting is done, we’re just waiting on the money,” said Tumlin. was recently chosen as one of the best initiatives among the 13-state Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Tumlin was asked to make a special presentation before the prestigious group. Of course the benchmark of any government marketing effort is based upon “new dollars” added to a community’s economy.

“In sales tax collections, what I call our ‘fast money,’ in 2015 we can show more than $14 million gross new sales in [the Rhea County] economy,” said Tumlin.

He said in days gone by, obviously Christmas was the peak of their sales tax revenues. However through monthly sales tax collections, he is now able to show that, “we have created three or four more Christmases every year with bass tournaments.”

Even more important than the fast money, Tumlin points toward long-term investments. He says a dramatic increase in “hotel nights” led to the construction of a brand new hotel (Sleep Inn Suites), the massive expansion of Blue Water Resort and five new restaurants. He said a total of $10 million in new investments added 100 new jobs and will add even more dollars to the 2017 Rhea County economy through sales tax, lodging tax and additional property taxes.

2017 is going to be big, but isn’t done with 2016 yet. September 29-Oct. 1 Dayton will host a major FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) tournament. B.A.S.S. and FLW are the two major national players (and competitors) in the world of tournament bass fishing. Like the B.A.S.S. Opens, the FLW BFL events attract all the major anglers with hopes of gaining a spot among the FLW elite anglers.

You can see a complete schedule of all the upcoming fishing events in Dayton, as they are added, on the Events Calendar at

- Advertisement -

Previous articleTennessee Valley Theatre presents Steel Magnolias this weekend
Next articleDayton City Football gets big win 22-6 over Sale Creek
Richard Simms is a professional journalist and fishing guide in Chattanooga. (See He is also a former wildlife officer for TWRA, a book author and a self-proclaimed "River Rat" with a sincere desire for spreading the message about our bountiful natural resources and the people charged with using, or protecting them.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here