Category Archives: Bassmasters Classic

2017 Bass Masters Classic Live Coverage

March 17, 2017

Fishing Fans Will Experience Live Coverage Of 47th Annual Bassmaster Classic

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Fifty-two of the world’s best bass anglers will head to Houston next week to compete for more than $1 million in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, and fans will be able to follow the action as it happens.

Classic LIVE will be broadcasting in real time from the B.A.S.S. booth at the Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in the George R. Brown Convention Center.

“What an incredible venue we have this year being set up in the heart of Houston, Texas, and watching the action unfold live on a lake that some anglers are saying might produce multiple 10-pound-plus bass,” said Mike McKinnis, vice president of media content for JM Associates and producer of The Bassmasters TV show on ESPN2.

Cameras will be streaming live coverage of the Classic leaders on Lake Conroe back to the expo production facility, where hosts will break down the action for fans tuning in through Bassmaster.com and WatchESPN. Hosts Tommy Sanders, Mark Zona, and Davy Hite along with Dave Mercer and on-the-water reporter Robbie Floyd, will provide analysis and live updates.

This year, special guest Brian Robison of the Minnesota Vikings will also be onsite for the Classic LIVE show to provide some local insight. Robison played for the University of Texas and calls Lake Conroe his home lake.

Also, special guest RJ Mitte, who plays Walter White Jr. on the series “Breaking Bad,” will be joining the set at the expo.

The 2016 version of “Classic LIVE” reached nearly 12 million minutes viewed during the three-day event.

Each day of competition will have six hours of coverage, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Watch the tournament leaders catch bass in real time on the exclusive Classic LIVE program on Bassmaster.com and simulcast on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.

Facebook Live broadcasts will be added to the coverage this year, on the B.A.S.S. Facebook page, including coverage of takeoff on Day 1, the Toyota Mid-Day Report all three days around noon, and the press conference with the Top 6 anglers after each competition day.

Also on Bassmaster.com, fans can keep up with every fish caught through BASSTrakk, a real-time leaderboard that shows each angler’s catch according to estimates of marshals assigned to each competitor’s boat. In addition, on-the-water reporters provide a running commentary on the action in the Live Blog.

“Through those features, along with videos and photo galleries, we’ll have the lake covered from top to bottom,” said Jim Sexton, B.A.S.S. VP/Digital. “And we’ll cover every inch of the Minute Maid Park weigh-ins and the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, as well.”

2017 Bassmaster Classic Title Sponsor: GEICO

2017 Bassmaster Classic Presenting Sponsor: DICK’S Sporting Goods

2017 Bassmaster Classic Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2017 Bassmaster Classic Premier Sponsors: Power-Pole, Huk, Humminbird, Mercury, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Berkley, Shell Rotella, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats

2017 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo Presenting Sponsor: DICK’S Sporting Goods

2017 Bassmaster Classic Local Sponsors: Shipley Donuts, Academy Sports + Outdoors

About the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods
The 47th world championship of bass fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will host 52 of the world’s best bass anglers competing for more than $1 million, March 24-26 in Houston, Texas. Competition and takeoff will begin each day at Lake Conroe Park (14968 TX-105, Montgomery, Texas) at 7:20 a.m. CT. Weigh-ins will be held daily March 24-26 at 3:15 p.m. in one of Major League Baseball’s Top 20 largest stadiums, the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park (501 Crawford Street, Houston, Texas).

In conjunction, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will be open daily only a block from Minute Maid Park at George R. Brown Convention Center, (1001 Avenida de las Americas, Houston, Texas) the largest in Classic history. Expo hours are Friday, March 24, noon – 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 25, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sunday, March 26, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation presented by Magellan, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

2016 Bassmasters Classic Going To Houston

April 14, 2016

Houston Lands 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic – the 2016 Bassmasters Classic Going To Houston

HOUSTON — The world championship of bass fishing — the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro — will be held in Houston for the first time in the event’s 47-year history, B.A.S.S. and the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, the event hosts, revealed today.

The announcement was made during a press conference in Houston’s Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros and where 52 of the world’s best bass anglers will weigh their fish during the March 24-26, 2017, event.

“We are thrilled to bring the biggest event in bass fishing to the biggest city in the biggest state,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO. “Of the 500,000 members of B.A.S.S. worldwide, nearly 45,000 — more than any other state — call Texas home. We’re glad to be able to hold the Classic near them.”

“We are truly excited to further our relationship with the sport of bass fishing and the Bassmaster Classic,” said Ted Ward, GEICO vice president of marketing. “This event continues to serve as a great platform to interact with their loyal fans and build brand awareness for GEICO’s expanding product lines.”

The fishing competition will take place on Lake Conroe, a 21,000-acre impoundment of the San Jacinto River in Montgomery and Walker counties noted for producing big largemouth bass.

Also during Bassmaster Classic Week in Houston, the nation’s leading fishing tackle and boat manufacturers will take part in the annual Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo, to be held March 24-26 in the George R. Brown Convention Center. In recent years, tackle and lure companies have been using the Classic Expo as the venue to introduce their newest products to bass fishing fans. The 2017 Expo will cover more than 300,000 square feet, the largest in Bassmaster Classic history.

“This is a huge win for the region and is a perfect example of how our events staff constantly works in collaboration with a variety of partners, as well as creatively, to bring these type of sporting events to town,” said Janis Burke, Chief Executive Officer of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority. “Who would have guessed that a fishing tournament weigh-in could be done that many miles away from the fishing lake and inside a MLB Stadium? But, it makes perfect sense and has been a wonderful display of teamwork by many entities. We expect this to be the largest and best event ever held in the Bassmaster Classic’s history.”

The 2017 event will mark only the second time for the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing” to be held in Texas. Television fishing show host Hank Parker won the 1979 Classic on Lake Texoma on the Texas-Oklahoma border. Conroe has never hosted a Bassmaster Elite Series event; however, many of the stars of the Elite Series are familiar with the lake. It was the site of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic from 2009-2013.

In addition, superstar pro Rick Clunn, a four-time Classic Champion, worked as a bass guide on Conroe during the early years of his 42-year career in professional fishing. He is off to a strong start toward qualifying for what would be his 33rd Classic — he won the season opener of the Elite Series in March on Florida’s St. Johns River. Clunn will be 70 years old when the 2017 Classic gets under way.

“Lake Conroe is a bass-fishing gem, and we’re proud to show it off to the bass world,” said Harold Hutcheson, executive director of the Conroe Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Our lake ranks seventh in the state in the number of Toyota ShareLunker entries (open to bass weighing 13 or more pounds), and it’s a popular place for recreational anglers and professionals alike. We look forward to hosting some of the world’s best anglers next year.”

The Classic champion will earn $300,000, part of the more than $1 million in prize money to be paid out to the anglers.

Akin expects the event next year to draw some of the largest crowds in tournament history. More than 107,000 people attended one or more venues during this year’s Classic in Tulsa, Okla., and on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. The event has averaged more than 102,000 in attendance over the past five years.

Officials at host cities during that time have reported an economic impact from the event ranging from $22 million to nearly $24 million.

More than 250 media representatives from throughout the United States and several foreign countries are credentialed to cover the event each year, and The Weather Channel regularly broadcasts live from the takeoff each morning. Several thousand fishing fans are expected to brave chilly morning temperatures to watch the takeoff next year at Lake Conroe.

Fans who don’t make it to the lake will be tuning in to live coverage of the competition through “Bassmaster Classic Live,” a cutting-edge program that streams live, on-the-water fishing action through the B.A.S.S. website, Bassmaster.com. More than 400,000 video plays of Classic Live were recorded this year, resulting in nearly 12 million minutes viewed.

The 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic is being hosted locally by the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, and the fishing action on Lake Conroe is presented by the Conroe Convention and Visitors Bureau.

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Nation, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.

Bassmasters Classic Final Day Is Sunday

Bassmasters Classic Kickoff

By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

Weigh-in arena for Bassmasters C;lassic

Weigh-in arena for Bassmasters C;lassic

As you read this, 55 high performance bass boats will be taking off on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake of the Cherokees northeast of Tulsa in what is widely recognized as the “Super Bowl” of bass fishing, the Bassmaster Classic. One of the anglers will, over the three day event, bring home a catch that will be life-changing, putting $300,000 in cash into his bank account. While a few of the pro’s competing this year have already made this leap, it would have a huge impact for most, who spend huge amounts of money running the highways all over the U.S. in pursuit of their dream of becoming economically successful doing something that they love. It’s a tough row to hoe.

The stage seems to be set perfectly for the event. Spring has arrived early this year in Oklahoma, with many of the trees already in full bloom and some near balmy days already warming the shallows. It’s likely to be a tournament where anglers chase spawning fish, and this usually results in heavy catches. The weather will surely be easier on the anglers than last time the championship was here, in 2013, when subfreezing temperatures and howling winds made it as much an endurance test as a trial of angling skills.

As I write this on Thursday evening in Tulsa, the town seems more than ready for the event. There are signs welcoming the Classic everywhere, there are thousands of fans in town, there are decorated tow trucks everywhere, and every manufacturer in the bass fishing industry is here, waiting eagerly for the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo, which takes place as part of the event. Any company that wants to introduce a new product to this highly-specialized industry can’t pass up this opportunity, which will see tens of thousands of visitors and at the daily weigh-ins at BOK Center downtown.

Odds are probably good that one of the three Oklahoma anglers in the event will bring home the big win–local anglers have won the last two years at Guntersville and Hartwell. However, the last time the Classic was fished here Mississippi angler Cliff Pace took home the gold–perhaps in part because the miserable conditions made normal patterns difficult to sort out for locals.

In any case, The Fishing Wire is here, and we’ll be reporting what happened in our Monday edition, as well as reviewing all the excitement of the new product introductions at the show. It’s a fun time to be in the business, especially for those of us who do not have a sleepless weekend ahead of us worrying about winning $300K.

Bassmasters Classic

A Few Thoughts on the Bassmasters Classic

By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

The “Alabama Mafia” again looks to make its presence felt in the 2016 Bassmaster Classic, to be fishing March 4-6 at Grand Lake northeast of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Aaron Martens

Aaron Martens

Aaron Martens, Angler of the Year in 2015, is likely to be among the favorites to win the 2016 Bassmaster Classic at Grand Lake, Oklahoma, March 4-6. (Photo Credit B.A.S.S.)

With nine Classic contenders, more than any other state, Alabama is living up to its name as the tournament bass fishing capitol of the nation–perhaps not surprisingly since B.A.S.S. was born here in Montgomery, and has returned its headquarters to Birmingham after a brief flirtation with Florida.

Aaron Martens, a Californian now living near Leeds, Ala., is likely to rank near the top of the 54-man Classic field; he’s the reigning Angler of the Year (AOY), and has consistently proven himself one of the best in the world over the last several years on the Bassmaster Elite Series Tour.

Also at the top of his game is Justin Lucas, now a Guntersville resident, who finished 2nd in this year’s AOY race. Another young gun who may do well is Auburn grad Jordan Lee of Vinemont, who finished 9th in the AOY in just his third season of Elite competition.

Other Alabama anglers who made the Classic cut are Matt Herren of Ashville, Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Chris Lane of Guntersville, Randy Howell of Springville, Russ Lane of Prattville, and tackle-maker Boyd Duckett, also now of Guntersville.

Edwin Evers

Edwin Evers

Edwin Evers lives virtually on the shores of Grand Lake, and will know it better than any other angler in the field—a likely factor in success if the bite is tough. (Photo Credit B.A.S.S.)

One name conspicuously absent, to the misfortune of the weigh-in crowds, is funny-man Gerald Swindle of Warrior. Win or lose, Swindle is always a crowd favorite who can draw a laugh, but he did not make the Classic cut this year.

Two Oklahoma anglers loom large in the field this year because Grand Lake is virtually their home water: Edwin Evers lives at Talala, close enough to hit the lake with a long cast, and Jason Christie lives at Park Hill, a short drive south. The last couple of years, home-lake familiarity has been a key factor, with S.C. native Casey Ashley winning at Hartwell in 2015 and Randy Howell winning at Guntersville in 2014. Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., was the winning angler at Grand Lake in 2013, but he’s not in the Classic field this year. The event is being held a week later than it was last time at Grand, and anglers are hopeful they’ll get a break compared to the freezing temperatures and high winds they battled on the last visit.

The Tulsa Classic in 2013 recorded the second highest attendance in history, with more than 106,850 fans visiting one or more of the Classic venues. Total purse will be more than $1 million, with the winner receiving $300,000. The Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo provides an added attraction at the event in downtown Tulsa, with hundreds of boat, motor and tackle manufacturers displaying their new-for-2016 gear to the public for the first time.

For details on the event, visit www.bassmaster.com.

Randy Howell Speaking At Sportsman Event

Randy Howell won the Bass Masters Classic in 2014 on Lake Guntersville. This is the top tournament of the bass fishing world, and I compare it to football by saying the Superbowl is the Bassmasters Classic of football.

Winners of the Classic are in great demand for speaking engagements and doing other publicity for their sponsors. This last for years but the year after they win the Classic is the busiest by far.

Last year I contacted Randy about doing a magazine article. When I talked with him at the Classic media day a few days before he won, he said he would like to do one of my Map of the Month articles in Alabama Outdoor News and gave me his favorite lakes in Alabama near where he lives.

When I contacted him in June he said he was sorry but every day but three for the rest of 2014 were scheduled for him to do something. Can you imagine having commitments every day for six months except for three? That is the price a successful fisherman pays, and they are all willing to pay it.

Randy is a strong Christian, a great guy and tirelessly supports King’s Home, an Alabama charity. From their web site: “King’s Home has been home to hundreds of youth, women, and children seeking refuge, hope, and help from abuse, neglect, abandonment, homelessness, and other difficult and impoverished conditions and circumstances. Our Purpose: To serve Christ by serving youth, women, and mothers with children who are at-risk.”

Randy will be the speaker at the Devotie Baptist Church’s Annual Sportsman Event at 7:30 this Thursday, October 29. The public is invited to attend to hear Randy’s presentation. Devotie Baptist Church is on Experiment Street and they are expecting a very good turnout. It should be a great experience.

I hope to do an article with Randy when his schedule allows. I am setting up the 2016 schedule for those articles now and will contact him when it is final. Don’t miss a chance this week to hear
Randy Howwell speaking at Sportsman Event in Griffin

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Partner with BASS for 2016 Classic

B.A.S.S. And Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Partner To Present 2016 Bassmaster Classic In Oklahoma

TULSA, Okla. — B.A.S.S. and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa have signed a “Local Partnership Agreement” to present the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro March 4-6, 2016, in Tulsa and on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees out of Grove, Okla.

Under terms of the agreement, which was announced today during a press conference revealing Tulsa as the host city for the Classic world championship, the Cherokee Nation resort complex will be the exclusive casino for the Bassmaster Classic and will host private, invitation-only events for Classic anglers, sponsors and special guests.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa will exhibit at the Classic Outdoors Expo to be held March 4-6, 2016, at the Cox Business Center, and will partner with B.A.S.S. in promoting the event.

Hard Rock is also sponsoring a portion of the popular takeoff ceremonies each competition day from Wolf Creek Ramp on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. The dock will be designated the “Hard Rock Dock.”

“We are extremely pleased to be working with the Cherokee Nation and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa again this year,” said Bruce Akin, CEO of B.A.S.S., which conducts the annual “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.” “As part of their presenting sponsorship in 2013, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino hosted some of our most enjoyable events, and I’m told that fishing fans on hand for the Classic packed their facilities during fan appreciation night.”

“We’re proud to once again partner with B.A.S.S. to bring the Bassmaster Classic back to northeast Oklahoma, and showcase Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa to the thousands of visitors to our region,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “The Cherokee Nation is known for being a strong ally in building the regional economy, and this partnership is just one more example of our commitment to that mission.”

“We couldn’t be more excited to sponsor the Bassmaster Classic for the second time, and also serve as the official casino resort complex for the event,” said Shawn Slaton, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses. “Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is the premier entertainment destination in this region, with facilities rivaling those of Las Vegas. With a casino, resort, golf course, dining and concert venue, we’re sure to provide our out of town guests a world class entertainment experience.”

The agreement also provides for advertising and promotion of Hard Rock in the industry leading fishing magazines, Bassmaster and B.A.S.S Times, as well as on the website, Bassmaster.com.

Hosts of the 2016 Classic will be Tulsa Metro Chamber, VisitTulsa, Grand Lake Association and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

The annual Bassmaster Classic tournament is considered the world’s premier fishing event, attracting an average attendance of more than 100,000 each year for the past five years. The Classic champion earns $300,000, and the 54 other competitors will divide the remainder of the $1 million payout.

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series presented by Allstate, Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation events, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.

Tulsa Oklahoma and Grand Lake Site Of 2016 Bassmasters Classic

Bassmaster Classic To Return To Tulsa, Okla., and Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees in March 2016

TULSA, Okla. — The world championship of bass fishing — the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro — will return to one of its most popular destinations in 2016, B.A.S.S. and the event’s Oklahoma hosts announced today. And for the first time, the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing” will be conducted in early March instead of February.

“The 2013 Classic was such a tremendous success, we couldn’t wait to return to Tulsa and Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees with our premier event,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO. “With the support we’ve received from our hosts and our bass fishing fans throughout the region, we’re expecting an even better turnout next year.”

Hosts of the 2016 Classic will be Tulsa Regional Chamber, VisitTulsa, Grand Lake Association and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

“We’re so excited to finally say the Bassmaster Classic is coming back to Tulsa,” said Ray Hoyt, president of VisitTulsa. “We worked our tails off in 2013 to ensure this event was a huge success because we wanted to show our partners at B.A.S.S., and other major league events, what a great place the Tulsa region is. We wanted another Classic the minute the 2013 event was over, and today we can finally say it out loud: The Classic comes back in 2016. A huge thanks to our regional partners, especially Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, for their support in making this a reality.”

“To land the Bassmaster Classic for the second time truly speaks to the staff at the City of Tulsa, Tulsa Regional Chamber and the BOK Center,” Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said. “Thanks to the hard work by many, the 2013 Bassmaster Classic was an astounding success and speaks volumes to why Bassmaster selected Tulsa for the championship in 2016. We hope the region will embrace the championship when it heads back to Tulsa as it is sure to bring more excitement and visitors from around the country and give an economic boost to our community.”

Since 2006, Bassmaster Classics have all been held the third or fourth weekend in February, but the 46th championship has been moved to March 4-6, 2016, to better accommodate anglers’ and sponsors’ preseason schedules and other industry events.

“If moving the event improves odds of good fishing weather, that’s a bonus,” Akin added. “But we proved in 2013 as well as the recent Classic on Lake Hartwell, S.C., that freezing temperatures don’t hamper the anglers’ fishing success, nor do they hurt attendance.”

The Tulsa Classic in 2013 recorded the second highest attendance in history, with more than 106,850 fans visiting one or more of the Classic venues. The attendance record of 137,700 was set at another February Classic, the 2009 event in Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

Hoyt said the economic impact of the first Tulsa Classic was $22.7 million.

“We’re proud that we could help bring the Bassmaster Classic back to Oklahoma, and to beautiful Grand Lake,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Everything between Tulsa and Grand Lake is part of the Cherokee Nation, and we are delighted to showcase our magnificent scenery to the thousands of visitors this event will bring. Most importantly, this partnership and the out of town dollars spent in northeast Oklahoma will be an economic boon to many small Cherokee-owned businesses in our area.”

As in the first Tulsa Classic, the BOK Center will house daily weigh-ins, and the Cox Business Center will hold the Classic Outdoors Expo. Takeoffs each day will be from Wolf Creek Ramp in Grove, Okla. As many as 5,000 fans braved freezing temperatures to watch the Classic anglers set out on competition days in 2013.

Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., won the Classic championship title that year with 54 pounds, 12 ounces of bass for three days of fishing. A total of 55 anglers will qualify for next year’s event through the Bassmaster Elite Series and other Bassmaster circuits during the coming 10 months.

Eleven Oklahoma anglers — 10 percent of the Elite Series field — will be gunning for berths in the event, including Scott Ashmore of Broken Arrow, Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Jason Christie of Park Hill, James Elam of Tulsa, Edwin Evers of Talala, Kenyon Hill of Norman, Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Kevin Ledoux of Choctaw, Jared Miller of Norman, Fred Roumbanis of Bixby and Dave Smith of Del City.

Total purse will be more than $1 million, with the winner receiving $300,000.

Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees was completed in 1940, when Pensacola Dam on the Grand River impounded 46,500 acres. Previous Elite Series events there have been won by Mike McClelland and Kevin VanDam in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

Akin said moving the event to March will minimize scheduling conflicts with boat and sports shows typically scheduled in January and February, yet it will still be early enough in the year to serve as a kickoff of the fishing season. Manufacturers in recent years have been using the Classic Outdoors Expo as the venue to introduce exciting new products to the bass fishing world.

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series presented by Allstate, Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation events, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.

An Unexpected Recognition At the Bassmasters Classic

An Unexpected Recognition
from The Fishing Wire
by Jim Shepherd

There are several awards the 56 anglers in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic were competing for this past weekend in Greenville, South Carolina, but no one was ready for an award ceremony at Friday’s weigh-in. After all, the three-day tournament didn’t conclude until yesterday.

But there was a recognition given to 15 year professional David Walker of Sevierville, Tennessee that took Walker, his fellow competitors and the spectators in attendance by surprise. Granted, Walker earned his much-deserved recognition on Hartwell Lake – but he did it during the final day of practice on Sunday, February 15.

While using the final day of practice fishing before the lake was closed to the Bassmaster competitors, Walker was upstream of Hartwell Dam and he noticed something floating in the 40-degree water. “It kinda looked strange,” Walker said, “but there was a boat ramp with people staring out at whatever it was about 300-400 yards offshore.”

When sheriff’s deputies flashed their lights at him, Walker decided to pull up his trolling motor and go check the object out.

What Walker thought was “an object floating in the water” was a very large, very tired Brandon Ardister. His boat had sunk several hundred yards offshore, leaving a very large, very cold and increasingly disoriented grownup to desperately try to stay afloat holding onto a child’s life preserver.

“He was making motions like he was swimming,” Walker related, “but he wasn’t going anywhere, and he looked to be in the early stages of hypothermia.”

As Walker cut off his main engine and used his trolling motor to approach Ardister he said his first comment was “well you picked a helluva day to go for a swim.”

Ardister told me he managed to tell Walker his boat had suddenly sunk, but he also realized that, barring something happening, he was probably only minutes from dying- one year to the day since the death of his mother.

Walker, on the other hand, had no intention of allowing Ardister to drown. “I knew I had to get him out of the water,” Walker related, “but I wasn’t sure how I’d do that -because he is a big guy. ”

Talking to keep Ardister engaged, Walker dropped down the rear ladder on his Ranger fishing boat and told the man he needed to use it to climb in. But the exhausted, cold and now only barely conscious, Ardister told Walker he’d hold the ladder and Walker could just ” tow him to shore.”

Walker realized Ardister was probably too-far gone to survive that. So, he related, ” told him you have GOT to get into this boat- now.” To help, Walker sat down on his back deck, dug in his heels and grabbed the fully dressed Ardister.

“He’s a big, strong guy,” Walker said, “and it took a couple of tries, but we finally got him past the tipping point where he sorta arm crawled in.”

Walker gets award

Walker gets award

Angler David Walker was honored by the Army Corps of Engineers for his good deed in saving a man from the frigid waters of Hartwell Lake on Sunday, February 10. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.

At that point, Walker raced the rapidly cooling Ardister to shore where sheriff’s deputies and an ambulance were waiting. After giving his name to a deputy, Walked went back to fishing, thinking the matter closed.

On Friday, he surprised by a formal recognition in the form of the Army’s Certificate of Appreciation presented by Savannah District Army Corps of Engineers commander Col. Thomas J. Tickner- accompanies by Brandon Ardister- the man Walker saved.

During the formal presentation, Col. Tickner explained the award was created by the Department of the Army to recognize civilians for accomplishments the Army felt were worthy of recognition.

“While we aren’t responsible for safety on the lake,” he explained, “but we appreciate the special actions taken by Mr. Walker. He saved another person’s life – but the impact of his saving a large man from freezing waters could potentially remind others to wear their life jackets, not just carry them on their boats. That could save several lives in the future as well.”

Afterwards, a surprised but obviously pleased, Walker chatted and posed for a seemingly endless stream of pictures standing alongside the man he’d saved. Several times during their time together, Walker could be heard telling Ardister how glad he was Ardister decided to come to the weigh-in ceremonies.

“I appreciate your being willing to share the story,” Walker said, “not everyone would want to do that.”

Very quiet and soft-spoken, Ardister didn’t seem especially comfortable with the situation, but told me that he hoped his own near-death experience in familiar waters with would remind other boaters that anytime is the right time to be wearing a life jacket.

Because, he said, “you never know what might happen-and not everyone would be so lucky as to have a David Walker nearby.”

Unfortunately for Walker, the big weight he pulled from Hartwell last Sunday proved to be his biggest catch of the Classic. But it is also a memory he says will always make the 2015 Bassmaster Classic special to him.

Wildly Varying Conditions At Bassmasters Classic

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, fishing is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. That applies to catching as well as the weather. Both can be widely different every time you go. The Bassmasters Classic at Lake Hartwell and a Spalding County Sportsman Club tournament last Sunday at Lake Sinclair both reinforced that idea.

Last Wednesday I rode with David Kilgore at Hartwell while he practiced one last day for the Classic. It was partly cloudy and 27 degrees when we started and the water was about 47 degrees and clear. I have a tough time catching bass when the water is colder than 50 degrees but David was happy with the water temperature.

Although he had fits with his line freezing in his guides and even had trouble with the trolling motor freezing in the rack between stops, he got about a dozen bites on his jig and swimbait. He had cut the hook off the jig since he did not want to catch any bass two days before the tournament, just locate them. We did see a couple that hit and held on to the jig in the clear water, and they were quality fish.

On Friday morning the air temperature was ten degrees, increasing the problems with everything freezing. Than goodness I had not scheduled to be a marshal on one of the boats. Marshalls just sit and watch as the pros fish, and they have to pay about $500 for the privilege of watching and freezing. I got to stay in a nice warm convention center all day for the outdoor show.

I was amazed that night at weigh-in when two of the pros had five bass limits weighing over 20 pounds, and many more had limits weighing over 15 pounds. David had a limit that weighed 14 pounds and was in the top 15 or so. His pattern was working.

The next morning it was a balmy 14 degrees. At launch it took some of the pros half an hour to get their boats off the trailers. The boat was frozen to the bunks on the trailers. Trolling motor problems and guide icing was a big problem that day, too, and many of the pros reported running to the place they wanted to fish and finding it covered with a sheet of ice.

David got another limit weighing 12 pounds and made the cut, fishing with the top 25 the last day. There were no 20 pound limits but several had over 15 pounds even under those conditions. Results varied widely. Randall Tharp had only four pounds the first day but had a 16 pound limit. The guys with over 20 pounds did not do as well, with one of them weighing in less than five pounds.

The last day at launch it was rainy and much warmer. By the end of the day the air was 50 degrees warmer than it had been at launch on Friday. The rain hurt David’s pattern, he was fishing docks and the bright sun was positioning fish in specific areas of the docks. Clouds don’t make them do that.

But Casey Ashley had over 20 pounds that final day and came from fifth place to win with 15 bass weighing over 50 pounds in three days. There were many other good catches that day, too. The top pros fishing the Classic can catch fish under terrible, changing conditions. But some of them didn’t do well, even they never know what they are going to get.

One interesting fact to me from the results. Five of the fishermen were amateurs that qualified through the Bass Nation Federation. They are club fishermen like me, just better. But three of the four zeros in the tournament were the federation fishermen. Most of us don’t know how to adjust to changing conditions like the pros do.

The Classic was an amazing experience. I hope the one next year is close enough for me to go, but I heard rumors it was going to be back on Grand Lake in Oklahoma where it was held in 2013. Cities pay big bucks, somewhere over $50,000, to get the Classic to come to their town. There is a reason. A city hosting the Classic can expect around #20,000,000 in revenue from it.

Casey Ashley Wins the 2015 Bassmasters Classic

Hometown Favorite Casey Ashley Wins Bassmaster Classic Title

GREENVILLE, S.C. — On Sunday evening at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Casey Ashley completed a journey that began more than three decades ago and seemed to drag on forever these past few weeks.

The 31-year-old South Carolina native, who has lived just a few miles from Lake Hartwell all his life, caught five bass that weighed 20 pounds, 3 ounces to cap a moving victory in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro on his home waters with a three-day total of 50-1.

The weight was enough to help Ashley pass Elite Series pro Bobby Lane of Florida, who finished second with 46-15, and Texas angler Takahiro Omori, who placed third with 44-3.

The end of the weigh-in meant Ashley could finally take a deep breath after seven weeks when the lake was mostly off-limits due to B.A.S.S. rules and when virtually everyone he saw wanted to talk about him being the favorite to win.

“I worked a show in Greenville at the TD Convention Center (in mid-January), and I bet I thought about the Classic 50,000 times while I was standing there,” said Ashley, who won the Classic on his sixth try. “My first Classic was here (in 2008), and ever since then I’ve been saying I’d like to have that one back.

“I wanted to win so bad here at home, and I had a long time to think about it. It was pretty rough.”

Once it began, Ashley made the most of his opportunity.

An accomplished singer, songwriter and musician in addition to his career as a pro angler, Ashley opened the event with a stirring rendition of the national anthem before Friday’s frigid opening-round takeoff at Green Pond Landing in Anderson, S.C.

Then he went out and steadily caught fish every day on a homemade fish-head spinner rigged with a Zoom Super Fluke Jr. in pearl white. His father, Danny, made him about 20 of the baits before the tournament began.

Ashley prefers to fish a jig — and he won an FLW Tour event last year on Hartwell doing just that. But the more he tried it this week, the more he realized it might sink him if he didn’t abandon the tactic and stick with the baits his dad made for him.

“I was going out and getting a good limit with that bait and then going and fishing brushpiles and structure looking for big fish with a jig,” Ashley said. “I burned a lot of time doing that the first two days.

“Then Saturday night, I was lying in bed and the (country music) song ‘Why Lady Why?’ kept going through my mind. So I asked myself ‘Why do I keep doing that?’”

With the conditions rainy and overcast on Sunday — just perfect for what he’d been doing with the homemade bait — Ashley stuck with the tactic that helped him catch 10 fish that weighed 29-14 on Friday and Saturday. It paid off as he steadily culled fish throughout the day Sunday.

He rose from fifth to first with his catch of 20-3.

“I knew I had to catch a big bag today, and the weather was textbook for me,” Ashley said. “It all came together, and I could just see it getting closer and closer and closer.”

Omori, the Day 2 leader, was the final angler to weigh in — and when his weight fell far short of what he needed to win, Ashley was overcome with emotion. He was named champion and handed the 45-pound Classic trophy with his own song, “Fisherman” blaring over the speakers and a capacity crowd on their feet inside the arena.

Ashley, who held the trophy above his head with the song still playing and confetti spraying around him, said he considered his Classic victory a “win for everyone.”

He was also proud to be one of the few anglers who has managed to win a Classic on his home waters despite all of the distractions and potential pitfalls that come with the scenario.

“I know everybody wanted to win this tournament, but they couldn’t have wanted to win more than I did,” Ashley said. “I broke that record — that nobody can win on their home lake. There have been a lot of guys who said they fished the Classic on their home waters through the years when it really wasn’t their home waters. It was just close to their home.

“But these are really my home waters. This is my back yard — and that’s special.” Only two other anglers in 45 years have won the Classic in their home state.

Behind Ashley, Lane and Omori, were Arizona pro Dean Rojas (43-13), Virginia pro Jacob Powroznik (43-1) and New Jersey pro Michael Iaconelli (42-6).

The GEICO Everyday Leader Award of $1,000 was presented to Rojas on Day 1; an additional $1,500 was awarded to Rojas for having a GEICO decal on his boat’s windshield. Omori earned the Day 2 GEICO Everyday Leader Award of $1,000, and the $1,500 GEICO decal bonus.

Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., was awarded the GoPro Big Bass award of $2,500 for his Day 2 big bass of 6 pounds, 11 ounces.

The local host for the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro are VisitGreenvileSC, Visit Anderson, Greenville County, Anderson County and the state of South Carolina.

2015 Bassmaster Classic Title Sponsor: GEICO

2015 Bassmaster Classic Presenting Sponsors: GoPro

2015 Bassmaster Classic Premier Sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha

2015 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo Presenting Sponsor: Dick’s Sporting Goods

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series presented by Allstate, Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation events, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.