Category Archives: Bassmasters Classic

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.

St Croix Rods At the Bassmasters Classic

Class of the Classic

Four top St. Croix Rod pros qualify for 2015 Bassmaster Classic
from St Croix Rods

Park Falls, WI (February 15, 2015) – To qualify is a big badge of honor. Winning? Well let’s just say the medals and commendations might require a caddy to carry and reinforcement of the fireplace mantle. The Classic trophy alone looks to exceed the maximum poundage for check-in luggage.

The Classic is a weighty matter, indeed. And there is a quartet of Elite anglers who will be throwing their weight and baits around under the flag of an all-American brand. Classic qualifiers James Niggemeyer, Stephen Browning, Scott Rook and Brian Snowden will have St. Croix Rod pinned to their chests and immaculately crafted rods in their hands.

South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell sets the battlefield for the 2015 campaign. The phrase “intimidating” might best describe the 56,000-acre reservoir and its 962 miles of shoreline. Rugged foothills and plummeting piedmont foretell what lies beneath the surface, as Hartwell’s waterscape is a pulmonary arrhythmia of structure.

True, for one, Niggemeyer is impressed by the scope and cragginess of Hartwell, but definitely not intimidated by the manmade lake. “Hartwell reminds me of some of the lakes I fished out west,” said the California native, now proud Texan. “Before Christmas, I went on a scouting trip to familiarize myself with the lake. I left feeling pretty comfortable.”

Pre-fishing is one thing, prognosticating another. Niggemeyer tested the waters in late December, but the dates of the Classic put him back on Hartwell in late February. So how does he expect the bite to play out?

“I predict that the bass will be in a late-winter pre-spawn mode, meaning both deep and shallow patterns will be in play,” said Niggemeyer, mentally preparing for basically everything. “I want to fish my strengths, and working a Strike King jig is one of them. It’s a powerful cold-water tool when fished around vertical structure and cover types both shallow and deep.”

Painting a waterscape with a precision jig necessitates the right brush, the perfect rod. “I’ll fish a St. Croix Legend Elite (LEC70MHF) 7-foot medium-heavy rod to get the job done. It’s extremely sensitive to soft bites from sluggish cold-water fish, but still has the action and backbone to maximize my potential to land each bite.”

Niggemeyer’s secondary approach involves raking crankbaits along fast-falling banks. “I have had a lot of success in late winter/early spring, fishing a variety of Strike King crankbaits to draw reaction strikes from fish that are otherwise reluctant to eat a slow-moving presentation.

“Pre-spawn bass tend to relate to 45-degree banks because they offer quick access to deep water. And using the right rod for crankbaiting is crucial, which is why I will reach for a 7-foot 4-inch St. Croix Mojo Bass Glass (MBGC74MM). The fiberglass rod gives me an edge anytime I fish crankbaits, but especially in this cold-water timeframe when fish have a tendency to swipe at baits, resulting in fish that are just barely hooked.”

Niggemeyer’s larger Classic prediction? “The tournament will most likely be won by the guy who consistently catches them day after day, as opposed to the one who has a monster day and hangs on for the win. With that in mind, a carefully thought out strategy with multiple options will be important.”

Similarity, not familiarity, is the battle cry echoed by St. Croix Rod pro and Bassmaster Classic qualifier, Brian Snowden. The Missourian is intimately acquainted with Table Rock Lake, which he says mimics South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell. “I have never fished a tournament on Lake Hartwell, but I did have the opportunity to spend an entire week on the water prior to off-limits. It fishes very similar to my home lake, Table Rock.”

In Snowden’s academic opinion, the calendar and cold water will have bass in a pre-spawn frame of mind. “The fish should be in a late winter or early pre-spawn pattern. For fish staging deeper than 10 feet, I plan on using a 1/2- to 3/4-ounce football jig. For this technique, my all-time favorite rod is the 7-foot medium-heavy St. Croix Legend Elite. The rod is very light and phenomenally sensitivity. Plus, the Legend Elite has a fast tip allowing for accurate casts, but with plenty of strength through the lower section of the rod.”

Snowden, like Niggemeyer, already has his fingers on the seams of a follow-up pitch. “My second prediction is that bass will be in major creeks, on channel swings and secondary points. One of the best techniques for catching them is running a crankbait. My choice for throwing smaller, lightweight crankbaits is the 7-foot 2-inch St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass (TBC72MM).”

There is a hardened Lake Hartwell expert in St. Croix’s ranks as well. “I fished the 2008 Bassmaster Classic on Hartwell,” said Arkansan Stephen Browning. “I didn’t fare well, but I really like the lake. I did spend some time before cutoff trying to familiarize myself with some areas that I didn’t fish during the 2008 Classic.” Seems that a winning formula for Browning will involve hybridizing 2008 intel with knowledge gained from more recent pre-fishing efforts.

“I’m going to hope for stable weather patterns leading up to the Classic,” said Browning, metaphorically pounding the Farmer’s Almanac with this fist. “This will help me analyze the winning pattern, or patterns, during the Classic. Nothing would suit me better than if there was substantial rainfall about a week out. That would move bass shallower, which would set up nicely for some shallow cranking.”

Again, akin to Niggemeyer, Browning snares a crankbait-specific St. Croix Rod off the front platform. “I’ve put the Mojo Target Cranker to the test the last two years with wins on the Red River in Shreveport, LA, and would love the opportunity to do the same at the Classic.”

Browning’s Plan B considers dryer conditions. “If we don’t see the rain and the fish are relating to deeper structure, a football jig on the end of a Legend Tournament Bass Carolina Rig rod will play a big role. This is one of my favorite ways to catch fish during the late-winter season.

“If I can find fish using either of these techniques, I should do very well. Confidence is a major player, especially at the Classic, and I know that there are no better rods that fit my styles of fishing than those that carry the St. Croix logo.”

Rounding out St. Croix’s fearsome foursome is veteran B.A.S.S. angler Scott Rook. The Arkansan is maybe best known for his adaptability; able to drive crankbaits with a burly baitcaster and effortlessly drop it to the deck and come back up with a finesse spinning outfit.

Matching Browning’s history with Lake Hartwell, Rook laced ‘em up at the 2008 Bassmaster Classic. And this time around, as he stated in a recent story written by David A. Brown for Arkansas Wild magazine, Rooks said deciphering prevailing weather conditions will be the key to the kingdom.

“In late February, if we have a warming spell, it will be shallow-water fishing; if we have a cold spell between now and then it will be more deep-water fishing,” he said. “More than likely, it will be won deep, but if it continues to warm, you can continue to fish shallow.

“The weather is going to be the biggest factor in what you can do. And you might have to mix it up some.”

St. Croix Rod, like its water-warriors, wears a badge of honor. And the symbol stands as the company’s pride in both its pros and the premium rods they’ll be fishing.

Im Going To the Bassmasters Classic

I’m going to the BassMasters Classic in Greenville, South Carolina and Lake Hartwell this week – as a media observer. Way back in 1983 in almost qualified to fish the Classic through the federation and going as an observer is a far cry from fishing it, but I went last year and had fun.

The Classic is the biggest tournament in bass fishing each year. It is often called the Superbowl of bass fishing. Last year I was quoted in Sports Illustrated saying “the Suprebowl should be called the Basssmasters Classic of football!” It is that big, and the winner can expect to earn over one million dollars during the next year in sponsorships and endorsements.

On Wednesday I will ride with one of the pros during the final practice day. I am a little worried since the weather guessers say the high will be 37 with a chance of rain, but it gives me the chance to see first-hand how the pros try to find fish and figure out how to catch them.

Thursday is media day and I will have lunch with the pros – me and about 150 other media representatives. After lunch the pros will be at their boats to do interviews. Last year one question I asked was “What advice would you give to a young fisherman wanting to be a bass pro?” The results of those interviews are in an article I wrote in this month’s Georgia Outdoor News.

Friday is the first day of the tournament and while the pros are fishing there will be a huge outdoor show at the TD Convention Center in Greenville. There will be dozens of vendors there, ranging from boat companies to lure manufacturers. And many of them will have special discounts on their products. The show will run all three days, Friday through Sunday, and it is free.

The weigh-in each day will be at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena and is also free. Live weigh-ins will be streamed on the internet so you can watch from home. And there will be a live blog each day of fishing from on-the-water observers as well as streaming video of the pros fishing, all at http://bassmasters.com.

The show and weigh-ins in Greenville are a little over three hours from Griffin. It would be a fun trip to go to the show and see some of the weigh-ins in person.

Bassmaster Classic Audience Expected To Grow This Year

The cameras used to film The Bassmasters on ESPN are now capable of also streaming live on-the-water video that will be accessible on Bassmaster.com during the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro. Photo by Bassmaster

The cameras used to film The Bassmasters on ESPN are now capable of also streaming live on-the-water video that will be accessible on Bassmaster.com during the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.
Photo by Bassmaster

Bassmaster Classic Audience Expected To Grow In 2015 Through Innovative New Media

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro next week on Lake Hartwell, South Carolina, is expected to become the most widely watched and thoroughly covered fishing event in history, B.A.S.S. officials predict.

“It will certainly be covered in more different ways than previous Classics, which historically have reached more fishing fans than any other tournament,” said Jim Sexton, VP/Digital for B.A.S.S. “With new live coverage of fishing action on Bassmaster.com and advances in content for mobile devices, we’re hoping to surpass 1 million unique visitors on our website alone.”

The 2014 Classic on Lake Guntersville attracted 979,000 unique visitors to the site, and they generated a total of 33 million page views in February 2014, including 22 million during Classic Week.

In addition to web coverage, ESPN2 will air 12 hours of programming on the Classic, which is being held Feb. 20-22 on Lake Hartwell, with weigh-ins to be held in Greenville, S.C. The programs will be re-aired on ESPN2, ESPN Classic and on The Outdoor Channel. The 2014 Classic on Lake Guntersville attracted more than 1.3 million viewers, including approximately 880,000 on ESPN2 and 400,000 on The Outdoor Channel.

Bassmaster Magazine will cover the 45th Classic in its April issue, reaching 500,000 B.A.S.S. members and 3.7 million readers.

The “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing” also has attracted a record number of journalists representing independent media ranging from websites to magazines and newspapers to television networks. Approximately 275 media representatives have applied for credentials to cover the event.

Among the media contingent, a crew from The Weather Channel will be broadcasting live from the take-off site, Green Pond Landing in Anderson, S.C., Friday and Saturday mornings, Feb. 21-22.

Another form of live broadcast from the Classic will be “huge,” predicts Mike McKinnis, producer of the award-winning The Bassmasters TV show. Internet coverage of the Classic will feature live on-the-water video of anglers on Lake Hartwell.

Employing somewhat new technology built into the same cameras used for the television show, video is transmitted through cell service and streamed live on the website, McKinnis explained. “We do things that inspire us, and we know if we get excited, typically the fans can get excited about it,” he added. “I think the fans will be blown away.”

The video will be streamed in the “Bassmaster Classic Live presented by Lowrance” programs on Bassmaster.com each competition day, Feb. 20-22, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET.

Classic television coverage on ESPN2 will premiere Saturday, March 7, with a three-hour block covering Day 1 and Day 2 of the competition, and the final round will be covered in a two-hour show Sunday, March 8, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on ESPN2. (See Bassmaster.com for complete listings.) The programs are videoed, edited and produced by the same team that’s responsible for The Bassmasters show on ESPN2 and the Outdoor Channel. That show recently received the prestigious Golden Moose award for “Best Fishing Show” — the third such award in the past four years for the program.

In addition to “Bassmaster Classic Live,” the Bassmaster.com website offers several other ways to keep up with the fishing competition in real time. BASSTrakk uses cellphone technology to record the location of each angler on a GPS map. Marshals assigned as observers for each of the anglers operate the BASSTrakk devices and send in updates immediately after each fish is caught and kept or released. That information is displayed in the Real Time Leaderboard, an unofficial ranking of each of the competitors, and is sent automatically to followers of @BASSTrakk on Twitter.

Teams of writers and photographers prowl the lake, following the leaders and filing reports and photos in the “Live Blog” feature on the website, which also publishes photos taken by marshals of the angler’s biggest bass. “Near-live” video interviews will be posted online in the BASSCam section, and select video from GoPro cameras installed on all 56 contender boats will be posted daily on the website.

Fans will be able to contribute to the Classic coverage as well through Twitter and/or Instagram. By using the hashtag #BassmasterClassic, their Tweets and photos will appear on video screens in the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods, on the big screen during weigh-ins at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena and on Bassmaster.com.

Social media is expected to play a major role in telling the story of the event this year, according to Social Media Editor Tyler Wade. “More than 2,500 Instagram photos were posted with our hashtag during last year’s Classic, and we had barely established our Instagram presence then. With 25,000 fans on our Instagram account, @bass_nation, the number of posts will be much higher this year.”

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.

Lake Hartwell Is So Big It Offers Bassmasters Classic Challenges

As one of the largest lakes in the Southeast, Lake Hartwell has 56,000 surface acres and 962 miles of shoreline. This lake will prove to be a challenge for the 56-angler field competing in the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.

Massive Lake Hartwell Presents Challenges, Opportunities For Classic Anglers
from BASS

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – When talking with one of the 56 anglers taking part in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro, Feb. 20-22 on Lake Hartwell, you can expect to hear the words “big” and “everything” a lot.

Serving as a border between Georgia and South Carolina, the lake has 56,000 surface acres and 962 miles of shoreline. That makes it one of the Southeast’s largest and most popular fishing destinations.

“It’s a lot bigger than I remember it being when we were there for the Classic that Alton Jones won (in 2008),” said Aaron Martens, who will be making his 16th career Classic appearance. “I don’t think I even saw half of the lake back then. It’s got a lot of acreage, and the amount of fishable water in that acreage is pretty large.”

The size of the lake combined with its diverse structure could make it hard for anglers to form a solid game plan that’s likely to withstand three days of the area’s often-erratic winter weather. The lake has everything from long, sloping points and underwater islands to standing timber, rocky banks, man-made brushpiles and deep underwater channels.

“There’s so much to look at – a little bit of everything, everywhere,” Martens said. “You can catch them shallow to deep. You have to be ready for it all, but that’s what we do. I think the fish will bite. But depending on the weather, it could be hard to present certain techniques to them.”

Along with diverse structure, Hartwell has two species of black bass that could both be helpful to anglers. First, there are the largemouth that have been the staple of most tournaments on Hartwell for decades. Then there’s the spotted bass that have steadily increased in size the past four or five years since making their way downstream from Lake Keowee, where they were introduced more than a decade ago.

Classic competitor Casey Ashley, who lives just 35 minutes from Lake Hartwell in Donalds, S.C., believes spots could play a major role in the outcome of the tournament.

“It could possibly be won off spots,” said Ashley, who won an FLW Tour event on Hartwell in March 2014. “The 3- to 5-pound spots are there, and there are a lot of them. I’ve just now gotten to where I’ll actually target spots. I wouldn’t in the past because for years, you just couldn’t win with spots. That’s just not the case anymore.”

Elite Series pro Stephen Browning of Arkansas, who will be appearing in his 10th Classic, isn’t sure the event can be won with spotted bass. But he believes they could make for an excellent “Plan B” if the largemouth prove too stubborn.

“Personally, with the exception of the Coosa River (in Alabama), I’ve never seen a lake where a guy can win a multiday tournament exclusively on spotted bass,” Browning said. “But mixing five or six of them in with largemouth may help you survive. I feel like if a guy gets to struggling, those will definitely be the fish to turn to.”

Those anglers and the rest of the field will be aiming to do more than survive — they’re gunning for the $300,000 winner’s prize and the almost instant fame and fortune that go with winning.

Weigh-ins will be held daily at the Bon Secours Wellness Center Arena in downtown Greenville, with the winner to be crowned there Sunday afternoon, Feb. 22.

Plenty of activities are available to fishing fans prior to the weigh-ins. For those willing to brave the morning chill, the Green Pond Landing at Anderson, S.C., provides a fan-friendly setting for watching the pros take off each morning. And one of the country’s largest consumer fishing shows, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods, will be open all three competitions days. All three venues are free admission.

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.

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, Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro.

Is Cliff Price Ready for the Classic?

Former Classic® Champion Pace Anxious for Competition to Begin
from The Fishing Wire

Cliff Price

Cliff Price

After Missing 2014 Season Due to Injury, Cliff Pace is Ready to Fish Again

With the Bassmaster Classic® world championship now less than eight weeks away, it’s pretty safe to say none of the 56 anglers who will be competing are looking forward to the event as much as 2013 Classic® winner Cliff Pace. That’s because the Yamaha Pro has fully healed from a severe leg injury that forced him to miss the entire 2014 Elite Series season and 2014 Classic,® and also because this year’s event will be on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell, where Pace finished second in the 2008 championship.

“I don’t have any butterflies, yet,” smiled Pace, after returning from an early scouting trip to Hartwell. “I’m just glad to be fishing and getting involved again. Sitting out this past year was miserable for me. I missed the competition and being around my friends.

“It really doesn’t matter to me where the Classic® is being held, because I’m just thankful for the opportunity to compete again.”

A year ago, Pace broke both the fibula and tibula in his left leg when he fell 20 feet while climbing down from his tree stand while deer hunting. The accident also tore his ACL tendons. After being on crutches and unable to put any weight on his leg for three months, Pace literally had to learn to walk again.

Cliff Price Has Recovered

Cliff Price Has Recovered

“I went to physical therapy every other day, pushing myself as hard as I could,” remembers the Yamaha Pro, “and the doctors say I probably shortened my recovery time by six months or more. All I can say about the experience is that I don’t want to go through it again.”

Before he was off his crutches, however, Pace actually began bass fishing again, although not the way the Mississippi angler is accustomed to doing. Friends literally lifted him into his bass boat while still in the parking lot, then launched and slowly trolled him around small lakes near his home as Pace cast from the back deck seat.

“I just simply had to get outside, if only for a few hours,” he says. “Before the accident, I was either fishing or on my way to go fishing, practically every day of the year.”

By October, the Yamaha Pro had recovered well enough to compete in the final Bassmaster® Southern Open of the year on Lake Norman. Although he struggled in rough water the final day of that event, he still managed a 10th place finish. Since then, Pace has continued to fish as often as possible, and in late December spent a week on Hartwell before the lake went off-limits to Classic® contenders.

“These kinds of pre-tournament practice trips are all about guessing where bass might be in two months, and it is just a guess because it all depends on the weather conditions we have between now and the Classic,®” he emphasizes. “I did very little actual fishing, and one day I don’t think I even picked up a rod at all. Instead, I rode around and became familiar with the lake again. In fact, I didn’t even re-visit the places I fished in 2008.

“The lake is probably 10 to 12 feet higher now than it was during that Classic,® and I remember catching my fish then a different way each day. Typically, Hartwell sets up more as a ‘pattern lake’, which is what I like, so I looked for different places in each section of the lake and tried to determine which patterns might prevail when we’re there.”

Cliff Pace Getting Ready for Hartwell

Cliff Pace Getting Ready for Hartwell

Still, the Yamaha Pro knows conditions are likely to be different during the Feb. 20-22 tournament, because during his visit the water temperature registered an almost-balmy 55 degrees, which is surprisingly warm this late in the winter.

“Hartwell also has a much higher spotted bass population today than it did in 2008, so I’m sure that will also play a role in the outcome of the Classic,®” he concludes. “Essentially, I think it will be a completely different type of event.

“All I can say is that I’m honored, and very, very glad, to be able to fish it again.”

Randy Howell Scouts Lake Hartwell for Bassmasters Classic

Defending the Classic crown: Randy Howell scouts Lake Hartwell in preparation for the Feb. 20-22 Bassmaster Classic

Today’s feature comes to us from 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion Randy Howell, offering a few thoughts on how he intends to fish in this year’s event.
from The Fishing Wire

I don’t really ever make resolutions for New Year’s – I prefer to set goals instead. Looking back at this same time last year, my number one competitive goal was to win the 2104 Bassmaster Classic.

“Check” on that one.

Randy Howell

Randy Howell

Randy Howell hoists the Classic trophy high after his big win last year on Lake Guntersville.

My biggest competitive goal as I head into 2015 is a big one: to be a back-to-back Classic winner. In order to accomplish that goal, I also have “sub-goals” jotted down in my iPhone notes, and the first sub-goal is simply “Work hard in practice in preparation for the Bassmaster Classic.”

So far so good on that one.

I just got back from a week of scouting for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina, and I’m pretty encouraged by what I found there.

DECIPHERING LAKE HARTWELL

Right out of the gate, I knew I had some work to do, because I’d never fished Lake Hartwell before I scouted it just prior to New Year’s Day. The Classic was held there in 2008, but I didn’t qualify for that Classic, so I was pretty anxious to get on the water and start to break the fishery down a little.

My first impression of Hartwell is that I really didn’t realize how big it was. I looked at maps and knew that it had around 900 miles of shoreline, but once I got there and started scouting, I realized that Hartwell might be one of the most productive top-to-bottom fisheries I’ve ever seen. Typically, you can look at a reservoir that big and eliminate a lot of water that won’t be productive.

Not Hartwell.

It’s a lot like Lake Guntersville in that it has so much fishable, productive water with a lot of fish in all of it, from one end of the lake to the other. That really makes the Classic anybody’s ballgame, because there are several different patterns that could play big roles in winning that event.

Having a mixed bag of tricks and being versatile are going to be a big deal. If you’re able to fish multiple techniques well, it’ll really show out well at this Classic.

There are some fisheries where you just have to be hard-headed and stick with the jig or the swimbait and just grind on them for four days straight, but I think you’re going to have to mix it up with three of four different techniques to win at Hartwell.

THE CHAMP’S CHOICES: TOP FOUR BAITS

Crankbait Bass At Hartwell

Crankbait Bass At Hartwell

Howell was able to find crankbait fish on Lake Hartwell during a scouting expedition to the site of this year’s Classic. If the crankbait bite is on by Classic time, his chances will be good.
To be honest, I probably only fished for four or five hours total while I scouted Hartwell – I spent most of my time just driving around, making myself familiar with the layout of the lake – but what I found leads me to believe that the following Team Livingston baits are going to be big parts of my gameplan come the Classic:

Howeller DMC: The same bait I won the Classic last year with is going to be HUGE for me this year. The little I fished during scouting, I caught big fish on the Howeller DMC. Hartwell really sets up well for that 6- to 10-foot zone in February, which is perfect for the Howeller, and I caught a 5-plus-pounder on literally my second cast on the second point I stopped on during scouting.

I’m going to have some custom paint jobs done that mimic the look of the blueback herring in the reservoir, but I’m pretty sure the Howeller is going to be a go-to bait.

School Master: I’m really excited about this bait in general – I’ve been fishing a homemade version of it for awhile – but the School Master with EBS MultiTouch Technology™ could be a really good option at Hartwell. It’s a slow-falling bait that you can let fall into those schools of fish that suspend over deep trees, and a bait where the MultiTouch™ sound technology will really shine. If that pattern and depth are firing during the Classic, the School Master’s slow-fall action and multiple-sound options could be big players.

Howell At Classic

Howell At Classic

Howell caught many of his winning fish at last year’s Classic on a Livingston Lures crankbait since named the “Howeller” in his honor.

Howeller DMC SQ: If it warms up the week of the Classic and fish get shallow, the Howeller DMC SQ could be a big one. That bait vibrates really hard, it darts and digs well, and has a really great, erratic action to it. That bait will probably be my go-to for shallow bank-beating, and I’ll likely throw it in Guntersville Craw. Hartwell has a lot of red clay and crawfish, and the Guntersville Craw color family really seems to be a favorite in February and March for local anglers.

Deep Impact 18: The major difference that people will see in this Classic versus the 2008 Classic held on Hartwell is the role the spotted bass will play in the tournament. Hartwell’s spotted bass have done really well in recent years, and you’re going to have to catch them to be competitive. From what I saw during my scouting, Hartwell’s spotted bass really like the Deep Impact 18.

This bait isn’t erratic and fast like the Howeller SQ: it has a really smooth action, and a subtle, tight wobble. The action alone makes it a good cold-water bait, but if fish are keying on that 15- to 20-foot depth, the Deep Impact’s EBS MultiTouch™ sound attraction range is going to make a huge difference.

I’m really looking forward to getting back to Hartwell during Classic week and sort of “dialing in” during our official practice days. I feel like I’ve accomplished one of my sub-goals in preparing hard for the Classic, and am ready to take the next step in accomplishing my big goal for 2015: to raise the Classic trophy again!