Category Archives: Bassmasters Classic

What Does It Mean To Be A Professional Bass Fisherman?

Pro bass fishermen at the Bassmasters Classic give young antlers advice on becoming a pro bass fisherman


WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A PRO

from The Fishing Wire

What It Means To Be A Pro

Forestville, WI (February 9, 2022) – What defines a professional angler? Ask someone off the street and they’ll likely describe fancy boats, bright lights and big fish. Ask those who stand atop the leaderboard, however, and they’ll tell a different story – one of hard work, determination, and the efforts of many other industry pros who have helped them succeed.

“You can’t get to the top without others to lift you up,” says, Patrick Neu, president of the 1,400-member non-profit National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA). “Nobody reaches the pinnacle of professionalism in this industry without a lot of help. That’s exactly why the NPAA is inviting fishing industry workers of every type to join our ranks. Our purpose is to grow and protect sportfishing while providing our members the tools and association benefits needed to increase their professionalism and meet individualized goals.”

To be sure, professionalism in the fishing industry is wide ranging, a point not lost on the organization and its members. “Being a fishing industry ‘pro’ is a pretty loose term,” says NPAA member Chad Pipkens, a ten-year full-time veteran of the Bassmaster Elite Series and five-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier from Dewitt, Michigan, who spent several years prior honing his skills on a variety of smaller trails before acquiring the knowledge, money and flexibility of time needed to compete at the highest levels.

“Professional doctors diagnose and treat patients, teachers instruct students, pro golfers receive PGA cards, and electricians need a license to perform electrical work,” Pipkens says. “These are all well-defined fields of specialization. By comparison, the fishing world encompasses many different job opportunities. Sure, tournament anglers, captains and guides are fishing professionals, but so are the highly skilled mechanics that work on your engine as well as the folks who run the marina, design lures, sell fishing tackle, manage anglers and staff the tournament trails.

“To me,” Pipkens continued, “anyone making meaningful money or striving to earn a living in this industry should qualify as a pro. If you don’t want to be on the water day in and day out, but you still want to be in the industry, you can find the contacts amongst our membership to maybe make that happen.”

“Anyone making meaningful money or striving to earn a living in this industry should qualify as a pro.”

According to Pipkens, the NPAA does a great job of teaching aspiring pros how to run a fishing-related business through their seminars, annual conference and approachable members who have already achieved success. “NPAA membership can shorten your learning curve and raise your professionalism at any level,” he points out. “It’s a great organization for learning the ins and outs of running your own business; whether that’s tech stuff, accounting, how to network or get paid by more than one employer, it certainly can help shorten your learning curve.”

As a pro angler, Pipkens says his life is organized chaos; getting the boat ready, crisscrossing the country, and being on the road for five weeks at a time while never losing his family focus. He often practices on the water from sunrise to sunset. Despite the pressure to win, tournaments are actually the fun part of his routine. “Balancing all the rest,” he says, “is what really makes you a professional.”

For tournament pros, guides and charter captains in particular, there is a ton of preparation that takes place behind the scenes, notes John Campbell, an NPAA founding member and full-time guide. A Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame member inducted in 2018, Campbell managed to win both the Pro Walleye Trail Detroit River and FLW Lake Ouachita championships. He also qualified for a major walleye championship every single year from 1989 to 2011 while on the pro tour. That’s 22 consecutive years, if you’re counting.

Like Pickens, Campbell agrees publicly visible aspects of being a tournament angler or guide help solidify your status as a professional, but the business end of things is vitally important. “Sure, you’ve got to pre-fish, choose your lures, maintain your gear, set up the boat and put in plenty of time on the road,” he notes, “but you also have to learn to book charters, carefully plan out your competition schedule, promote your sponsors and tend to family matters. Earning money and winning tournaments is vital, but also important is finding ways to help grow the sport through sharing knowledge and getting more kids involved.”

As a professional guide, Campbell is in the business of educating anglers. “To me, helping others learn the game is the sign of a true pro,” he states, adding that this is exactly the kind of people you’ll network and rub elbows with in the NPAA. “This organization supported over 100 Future Angler clinics in 2021 alone. With support from the Future Angler Foundation, it’s member volunteers also distributed over 4,000 NPAA Future Pro T-shirts and 3,000 rod/reel combos to kids at NPAA Future Angler education events. That, I believe, is professionalism at its finest.”

For information on joining the NPAA and exploring the many benefits membership provides, visit npaa.net.

Hank Cherry Wins Bassmasters Classic – Two In A Row

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
CHERRY PULLS A STUNNA
Berkley pro relies on new bait designed in conjunction with Berkley scientists to become fourth angler to win back-to-back Bassmaster Classic championships.
 
FORT WORTH, Texas (June 13, 2021) — After he won his first Bassmaster Classic in 2020, Berkley pro Hank Cherry and the Berkley bait scientists set out to develop the ultimate jerkbait. More than just one of Cherry’s favorite ways to catch bass and a presentation with which the North Carolina native has become synonymous, the team believed it could produce a bait that would work year-round in any fishery and, hopefully, be a factor in the 2021 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Ray Roberts. 
 
All the off-season homework paid off.
 
Cherry brought 13 pounds, 1 ounce to the weigh-in stage on the final day of the 2021 Bassmaster Classic, giving him a three-day combined weight of 50 pounds, 15 ounces. With the win, Cherry pockets the $300,000 first-place prize and etches his name into the history books as only the fourth angler to win the Bassmaster Classic in consecutive years. 
 
“This is the biggest honor I could ever dream of as a kid,” said Cherry about winning the Bassmaster Classic for a second time. “I have fulfilled my childhood fantasy two times now. That hasn’t sunk in yet.”


 
Cherry said six of the 15 fish he weighed in during the championship event came on the Stunna, including some of his biggest fish. Cherry said he threw the size 112+1 Stunna in Stealth Shad on 15-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. He paired the line and bait selections with an Abu Garcia Zata casting reel (7.1:1) mounted on a 6-foot-10-inch Abu Garcia Winch rod.
 
In addition to tipping his flipping jigs with the soon-to-be-released Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Chigger Craw, Cherry said he turned to a 4-inch Berkley PowerBait Pit Boss in Green Pumpkin. He flipped the Texas-rigged Pit Boss on a 4/0 Fusion19 hook with 20-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon spooled on an Abu Garcia Revo STX (7.3:1) paired with the new Abu Garcia Veritas PLX Tournament rod.


 
The new Berkley Stunna features Berkley’s first tungsten weight-transfer system and a unique brass block weighting system that delivers a slow sink and slight shimmy in the water. With an action that engages quicker with a larger roll, increased bill durability and ultra-sharp Fusion19 hooks, the Stunna comes in 14 colors and two different dive depths. The 112 size runs 3 to 6 feet deep while the 112+1 runs 6-10 feet deep. Both styles weigh 1/2 ounce and have a fall rate of 1 foot per 8 seconds.
 
“We went through 38 different incarnations of this bait before getting it just right, as evidenced by the response to the Stunna by both our pros and the bass they are catching on it,” said Berkley Senior Vice President of Marketing Jon Schlosser. “The bait looks incredible whether it’s being jerked, twitched or even with sweep-and-pause retrieves. The bait’s 180-degree head turns and side flash trigger bites from aggressive fish and the slow, natural sinking action has proven to be extremely effective on not-so-aggressive bass.
 
“None of the bait’s unique performance features would be possible without Hank’s vision and the tireless work of our bait scientists. We congratulate Hank on back-to-back Bassmaster Classic championships and celebrate this victory with him and the entire Berkley team. Hank and the Stunna will be linked forever thanks to this historic win, which we are sure will not be the last one for this exciting new bait.”
 
The new Berkley Stunna is scheduled to reach retail outlets in July. Anglers looking to be among the first to get their hands on the bait first are encouraged to contact their favorite tackle shops.
 
To learn more about Berkley products and the company’s legacy for research and innovation, go to https://www.berkley-fishing.com/
 
About Pure Fishing
Pure Fishing, Inc. is a leading global provider of fishing tackle, lures, rods and reels with a portfolio of brands that includes Abu Garcia®, All Star®, Berkley®, Fenwick®, Fin-Nor®, Frabill®, Greys®, Hardy®, Hodgman®, Johnson®, JRC®, Mitchell®, Penn®, Pflueger®, Plano®, Sebile®, Shakespeare®, SpiderWire®, Stren®, Ugly Stik®, and Van Staal®.
 

Second-Annual Celebrity Fishing Tournament on Lake Lewisville

Academy Sports + Outdoors Hosts Second-Annual Celebrity Fishing Tournament on Lake Lewisville

Deion Sanders, Jimmie Allen, Maddie & Tae, Marcus Spears and Sheryl Swoopes to compete in fishing tournament for charity

 
 
WHAT:  To kick off the 2021 Bassmaster Classic, Academy Sports + Outdoors presents the second-annual Celebrity Fishing Tournament on Lake Lewisville. Members of the bass fishing community, influencers, sports legends and country music stars will hit the water to test their fishing skills with pro anglers serving as their guides. The first-place team will make a charity donation to the benefactor of their choosing. 

WHO: This year’s anglers include three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and former professional basketball player Sheryl Swoopes, NFL legends Deion Sanders and Marcus Spears, and country music stars Jimmie Allen and Maddie & Tae.

WHEN: Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

**B-ROLL PACKAGES AND DIGITAL ASSETS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST FOLLOWING TOURNAMENT**


WHERE: Lake Lewisville
               Sneaky Pete’s: 2 Eagle Point Rd, Lewisville, TX 75077

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* Event and launch location and timing are subject to change based on weather restrictions. 
 

Fishing Lay Lake with Chandler Holt and Zeke Gossett

I am always amazed at fishing in Alabama.  Tuesday morning, I met Curtis Gossett, a high school bass fishing team coach, and Chandler Holt, a senior on his team, to get information for my April article. 

Curtis’s son, Zeke, is a senior on a college team.  I did an article with Zeke six years ago when he was just a sophomore in high school with his dad as coach and was very impressed with him.

Chandler was impressive, too, with great fishing skills and knowledge of Lay Lake.  He quickly caught a 3.5-pound spot then I caught a largemouth just over four pounds.  A little later Curtis got a largemouth right at four pounds.  So we had three nice fish in the five hours we fished, plus some smaller fish.


Chandler fished the High School Championship on Lay the following weekend and weighed-in on the Bassmasters Classic stage just before the pros weigh-in on Saturday.  He placed Second.

On Sunday Zeke fished the college championship and weighed-in on the Classic stage that day, and he won. Zeke was practicing while I fished, and he caught five spotted bass weighing a total of 20.17 pounds in five hours!   

Watch for both these young men next weekend and in the future!

Rapala Pro’s Make Predictions for Bassmasters Classic

Rapala DT 6

Rapala Pro’s Make Predictions for Bassmaster Classic at Lake Guntersville
Here’s a look at what some of the competitors think might be the winning combination at the Bassmaster Classic, kicking off today at Guntersville, Alabama.

Whether the fish move shallow or remain around offshore cover and structure this week, Bassmaster Classic competitors will catch many big bass on crankbaits, Rapala pros agree. Other go-to baits will likely include lipless crankbaits.

“A lot of those baits that will be key this week are your standard, classic springtime baits,” said Rapala Pro Seth Feider, a three-time Classic qualifier from Minnesota. “I don’t know if that will change, even with changing conditions. The colors you tie on might change if the water gets real dirty.

But I can guarantee some fish are going to get caught on a Rapala DT-6, no matter what.

”First-time Classic qualifier Patrick Walters agreed.“DT-6, of course,” said Walters, a second-year Elite Series Rapala pro from South Carolina. “Some DT-10 too. I think your key baits are going to be shallow- to mid-diving crankbaits and lipless crankbaits. I think we’ll be getting reaction strikes on something moving fast with trebles on it.”

DT stands for “dives to.” A DT-6 dives to a max depth of six feet; a DT-10 to 10 feet. Built of balsa wood, Rapala’s signature material, DT-series cranks wobble while swimming and deflect off cover to trigger bites from bass around both grass and rock.

If stable or falling water positions Guntersville’s bass this week in offshore, submerged vegetation, Classic competitors will swim DT’s over the top of it, making occasional contact and ripping free. If rising water draws bass to the bank, the pros will cast them around hard-bottom shorelines, making constant bottom contact on the retrieve and caroming off wood and rock cover.

The lipless crankbaits you’ll see Rapala pros slinging in the Classic are Rapala Rippin’ Raps and Storm Arashi Vibes. Those baits, along with DT-6’s, are “pretty traditional, Guntersville-type baits,” said Cody Huff, a collegiate Rapala pro-staffer competing in his first Bassmaster Classic. “You’re going to catch ‘em on those.”

A Storm Arashi Vibe helped Rapala Pro Ott DeFoe win last year’s Bassmaster Classic on Fort Loudon Lake, another Tennessee River reservoir. On the 2019 Classic’s first day, four bass in DeFoe’s 20-pound limit came on a Vibe, including a 6-pounder that was the biggest bass caught that day by any competitor. A 4-pound, 7 ounce bass he caught in the championship round on a Vibe allowed him to cull a smaller fish, solidifying his win.

Lipless crankbaits like the Vibe excel in the spring, when bass are first pulling up from deeper water and moving close to shallow spawning areas. Vibes start swimming at slower speeds than do other lipless crankbaits. They fall slower too, allowing you to fish them in shallower water at a slower speed. Featuring a soft-knock rattle, Vibes emit a unique single-cadence, low-pitch sound that attracts attention without alarming tentative fish. Storm is a Rapala Respected Brand.

First-time Classic competitor Bob Downey said he will be among the pros slinging DT-6’s and Arashi Vibes this week. “The DT-6 I don’t think will be a surprise to many people,” said the first-year Elite Series pro, a Minnesota native. “I’ve been catching some pretty good fish on it – good quality keepers and some that are above average.”

Offshore grass or shallow banks? Especially in the spring, when weather and water conditions can change quickly, bass tend to move a lot.“The more the water level drops, the more fish are going to be caught around deep water, with deeper-running crankbaits, towards the main river,” Walters predicted. “The more it comes up, the more they’ll be caught in pockets and up on the bank.”

Rapala pros interviewed on Monday said they were expecting higher water by Friday, because a lot of rain had been forecast. And higher water, they said, would likely pull bass away from offshore grass in which many were found last weekend in practice. Although not all the Rapala pros want that to happen.Feider, for one, said he hoped water levels wouldn’t rise, because that would keep offshore grass in play.

“I’d rather fish in the grass versus around the bridges or the riprap,” he said.

Huff expressed similar wishes.“What I’m really hoping for is that we don’t have too much rain,” he said. “I hope the river continues to drop, and not rise. If the river continues to drop, they’ll start to group up really good on some of those good offshore places in the grass, where you don’t have to just catch one here, one there. It’s a lot more fun when you can pull up, make one cast to get the school fired up, and then catch ‘em one after another.”

Walters, on the other hand, will be happy if water levels rise and pull bass to the bank.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” he said Monday. “I’m a bank-beater by heart.”

If the bass move shallow, Walters said, those fish could be relatively unpressured – a rarity on a popular tournament and recreational-fishing reservoir like Guntersville. “They’ll be up there and we’ll kind of get the first stab at them,” he said.

Interviewed Wednesday evening after his final practice round, Downey said water levels and conditions had not changed dramatically in his areas.“I caught most of my fish [Wednesday] similar to how I caught them last weekend,” he said. “So it didn’t really change a lot for me yet.”

Late Wednesday evening, more rain rolled through the area and continued through mid-afternoon Thursday. Clear, sunny skies were forecast for Friday and Saturday with clouds returning on Sunday.

No matter how the weather ends up positioning the fish, Rapala pros agreed they will need to tailor their gameplans to prevailing conditions.

“All I can do is start where they were and then just kind of let the day unfold,” Feider explained. “I’m just going to have to keep an open mind and adjust.”

“I enjoy fishing pretty shallow,” Downey said. “If they pushed shallow – more towards the banks – I wouldn’t mind that at all. But I would have to make some adjustments.”

2020 Bassmasters Classic Fans Are Different

The 2020 Bass Masters Classic is being held on Lake Guntersville March 6 – 8 with weigh-ins held in Birmingham.  This is the biggest tournament of the year on the pro circuit.

 I was quoted in Sports Illustrated a few years ago saying, “The Super Bowl is the Bassmasters Classic of football,” a twist on the usual comment.  I had no idea a writer for that magazine was sitting near me on the bus going to practice day on the lake for the pros.   

One thing some don’t understand about the fan support of pro fishermen. We are different from other pro sports.  We may watch our favorite pro catch bass on TV today then go out and try to catch them ourselves tomorrow, using the same baits and equipment the pro used.   

Other pro sports fans are viewers only.  They may have played the sport years ago in high school or even college, but almost none will be competing on the field tomorrow.  Bass fishermen keep competing all their lives.  

I have been lucky enough to spend time in the boat with many of the pros, including five of the 53 competing in this year’s Classic.  After hours of watching how they fish and questioning them on what they are doing and why they chose to do that, it always amazes me that they fish just like the rest of us. They just catch more and bigger fish.   

The Bassmasters Classic is a big event. I will not be able to attend this year but a trip to Birmingham next weekend to attend the huge outdoor show, meet the pros and watch weigh-ins would be a great way to spend some winter days.  Then you can come home and go fishing with the baits and equipment you bought at a discount at the show, fishing just like them.

An Insiders Guide to Lake Guntersville


An Insiders Guide to Lake Guntersville Before the Bassmaster Classic
By J. Scott Butherus
from The Fishing Wire

Lake Guntersville, the site of the action for the 2020 Bassmaster Classic, has a history of producing scale-busting bags during tournaments. It also has a reputation for breaking the wills of otherwise talented anglers with disappointing days.

Oftentimes, there isn’t a whole lot of rhyme or reason separating those two things. So what exactly does it take to catch those famous Lake Guntersville lunkers? How do you get more boom than bust when it comes to bass at this year’s Classic?

We sat down with three Power-Pole pros — Chris Lane, Randall Tharp and Justin Lucas — who happen to know a little something about this year’s venue in Alabama and asked them for their insider tips for how to conquer the Big G.

Lucas, originally a California native, moved to Lake Guntersville nearly a decade ago to help further his pro fishing career. Lucas was the 2018 Bassmaster Angler of the Year when he gained a reputation for working vegetation to find the really big fish. The amount of vegetation might end up being a hindrance, however, for this year’s event.

“One thing that has been really interesting this year is the amount of eel grass in the lake. There has been two mile stretches of the river that you couldn’t even make a cast because there was so much floating eel grass. You have to keep that in mind because you might have the perfect spot with lots of fish but you aren’t going to be able to fish it effectively.

“If it was me, I’d have plenty of backup plans because you can have a winning hole and never be able to get into it. I’d probably have a couple of creeks where I could get as far away from that eel grass as I can.

”Lane, a former Classic champion, has made his home on Lake Guntersville, so he understands how quickly the fish can move from one part of the lake to the next. For him, finding the schools will depend on the conditions of the lake itself which can change rapidly with the weather.

“Weather plays a massive role when it comes to fishing Lake Guntersville in the early spring because you can have pouring down snow, you can have sleet or you can have a 65-70 degree day. All of that is going to be a big variable.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of downpour and the lake is as high as it’s ever been. Guntersville will fluctuate normally only two to three feet because of the amount of barge traffic that comes through there. We are right there in the horseshoe and that’s where those big, big bass get in there. They love it in those currents and those eddies. When you have that much current and that much rain coming down, you have to pay attention to that.

”Tharp has plenty of experience fishing the lake in tournament situations. The former Birmingham, Alabama native began his competitive fishing career there with the Bassmaster North Alabama regionals in 2005 and has put that expertise to his advantage ever since, including a fifth place finish in the 2014 Classic.

“For me it was always about winding stuff around with a horizontal presentation. I love fishing a lipless bait, a crank bait or a vibrating jig. Those are the big three lures. A jerk bait does play if there are extreme cold front conditions but I’ve narrowed it down to those three or four techniques because they allow you to cover tons of water with them. You have to cover big grass flats.

“A lot of it is water temperature dependent so the colder the water, the slower you’ll need to fish them. There does come a time, and it looks like we are approaching that time, when the water temperature hits that magical 55-60 degrees and it doesn’t matter how fast you reel. It does look like we are shaping up to where the big ones are going to feed regardless.

”Of course all three of the pros agreed that properly utilizing their Power-Pole Shallow Water Anchors would play a vital role in all of those situations.

“If you are in the main river, you can anchor down and hold your boat in the strong currents while you cast upcurrent and let your bait come down in a natural way,” Lucas said. “Me personally, after I was done doing that, I would troll around to the upside and make those casts in the other direction to show the fish a new angle.”

“There’s no doubt. Even when they are feeding aggressively you’ll need to make multiple presentations. Sometimes you’ll find that grass flat that you feel really good about and that’s when it is time to Power-Pole down and make repeated casts at the same piece of cover,” Tharp said.

“When you can Power-Pole down and not get on that school of fish (by drifting over them), you can sometimes sit there and catch them on every single cast,” Lane said.

https://youtu.be/BaM-QX5DUxE

Manners when the B.A.S.S. Classic Comes to Town

Classic Takeoff

Let’s Mind Our Manners when the B.A.S.S. Classic Comes to Town
By Frank Sargeant High-dollar bass tournaments like the Bassmaster Classic, scheduled for Lake Guntersville March 6-8, are a great potential learning experience for local anglers as they get the opportunity to follow the top pro’s around on the lake and see how and where they fish and what tackle and boat they use.

And most of the pro’s actually enjoy the gallery of rooting fans—after all, the more popular they are, the more sponsor money they make.But a large gallery can also affect the outcome of the event. Big names like Kevin Van Dam (who won’t be at this Classic because he moved to the MLF circuit) sometimes have 20 or more boats roaring after them down the lake and gliding up behind them as they drop the trolling motor to fish. While lots of fans are a plus at a football or basketball game, on the water at a bass tournament, not so much. Bass don’t take kindly to the sound of outboard motors, or even of a dozen whirring trolling motors in their neighborhood. Some anglers believe they’re even put off by the “ping” of fish finders.

So while the well-meaning fans are cheering for their favorite, they may actually be reducing his chances of success. This is particularly true when an angler gets on an extended stretch of “hot” shoreline, where bass may be scattered over a hundred yards or so of terrain that the angler may want to work multiple times. As the gallery slides in behind him as he works down the structure, they turn off the bite that might have been active on repeat passes.

The best way to follow the anglers is from a distance, and carry binoculars so that you can see the lures they’re using and how they’re fishing them. This gives everybody a bit of breathing room, and hopefully won’t affect the outcome of the event. There are also some anglers who can’t wait until the tournament is over to try the new holes that the smart pro’s reveal to them. As soon as the pro angler pulls off, they pull on and start casting.

This makes things a lot more difficult in that spot on the next day when the angler returns to the spot again during the three day event. To be sure, the lake is a public asset and all of us have a completely equal right to fish anywhere in it at any time. Paying a tournament entry fee does not give any special rights. On the other hand, when you consider that the pro anglers are fishing an event where one successful cast could change the course of their lives, it seems only common courtesy to maybe save their spots to the GPS for future use but leave them alone for those few days of the competition.

In any case, for those who want to follow their heroes, the daily launches are at Civitan Park just off S.R. 69 on the Brown’s Creek arm of the lake at 7 a.m. B.A.S.S. welcomes spectators with free coffee, and a number of top boat manufacturers are on-site offering test drives of their latest bass boats. (You can’t launch at Civitan during the event, though—choose one of the other ramps around the lake.)

For those who can’t get out on the lake, the weigh-ins are at BJCC in Birmingham, with arena doors opening at 3:15 p.m. daily for the weigh-ins. The Classic Outdoors Expo, also at BJCC, opens at noon on Friday, 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

See more here: https://m.bassmaster.com/news/attend-2020-academy-sports-outdoors-bassmaster-classic-presented-huk 

Bassmaster Classic Returns To Alabama in 2020

Bassmaster Classic returns to Alabama in 2020 on Guntersville
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

(Photo Credit B.A.S.S.)

Bassmasters Classic

The 50th annual Bassmasters Classic has been announced for Alabama’s Lake Guntersville March 6-8, 2020, with daily weigh-ins and the associated Outdoors Expo set for Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center in downtown Birmingham.

The event has become a sort of World Series and Superbowl combined for those who love competitive bass fishing, and holding it in Alabama for the golden anniversary is bringing it to the heart of the sport—Ray Scott of Montgomery came up with the idea of a national bass tournament circuit in 1970 and the first Classic was held at Lake Mead, Nevada in 1971.

Bass Anglers Sportsman Society—B.A.S.S.—was the membership group Scott put together to support the tournament system as well as educate bass anglers and promote fishery conservation, a relatively unknown concept in fresh water at that time. The time was right and Scott’s promotional abilities, combined with smart use of media, soon built the ranks to a half-million members, largest paid fishing club membership in history by a large margin.

The group was headquartered in Montgomery for many years before being moved to Celebration, Florida, just outside Orlando, when purchased by ESPN in 2001. It came back to Alabama and its current headquarters in Birmingham in 2011 when sold by ESPN to a group of investors, including fishing TV mogul Jerry McKinnis and Time, Inc. exec Don Logan.

The Classic—which is a life-changing experience for the annual winner, awarding a prize of $300,000 in cash—is also a boon for the communities where it’s held, filling up hotels and restaurants for days leading up to and during the event. This year’s event in Knoxville, Tenn., generated an estimated $32.2 million according to the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission, and was visited by a total of over 150,000 people considering all the venues including daily take-offs, weigh-ins at the convention center and the daily gate at the Outdoors Expo. Local and state governments also benefit—the Tennessee Classic generated $2.75 million in state and local tax revenue, including taxes on sales, restaurant purchases and lodging.

The Guntersville/Birmingham event is more spread out than the Knoxville Classic, with the lake some 75 miles from the weigh-ins. The weigh-ins require a large venue, and Legacy Arena can seat close to 20,000—nothing else near Guntersville approaches that. The adjacent expo halls also have the vast square footage necessary to hold the Expo, which has become the largest consumer fishing show on the planet. Many companies in the tackle and fishing boat business use the Expo to reveal their new-for-the-year products.

It also probably does not hurt that this Classic will allow the B.A.S.S. staff to sleep in their own beds—the home offices are located on the southeast side of town.

The daily Classic weigh-ins are worth a visit even for those who have no interest in fishing. With thunderous music, mind-bending light shows and lots of stage smoke, they’re more akin to a big-budget rock music show than a fishing tournament, and the anglers are made into stars.

The program has worked very well for a lot of the top tournament anglers, who are now wealthy men, not only from tournament winnings but also from endorsement and sponsorship deals with companies in the fishing and bass boat business. (We advisedly say “men”—though women are welcome to compete in B.A.S.S. events, none have ever made their way to the Elite Circuit level.)

(Photo Credit B.A.S.S.)
Unfortunately, a lot of those wealthy men won’t be at next year’s event. They fled the home group seeking even greater financial rewards with the new Major League Fishing circuit. Van Dam, Evers, the Lee brothers, Howell, the Lane brothers, Iaconelli, Powroznik and many others are gone—understandably, for it is about business, after all, on all sides. The new MLF made-for-video circuit has proven an exciting and competitive venue so far, and live broadcast combined with the pocket viewing devices that are universal these days seem to spell success.

B.A.S.S. has responded to the new rival by reducing the size of the Elite field (and thus increasing the percentage of each angler winning a given event), vastly increased payouts (including three no-entry fee events that will pay out $1 million each), reducing entry fees and providing every angler with a check—the last place angler in each event earns at least $2500, the first $100,000.

There are not a lot of household names left in the Elite field, but Kevin Van Dam was an unknown boat salesman from Kalamazoo before he entered his first major B.A.S.S. event in 1990. The Classic and the media know-how of the B.A.S.S. team likely will create a new generation of bassing heroes, and it will all get underway next March in Birmingham. It should be well worth attending. (Visit www.bassmaster.com for details.)

Get Hooked On Fishing At the Bassmaster Classic

Get Hooked On Fishing Will Put Smiles On Faces At Bassmaster Classic

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Hundreds of children will get a first chance to experience the thrill that comes with the feel of a fish on the line during Bassmaster Get Hooked on Fishing presented by Toyota, Shakespeare and TakeMeFishing.org at the 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

Young anglers and would-be anglers will find that opportunity daily, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. March 15-17, outside the Knoxville Convention Center where the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’s Sporting Goods will be underway.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are, if you’ve never felt a catfish tug on your line it is a thrill,” said organizer David Healy. “The chaos ensues, and the smiles and the taking photos, every time, it’s just a fantastic thing to be a part of.”

A section of World’s Fair Drive, between World’s Fair Park and the Knoxville Convention Center, will become a playground for parents and children outside the Expo Friday through Sunday, and all experiences at the Get Hooked venue are free.

This is the third year for Get Hooked on Fishing at the Classic and an annual highlight always is the catfish pond, where hundreds of aggressive catfish are stocked and just waiting to hit a line and make a child squeal with delight. Knoxville-area B.A.S.S. junior high, high school and college anglers are lined up as volunteers to help youngsters with baiting their hooks, casting and, of course, catching a first fish.

Grownups get to hang back and stand ready to take the pictures.

Get Hooked On Fishing volunteers will give out Shakespeare rod-and-reel combos each day, while supplies last, and Toyota has a build-a-bait station where children can work with volunteers to create their own spinnerbaits with a variety of choices of blades and skirts provided by Strike King. Toyota will also have a spot where kids can learn how to make their first cast and then start to test their accuracy with a bunch of big inflatable largemouth bass as targets. And all youngsters who attend will receive free B.A.S.S. activity books.

Children and parents alike will thrill at the sights and splashes of Eukanuba Super Retriever Series Super Dock dogs sometimes soaring 20 feet or more as the best dog-and-handler teams from around the country compete on the venue.

Kids will also have a chance to Meet the Elites Friday with pro anglers Bill Lowen, Harvey Horne, Brock Mosley, Clark Wendlandt, Jay Yelas, Jesse Tacoronte, Brad Whatley, Keith Combs, Shane Lineberger and Scott Canterbury at the venue.

“It really is designed for parents who have little ones, probably about age 4 to 12 is the ideal age, but anyone can come,” Healy said. “The Expo is so big and busy and full, it’s family focused, too. But it’s cool to have this area that just focuses on the kids, where they can have maybe a 45-minute experience, and it’s all about them and having fun.”

Experienced hands at helping families find their way to the water for fishing and boating adventures, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF), creators of TakeMeFishing.org, will be on hand with activity books for the kids and lots of information for parents looking for more ways to enjoy the great outdoors.

“We are so excited to welcome the Bassmaster Classic and Get Hooked On Fishing to Knoxville, and share this excitement with our community,” said Kim Bumpas, President of Visit Knoxville. “The partnership between the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission, the City of Knoxville, Knox County, and the state of Tennessee was instrumental in bringing this event to our destination. We hope everyone from the folks who have been fans for decades to the littlest anglers will find ways to enjoy the Classic in Knoxville.”

The Take Me Fishing initiative has introduced thousands of children across the country to fishing and this year RBFF is partnering with B.A.S.S. not only at the Classic but for four more events, the first of which will be the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, May 4-6 at Lake Fork, near Emory, Texas. Three others are to be announced across the country, including one planned for Central Park in New York City, with that date to be announced.

“RBFF has a sterling reputation for their strategy and communication skills when it comes to engaging more people to get involved in recreational fishing,” said Angie Thompson, vice president of sales and director of Get Hooked On Fishing at B.A.S.S. “This aligns perfectly with our goal of exposing more kids to the sport. The outreach through their Vamos a Pescar program will also help us strengthen communication to Hispanic families to welcome them to the fishing family. Together we have a big opportunity to make it possible for many more kids to experience the excitement of feeling that vibration of the rod as you catch a fish.”

“It’s important to get to other communities and at other events,” Healy said. “It’s especially important to bring this to urban and minority communities where families might not have as much access to fishing. That’s one of the core missions, to give the opportunity to under-served kids.”

During the Classic, the Knoxville Boys and Girls Club will be bringing children to the Get Hooked on Fishing event daily as well, Healy said.

“It’s all pretty simple,” he said. “We’re trying to make kids smile, and maybe when they leave they’ll ask mom and dad, ‘can we go fishing some time?’”

2019 Bassmaster Classic Title Sponsor: GEICO

2019 Bassmaster Classic Presenting Sponsor: DICK’S Sporting Goods

2019 Bassmaster Classic Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2019 Bassmaster Classic Premier Sponsors: Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Skeeter Boats, Talon, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Abu Garcia

2019 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo Presenting Sponsor: DICK’S Sporting Goods

2019 Bassmaster Classic Local Host: Visit Knoxville Sports Commission

2019 Bassmaster Classic Local Partners: Calhoun’s, Pilot Flying J, TVA

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. With more than 510,000 members internationally, B.A.S.S. is not only home to the nation’s premier fishing tournament trails, but it also boasts the most expansive and comprehensive media network in the fishing industry. Its media include The Bassmasters on the ESPN networks, more than 130 hours of tournament programming on the Pursuit Channel, 250 hours of on-the-water streaming coverage on Bassmaster LIVE and 1 million monthly visitors to the flagship website on bass fishing – Bassmaster.com. B.A.S.S. also provides more than 4.4 million readers with the best in bass fishing coverage through Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times, and its radio and social media programs and events reach hundreds of thousands each month.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, culminating in the ultimate event on the biggest stage for competitive anglers, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The trail also includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, BassPro.com Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series, and the Bassmaster Team Championship.