I’m going to the Bassmasters Classic this week on Hartwell – as a press observer. It is most every bass tournament fisherman’s dream to go compete in the Classic, and I missed qualifying for it through the club federations in 1983 by two pounds in a three-day tournament. Now I get to go watch the pros fish.
Is the Classic a big deal? At the last Classic I attended I was on the press bus and made the comment “the Superbowl is the Bassmasters Classic of football,” a play on the usual comment. I guess I was overheard by a writer from Sports Illustrated and that quote appeared under my name in the next issue.
The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society invites 52 off the top fishermen in the US to the Classic, where they compete for a first-place prize of $100,000 and the dead last of the 52 gets $10,000. It is estimated the winner can parlay his win into over $1,000,000 in sponsorships and endorsements the next year.
During the Classic there will be a huge outdoor show at the Greenville, South Carolina 250,000-square-foot TD Convention Center. Thousands of fans will visit booths set up by hundreds of fishing related companies. Some will give out free samples and one company offers to fill up to three of your fishing reels with line if you bring them with you.
Weigh-ins will be held in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. There will be over 10,000 fans watching the weigh-ins each night. Competitors are trailered in from the ramp at Lake Hartwell with their catch in the live well and are pulled directly to the stage, where they will get out of the boat and step onto the stage to the scales.
I will be in Greenville Tuesday through Friday, coming home before weigh-ins start to fish club tournaments on Oconee that weekend. On Wednesday, the last practice day, I am scheduled to ride with Steve Kennedy, one of the competitors, watch him and get information for future articles.
Van Kennedy, Steve’s dad, lives in Fort Valley and is a member of the 26 Bassmasters club, one of the best in the state. Van has made the state team more than 20 times and has qualified for the Classic through the federation. He is arguably the best club fisherman in the state and usually leads his team to a top finish in the state tournament.
For some reason Van will not do an article with me, saying he can’t give away his secretes, except to other fellow club members I guess. He introduced me to Steve a few years go when he came to watch our Top Six weigh-in at West Point and cheer on his dad.
Van taught him well. Steve is one of the top pros in the nation right now, but he won’t do an article with me, either! But I will get to spend the day in the boat on Hartwell with him.
On Thursday, Media Day, I will have lunch with the pros then get to interview ten of them. I will attend the Outdoor Show Friday afternoon before heading home. There will be well over 100,000 attendees of the show during its three days.
Friday afternoon there is a fan appreciation day where everyone can go and meet the pros and get autographs. It would be well worth a trip to Greenville for all the festivities!