Many sports have a marquee event that they refer to as the “Super Bowl of…” For largemouth bass fanatics, it’s the Bassmaster Classic. This is the granddaddy of them all. A full-on media blitz built around the sport of competitive bass fishing. And I’ve never been to the dance.
Everyone who goes to the Classic regularly has told me that I have to go and experience it for myself. I did attend a weigh in once, when it was here in Central Florida a number of years ago. The size of the crowds and the amount of companies involved was staggering. Everything is sponsored. (The full name of the tournament is the 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.) The expo, the weigh in, the televised coverage, the boats and anglers are covered with sponsor logos. In that way, I’d say the Classic is more Daytona 500 than Super Bowl, but let’s be honest, the sponsorships and advertising attached to the Super Bowl are valued in the billions so I guess I’m cool with that monicker.
So when I was invited to attend the dance, which is held in Knoxville, Tennessee this year, I was pretty stoked. I look forward to seeing if what I am envisioning in my head (a giant bee hive of red necks screaming at guys hoisting 5-pound fish) is in fact true. I have a feeling it isn’t. I have a feeling I will be blown away. In doing a little bit of research, I am already blown away. I’m impressed at the organizers ability to sign on non-endemic companies. I am shocked to see that the accompanying Bassmaster Classic Expo will cover 220,000-square feet across two venues. Combined attendance is expected to topple 100,000 people! Last year’s classic saw 143,000 fans show up. Maybe this really is a Super Bowl?
More than anything, I’m looking forward to just seeing how the event unfolds. I am always fascinated with the logistics involved to host massive events like this. The amount of details that must be addressed is nothing short of staggering and I have mad respect for the people who put these events together. I’m also curious to see how much of the fishing industry I’ve been missing out on. I’ve only ever covered the saltwater side of things. And I really do love freshwater fishing. I love the fact that it’s easier to find freshwater, and while the fish may more closely resemble bait than game fish to a billfish guy, I’m more than happy to fish 8-pound test for a 6-pound trophy.
I’ve always found it interesting that most of the innovation in saltwater fishing comes from the freshwater scene. Soft plastics, braided line, stick baits… There’ve been tons of innovative products that moved from the pond to the ocean. I’m sure I’ll see a lot of new products that find their way into my tackle coffers.
The Classic has a field of 52 anglers. The winner takes home a $300,000 check and if they are savvy, they can easily earn upwards of $1 million in endorsements following their big win. Most of the hype has been surrounded around Jordan Lee, a 27-year-old angler who has been lighting the bass world on fire, winning back-to-back Classics in 2018 and 2017. Will the old dogs come clawing up to take back the big win, or will the young guns continue to move up into the winner’s circle?
I leave for Tennessee tomorrow morning and will be reporting daily on social media and here on the blog. It should be a cool trip!