BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A shattered attendance record at the 2009 Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., was proof that event creator B.A.S.S. did a lot of things right.
Following your own great act is tough, but B.A.S.S. is putting together a 2012 experience at the same venue that promises to live up to the Classic name, an experience to remember as three days of excitement and fun.
Fans can expect to see, and perhaps meet, bass fishing’s superstars; witness a world-class competition; spend hours at a free, kid-in-a-candy store outdoor show; and be surrounded by people who would rather be fishing than doing anything else (being at the Classic excluded, of course). The Feb. 24-26 event is not only the world championship of bass fishing, but also an all-out celebration of the sport.
Classic fun happens in many ways, but don’t miss these five experiences:
1. See (and maybe ride in) bass boats to die for:
Most of the Classic anglers will debut a new wrap on a new boat, and you can bet it will be rigged with the latest and the best.
Get a good view of the competitors’ rigs at the morning takeoff. The launch, presented by the Red River Waterway Commission, will be at Red River South Marina, off Hwy. 71 South in Bossier City. Competitor boats are scheduled to leave the dock at 7 a.m., but if you want to stake out a good vantage point, arrive about an hour earlier to watch anglers launch their boats into the Red River. Then enjoy the consecutive roars of 49 bass boats as they each, in turn, throttle up, then stretch out on plane.
At noon on Friday, when the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods opens in the Shreveport Convention Center, you can see and touch many to-die-for models, bow to stern, deck to hull, because they’re up on trailers. State-of-the-art engines by Yamaha and Mercury will be at the show, too.
Tip 1: Skeeter, Triton and Nitro will offer demo boat rides. Sign up at the launch site, or ask at the company’s booths at the Expo.
Tip 2: Enter to win a Rebel-wrapped boat. If you have not already done so online at Rebels’ Facebook page, when you are at the Expo, enter the Rebel 50th Anniversary Sweepstakes. The top prize is a Skeeter-Yamaha rig with a Rebel wrap, plus a kicker bonus worth $5,000 if the winner is present at the Classic.
2. Catch the thrill of being in a huge, cheering crowd:
At the arena during a weigh-in, when your chest vibrates and you can’t hear yourself yelling, it’s likely that Kevin VanDam is in the house. Or Gerald Swindle, Michael Iaconelli, Edwin Evers, Aaron Martens, or any of the 49 competitors who fished the Red River that day. Everyone has a favorite to cheer for, and they do, loud and proud, as the music booms and the jumbo video screens flash. Being inside that roar is, for many fans, the ultimate Classic experience.
To get the party started, two music acts will precede the anglers. The country-rock band Bush Hawg will perform Saturday. Brian Shram, aka The Rockin’ Fisherman, who also competes as a co-angler in Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open tournaments, will take the stage Sunday before the weigh-in begins.
Tip 3: On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, make your way to the weigh-in arena, the CenturyLink Center at 2000 CenturyTel Center Drive in Bossier City, before the doors open at 3 p.m. for fan seating. When the Classic came to town in 2009, the arena was filled with a capacity crowd of 9,300 on both Saturday and Sunday.
3. Tune in to the high buzz of the Expo:
It’s not as loud as a weigh-in, but there’s a special hum generated at every Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods. It’s the sound of a big crowd of people having fun — plus the buzz about the new tackle, boats, outdoor gear and clothes made for anglers.
This year the show will house about 180 exhibitor booths on two levels of the Shreveport Convention Center. Expect a crowd. In 2009 at the Shreveport Expo, a Saturday turnstile tally of 60,123 busted the second-day show-attendance record.
Special show attractions include a casting pond sponsored by Academy, plus Berkley’s 60-foot Berkley Experience Trailer and 4,000-gallon bass tank. Watch for contests, giveaways and activities offered at many of the booths.
Expo hours are Friday, noon-8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Tip 4: Classic competitors have been known to appear in their sponsors’ booths after the weigh-ins on Friday and Saturday. The pros who don’t make the Saturday cut usually spend Sunday at the Expo.
Tip 5: Many big-name pros who are not competing in the 2012 Classic are on the show floor throughout the day. The 2009 Classic champ, Skeet Reese, for example, is scheduled to appear in the Stratos booth.
4. Go digital for fast and frequent competition updates:
Bassmaster.com will present more competition coverage than ever before. Expect minute-by-minute updates from the water through video, photos and blogs. Daily results, analysis and photo galleries will be posted each day after weigh-ins are complete.
Be sure to play B.A.S.S. Fantasy Fishing at BassmasterFantasy.com. Choose a lineup of five Classic anglers for a chance to win some great prizes, including a $5,000 gift card. The play is free.
Follow the competition via Facebook and Twitter. Facebook fans have a chance to win prizes just by stopping by the B.A.S.S. booth at the Expo.
Twitter fans can get a continuous stream of updates from the B.A.S.S. account at @BASS_nation. Anyone following along, at home or on-site, can use the Twitter hashtag #bassmasterclassic to connect with B.A.S.S. and with other fans. A live Twitter stream of Tweets using the hashtag will be at the Classic Expo, and the Twitter stream will also be on display at the arena before and during the weigh-ins.
Tip 6: Be a part of the first official B.A.S.S. Tweetup, Saturday, Feb. 25, from 11 a.m. to noon in the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation and Life Member Lounge at the Shreveport Convention Center. Followers of @BASS_nation will get to meet B.A.S.S. owners, B.A.S.S. staff and fellow tweeters — and they'll get special seating at the arena for the weigh-ins.
5. Savor the thrill of being there when a new king is crowned:
On the final day, after the field has been pared to the top six, the stage goes dark and the reveal brings up the finalists. The suspense is of the I-can’t-hardly-breathe variety for everyone. The Super Six weigh their bass. Then, suddenly, a new Classic champ is declared. No matter how many times you do it, watching a winner win doesn’t get old.
After lifting the trophy high — think how much pure adrenaline is needed to hoist a trophy as large and heavy as the Classic trophy above one’s head — the winner embarks on a victory lap around the arena’s inside track. You are among the first to witness the joy of a new world champion.
Tip 7: There’s no admission charge for any of the B.A.S.S. events, including the weigh-ins, the concerts preceding the weigh-ins, the launches and the Expo.
Tip 8: Before you go, discover more about the Classic competition and 49 qualifiers at Bassmaster.com. Helpful information about the Shreveport-Bossier City area is available at Shreveport-Bossier.org/Bassmaster-Classic.