BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Visions of sugarplums? Sure. But also dancing in the heads of fishing fans right now is the upcoming Bassmaster Classic presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Whether they are in Tulsa, Okla., Feb. 22-24 to be at the world championship of bass fishing, or watch the action on Bassmaster.com, fans have a lot to look forward to. While it is certainly the most prestigious competition in the sport, the Classic is also an annual celebration of all things bass fishing.
B.A.S.S. is giving fans multiple ways to be a part of the Classic, and they’re all free. Here’s a hint of what anglers and their families can expect:
At the Launch:Fans are invited to come out and watch 53 of the world’s best anglers slip their slick new bass rigs into Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. The takeoff time is set for 7 a.m. at Wolf Creek (GPS help: Grove, OK 74344). Fans are advised to be there much earlier than 7 a.m. so they can see the rigs in tow, just before the boats touch water. Star-spotting is part of the morning fun — Kevin VanDam, Gerald Swindle, Michael Iaconelli, Skeet Reese and others will be there.
At the Expo:Anyone could easily fill an entire day at the annual Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods. A die-hard bass fan could fill three days, no problem. The Expo will take place Friday, Feb. 22, from noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 23, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The venue is the Tulsa Convention Center in downtown Tulsa (GPS help: 100 Civic Center, Tulsa, OK 74103).
What’s at the show? Ho, ho ho, it doesn’t take Santa to know. The short answer is: anything an anglers’ hearts’ desires. For starters, there are the newest bass boats and engines to see up close. Experts are on hand to answer any question a visitor might have about a boat and motor. Tip: Ask about test rides. Then there are the add-ons that all the best bass boats wear, from Power-Pole positioning devices to the newest in fishfinding and GPS technology.
Want more? New Toyota Trucks. High-tech apparel for fishing, for work (like Carhartt) or just for fun. Did we forget to mention fishing tackle? No, we did not. The place is packed with tackle, some of it never before shown to the public.
Look for contests, giveaways, seminars and special appearances. Many well-known pro bass anglers will be at the various booths. Tip: Classic competitors are known to show up at the Expo after the weigh-in.
Another tip: Be prepared to make decisions. Show-goers don’t have to leave the exhibit hall with a bad case of look-can’t-buy. Retailers, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, will be there stocked and ready to sell.
At the weigh-in:This is the main attraction. Arena doors open each day at 3 p.m. at the BOK Center. That’s right across the street from the where the Expo will be, so it’s a park-once-and-you’re-done deal for those driving to the downtown destinations. Fans are advised to come early, get a good seat and enjoy some surprise entertainment.
The first two days all 53 of the Classic competitors will walk across the stage. We can’t guarantee they’ll all pull lunkers out of their livewells, but it’s a rare Classic angler who doesn’t have a good fish or two to show off to the crowd. On the final day, when the field is cut to the Top 25, a $500,000 first prize will be on the line. If previous Classic finales are any indication, the excitement level will hit the rafters, and the crowd will rock the stands.
At Bassmaster.com:Whether in Tulsa or at home, fans will want to be online as much as possible. Bassmaster.com visitors will have lots of company: In 2012, Bassmaster.com received 27 million page views during the “Classic month” of February.
“There’s significant interest and passion for this event. For Classic 2013, we’re going to supersize it. We’ll be giving fans a ‘live’ experience. We don’t feel we can go overboard,” said Jim Sexton, B.A.S.S. vice president, digital.
Bassmaster.com will offer an enhanced Classic War Room experience. From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the War Room will live stream the latest news from the water, backstage and arena. War Room regulars will be Bassmaster personalities Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona of The Bassmasters TV show, and Bassmaster emcee Dave Mercer.
Live streaming of the weigh-ins will begin at 4:30 p.m. CT each day. Fans, Sexton said, should log on much earlier to watch pre-show events and the updates from BassTrakk, the system that reports catch data from the water as it happens. That data will be available all day.
While we’re not at all sure exactly what a sugarplum is, we do know fishing and the Bassmaster Classic. For up-to-the minute news about more additions to the 43rd Classic, go to the event page, or visit www.TulsaSports.org/Bassmaster.