CELEBRATION, Fla. - With 36 editions of the Bassmaster Classic in the books, the most prestigious tournament in bass fishing has provided fishing fans with a number of memorable moments in addition to the history associated with a major sporting event.
There have been 36 years of winners and losers, elation and disappointment, suspense and blowouts and record-breaking performances. The Classic is about making memories - good and bad.
And with Classic XXXVII set to unfold Feb. 23-25 on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Ala., an interesting new chapter will be written.
Here are just a few of the memories that have added to the allure of the super bowl of bass fishing:
Classic I. Former Alabama insurance salesman and BASS founder Ray Scott took the top-24 finishers in his fledgling Bass Anglers Sportsman Society tournament circuit to Lake Mead for the inaugural Bassmaster Classic. Scott announces the location to the competitors for the first time while in flight. Just outside Las Vegas, Arkansas' Bobby Murray became the first Classic champion with a winning weight of 43 pounds, 11 ounces.
Classic VI. This sixth edition of the Classic was held on Alabama's Lake Guntersville and marked the emergence of one of professional fishing's brightest stars as Bassmaster Elite Series pro Rick Clunn scored the first of an unprecedented four Classic victories.
Classic XI. In 1981, 21-year-old Stanley Mitchell of Georgia became the youngest angler to ever win a Classic. This Classic, held on the Alabama River, marked the first time that the event's weigh-in was staged indoors.
Classic XIV. Clunn ran away from the field in the 1984 Classic on the Arkansas River with a record three-day catch of 75 pounds, 9 ounces and established the Classic record for largest margin of victory at 25 pounds, 8 ounces.
Classic XIX. The 1989 event was on Virginia's James River. Florida pro Jim Bitter accidentally released a keeper-size bass while en route to his livewell. The fish would be the last he caught that day and Hank Parker captured his second of two Classic victories by a mere two ounces.
Classic XXIV. The 1994 Classic held on North Carolina's High Rock Lake brings forth conflicting emotions. It was the event in which 23-year-old Bryan Kerchal became the first amateur representative of the BASS Federation to ever win the sport's most prestigious event. Unfortunately, he was tragically killed in a plane crash months later.
Classic XXIX. A record crowd of 30,000 attends the final-day weigh-in inside the famed Louisiana Superdome as Davy Hite puts the finishing touches on his first Classic victory.
Classic XXXII. Jay Yelas turns in one of the most dominating performances in Classic history with a wire-to-wire victory on Lay Lake, the site of the 2007 Classic. His total of 45-13 was more than six pounds ahead of his closest pursuer. In addition, Yelas is the only angler to take all three Purolator daily big-bass awards in a Classic.
Classic XXXIV. Bass fishing crowns its first international champion as Japanese pro Takahiro Omori scores a dramatic, final-hour victory on North Carolina's Lake Wylie.
Classic XXXV. Kevin VanDam wins his second Classic by one of the closest margins ever in Pittsburgh, Pa. He edges reigning Bassmaster Angler of the Year Aaron Martens by a slight six ounces — Martens' third stint as a Classic bridesmaid. VanDam's winning weight of 12 pounds, 15 ounces set a record for the lowest Classic winning-weight in history.
Classic XXXVI. Florida Bassmaster Elite Series pro Preston Clark bursts onto the professional fishing scene by destroying the long-standing Classic Purolator big-bass record with an 11-pound, 10-ounce Kissimmee Chain giant.
The 2007 Bassmaster Classic will be hosted by the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau. The tournament will receive 11 1/2 hours of television coverage on ESPN2.
Sponsors of the event include Toyota, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, MotorGuide, Longhorn Snuff and Lowrance Electronics.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.