TULSA, Okla. — Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of early morning launches could keep bass fishing fans from packing venues at the 2013 Bassmaster Classic presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The world championship bass fishing tournament, held Feb. 22-24, recorded the second highest attendance for the three competition days in the event’s 43-year history.
A total attendance of 106,850 was reported at the various venues of the Classic, including 42,593 during the three daily weigh-ins at the BOK Center. Saturday and Sunday the BOK’s doors were closed when the building reached maximum capacity.
In addition, more than 54,000 attended the Classic Outdoor Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods during the two and a half days it was open.
“We were elated with the turnout from Tulsa and nearby communities for the world championship — as well as the thousands who traveled to see the Classic from other states,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “This was the second highest attendance in our history, and I am confident attendance would have been even better had weather-related travel conditions not been so challenging just before the event got underway.”
Akin said thousands of B.A.S.S. members and other fishing fans plan vacations around Classic week every year.
Heavy snow storms throughout the region on Wednesday prior to competition not only blanketed the 53 Classic contenders with snow during their official practice day on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, but the weather prompted road closures in Oklahoma and nearby states.
The weather story was a natural for The Weather Channel, which broadcast live from the launch at Wolf Creek Park in Grove, Okla., on Friday and provided updates on the tournament throughout the weekend.
Noting that the turnout exceeded predictions, Ray Hoyt, senior vice president of VisitTulsa and the Tulsa Sports Commission, local hosts of the event, attributed the success to the support of fans and community leaders across the region. “Without the wonderful sponsors, the Bassmaster Classic local organizing committee, especially chair Jeff Stava, and the strong partnership that reached across the region from Tulsa to Grove, we couldn’t have expected such a celebrated and well-attended event.
Stava, who is also COO of the Tulsa Community Foundation, said the event was “hugely successful.”
“Everything went smoothly, and we know that, thanks to the incredible support of the community, this will be one of the best Classics ever hosted.”
He said he and others on the local organizing committee are looking forward to receiving reports soon on the impact the Classic had on the local economy, including sales tax collections, hotel room bookings and more.
Michael Mulone, director of site selection for B.A.S.S., noted that previous Classics with lower attendance have generated as much as $24 million in economic impact for the host communities.
Officials representing presenting sponsor Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa also termed the event a success.
“We were honored to partner with the Bassmaster Classic, such a high-caliber sporting event,” said Shawn Slaton, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses. “Like many other local businesses, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa had an outstanding weekend by hosting many of the event sponsors and fans. We thank the Tulsa Sports Commission, Tulsa Regional Chamber and B.A.S.S. for the opportunity to be the presenting sponsor of the Classic and look forward to their return to Tulsa and the Cherokee Nation.”
“It was a pleasure to showcase the Cherokee Nation during the Bassmaster Classic,” added Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Folks were able to get a glimpse of the Cherokee Nation’s real natural beauty and enjoy our heritage and hospitality. We look forward to growing our relationship with Bassmaster and hope to host future bass fishing tournaments throughout northeast Oklahoma.”
Despite temperatures in the low 20s at the start of competition, the 53 Classic contenders caught 548 bass, including 86 five-bass limits. The winning weight of 54 pounds, 12 ounces by champion Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., is among the heaviest winning catches ever in a world championship.
“We’re especially proud of the fact that all 548 bass weighed in were alive and healthy when they were released back into Grand Lake,” noted Akin. Biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation examined the fish and transported them to the lake. Assisting the state in fish care were B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Noreen Clough and volunteers from the B.A.S.S. Nation.
The 2014 Bassmaster Classic will be held Feb. 21-23 in Birmingham, Ala., headquarters of the B.A.S.S. organization. Lake Guntersville, which ranked third in 2012 on Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes list, will be the host fishery. Grand Lake was listed 17th in the rankings.