A look at the Tennessee River

It’s Classic Week! Time to take a look at the 53rd Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota. This is the fourth championship of bass fishing in the state of Tennessee and the second out of Knoxville. The last time here, attendance records were set as local favorite Ott DeFoe won with 49 pounds, 3 ounces.
“Knoxville has every element necessary for an incredible Classic,” B.A.S.S. CEO Chase Anderson said. “It is a great sports town, in general, and bass fishing is incredibly popular in East Tennessee. There will be a lot of local interest in the event, and people who are visiting Knoxville for the first time are likely to keep coming back because the city and East Tennessee have so much to offer.”
Classic waters encompass some 30,000 surface acres, which includes the Tennessee River, Fort Loudoun and Tellico reservoirs. Riding from the launch point in Knoxville to Tellico is about 45 minutes. Anybody fishing up Tellico has a long ride back to check-in.
The Fort Loudon dam is in Lenoir City, where a nearby canal connects Tellico. Starting in the Smoky Mountains, the Little Tennessee River feeds Tellico which is clearer and holds more smallmouth.
The state’s first capital, Knoxville is known as the Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. On the banks of the river, the University of Tennessee is among the largest employers in the city of 192,648. Knoxville is third largest city in the state behind Memphis and Nashville.
The anglers will take off each morning with much fanfare from Volunteer Landing, 400 Neyland Drive, at approximately 7:15 a.m.
In 2019, record crowds came to Volunteer Landing to watch the spectacle of a Classic launch. B.A.S.S. emcee Dave Mercer announces each angler as they head out onto the fishery.
Daily weigh-ins will be held at Thompson-Boling Arena — the 20,000-seat venue on the University of Tennessee campus. The weigh-in shows are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET. All B.A.S.S. venues are free.
The Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by U.S. Army will take place at the Knoxville Convention Center and the adjacent World’s Fair Exhibition Hall. Visitors can find deals on all types of gear and see the latest and greatest equipment.
The Expo is always a great way to rub elbows with legends like Jimmy Houston. B.A.S.S. Life and Nation members can enter at 11 a.m. on Friday. Times for the public are noon-7 p.m. ET on Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. It’s also free of charge.
With a then-Classic record of 153,809 spectators, the 2019 Bassmaster Classic generated an economic impact of $32.2 million for Knoxville and east Tennessee, earning recognition as Champion of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism in the Mid-Market Division.
Last year, Jason Christie finally broke through to win the Classic on Lake Hartwell after coming close several times. The Oklahoma pro became the 41st angler to win the crowned jewel of bass fishing. Odds are there will be a 42nd this year as Christie is the only previous winner in the field, but he certainly hopes to have some say in that.
Tennessee pro Brandon Lester, who is among the favorites and the top returning finisher from 2019, said there’s a definite mental aspect to seeing past all the hoopla of Classic week. “If you don’t believe you can win, you’re probably not going to,” he said.
The Classic fishery will be a proper test for competitors, and figuring out the puzzle started when the venue was announced. Targeting largemouth, DeFoe weighed in the only bag over 20 pounds for his win in mid-March 2019. In the 2021 Elite event there in late February, Jeff Gustafson won with smallmouth off a deep spot. Though the 2023 Classic is later than both those events, both species are expected to be in play.
“That’s one of the things that makes this venue so interesting — just the variety of species and patterns that anglers have available to them,” said Chris Bowes, B.A.S.S. Vice President of Tournaments. “You could see someone win it with all largemouth, all smallmouth or a mixed bag of the two. That always makes for a great event.”
The competitors were greeted with cold, rainy weather for the first day of their initial three-day practice last Friday. The temperatures are rising but the forecast once again makes weather the main variable anglers need to consider.
All but eight anglers in the field of 55 fish on the Elite Series. The others are winners of St. Croix Bassmaster Opens, the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, the Strike King College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops and the Bassmaster Team Championship.
Bassmaster.com will feature complete coverage of the Classic, and Bassmaster LIVE is adding new twists. After Bassmaster.com airs Friday’s Day 1 Classic action, FS1 will broadcast from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET on Saturday and 11 a.m. to noon ET on Sunday before switching to the main FOX channel from noon to 3 p.m. ET. Also, a Super Six Finale show will air on FS1 from 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET.
This is the coveted Ray Scott trophy, which is awarded along with $300,000 to the winner. The prestige of winning a Classic might be more valuable. For more tournament activities, visit the Attend page.