This year’s GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods takes place in Knoxville, my hometown. It kills me that I didn’t qualify to compete in bass fishing’s most prestigious tournament. However, I’m proud that the Classic is in Knoxville, and I want every bass fan who comes here to have a terrific experience.
I believe this event will draw more fans than any Classic before it. Because there are eight major reservoirs within an hour’s drive of Knoxville, this region has a huge contingent of bass anglers. They will show up for the Classic in big numbers.
Knoxville is also situated at the juncture of two major interstates, I-40 and I-75. It lies within an easy day’s drive from untold numbers of bass fans in every direction.
Besides attending the Classic and visiting the Bassmaster Classic Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, there are loads of other things you can do to enhance your visit. I often take advantage of what Knoxville has to offer with my wife, Kelly.
This is a lively town/city. Let me point out some places that Kelly and I enjoy. You might want to put some of them on your list of things to do while you’re here.
Calhoun’s On The River would be a great place to go for lunch or dinner. This restaurant is right on the Tennessee River and only a couple hundred yards from the Classic official takeoff. While you’re dining, you can watch the Classic boats rip by as they return in the afternoon. Calhoun’s has great food, and they are known for their BBQ. We really enjoy their ribs.
You’ll be impressed with the Thompson-Boling Arena on the University of Tennessee campus where the Classic weigh-ins will take place. It holds nearly 22,000 people, and there is no doubt it will be packed for the daily weigh-ins. Neyland stadium, where the Tennessee Volunteers play, is also impressive. It is the fifth largest football stadium in the country and seats more than 102,000 people.
Market Square is a cool place to spend an evening in downtown Knoxville. It’s within walking distance of the Classic venues and has all kinds of restaurants and shops. There are usually people on the sidewalk playing music. Kelly and I like to grab some dinner and then indulge in some local-made ice cream at Cruze Farm Ice Cream.
There are two restaurants we often visit on Market Square. They offer a wide variety of great food with a Southern cuisine twist. One of the restaurants is Tupelo Honey. I’m all about their Roasted Carolina Mountain Trout. The other restaurant is Cafe 4. While it’s a good place for steaks, my favorite meal there is Low Country Shrimp and Grits.
If you’d like to take in a movie or go to a concert, keep the Tennessee Theatre, the official state theatre of Tennessee, and the Bijou Theatre in mind. Both are in downtown Knoxville. I suggest checking out their schedule of entertainment before you come.
The Sunsphere is the signature building on Knoxville’s skyline. It was built in 1986 for the World’s Fair and is within easy walking distance of the Classic. This 266-foot tall hexagonal steel truss structure is topped with a 75-foot, gold-colored glass sphere. You can take a free elevator to an observation tower and get a great view of the city.
Nature lovers who want to go on a hike or ride a bike without leaving the city should check out Ijams Nature Center right across the river from Downtown Knoxville. They have all kinds of hiking and biking trails. Several trails go right along the Tennessee River where you might see some of the Classic anglers on the water.
An hour’s drive from Knoxville is the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in America. My favorite hike is the one to the Chimney Tops. It has some awesome views and the summit has all kinds of neat rock formations. However, it is somewhat of a strenuous hike. The most popular hike in the Smokey Mountains is Laurel Falls. It’s an easy hike, and the waterfall is beautiful.
If you’d like to enjoy the wonders of the Great Smokey Mountains from the comfort of your vehicle, go to Cades Cove. While driving the 11-mile, one-way loop through this verdant mountain valley, you are likely to see whitetail deer and many other forms of wildlife. In March the road is open to motor vehicles from sunrise until sunset daily, weather permitting. You can also go on horseback rides there.
The 2019 Bassmaster Classic is going to be one you don’t want to miss. Be sure to come see me at the Suzuki booth at the Classic Expo. I hope everyone has a great trip to my hometown, Knoxville, Tenn.