Classic trumps luck 

So, I walk into a bar. If you know me, you’re thinking this story is not starting out in a dissimilar manner to most all of my other memorable life events. Hang tight. So, I walk into a bar at the Hilton in Tulsa, Okla., the first night I arrived for the 2024 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors. Who, you might wonder, did I see standing at the table just inside the doors? Bill Dance. The Mr. Bill Dance, complete with “T” hat. He seemed deep in conversation with two friends, so I kept heading toward the waitress, eager to quench the thirst a nine-hour drive creates. I didn’t make it far. He grabbed me by the shirtsleeve, gave me a bear hug and invited me to join the group. Impossible to say no to that invitation. 

So, I bellied up to the table and introduced myself. Dance’s two companions were not associated with his sponsors. They weren’t professional anglers. They weren’t family friends. Nope, he had just minutes earlier met the pair of B.A.S.S. members, who had flown from Arizona to attend the World Championship of Bass Fishing. The friends had never been to a Classic before and decided to make the trek. Now, they were drinking a beer with Bill freaking Dance. That, I contend, is the magic of the Classic. 

Sure, the competition presents the biggest stage in bass fishing, the biggest payday for its champion and solidifies an angler’s place in history. The storylines, as you will read in this issue, are compelling and inspirational for any fisherman who has a dream of competing for the sport’s biggest prize. However, the event is so much more for the fans in attendance. Allow me to give you another example. 

I was honored to host a roundtable interview on the Bass Pro Shops stage at the Classic Outdoors Expo presented by GSM Outdoors (which was enormous) with Dance, Johnny Morris, Roland Martin, Hank Parker, Rick Clunn and Bob Cobb. Yes, I was surrounded by the Mount Rushmore of bass fishing legends. These guys waxed poetic about the early days of our sport, drawing in a sea of fans. (By the way, if you’d like to hear these stories and more about the founding of B.A.S.S., go to and watch The Cast, a killer docuseries about competitive bass fishing’s infancy.) The interview went on for an hour and could have continued for a few more. Still, it was an experience I will never forget. 

As I was walking off the stage, an angler walked up to me holding a plexiglass box housing a beautiful 8-inch glidebait. 

“Sir, could I ask you a favor?” the man asked. “My father was too sick to attend the Classic this year, and I’m wondering if these guys would mind signing this bait for him? It would make his year if I could get just one of their autographs. I know it’s a lot to ask,” he explained. 

I grabbed the box and handed it first to Johnny, then to Roland, Bob, Rick, Hank and finally Bill, who, after signing it, gave the man a hug and told him to tell his father to get well. 

The man was in shock, eyes moist. If I’m being honest, there was a little condensation in mine, too. 

See, the Classic is so much more than the competition. It is about being surrounded by thousands of people that love what you love and being given the opportunity to make memories that simply can’t be made anywhere else. Some think you have to be lucky for moments like this to happen. I think you simply have to be a fisherman. And I’d rather be a fisherman than lucky any day.