Knoxville: The Epicenter of Classic Vibes

PARK FALLS, Wis. – Competitive fishing’s grandest stage is coming to Knoxville, Tennessee this weekend, when the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota kicks off on the Tennessee River. St Croix Pros Caleb Kuphall of Mukwonago, Wisconsin; Bob Downey of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota; and Pat Schlapper of Eleva, Wisconsin are among the 55 elite anglers competing for the biggest title and payout in competitive bass fishing.

Caleb Kuphall is completely immersed in fishing. When he isn’t fishing the Elites, he works as a fishing guide on his home waters in Wisconsin, as well as part-time in a tackle shop. Kuphall finished his third season in the Elites ranked 19th in AOY points in 2022.  

Kuphall says making the 2024 Bassmaster Classic is his most important goal for this 2023 season. “I’m just trying to stay on tour,” he says. “It takes consistency. That comes from having confidence in what I’m doing – trying to stay versatile and adapt, but having something you can fall back on. For me, that’s jig fishing. I feel like I can go to a jig and it can either bail me out or push me up.”

After a slow start to the 2023 Elite season at Lake Okeechobee and Lake Seminole, Kuphall says he’s particularly looking forward to this year’s Elite events at Santee Cooper and Guntersville, both of which will play to his strengths. “I had a good finish at Santee Cooper last year and won on Guntersville in 2021,” he says. “I thought Lake Seminole would be in my wheelhouse, too, until I got there. I’d never fished it before and it had a lot more of a Florida vibe than I was expecting. Of course, everyone likes fishing at Lake Champlain, and being from the north, I feel like I should be able to make something happen there, too.”

With respect to the upcoming Bassmaster Classic on the Tennessee River, Kuphall says it’s one of his favorite places to fish. “It’ll be interesting to see what the weather does and how that affects the fish and the spawn. I approach the Classic differently because there’s no points attached to it. It’s all or nothing. I’m going to feed them with my strengths; there’s no plan B.”

For Kuphall, that likely means jig fishing. “I’ll probably have a Legend Tournament Bass LBTC71MHF in my hands most of the time at the Classic. It’s my favorite jig rod and the number-one rod on my deck,” says Kuphall, who also gives a nod to the Legend Tournament Bass LBTC72HM. “That’s one of the new reaction-bait models in the series that St. Croix calls iACT with both carbon and glass. I caught every fish I weighed at Okeechobee on that rod, and it’s definitely my new favorite chatterbait rod. One of my other go-to’s lately has been the Victory VTC73MHF. It’s what I’m fishing now for swim jigs and speed worms. It’s really a great lipless crankbait rod, too.”

Follow Caleb Kuphall at the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota with up-to-the-minute coverage at

Classic Expo

In addition to the world’s top bass anglers competing for the biggest title and payout in competitive bass fishing, the three-day event is expected to draw more than 100,000 fans and spectators – fishing and outdoors enthusiasts traveling to Knoxville from across the country to cheer on their favorite anglers, participate in the festivities, and attend the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic Expo. The 2023 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, held at the Knoxville Convention Center, has grown into one of the largest consumer fishing shows in the country, featuring over 200 exhibitors from around the world on-site and catering to the varied passions of attending outdoors fanatics.

St. Croix Rod invites all anglers attending this year’s Bassmaster Classic to come by its booth (#3501) at the Expo.

In addition to featuring the full line of new Legend Tournament Bass rods, the St. Croix booth will include a variety of fun giveaways, St. Croix apparel, special appearances, and will be staffed by knowledgeable St. Croix Team Members and Pro Staff.

“We’re looking forward to getting down to Knoxville and engaging with anglers for three days amidst all the excitement surrounding the Classic,” says St. Croix National Sales Manager, Dan Johnston. “Anglers have more choices than ever when it comes to fishing rods, so it’s a great opportunity for us to talk with them about all the unique things that make St. Croix special and, ultimately, show them how our handcrafted rods can help elevate their angling experiences.”

St. Croix Rod extends its best wishes and full support to pros Bob Downey, Caleb Kuphall, and Pat Schlapper in this year’s exciting Bassmaster Classic. “We couldn’t be prouder of Bob, Caleb and Pat for making the field, or more grateful to all our anglers for giving us the continued opportunity to make the Best Rods on Earth®,” says St. Croix Vice President of Marketing, Jesse Simpkins. “It’s what our brand and family have done for 75 years now, and it’s our anglers at every level that continue to drive us in that mission every day.”

Follow up-to-the-minute action at the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota at