2017 Classic: Everything will be bigger

I’ll admit it. I rooted for the Patriots to beat the Falcons in Super Bowl LI held in Houston, Texas. I’m pretty sure I was the only person in the state of Alabama not cheering for the Falcons. After all, Atlanta’s Julio Jones (who I suspect to be a mutant with superpowers) was a former University of Alabama standout receiver, and is an avid bass angler. Still, I wanted to see history made. The fact that Tom Brady had the opportunity to win a record five championship rings as a starting quarterback was something I wanted to witness. It would be like watching Wilt Chamberlain score 100 points against the New York Knicks in 1962. Or like watching Nolan Ryan throw his seventh no-hitter. I wanted to say, “Yep, I watched that game!” Not only did Brady throw his way into the record books, but the game also was the first NFL championship to go into overtime. Houston was indeed historic.

Well, in a few weeks, I believe the same sort of history will be made, again in Houston. Full disclosure: I am from Texas. And yes, we Texans are a proud lot, wont to believe that everything is bigger and better in the Lone Star State. But that is precisely why I think the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in Houston (Lake Conroe) March 24-26 will break every attendance record kept for the world championship. Texans simply will not allow another state to claim the title of “most avid fishing fans.”

Just look at the attendance of the Sabine River Elite Series event held in Orange, Texas in 2013. Records were shattered when 33,650 fans showed up to the weigh-ins. Orange, located two hours east of Houston, has a population of 18,922. Houston has a population of almost 2.2 million. Plus, there are more B.A.S.S. members in the state of Texas than any other state.

A bit of history will be made simply based on the selection of the weigh-in venue. Fans will witness a Bassmaster Classic first, as the stage will be constructed in the middle of Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros play. This will be the first outside venue since the 2000 Chicago Classic inside Soldier Field, and the first ever inside a Major League Baseball stadium.

The GEICO Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center will capture the record as the biggest outdoor show ever, filling 325,000 square feet with booths full of angler candy.

Kevin VanDam currently holds the Classic ­record for the heaviest three-day winning weight. His 2011 catch of 69-11 from the Louisiana Delta could be destroyed based on the whispers coming from Lake Conroe. Elite Series pro and Classic competitor Bradley Roy caught his personal best bass while prefishing Conroe in January. He didn’t have a scale, but the fish looked to be in the 12- to 13-pound range. If that fish is caught during the Classic, the current big-fish record would be broken (Preston Clark’s 11-10 from the Kissimmee Chain in 2006). Pundits are ­expecting at least one 35-pound limit to be weighed, as well. This would boot Paul Mueller’s current five-fish-limit record of 32-3 from Lake Guntersville in 2014 to a distant second place.

Texas already owns one Classic record: the state with the most Classic qualifiers. Since the inception of the world championship in 1971, 310 competitors have hailed from the Lone Star State. Arkansas is a second with 191 anglers.

So, there is little doubt in my mind that the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing is set to be as epic as its football namesake.  One last consideration: Tom Brady had four championship titles going into this year’s big game. He was tied with quarterbacks Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. He now has five. Kevin VanDam is currently tied with Rick Clunn with four Bassmaster Classic championships (and yes, they get rings, too). If VanDam wins the Houston Classic, it may be the record that will never be eclipsed, ever. And how cool would it be to say that you were there to watch it happen?