BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — On the heels of the best-attended Bassmaster Classic in history, B.A.S.S. announces a yearlong celebration of the heart and soul of the sport of professional bass fishing: the fans.
“The GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods crushed the attendance records with more than 153,000 fans descending on Knoxville, Tenn.,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “The atmosphere was electric and proved that bass fishing fans are the most passionate and rabid fans that exist. So, we decided to give them a yearlong thank-you gift with our ‘Year of the Fan’ celebration.”
“The simple truth is, without fanatical bass anglers, I’d probably have to get a real job,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Lester. “The everyday bass fisherman is the real hero in this industry, and I look forward to thanking them every chance I get for the rest of the season and beyond.”
That will add up to a lot of thank-yous, according to Jim Sexton, B.A.S.S. Vice President of Digital. “Not only did fans show up in droves to watch the Classic in person, but we had more than 25 million minutes watched on Bassmaster.com during Classic Week. And these fans watched from all over the world. We had 179 countries log on to Bassmaster.com to catch the action from the biggest stage in bass fishing.” It seems bass fishing truly is a universal language.
The Year of the Fan celebration will kick off at the next Elites Series event being held on Lake Hartwell, and culminate at the 50th anniversary of the Bassmaster Classic next March. Alongside B.A.S.S. and the Elite Series pros, sponsors of B.A.S.S. will be actively joining the celebration by bringing fans incredible experiences at the Elite Series venues. Here are just a few highlights of what fans can expect when they attend the Elite Series “Fandamonium”:
- B.A.S.S. Member Appreciation Day: Every Sunday at Elite events, the first 100 B.A.S.S. members to show their membership cards at the B.A.S.S. booth will receive a B.A.S.S. hat.
- Angler Alley: Fans can meet and greet Elite Series pros from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturdays prior to weigh-in. Bassmaster LIVE cameras will be on site to interview fans.
- Elite LIVE Watch Party: Special guests will be on hand to join fans in watching Bassmaster LIVE on Sundays from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Academy Sports + Outdoors will be providing special giveaways to fans on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Free Elite Angler Clinics: Fans will have a chance to get some free advice from Elite Series pros on a wide range of topics, as well as participate in Q&A sessions with the pros.
- Fish Care V.I.P.: The new Yamaha Live Release boats will become the platform for a few lucky fans to participate in a V.I.P. conservation program during all Elite events.
- Fandamonium Dance Off: Fans can show off their moves prior to weigh-ins for special prizes.
- Military and First Responder Appreciation Day: Every Saturday at Elite events, the first 100 active military/first responders or veterans to show their IDs in the B.A.S.S. booth will receive an official Bassmaster hat.
- Mercury Concert Series: Starting with the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks & Wildlife Department on May 4th, fans will be treated to a free concert provided by Mercury Marine.
- Toyota Fishing: Toyota is offering a variety of exciting activities for all fishing fans to enjoy at Elite events, including Toyota Build-A-Bait and Casting Kids Youth Activities, Meet the Pros – with Team Toyota Anglers Brandon Lester & Matt Arey, Toyota Interactive Vehicle Displays, Toyota Owner Appreciation gifts and more.
- Demo Rides: Fans will get some exciting boat rides courtesy of Nitro, Skeeter and Triton.
- Games Galore: Prior to weigh-ins on Saturday and Sunday, Berkley, Carhartt, Abu Garcia, Humminbird, Minn Kota, Power-Pole, Bass Pro Shops, Talon, Mossy Oak Fishing, Lowrance and other manufacturers and vendors will be offering fun games and cool prizes to fans who participate.
These efforts to thank B.A.S.S. fans are just the tip of the iceberg.
“We want to get to know the anglers who follow our sport,” said Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall. “So, we will be reaching out to our 55,000-plus Life Members to let them tell their stories. We will be interviewing weekend anglers at boat ramps across the country to get tips for Bassmasterreaders. We are going to have Elite Series pros interview fans instead of vice-versa. We believe that every bass angler has a compelling story to tell, from one who fishes on weekends from a kayak, to the competitive angler who has a full-time job and fishes the Bassmaster Opens. To celebrate and thank these men and women, we want to tell their stories.”
Additionally, the B.A.S.S. digital team will be highlighting fans on Bassmaster.com, as well as all social channels.
“We are going to be interacting with fans in a big way,” said Sexton. “There are around 1.6 million fans following B.A.S.S. social media channels. We want these anglers to share photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using #yearofthefan, and we want to read their stories about fishing with family and friends. Plus, we will have plenty of fan contests throughout the year on the website. It’s all about the fans.”
B.A.S.S. legend and Elite Series pro Rick Clunn puts it best: “In the grand scheme of things, it’s not about how successful I am as a pro. The number of trophies I have on a mantel doesn’t push the sport forward. Instead, it is the knowledge that we, as an angling community, share with each other that promotes passion to pursue excellence. I am so thankful for the passion I see every day from B.A.S.S. fans. They are the heartbeat of our sport.”
Check out the kick-off tribute to all of the wonderful B.A.S.S. fans and the Year of the Fan celebration below in the photo gallery, or watch the video above.