GREENVILLE, S.C. — Despite Friday morning's temperature of 10 degrees, it felt balmy to Chris Sicotte when he arrived for the Bassmaster Classic. That's because when he, his wife, Ani, and their four-month-old son, Weston, left their home in Escanaba, Mich., it was minus-25 degrees with a wind chill reading of minus-50.
It felt practically tropical for Sicotte (pronounced "see-kot") and family Sunday at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods. That's when his key started the Booyah Bait Company's contest grand prize of a 2014 Toyota Tundra pickup truck with a package of accessories valued at $70,000.
Sicotte let out a scream of joy that drowned the noise of the revving truck engine.
Booyah Bait Co.'s contest began at last year's GEICO Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham, Ala. A name was drawn there and at every Bassmaster Elite Series event last season, plus an online contestant was selected to determine the finalists for the truck giveaway.
Of those 11 finalists, nine gathered at the Outdoors Expo around noon Sunday. (Two were unable to attend because of concerns at home.) Booyah provided hotel rooms and $1,000 in expense money to each finalist at the Classic.
"We're just happy to be here," said Brent Walker, in attendance with his wife Sarah, from Frostburg, Maryland. "A chance to win the truck is a bonus. This is like a free vacation."
Sherrie Martin of Anacoco, La., wasn't quite so carefree prior to the moment-of-truth, saying, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal. I'm nervous. I didn't sleep last night. I've been counting the hours."
All nine finalists reached into a container of truck ignition keys and selected one each. Six people tried their keys, and six left the truck cab disappointed. Booyah pro and TV personality Jimmy Houston offered the three remaining contestants $5,000 each for their keys, so no one would walk away empty-handed.
Booyah pro and former Classic winner Alton Jones said, "I'll give you $10,000 each — $30,000 for a $70,000 truck. That's a no-brainer for me."
There were no takers. Then Sicotte stepped into the truck cab and ended the contest. The 30-year-old, eight-year Air Force veteran said he and his father already own two bass boats and have been wanting to get into tournament fishing.
"This will allow us to get on a tournament trail," said an ecstatic Sicotte.