The conservation behind the Classic


James Overstreet

By Casey Shedd

With the AFTCO Bass Bus now back home in Missouri, and the lights having finally dimmed on the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, I’ve had some time to reflect on the most remarkable thing I learned at this year’s Classic: a seldom talked about trapdoor and the ensuing behind the scenes journey it sent me on.

On day two of the Bassmaster Classic Expo presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods, a B.A.S.S. Nation volunteer shared a video with me. Initially underneath the muffled music and roar of the crowds, all you could see was the underbelly of the Classic stage, but then a door in the floor opened to flashing lights, a descending sack of fish and the chain reaction that kicked off a human transport line. 

If the Bassmaster Classic is the Superbowl of bass fishing, then the stage itself is bass fishing’s Grand Ole Opry. And here was a trapdoor, cut right smack dab in the center, like it was built for a David Copperfield primetime magic show. I was so impressed, I just had to learn more. So on day three, I was invited by B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland and a group of B.A.S.S. Nation volunteers to be a part of the action. I quickly discovered that the trapdoor was only the tip of the iceberg. I couldn’t believe the level of care, science, attention, ingenuity and man hours that went into fish care behind the scenes.

For 10 years B.A.S.S. has used a custom-built trapdoor to get the fish from Tournament Director Trip Weldon’s weigh-in scales back into the water as fast as humanly possible. As a spectator from the stands, all I’ve ever seen are Micah Frazier, Rick Clunn, The Golden Ram and the rest of my favorite Bassmaster Elite Series anglers pulling their sack onto the stage, holding up their two biggest for the audience to appreciate, and putting them back into the sack to be weighed. I hadn’t thought for a second about what happens next, or the need to quickly get them back into the water, and into the hands of a Fish Care Specialist.