Crossing (and fishing) the Delaware

PHILADELPHIA — B.A.S.S. has fished out of some legendary venues over the years (including Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans), but if you're talking about historic American cities it's hard to top Philadelphia, host of the Bassmaster Elite at Delaware River, Aug. 7-10, 2014.

The seventh stop in this year's Elite Series will not only set the stage for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year award, but it will also be fought on hallowed ground (or rather, water) that B.A.S.S. has never visited before. The tournament might even make some history of its own.

You probably know all about the City of Brotherly Love (that's what “Philadelphia” means in Greek, by the way) from American history classes. It's where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were drafted and signed; it served as the nation's capital in the 1790s; it's home to the Liberty Bell; it shaped American popular music through “American Bandstand” beginning in the 1950s; and it gave us the cheesesteak.

But let's put Philadelphia (and Pennsylvania) in fishing perspective.

  • Philadelphia is the fifth most populous city in the United States, but it's not the most populous city ever to host a B.A.S.S. event. That title belongs to Chicago, which hosted the 2000 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Michigan.
  • The Elite event on the Delaware will be just the second B.A.S.S. tournament hosted by a Pennsylvania city. The other was the 2005 Bassmaster Classic on Three Rivers out of Pittsburgh. Nine of the Top 10 finishers in that championship (including winner Kevin VanDam) will fish the Bassmaster Elite at Delaware River.
  • Philadelphia was the birthplace of some legendary athletes, including Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Frazier, Reggie Jackson and Rocky Balboa. But none of them ever won a B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, a Bassmaster Classic, a Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year award, caught 100 pounds in a B.A.S.S. event or earned more than $1 million in B.A.S.S. prize money. Michael Iaconelli has done all of those things (he's the only angler in history to accomplish them all), and he was born in 1972 in Philadelphia.
  • In the 1930s, Penn State University became the first school of higher education to offer courses in fly fishing. Beginning in 1947, students could earn college credits in the classes. They're still available at PSU, too. Just enroll in KINES 004, 008 or 093. And you thought college bass fishing was groundbreaking!
  • Only five Pennsylvania residents have ever won a B.A.S.S. event. The last was Jason Knapp of Uniontown in 2009. He took home the trophy from the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open on Lake Champlain.
  • Philadelphia sports fans are tough. For a while, there was an actual courtroom in Veterans Stadium to process and adjudicate unruly Phillies and Eagles fans, and in 1968 Santa Claus was booed and pelted with snowballs at an Eagles game. Fortunately, Elite anglers can expect better treatment. Bass fishing is about as fan friendly as it gets ... and there won't be any snow in August.

It's anyone's guess where the Elite tournament will be won, but crossing the Delaware in search of less pressured waters could be a solid strategy. When George Washington famously crossed the river on Christmas night of 1776, he wasn't looking for bass. He was trying to get the drop on Hessian troops in Trenton (upstream from Philadelphia). It worked, too.

With far less at stake, 107 Elite pros are working on their own winning strategy.

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