First-time Classic fans

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All photos Kelly Bostian
Jonathan Barber of Jackson, Tenn., is just getting into bass fishing, but had to get a photo with the Bassmaster Classic trophy at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

“Overwhelming” and “incredible,” those are the words. First impressions of first-timers at a Bassmaster Classic are consistently in that beyond-words realm.

With record attendance at the 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, nearly 154,000, it was overwhelming and incredible as ever for first-timers at the Knoxville Convention Center and World’s Fair Exposition Hall, and the Thompson-Boling Arena on the University of Tennessee campus. 

“It’s so large it’s really overwhelming how many people are here. It’s pretty cool,” said Scott Barber of Jackson, Tenn., after his son, Jonathan, 13, spotted the Bassmaster Classic trophy at the Expo and had to get his photo taken with the famous trophy. 

The teenager wasn’t too talkative, but his grin said it all.

A first time at the Classic, what’s it like?

He shrugged his shoulders, grinned some more. “It’s just cool,” he said.

“We met Gary Yamamoto and Hank Parker. You see these guys on TV and here they are and they’re so approachable,” Scott Barber said. 

Nearby at the Expo, Nate and Jessica Kalpin found a central spot on the floor where a natural gap seemed to form between the throngs. They stopped with their wagon to rearrange their gear and seating arrangement for 15-month-old Knox Kalpin — and his blanket.

They drove 13 hours overnight Thursday from Rochester, N.Y., to reach Knoxville.

“It’s the closest it’s been, and it’s the big one,” Nate said. “It’s amazing how many people are here, but we’re having a great time.”

Jessica and Knox both landed a prize early in the day. They brought a toy bass that belongs to Knox, and brothers Matt and Jordan Lee both autographed the toy for him, and they got their photo taken with them.

“Jordan Lee is my favorite angler,” she said. “It was great to be able meet them.”

Think one child is a handful? Try three.

Jason and Tisha Hayes brought, Tiara, 15, Brianna Jae, 11, and Avery Johanna, 7 months, from Tuscaloosa, Ala. Five hours with an infant in the car and now they were at the Expo, meeting anglers, getting their photo taken with a huge bass and shopping.

“I’ve always wanted to come and just never had the chance,” Jason said. “I grew up fishing and here it is, it’s spring break so it’s a great time to do it, and it’s just a great experience.”