KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Hundreds of children will get a first chance to experience the thrill that comes with the feel of a fish on the line during Bassmaster Get Hooked on Fishing presented by Toyota, Shakespeare and TakeMeFishing.org at the 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
Young anglers and would-be anglers will find that opportunity daily, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. March 15-17, outside the Knoxville Convention Center where the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’s Sporting Goods will be underway.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are, if you’ve never felt a catfish tug on your line it is a thrill,” said organizer David Healy. “The chaos ensues, and the smiles and the taking photos, every time, it’s just a fantastic thing to be a part of.”
A section of World’s Fair Drive, between World’s Fair Park and the Knoxville Convention Center, will become a playground for parents and children outside the Expo Friday through Sunday, and all experiences at the Get Hooked venue are free.
This is the third year for Get Hooked on Fishing at the Classic and an annual highlight always is the catfish pond, where hundreds of aggressive catfish are stocked and just waiting to hit a line and make a child squeal with delight. Knoxville-area B.A.S.S. junior high, high school and college anglers are lined up as volunteers to help youngsters with baiting their hooks, casting and, of course, catching a first fish.
Grownups get to hang back and stand ready to take the pictures.
Get Hooked On Fishing volunteers will give out Shakespeare rod-and-reel combos each day, while supplies last, and Toyota has a build-a-bait station where children can work with volunteers to create their own spinnerbaits with a variety of choices of blades and skirts provided by Strike King. Toyota will also have a spot where kids can learn how to make their first cast and then start to test their accuracy with a bunch of big inflatable largemouth bass as targets. And all youngsters who attend will receive free B.A.S.S. activity books.
Children and parents alike will thrill at the sights and splashes of Eukanuba Super Retriever Series Super Dock dogs sometimes soaring 20 feet or more as the best dog-and-handler teams from around the country compete on the venue.
Kids will also have a chance to Meet the Elites Friday with pro anglers Bill Lowen, Harvey Horne, Brock Mosley, Clark Wendlandt, Jay Yelas, Jesse Tacoronte, Brad Whatley, Keith Combs, Shane Lineberger and Scott Canterbury at the venue.
“It really is designed for parents who have little ones, probably about age 4 to 12 is the ideal age, but anyone can come,” Healy said. “The Expo is so big and busy and full, it’s family focused, too. But it’s cool to have this area that just focuses on the kids, where they can have maybe a 45-minute experience, and it’s all about them and having fun.”
Experienced hands at helping families find their way to the water for fishing and boating adventures, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF), creators of TakeMeFishing.org, will be on hand with activity books for the kids and lots of information for parents looking for more ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
“We are so excited to welcome the Bassmaster Classic and Get Hooked On Fishing to Knoxville, and share this excitement with our community,” said Kim Bumpas, President of Visit Knoxville. “The partnership between the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission, the City of Knoxville, Knox County, and the state of Tennessee was instrumental in bringing this event to our destination. We hope everyone from the folks who have been fans for decades to the littlest anglers will find ways to enjoy the Classic in Knoxville.”
The Take Me Fishing initiative has introduced thousands of children across the country to fishing and this year RBFF is partnering with B.A.S.S. not only at the Classic but for four more events, the first of which will be the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, May 4-6 at Lake Fork, near Emory, Texas. Three others are to be announced across the country, including one planned for Central Park in New York City, with that date to be announced.
“RBFF has a sterling reputation for their strategy and communication skills when it comes to engaging more people to get involved in recreational fishing,” said Angie Thompson, vice president of sales and director of Get Hooked On Fishing at B.A.S.S. “This aligns perfectly with our goal of exposing more kids to the sport. The outreach through their Vamos a Pescar program will also help us strengthen communication to Hispanic families to welcome them to the fishing family. Together we have a big opportunity to make it possible for many more kids to experience the excitement of feeling that vibration of the rod as you catch a fish.”
“It’s important to get to other communities and at other events,” Healy said. “It’s especially important to bring this to urban and minority communities where families might not have as much access to fishing. That’s one of the core missions, to give the opportunity to under-served kids.”
During the Classic, the Knoxville Boys and Girls Club will be bringing children to the Get Hooked on Fishing event daily as well, Healy said.
“It’s all pretty simple,” he said. “We’re trying to make kids smile, and maybe when they leave they’ll ask mom and dad, ‘can we go fishing some time?’”