As Shaw Grigsby sat outside ultra-modern Minute Maid Park Thursday, doing some final preparations for the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, he couldn’t help but think back to a time when this annual Super Bowl of professional bass fishing was different.
A lot different.
“I fished my first Classic on (Tennessee’s) Chickamauga Lake in 1986,” Grigsby said with a laugh. “Back then, they would send you a tacklebox and you would fill it with 10 pounds of tackle. You were always careful to weigh that tacklebox because you could only have those 10 pounds — not an ounce over.
If an angler didn’t make weight with the box, B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott took particular joy in lightening the load.
“If you went over the 10 pounds, Ray used to open up your tackle box and take whatever bait he wanted out. It was his,” Grigsby said. “It might be the best one you had, so you made sure you were under those 10 pounds — and they only let you have five rods and reels.”
For the record, Grigsby had 38 rods and reels in his boat during Thursday afternoon’s scheduled meeting with the media, though he expects to use only about 12 once competition begins Friday morning on Lake Conroe. He also had a lot more than 10 pounds of tackle.
The 60-year-old fishing legend and longtime host of the popular television program One More Cast with Shaw Grigsby marveled at the state of today’s Classic while looking back on some his fondest memories from 15 prior appearances in the event.
“This is pretty impressive,” Grigsby said. “Every year, B.A.S.S. has stepped it up. It’s the biggest thing of the year. The Bassmaster Classic is, by far, the biggest single event that has anything to do with fishing.”
Grigsby named the 1993 Classic on Alabama’s Logan Martin Lake and the 1990 Classic on the James River in Virginia as two of his most memorable competitive moments.
“Finishing second behind Fritts at Logan Martin was one that I really enjoyed,” he said. “Then in that Classic on the James River, on that final day, I was calling my shot. I knew before I would make a cast that I was going to catch one — and when you do that, it’s a really magical day.”
After failing to qualify for the Classics from 2014-16, Grigsby showed he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, finishing 35th in the 2016 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
He said he has no plans to quit fishing anytime soon.
“I sure love it,” he said. “The passion is still there. The want-to is still there — I still want to win the Classic. As long as I have the support of great sponsors, I intend to fish. But it’s not a matter of ego for me. When it’s not a financially viable option anymore, I’ll get out.”
With tougher competition entering the sport every day, Grigsby said there’s no telling where the Classic will land in another 20 years.
“It’s exciting to compete against these young guys,” he said. “It’s exciting to watch these guys. They’re so good. It took us 10, 15, 20 years of competition to get to where they are when they start today. It’s all because they’ve had so much experience on the junior circuits, in high school and in college. They step out on tour, and they’re studs.
“It’s really fun to see how good these guys are.”