BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In the three years since Classic LIVE debuted at the GEICO Bassmaster Classic in Greenville and Anderson, S.C., in February 2015, the innovative live-stream, on-the-water programming has changed the way fans follow competitive bass fishing.
No longer do they have to wait until a Classic or Bassmaster Elite Series event is aired on ESPN2 to see the anglers in action. Now, they can view every cast, catch and celebration as it happens, in real time.
“It seems like we’ve been doing Bassmaster LIVE for many years, but in fact, we’re just coming up on our third anniversary,” said Mike McKinnis, vice president of media content for JM Associates and producer of The Bassmasters TV show on ESPN2. “That’s a short amount of time to have truly changed the way B.A.S.S. fans enjoy the sport. With the technology continuing to get stronger every year, the coverage we’re bringing to ESPN3, Bassmaster.com and B.A.S.S. social media in 2018 is going to be the best we’ve ever seen.”
In the 2017 season, LIVE programming from the Bassmaster Classic, the Elite Series and the Classic Bracket event had 2.9 million video views, a 76 percent increase over the previous year, generating 85 million minutes of viewing, a growth of 65 percent over the prior year.
McKinnis added that the first Elite of the 2018 season — the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Martin presented by Econo Lodge — continued the trend of rapid growth in views and time spent viewing.
"Our first Elite event of the year set a new record of 316,000 video views, which is a 34 percent increase over the Elite No. 1 in 2017, and it recorded 7.4 million minutes viewed, a 13 percent increase over the same event last year,” he said.
LIVE employs relatively new technology that enables streaming from the same high-definition cameras used to record video for The Bassmasters. Viewers can tune in through Bassmaster.com and the WatchESPN app for six hours per day all three competition days of the Classic.
They’ll see much more than fishing action on LIVE. Hosts Tommy Sanders, Mark Zona and recently retired Elite Series angler Davy Hite provide insightful commentary and analysis of the competition as well. The program will also include LIVE cut-ins with Dave Mercer, Classic and Elite Series emcee, along with guest anglers from the Classic Expo.
B.A.S.S. has long been streaming daily weigh-ins from the Classic, Elite Series events and other Bassmaster tournaments, and that program, too, has enjoyed substantial growth, increasing 31 percent in 2017 over 2016 with more than 800,000 video views.
“In addition to LIVE, this year we'll continue to enhance our digital coverage with more up-to-the-minute coverage, including more video from the water, bringing visitors straight to the action on Lake Hartwell,” said Jim Sexton, vice president/digital for B.A.S.S. “And we're digging deeper in the statistics for every angler, using their career statistics to give insights on the tournament. In BASSTrakk for instance, visitors will now be able to see more data on each angler's day.”
The extremely popular BASSTrakk uses cellphone apps in each competitor’s boat to relay the estimated weight of each bass caught, including those released and the fish placed in livewells. As B.A.S.S. has done since instituting catch and release in 1972, all bass are returned alive to the fishery from which they were caught.
Fans participating in Bassmaster’s Fantasy Fishing game especially keep up with the competition. In addition to prizes for the players picking the highest-scoring teams of anglers in each event, the overall winner will receive a Triton/Yamaha boat and motor package valued at $35,000.
Marshals assigned to each Classic competitor record and transmit the fish catch data for BASSTrakk in real time, and many also send in photos and comments on the action. Those are included in the live blog, which also are written by teams of reporters tracking the leaders on Lake Hartwell.
Beginning with the first programs on March 31 on ESPN2, B.A.S.S. will air 10 hours of coverage of the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.”
Of course, there’s no better way to enjoy the $1 million GEICO Bassmaster Classic than being there in person. Attendance at the 2015 championship in Greenville exceeded 103,000 and should go even higher this year.
In addition to daily weigh-ins in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, fans will be able to check out the latest boats, motors, fishing tackle and lures at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in the TD Convention Center Friday through Sunday, March 16-18. Increasingly every year, manufacturers are choosing the Expo to introduce their newest products to the most avid of bass anglers.
Even the early morning takeoffs have become draws for spectators. On the first day of the 2015 Classic on Lake Hartwell, more than 2,000 spectators crowded the Green Pond Landing and Event Center at Anderson — on a morning when the temperature was 10 degrees. With the Classic being held a month later and with warmer weather expected, the crowds should be even larger.
“Our goal has long been to provide cutting-edge content about our Classic and other tournaments however, whenever and wherever fans want to consume it,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO. “The increasing popularity of all these programs prove that our fans are getting what they desire.”
To learn more about attending and following the 2018 Classic, visit Bassmaster.com now and throughout the event.