Classic: Nothing beats being there

A lot has been written recently about why you need to attend the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic at Lake Conroe in Houston, Texas, March 24-26. And I feel the stories shared on present a solid case as to why you should.

As I’ve pondered what the Classic means to me and what I hope it does — or will eventually — mean to you, I decided to interlace some of my personal experiences, and why I believe it’s the best and toughest top-tier professional championship in existence.

Think about it. An entire season of decisions make or break a trip to the Classic. Then factor in two days of practice, a day completely dedicated to media, and three days of official competition that will usually begin at 3 a.m. and won’t end until 10 or 11 p.m., if not later. It’s a very taxing game that I don’t think an NFL, NHL or NBA player could handle without constant complaining.

I’ve been a Bassmaster fan since the mid 90s, but I only mildly followed the sport until 2006 when the Elite Series kicked off. And at that point, I was hooked — pardon the pun. I attended my first Classic in 2010 when Kevin VanDam won his third title on Alabama’s Lay Lake. I was there on a freelance media basis, and it was eye opening.

Being there changed my life.

As a 20-year tournament fisherman, I’ve always appreciated and admired the top levels of competitive bass fishing. I realize I won’t ever be that guy on the stage, let alone holding the trophy high, but that doesn’t take away my ability and desire to relate to him.

The next best thing is being there. Nothing compares to witnessing the entire event unfold in person. Admittedly, fishing in the Classic was a dream of mine for years, and maybe, if I’m honest, it still is.

Being there bridged that gap for me. You won’t be able understand where I’m coming from if you’re not there.

Yes, Bassmaster LIVE virtually takes you to the water and the weigh-in, kind of. Inarguably, it is the coolest technology going on in the sport right now. Heck, I often watch LIVE from a camera boat as the events unfold!

The blog fills in the gaps that LIVE can’t reach.

Photo galleries give you a strong visualization of the art that can be captured through the lens of a camera. Not to mention share the action as it happens slide by slide.

But nothing beats being there. Nothing.

I’ll come clean on something here: I literally fight back tears every time I witness a new Bassmaster Elite Series champion hoist his trophy high. It’s especially hard if that angler can’t hold back his emotions on stage talking about it. I’m a hot mess when that happens.

It’s a very physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually taxing sport. I fully understand that, and I appreciate seeing a champion overcome with emotion because he understands it, too.

The Classic, however, is on an entirely different level. It’s the culmination of entire lifetimes, careers and an opportunity for fans to live the dream, if only vicariously.

If you love tournament fishing, to witness the giant show that B.A.S.S. puts on is worth attending time and time again. Also as a tournament angler, you know full well and appreciate what it truly takes to hold that trophy high after three days of competition on the sport’s biggest stage. Emotions will run high throughout the competitors and fans alike.

It’s a special moment.

I could go on and on. But, one thing I’ll guarantee: You’ll never forget nor regret being there. Ever.

What’s more …

Little did I know at the time, but Lay Lake would eventually become one of my home lakes. My family and I moved to Alabama a couple of years ago, and the Coosa River impoundments provide some amazing fishing that is just minutes from my front door in Birmingham. I still enjoy running my boat out of Beeswax Creek and idling through the very waters where VanDam caught all of his fish during the 2010 Classic. It's something that's pretty special to me.

Haunting almost.

There’s something extraordinary about visiting — and even fishing — legendary fisheries where bass-fishing history was made. Those of you who have done it know exactly what I’m talking about.

Conroe is about to be added to that list, and during an event that is likely to be the largest, most attended in Bassmaster Classic history. That’s not something a virtual visit will fully reveal. To feel it, you have to be there.

By being there in person you’ll have the rare opportunity to see how tenuous and demanding this event is from the pressure to perform to the nearly overbearing media presence, to enormous amounts of spectators and the expansive Expo venue.

And the simple fact that everyone there has one thing in common: The love of bass fishing.

It’s like a big family reunion.

These guys are athletes, no question about it. The very best at what they do, and they all come together once a year to vie for a world title.

Incredibly, that title is recognized and respected all over the world — the simple fact the Classic is so far-reaching is truly amazing.

And again, you can enjoy it through all the amazing stories, galleries, videos and blogs that our ultra-talanted content team will produce. But to truly experience the greatest bass tournament in existence, nothing beats being there.

Plus, being there AND consuming all the content at the same time is pure Classic ecstasy.

Covering this sport is my career now — I’m very blessed to live this lifestyle. You can bet I don’t take it for granted.

There’s a very good chance that sometime Sunday evening, March 26, when all the confetti is falling on the latest dream come true, I’ll be short of breath and wet eyed watching another of the world’s greatest sporting events come to a close.

Where will you be?