Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees and Tulsa, Okla., will host a return visit of the Bassmaster Classic, beginning March 4. As B.A.S.S. conservation director, the single most common question I get from fans about this event is, “What happens to the bass after the weigh-in?”
That’s an easy one: They go home!
When the 2013 Classic was in Tulsa, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation assisted with the return of each day’s catch to Grand Lake. That year we released 100% of the bass that were caught during the tournament. We set the bar as high as it could go.
And we hope to accomplish that again in 2016.
To get an idea of what happens to the fish during the Classic, let me explain the process from the fish’s point of view. Let’s take a virtual ride with a Classic bass and see where it leads.
In 2013, Cliff Pace catches you on a suspending jerkbait. You are a keeper, and in the livewell you go. The livewell pumps in fresh, 43-degree Grand Lake water. That cool water temperature is critical to the rest of this story. Cooler water slows your metabolism, reduces stress and carries more life-sustaining oxygen.
By early afternoon, you and four new fishy friends are ready for the 90-minute ride down the Will Rogers Turnpike to Tulsa. But before you leave the Wolf Creek Park boat ramp in Grove, B.A.S.S. officials double check the water level and temperature in the livewell and make sure the recirculating aerators are running continuously to maintain good oxygen levels.
You have been in the livewell for several hours, but despite the road trip, it has not been any longer than a typical bass tournament. The water is still very cool, and oxygen is plentiful.
Arriving at the BOK Center in Tulsa, the livewell lid opens, Pace reaches in and grasps your lower jaw and slides you into a weigh-in bag. It’s show time! Hold your breath. Trip Weldon sets you on the scales. Twenty pounds and change! A couple of quick photos as part of the winning catch. Keep holding your breath; you’re almost done.