The Tennessee River. It’s a legendary waterway for bass fishermen that houses iconic bass fisheries like Guntersville, Chickamauga, Kentucky, and Pickwick lakes. For decades, the 652-mile river has played host to some of Sportfishing’s biggest names. And yet, this is the very first time the lower section of the Tennessee River has hosted fishing’s grandest tournament—the Bassmaster Classic.
For the next week or so, you’re going to be reading a lot about the Bassmaster Classic on our website, and I’m here to tell you why.
As our overseas correspondent David Guest correctly points out, the Bassmaster Classic is not an all-encompassing event in the world of sportfishing as a whole. It is; however, the marquee event of freshwater fishing in the United States every year. It has been so since the very first Bassmaster Classic was held on Lake Mead in 1971. And in 2019, its star has never shined brighter.
By now, even cursory interest in the event will have informed you that this year’s Classic features a unique set of circumstances. Fueled by a mass exodus to another fishing circuit, the 2019 event will feature a field of hall of famers from both Major League Fishing and B.A.S.S. 69 percent of the field will be fishing in their last Bassmaster Classic for the foreseeable future. For many, that means one last shot at finally winning the world championship trophy that has eluded them over a star-studded career. For less than a handful, it means one last shot at permanent immortality—can Kevin VanDam win his fifth event? Can Jordan Lee three-peat?
With $300,000 and organizational bragging rights on the line, this Bassmaster Classic has the “it” factor that can collect eyeballs from the saltiest offshore captain to the most obsessive bass fan. In pop culture, it’s the equivalent of a late 1990’s battle royal between the then-World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling. It will be Hulk Hogan (VanDam) against against Sting (Aaron Martens) against Mick Foley (Keith Combs) against Stone Cold (Jason Christie) against Chris Jericho (Lee).
Aside from general fitness level and the lack of a script, there will be one key difference at the Bassmaster Classic: that fight never took place. This fight will.
The anglers who left for other waters will be under immense pressure to win their last foreseeable Classic. And they’ll be fighting toe-to-toe with a ravenous cast of Bassmaster Elite Series pros who desperately want to keep bass fishing’s most meaningful trophy in-house. Come Sunday, a winner will be crowned in a 20,000 seat arena filled with pyrotechnics, glowing video boards, and intro music.
For one year, that winner will be the true—undisputed—world champion.
For that reason, and because the Bassmaster Classic Expo is typically the largest consumer fishing show of the year, Fishing Tackle Retailer will be keeping an eagle’s eye on the action on the water and new products and lures debuting at the Expo.
Make no mistake, the impact a Classic win can have on lure sales is meaningful. If you’re a tackle dealer, you need to know which lures the winning angler was using. If you sell to bass anglers, you better count on having that bait in stock as quickly as possible. For the next few days, while the fishing industry waits on a winner, we will explore the inner workings of the Bassmaster Classic expo, highlighting key products that you should be aware of.
On Sunday, the world will crown a new champion.
For the thousands in attendance, and the millions watching around the world…Let’s get ready to rumble.