Short Strikes No. 11

This week, Short Strikes zeroes-in on the newest Bassmaster Classic host city—Knoxville, Tennessee—with event information and local reactions from an Elite Series pro, a B.A.S.S. employee, and Kane.

Bassmaster Classic Heads to Rocky Top

News broke yesterday that the home of the Vols will become the home of the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, as Knoxville, Tennessee steps in as the newest host city for fishing’s grandest spectacle. As a host city, Knoxville is a fine choice for several reasons:

  1. The launch ramp at Volunteer Landing is just a few minutes from the weigh-ins at Thompson-Boling Arena. Both are essentially located on the University of Tennessee campus.
  2. The city should be able to manage crowds, as even the largest of gatherings for the Classic wouldn’t be large enough to fill the Vol’s 102,000 seat football home at Neyland Stadium.
  3. Knoxville is a regional hub located at the crossroads of Interstates 40 and 75, making it an easy drive from almost anywhere in the southeast, midwest and eastern seaboard.

The strike: Back to the weigh-ins. They are set to take place in the palatial Thompson-Boling Arena, which is not a bowling alley, but rather a basketball arena. Renovations in 2007 brought its total capacity down from over 24,000 to a more manageable 21,678 seats. That’s still 4,000 more seats than the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, which hosted weigh-ins this year, and B.A.S.S. will need to leverage the buzz surrounding a first-time host city to fill it up.

There’s also the matter of the fishery. B.A.S.S. has never hosted a major tournament on this section of the Tennessee River. The tournament area—highlighted by the twin lakes of Fort Loudoun and Tellico—is a huge question mark for outsiders. And, it’s likely to remain a mystery until the weigh-ins start next year.

Locals tag-in

Jim Sexton, V.P. of Digital at B.A.S.S., Knoxville native

The city has just blossomed since I was a kid. Knoxville was always a cool place natural resource-wise, but it’s become a great destination town with cool buildings filled with restaurants, shops and entertainment. Also, the weigh-in at Thompson-Boling Arena, the launch at Volunteer Landing, and the Expo at the convention center are all really close to each other. You’ll be able to walk from the expo to the weigh-in through the University of Tennessee campus, which is really pretty.

I’m kind of proud of Knoxville. When I was a kid, there was a quote about the city from the Wall Street Journal that stuck. They called Knoxville a “scruffy little city” and the phrase hung around to the point where I think there was even a bar downtown named after it. I always looked over the mountains at places like Ashville, North Carolina, and thought Knoxville could become a cool place, and now it has. It didn’t tear down its old buildings—it was too poor to do that—and now they’ve all filled up with apartments and condos and restaurants.

The fishery that they’ve set up from the Holston and French Broad rivers to the Tennessee River and down to Tellico lake is a great, diverse fishery; and you won’t have a 45 minute drive from the launch to weigh-in. In Knoxville, it’s all going to be right there.

Glenn Jacobs a.ka. Kane, WWE Superstar, Knox county mayoral candidate and 23-year resident

People know about bass fishing here. We are surrounded by tremendous lakes in this area: Norris, Douglas, Cherokee, Watts Bar and Fort Loudoun just to name a few. My son-in-law’s friend was a tournament fisherman, and one of our candidates for sheriff, Tom Spangler, is a former professional fisherman. People will be coming from throughout the region to come to the weigh-in and the other events.

[The economic impact] goes a long way. It really helps our hospitality and tourism industry, which is something that we’ve talked a lot about in my campaign. We want to make Knoxville a destination for folks, and the Bassmaster Classic will certainly help fill hotels, restaurants and even some retail stores. A lot of our outdoor retail industry is based on things like hiking, mountain biking and that sort of thing, and the Bassmaster Classic is going to put a spotlight on our tackle stores.

Ott DeFoe, Bassmaster Elite Series Pro, Seven-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and Knoxville area native

In east Tennessee, but especially in the greater Knoxville area, bass fishing is huge. If you go to the fishing show we have every year in January, that thing has grown and grown and grown every year. It’s almost like a mini Classic Expo in itself. There’s a very strong contingent of anglers and serious bass anglers here, and I don’t think they’ll have any trouble filling up Thompson-Boling Arena. I’m not sure they could fill Neyland Stadium, but I don’t think they’ll have any trouble at all in the arena. It’ll be one of the best-attended Classics that there has been.

On the fishery size, Fort Loudoun is certainly a good lake. I think Douglas and Cherokee have always stolen the show around here—and they are certainly quality lakes, too—but Fort Loudoun is also. It’ll take more weight to win on Loudoun than it did at Hartwell this year, barring something crazy. I don’t know that it will take 20 a day to win, but I think it will take north of 15 a day to win.

People seem excited. One of the owners of a local store, McKee Outdoors, was at the announcement, and he said they’ll be taking full benefit from the Classic.

The Closer

Short Strikes leaves you with an exclusive look at the Bassmaster Classic caravan rolling into Knoxville, courtesy of Glenn Jacobs.