BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Despite the morning freeze, plenty of fans turned out Friday at Beeswax Creek Park on Lay Lake and waited in the dark to witness the 7 a.m. CT kickoff launch of the 40th Bassmaster Classic. At stake is the most coveted crown in professional fishing and a $500,000 first-place prize.
BASSCam reporter Robbie Floyd was there.
“What brings you out in the freezing cold temperatures on the first day of the Bassmaster Classic?” Floyd asked a fan.
“To watch the Bassmaster Classic, baby!” the fan said as others around him cheered.
At takeoff, the air temperature was 1 degree above freezing. The sun. low in the sky, was blindingly bright in the clear air. Water temperatures ranged from 42 to 45 degrees.
Within the hour, many in the Bassmaster Classic field had already hooked into fish. Fast results out of the gate were somewhat of a surprise, given the less than optimum fishing conditions — especially the cold water, which Classic anglers have been saying hurts the bite of spotted bass and largemouth bass alike.
Full results, analysis and photo galleries of each day’s competition, Friday-Sunday, are available at Bassmaster.com. Ongoing coverage while the anglers are on the water will be available throughout the final two days, Saturday and Sunday. Fans have their pick: Read Steve Bowman’s blog; monitor the live tallies of catches on a system called BASSTrakk; watch the action via BASSCast Powered by Humminbird cameras mounted in the stern of two anglers’ boats (on Friday, Byron Velvick and Takahiro Omori); up-to-the-minute video reports from the water and land venues via BASSCam; and live Toyota Hooked Up! shows five times a day beginning at 10 a.m.
At weigh-in time, Bassmaster.com will carry a real-time leaderboard, while live, streaming video is available each day at ESPN360.com.
Admission is free for the weigh-ins at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex arena. Doors open Saturday at 3 p.m. CT; on Sunday, 3:30 p.m. CT.
BASS BOOTH FUN AS EXPO OPENS: Within hours of opening at noon Friday, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods — another free-admission Classic offering — was packed.
The fans are being treated to the biggest Classic Expo ever presented in Birmingham. The show, spread over two floors of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, continues Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. CT and Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The BASS booth anchors the top floor, an expanse where official Classic sponsors are showing their latest products and offering games, contests and giveaways.
The BASS exhibit was no exception. A main attraction Friday morning was the BASSTrakk leaderboard, which posts estimated weights of catches as reported from the water from 7 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Friday morning, visitors to the BASS booth found BASS founder Ray Scott signing autographs and Bassmaster Magazine editor James Hall interviewing the Auburn and Alabama teams for Saturday’s inaugural Bassmaster College Classic (see below).
Showgoers were signing up for BASS’ free hourly giveaways as fast as pens were available. Friday’s lineup of prizes ranged from Abu Garcia Revo reels to Classic backstage tours and tickets for admission to front seats at the weigh-in. A different lineup of prizes will be offered Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
NEW YORK TIMES ON OMORI: Takahiro Omori, the 2004 Bassmaster Classic champ, was the subject of a feature story by Ray Glier published Friday in the New York Times.
Omori’s photo — holding up a bass, of course — appeared with the story. He was wrapped head to toe with cold-weather gear; the photo showing Omori on Lay Lake for practice last weekend, when temperatures hovered near freezing. The photo was shot by Gary Tramontina, a photographer for this week’s Classic as well as for Bassmaster Elite Series events. Fellow Bassmaster Elite Series pro and 2010 Classic competitor Kevin Wirth was quoted about how hard Omori worked in his early years as an aspiring pro.
Omori described his chosen career to the Times reporter: “My father worked the same job for 40 years — 40 years! Boring. I escaped. What else in life is there than this?”
MOONPIE CHALLENGE: At the Toyota booth at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods, it’s tough to walk past the Tundra with a bed full of MoonPies, a longtime Southern treat.
It’s the setup for the Tundra MoonPie Challenge, happening Friday and Saturday at the Expo. Showgoers are being invited to guess the number of MoonPies loaded into the truck bed. The one person who comes closest to the count will win a prize package designed by Classic home-state favorite Gerald “G-Man” Swindle of Warrior, Ala.
Swindle put together the tackle pack and signed one of his tournament jerseys to give to the winner. In addition, the best guesser will receive MoonPie and Toyota apparel. The winner’s take is valued at $550.
“We’ve also got the Toyota Casting Challenge going on in the booth, so kids and kids at heart can participate and win some small prizes,” said Kendell Mooney, account executive for Toyota.
TIE THE KNOT: Anyone who claims to be an ace at knot tying can test his or her skills at the big Berkley booth at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Show attendees are invited to tie their best knot in 10-pound Trilene XT. The piece of line is put on a machine that tests its strength; if the knot doesn’t break, the fan wins a pony spool of 12-pound Trilene XT. If the knot breaks, the fan can get a free lesson on tying a knot.
TANKED: A demo fishing tank the size of a tractor trailer is where Berkley seminars and demos will take place throughout the weekend at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Two-time Classic champ Hank Parker will give several seminars, as will TV personality Jimmy Houston. Demos are scheduled with Parker, Bassmaster Elite Series pro J. Todd Tucker and others.
BEAT HOMER HUMPHREYS: Can a long list of accomplished pros, and an equally long list of young men on the college circuits, beat Bassmaster Open pro and two-time Classic qualifier Homer Humphreys on the casting range?
He says no way. Humphreys won the Mercury Casting Competition at the company’s booth at the 2009 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, and he’s back at this year’s show to take on all challengers.
Mercury Marine is hosting the casting contest at its booth in the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“I am the champion from last year, I put them all down,” he said, smiling. “The last one I put down, I wasn’t even looking at the target — I just got lucky.”
He said he won “bragging rights and grins” — the same prize offered this year.
“A lot of us touring pros will be going against one another; then the college boys will be coming in,” Humphreys said. “At the end, the best college caster goes up against the best pro caster. Hey, we love competing against the college guys. They come in talkin’ that smack and try to put us old men down.”
The big casting pool has various targets, each worth a set number of points.
Other pros lined up to try for the 2010 Mercury Casting Competition title: Bassmaster Elite pros Marty Stone, Chris Lane, Tim Horton, Brian Snowden, Peter Thliveros and Bernie Schultz. Also slated to try her hand is Judy Wong, the Women’s Bassmaster Tour 2009 Championship winner who will compete on the Bassmaster Central Open circuit this season.
AUBURN VS. ALABAMA: Billed as the “Iron Bowl of bass fishing,” the inaugural Bassmaster College Classic is set for Saturday on Logan Martin Lake.
Three two-man teams from Auburn University and three from the University of Alabama will compete for the first “Iron Fish Trophy” and the right to go on to next year’s event against a Louisiana university. The competition is a one-day, cumulative-weight event, team against team. Two anglers are assigned one boat, and each boat has a five-fish limit.
The six teams will weigh in their catches at 2:30 p.m. CT on a stage at the Toyota Tundra booth at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in downtown Birmingham.
Logan Martin — a Coosa River impoundment like Lay Lake, where the Bassmaster Classic is taking place Feb. 19-21 — promises tough fishing, said the presidents of both the Auburn and Alabama teams.
Auburn senior Shaye Baker, the team captain and president of the school’s fishing organization, predicted that the winning team will have to have 10 to 12 pounds per boat for a tournament total of 30 to 36 pounds.
He said his team is out for revenge — not for the Iron Bowl loss to Alabama in football this year, but for the fishing team’s loss in an intercollegiate event last week.
“They won first place, so yeah, we have a little bit of a bad taste in our mouth, and we need to get back at them this weekend,” Baker said. “It’s going to be a rough tournament.”
Baker said his team knows Logan Martin, but their one official practice day last Sunday was “cold and rough, just like on all the lakes here.”
David Rogers, an Alabama senior studying environmental management, said the Auburn-Alabama school rivalry is driving his team.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s football, baseball or fishing,” said Baker. “Going against your rival, you have a burning passion for what you’re doing, and you want to come out with a victory.”
He said he’s counting on the sunshine to warm the lake water come Saturday.
“I think the water temperature will go up a few degrees, and that will be the major factor, maybe turn on the fish in our spots,” Rogers said.
The team captains will call meetings to discuss strategy. With three two-angler teams, each side has to map out which boat should cover which parts of the lake. That way duplication will be avoided, an important factor in a six-hour team event.
The winning team will be recognized Saturday on stage during the Bassmaster Classic weigh-in at the arena inside the BJCC. The event is free; doors open Saturday at 3 p.m. CT.
For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and its expansive tournament structure while championing efforts to connect directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles.
As the flagship offering of ESPN Outdoors, the Bassmaster brand and its considerable multimedia platforms are guided by a mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer; comprehensive Web properties in Bassmaster.com, BASSInsider.com, ESPNOutdoors.com and ESPN360.com, and ESPN2 television programming, Bassmaster provides rich, leading-edge content true to the lifestyle.
BASS oversees the prestigious Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, BASS Federation Nation and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.
BASS offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
Media contact: Doug Grassian, 407-566-2216, email@example.com