CHARLOTTE, N.C. The sport of professional bass fishing may never be the same after ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sports, gives bass fishing's world championship its patented big-league treatment.
When ESPN's special weekend of programming is done, sports fans throughout America will have been exposed to 11 hours of coverage of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer. The telecast has increased by eight hours since the 2003 Classic.
"We thought it was a big deal last year when we devoted three hours of coverage to the Classic," said Gary Morgenstern, Executive Director, ESPN Outdoors, "But we're taking it to a completely different level. If you're a sports fan and you're watching ESPN that weekend, you won't be able to get away from the Bassmaster Classic. And that's what we want."
It will be a weekend of BASS fishing designed to feed the consuming interest of fishing fans the way ESPN's Super Bowl coverage satisfies the hunger of football fans or its Kentucky Derby reporting gratifies the interest of horseracing enthusiasts.
ESPN's plans will include live coverage of the event's final two rounds, including live updates in various forms from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Here are the highlights:
Friday, July 30:
Like last year, the opening round of the 2004 Classic will be covered from 7 to 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 — with short turnaround coverage that is "as close as you can get to live without being live," Morgenstern said.
Saturday, July 31:
Classic coverage begins with the ESPN Outdoors Block on ESPN2. Updates and live coverage segments will pop up between the shows in the Saturday lineup from 7 to 10:30 a.m.
"We'll have a new show on ESPN Saturday from noon to 1, which will be like a midday update," Morgenstern added. "It will be a combination of taped and live segments."
Morgenstern added that both ESPN and ESPN2 will feature live updates from 1 to 5 p.m. leading into the semifinal round weigh-in, which will get expanded coverage – from an hour to 90 minutes – and move to ESPN from 5:30 to 7 p.m. ET.
"On both networks, we will cut in live at the half-hour," Morgenstern said. "We believe this approach will build interest among fans who don't yet fully appreciate the scope of this event."
Sunday, Aug. 1:
Sunday morning brings another innovation, beginning at 7 a.m. ET.
"It will be sort of like our Breakfast at the Kentucky Derby show," Morgenstern said. "It will be an original show that will incorporate everything from the launch to updates throughout, interviews, background — as much original material from the competition as well as pre-produced biographical and feature material. That will air live from 7 to 9 a.m. on ESPN2. Then it will re-air from 9 to 11.
"From 11 to 1 we go live again with another original show. From 1 to 5 p.m., we'll again have the live cut-ins throughout the day on ESPN and ESPN2 leading up to the live weigh-in from 5:30 to 7 on ESPN."
The winner in this unprecedented effort will be fishing fans, who will be able to truly follow the on-the-water competition for the first time, and sports fans who are (as yet) uninitiated to the sport of pro fishing.
"We're really excited about it," Morgenstern said. "We're talking about a tremendous amount of coverage. In terms of the production approach, we're going to have a presence in three locations: at the launch point, in the arena at the weigh-in building and at the consumer show in the convention center.
"Fortunately, ESPN Regional Television is located in Charlotte. That's the syndication arm of ESPN and they have a huge production facility there. So they're going to act as mission control, basically. Being in Charlotte this year is a huge help for us."
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local Sponsors include the Charlotte Regional Sports Commission, Visit Charlotte, the Auditorium-Coliseum-Convention Center Authority, the Rock Hill Sports and Tourism Council and Time Warner Cable.