The rich outdoor heritage of Louisiana blends perfectly with the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, which is just as much a celebration of the outdoors as it is a world-class competition.
The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and the state of Louisiana were instrumental in bringing the event to New Orleans. Local celebrities and organizations and multiple state departments are throwing their talents and expertise squarely behind the Classic to make it an even bigger celebration.
"We simply could not put on this Bassmaster Classic without the support of our partners and supporters in New Orleans and Louisiana," said Jerry McKinnis, a B.A.S.S. owner. "B.A.S.S. has been invited to Louisiana many times, and each visit is better than the last. The 2011 Classic will be the fourth time for the world championship in New Orleans, and it's shaping up to be the best Classic yet."
The newest events added to the feature-packed Feb. 18-20 Classic are:
Garrett Hartley kicks it off: On Feb. 18 at 6:45 a.m., New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley will make the ceremonial "First Cast of the Season presented by Berkley."
Hartley will "throw out" the first cast at Bayou Segnette State Park, just before the 50 Classic anglers set off for the first day of competition on the Louisiana Delta.
Hartley kicked the game-winning 40-yard field goal in overtime against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game to send the New Orleans Saints to their first Super Bowl in 2009. He continued his success in Super Bowl XLIV, going 3-for-3 with field goals of 46, 44 and 47 yards. He became the first kicker in Super Bowl history to convert three field goals of 40 yards or more.
"As an outdoorsman, I am so excited to be a part of the Bassmaster Classic," Hartley said. "These guys are the best in the business, and it's an honor to help kick off the Classic and the fishing season."
Swamp People appearance: The Kliebert family of History Channel's Swamp People fame is slated to appear on stage at the Saturday, Feb. 19, weigh-in in the New Orleans Arena.
Swamp People follows the Cajuns of the Atchafalaya Basin as they hunt gators in the swamp during the state-regulated annual 30-day season.
The Kliebert family gator and turtle farm will have a booth at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods, Feb. 18-20, in Halls E and F of the Ernest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
Besides gator hunting, the Klieberts work the Hammond, La., farm that's been in the family for about 50 years.
Tulane entertains kids at Outdoors Expo: The Tulane Medical Center, the official preferred health care provider of the Bassmaster Classic, will sponsor the Tulane Kids' Zone at the Outdoors Expo.
While the kids play, adults can check out the Tulane Medical Center's booth. Information will be available on general health as well as services of Tulane's facilities in the region.
Skeeter/Yamaha and goodies giveaway at Harrah's: Harrah's New Orleans customers have a shot at an unusual win this month, thanks to a partner promotion between Skeeter, Yamaha and B.A.S.S.
Through Feb. 19, people can enter at Harrah's to win a Skeeter ZX 22 bay boat. The winner of the Skeeter/Yamaha rig will be announced at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19.
Nine other winners will get gift cards redeemable for sporting goods.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at outdoors expo: See a live redfish, watch a machine tie knots, buy a license and check out wildlife mounts. That's part of what's on tap at the booth of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at the outdoors expo.
Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation at outdoors expo: For 21 years, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation has been working to clean up Lake Pontchartrain. Efforts to restore Lake Pontchartrain to health have been successful. The foundation is now leading the charge to "Save Our Coast" by using multiple lines of defense for coastal restoration. Fishing fans can learn more at the foundation's expo booth.
Louisiana State Parks/Louisiana Office of Tourism at outdoors expo: The Bassmaster Classic launch site, Bayou Segnette in Westwego, La., is a state park. But "pick your passion" is a state slogan, meaning there are many, many other park and historic site choices. The Office of Tourism provides a wide range of information. Click here to go to the Office of Tourism website and view a poster of specific interest to anglers.
Plaquemines Parish Tourism at outdoors expo: Information about guides, marinas, lodging, restaurants and dream trips for freshwater and saltwater fish are on tap at the Plaquemines Parish Tourism booth. The parish encompasses the southeastward finger of land that stretches with the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.
Louisiana North at outdoors expo: Start getting ready for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., by learning more about the northern section of the state. Louisiana North can provide a wealth of tourism information, from hunting and fishing to where to stay.
Free shuttle service: Guests have the option of being transported from the outdoors expo to the New Orleans Arena for the daily weigh-ins. Buses will pick up guests in front of convention center Halls E and F on Friday at 1:45 p.m., and at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and will continue to run until 30 minutes after the weigh-in. Doors open at the arena at 3 p.m.
2011 Bassmaster Classic Official Sponsors: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, Bass Pro Shops, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Skeeter, Triton, Yamaha.