Baseball players have the World Series. Hockey players have the Stanley Cup. Football players have the Super Bowl. And bass fishermen have the Classic.
Fifty-two bass fishermen will match individual skills and talents for three days on Lay Lake during the 2002 BASS Masters Classic in central Alabama, July 25-27.
Qualifiers will bring their best five bass to the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center each afternoon. The fish will be weighed and the angler with the most weight will become the new world champion.
But the Classic is not just a major fishing tournament. It's become an annual celebration of the sport, a "Woodstock" for thousands of avid bass anglers and for America's billion dollar fishing industry.
There's plenty of things to do and see while in Birmingham if you decide to attend. In addition to the entertaining weigh-in proceedings and watching the best anglers in the sport compete for $678,000 in prize money, there's also the Classic Outdoor Show where spectators are afforded a "sneak preview" of the industry's latest products and innovations for the coming year - from the newest boats and motors to the latest introductions of high quality fishing tackle, lures and electronics.
Come join the celebration and find out why the black bass is America's No. 1 gamefish.
This will be the second Classic to be staged at Lay Lake. The first happened back in 1996. Interestingly, three of the Top 5 finishers from the '96 Classic are returning for another shot at the title. They include George Cochran, Davy Hite and Bud Pruitt. Cochran won the Classic in 1996 to claim his second world championship title with 31 pounds, 14 ounces. Hite finished second that year with 30-14 and Pruitt was fourth with 23-6.
Anglers to watch
If you're handicapping this year's world championship, the early favorite would have to be Davy Hite, who just wrapped up his second B.A.S.S. Angler-of-the-Year title. But there are several other anglers to watch in Birmingham. Kevin VanDam, who won last year's world title in New Orleans, will be gunning for back-to-back Classic titles. Locally, there are three qualifiers from Alabama with fishing experience at Lay Lake. They include Tim Horton of Muscle Shoals, Randy Howell of Trussville and Jamie Horton (no relation to Tim) of Centreville, the top B.A.S.S. Federation qualifier from the Southern Division, who considers this Coosa River impoundment his "home water."
It's been called the Million Dollar Win. And for a growing number of professional bass fishermen, one victory can indeed solve financial worries through lucrative sponsor contracts, speaking engagements and product endorsements. Just a few years ago, in terms of actual cash value, a Classic victory was worth $50,000. This year the total Classic payout has grown to $678,000, with the winner taking home $200,000 in cash, which does not include incentive bonuses many have written into their individual sponsor contracts.
Typically, the excitement of the Classic builds as the week progresses. In other words, not too much "exciting" happens early in the week. But fishing fans who arrive early in Birmingham may want to attend the only practice day's weigh-in on Tuesday, July 23. Wade Boggs, the future Hall of Fame baseball player from the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, will be one of the "amateurs" paired with a pro partner. Other fishing celebrities include General Hospital star Real Andrews and ESPN college football studio analyst Lee Corso, along with many of the nation's leading sports writers. Each "amateur" will be allowed to bring in his biggest bass of the day for a cash bonus.
Classic fish care
All bass brought to the daily weigh-ins during the 2002 BASS Masters Classic will be monitored and cared for by the Alabama Conservation Department. Once a fish has been weighed, it will be carefully placed inside special transport tanks. The water inside the tanks is aerated, cooled and treated with salts and other chemicals to reduce the stress on the fish after being handled. Immediately after each weigh-in, the fish are then taken to a state fish hatchery where they will be held for several days, monitored and sampled for largemouth bass virus (LMBV). Dr. John Grizzle, a fish pathologist with Auburn University and one of the nation's leading experts on LMBV, will be working with the Alabama Conservation Department throughout this process. All bass will be returned to Lay Lake after their temporary trip to the hatchery. Despite high summertime temperatures, bass caught during the Classic have historically experienced high survival rates due to the extra care and attention given to them by the B.A.S.S. staff, cooperating state agencies like the Alabama Conservation Department and experts like Grizzle.
When Rex Rodanas, 13, and his sister, Vanessa, 10, both qualified for the BASSMASTER CastingKids national finals, it was one more step in a family tradition of excellence. Rex has been the New Hampshire CastingKids champion every year since 1997 and was the runner-up at the 1998 National Finals. Vanessa has been the New Hampshire CastingKids champ in her age group since 1999. In addition, both Rex and Vanessa are nationally ranked in amateur fencing, and Vanessa once won a $20,000 scholarship in a national contest for stacking the most Oreo cookies.
Who we are
By sanctioning over 20,000 tournaments worldwide, B.A.S.S. is the largest fishing organization in existence. The CITGO BASSMASTER Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious fishing circuit in the world. It continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship after more than three decades. B.A.S.S. is a wholly owned subsidiary of ESPN.