MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 8, 2013

COLUMN: Countdown to Classic upon us

By John Kilgore
Phoenix Outdoors Columnist

— The Super Bowl of bass fishing is coming to our locale in just two weeks. All of the big names currently in the pro-angler ranks will be at northeastern Oklahoma’s own Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees vying for a portion of the $1.2 million winnings plus endorsements.

Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli, and Skeet Reese as well as Oklahoma natives Edwin Evers of Talala, Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, and Jason Christie of Park Hill are just a few of the talented anglers that will be seen  launching their bass rigs at 7 a.m. from Wolf Creek Park in Grove Feb. 22-24.

Many times it’s a person from out of the blue that comes out on top in the big tournaments. With the warmer than normal winter temperatures we’ve been having lately, it could take a hefty bag of fish to win provided Mother Nature doesn’t throw a monkey wrench into the equation.

Even if that happens, some of these talented anglers will figure it out and produce a haul.

Fifty-three anglers will compete for the first two days to catch their five bass limits. The fish have to be over 14 inches long. Competition for the final day will see the field narrowed down to the top 25 anglers based on the cumulative weights of the first two days. The final winner will take home the $500,000 top prize, coveted trophy and a big sack of endorsement deals.

The weigh-ins will be held in Tulsa at the BOK Center following the competition. Doors open at 3 p.m. No tickets are required and the event has open-seating. Within walking distance at the Tulsa Convention Center will be the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods. The expo opens Friday, Feb. 22, noon to 8 p.m. Hours on Saturday, Feb. 23, are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Sunday, Feb. 24, it’s 10 a.m. to  4 p.m.

The Cherokee Nation’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa is the sponsor of this Bassmaster Classic. The tape-delayed broadcast of the fishing events is March 2 on ESPN2.

This is the first time Oklahoma has been selected as a venue for the Classic. In 2014, it will be held again in Alabama. Hopefully there will be a second visit soon after. It’s a real boost to the economy not just from the fishermen, the press corps, and the vendors but from the general population which is expected to number nearly 90,000 strong over the five-day event, which includes the pre-fishing time.

Let’s show off our hospitality and fisheries in a big way to lure this event back to our neck of the woods. It’s a “big catch” for our economy.

John Kilgore’s outdoor column runs Fridays in the Phoenix. You may contact him with news or other information at (918) 348-9431 or at jkilgoreoutdoors @yahoo.com.