KNOXVILLE—The 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, scheduled for March 15-17 on the Tennessee River, will feature the usual mix of established pro fishing superstars and hungry young pros who are destined to be the stars of tomorrow.
The 52 anglers converging on Knoxville will be gunning for the largest share of the $1 million prize fund, and they’ll be aiming to establish their angling legacy by winning the most important title in professional fishing.
Among the field are eight former Classic winners, including four-time champion Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., and defending champion Jordan Lee of Grant, Ala., who last year became one of only three anglers to claim back-to-back wins in the event.
Seven of the pros have hoisted the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year trophy, including 2018 AOY winner Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala., and Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., who has claimed the award three times.
“The Classic is a showcase for some of the most accomplished bass anglers in the world,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “You’ll have veteran pros out there who’ve experienced the huge stage that is the Classic and excelled in that environment in the past. But you’ll also have some young guys who are just chomping at the bit to make a name for themselves.
“That’s one of the most exciting things about the Classic — it literally will change someone’s life forever.”
Anglers hungry for first-time Classic glory include Florida’s Drew Benton, Tennessee’s Brandon Lester and Arizona’s Clifford Pirch — just to name a few.
Whoever wins the event, the immediate effects will be easy to see.
There’s the world-famous Classic trophy, which weighs more than 40 pounds and is easily the most coveted piece of hardware in professional fishing. Then there’s the $300,000 first-place check and the chance to stand before an arena full of screaming fans as confetti cannons set the stage for the accomplishment of a lifetime.
This year’s weigh-ins will be held in Thompson-Boling Arena on the campus of the University of Tennessee. The arena, which seats 21,678, has served as the site for some incredible sporting moments, including Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt’s historic 1,000th career victory on Feb. 5, 2009.
As always, the Classic will be held in conjunction with the fan-favorite Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. Known as the most important consumer show in the bass fishing world, the Classic Expo will be held in the Knoxville Convention Center and the adjacent World’s Fair Exhibition Hall.
Companies from across the fishing industry use the Expo annually to debut new products, and fans will be able to purchase many types of lures, rods, reels and accessories for the first time anywhere.
There will be a special one-hour Expo preview for B.A.S.S. members from 11 a.m.-noon March 15. Then the regular times for the event will be March 15 from noon-7 p.m., March 16 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and March 17 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Doors will open to the arena for weigh-ins each day for B.A.S.S. Life and Nation members at 3 p.m. and to the general public at 3:15 p.m.
“I’m especially excited for this event because I grew up in Knoxville and fished Fort Loudoun and Tellico as a kid,” said B.A.S.S. Director Chase Anderson. “Some of the most avid sports fans in the world live right there — and when you combine that kind of passion with an event as spectacular as the Bassmaster Classic, it’s going to be an incredible experience for everyone who attends.”