The world championship of bass fishing — the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro — will return to one of its most popular destinations in 2016, B.A.S.S. and the event’s Oklahoma hosts announced today. And for the first time, the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing” will be conducted in early March instead of February.
“The 2013 Classic was such a tremendous success, we couldn’t wait to
return to Tulsa and Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees with our premier event,”
said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO. “With the support we’ve received from
our hosts and our bass fishing fans throughout the region, we’re
expecting an even better turnout next year.”
Hosts of the 2016 Classic will be Tulsa Regional Chamber, VisitTulsa,
Grand Lake Association and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
“We’re so excited to finally say the Bassmaster Classic is coming
back to Tulsa,” said Ray Hoyt, president of VisitTulsa. “We worked our
tails off in 2013 to ensure this event was a huge success because we
wanted to show our partners at B.A.S.S., and other major league events,
what a great place the Tulsa region is. We wanted another Classic the
minute the 2013 event was over, and today we can finally say it out
loud: The Classic comes back in 2016. A huge thanks to our regional
partners, especially Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, for their support in
making this a reality.”
“To land the Bassmaster Classic for the second time truly speaks to
the staff at the City of Tulsa, Tulsa Regional Chamber and the BOK
Center,” Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said. “Thanks to the hard work by
many, the 2013 Bassmaster Classic was an astounding success and speaks
volumes to why Bassmaster selected Tulsa for the championship in 2016.
We hope the region will embrace the championship when it heads back to
Tulsa as it is sure to bring more excitement and visitors from around
the country and give an economic boost to our community.”
Since 2006, Bassmaster Classics have all been held the third or
fourth weekend in February, but the 46th championship has been moved to
March 4-6, 2016, to better accommodate anglers’ and sponsors’ preseason
schedules and other industry events.
“If moving the event improves odds of good fishing weather, that’s a
bonus,” Akin added. “But we proved in 2013 as well as the recent Classic
on Lake Hartwell, S.C., that freezing temperatures don’t hamper the
anglers’ fishing success, nor do they hurt attendance.”
The Tulsa Classic in 2013 recorded the second highest attendance in
history, with more than 106,850 fans visiting one or more of the Classic
venues. The attendance record of 137,700 was set at another February
Classic, the 2009 event in Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
Hoyt said the economic impact of the first Tulsa Classic was $22.7 million.
“We’re proud that we could help bring the Bassmaster Classic back to
Oklahoma, and to beautiful Grand Lake,” said Cherokee Nation Principal
Chief Bill John Baker. “Everything between Tulsa and Grand Lake is part
of the Cherokee Nation, and we are delighted to showcase our magnificent
scenery to the thousands of visitors this event will bring. Most
importantly, this partnership and the out of town dollars spent in
northeast Oklahoma will be an economic boon to many small Cherokee-owned
businesses in our area.”
As in the first Tulsa Classic, the BOK Center will house daily
weigh-ins, and the Cox Business Center will hold the Classic Outdoors
Expo. Takeoffs each day will be from Wolf Creek Ramp in Grove, Okla. As
many as 5,000 fans braved freezing temperatures to watch the Classic
anglers set out on competition days in 2013.
Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., won the Classic championship title that
year with 54 pounds, 12 ounces of bass for three days of fishing. A
total of 55 anglers will qualify for next year’s event through the
Bassmaster Elite Series and other Bassmaster circuits during the coming
Eleven Oklahoma anglers — 10 percent of the Elite Series field — will
be gunning for berths in the event, including Scott Ashmore of Broken
Arrow, Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Jason Christie of Park Hill, James Elam
of Tulsa, Edwin Evers of Talala, Kenyon Hill of Norman, Jeff Kriet of
Ardmore, Kevin Ledoux of Choctaw, Jared Miller of Norman, Fred Roumbanis
of Bixby and Dave Smith of Del City.
Total purse will be more than $1 million, with the winner receiving $300,000.
Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees was completed in 1940, when Pensacola Dam
on the Grand River impounded 46,500 acres. Previous Elite Series events
there have been won by Mike McClelland and Kevin VanDam in 2006 and
Akin said moving the event to March will minimize scheduling
conflicts with boat and sports shows typically scheduled in January and
February, yet it will still be early enough in the year to serve as a
kickoff of the fishing season. Manufacturers in recent years have been
using the Classic Outdoors Expo as the venue to introduce exciting new
products to the bass fishing world.