Back to a warm Classic

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A perennial contender on <em>Bassmaster</em> Magazine’s annual 100 Best Bass Lakes list, Lake Ray Roberts was ranked 15th in the Central Region for 2019, and historically, has appeared in the Top 10 multiple years.
James Overstreet

A perennial contender on Bassmaster Magazine’s annual 100 Best Bass Lakes list, Lake Ray Roberts was ranked 15th in the Central Region for 2019, and historically, has appeared in the Top 10 multiple years.

Earlier this year, B.A.S.S. officials announced that the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, originally scheduled for March 19-21, will be held instead on June 11-13. The hope is that the COVID-19 pandemic will have lost some steam by then, allowing for the kind of Classic bass fishing fans have come to expect.

The venues won’t change. Fishing will still be on Lake Ray Roberts in northern Texas with weigh-ins and the annual Classic Outdoors Expo in Fort Worth.

The move features many positives — not the least of which will be warmer weather for the anglers. If you polled the 54 Classic competitors, many would tell you they prefer high 80s and low 90s to some of the frigid Classics we’ve had.

It’ll be a true summer Classic, and that takes the Super Bowl of Professional Bass Fishing back to its roots. Until 2005, the Classic was held in late July or August. I’d swear I covered a couple as a member of the media when it was at least 120 degrees.

By holding the event in mid-June, hopefully we’ll arrive before the nastiest dog days of summer — and that could give many bass fishing fans a fantastic summer vacation option.

I’ve often scanned the crowds at Classics during February and March and wondered how so many young fans managed to get out of school to attend. Chances are they weren’t totally truthful with their teachers and principals about taking a week away from class to attend pro fishing’s supertournament.

No such worries now. Families can attend the June event without making excuses to anyone — and it’ll be good for the host city of Fort Worth because those families will be able to stay as long as they like, enjoying all the area has to offer.

Of course, there will be a few drawbacks to a summer Classic — not the least of which will be the hurdles B.A.S.S. officials have to clear for responsible, successful fish care.

Bassmaster Classics have rarely taken place on competition venues that were close to the weigh-in sites. That means a long drive is usually necessary with valuable fish in tow, and Texas will be no different. Ray Roberts is about an hour away from the weigh-in site at Dickies Arena.

This isn’t B.A.S.S.’s first rodeo with handling fish during the warmer months. They do it every year with the Bassmaster Elite Series — and, as I said earlier, they did it with the Classic until 2005. They’ve learned a lot about fish care since that most recent summer Classic, but talks are still underway to modify the weigh-in to help the fish in the heat without leaving spectators out in the cold.

B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland is working closely with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, and many scenarios are on the table.

“Because of the water temperature, weather and the length of the two-hour round trip from the lake to the weigh-in and back, we’re considering all measures for accomplishing two things,” Gilliland said. “First, we want to take care of the fish. But at the same time, we want to show the fish to the fans. Part of the Bassmaster Classic’s great legacy is that weigh-in held inside the arena.

“We don’t want to rob fans of that, but we want to do as much as we can to keep all of the bass safe.”