This will be the sixth GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods I’ve worked for B.A.S.S. Which means I’m still wet behind the ears compared to veterans like Dave Precht and Steve Bowman. But I’ve still built up some great memories that will stay with me for a lifetime.
My Classic days typically involve a mix of writing, editing and birddogging the technology. That last one simply means I need to make sure all the Bassmaster.com technology is working. For those of us covering the Classic our days start early and end late. It’s fun and nerve-wracking at the same time. Here are three of my favorite behind-the-scenes Classic memories.
2012, Shreveport, La., on the Red River
Before Bassmaster LIVE we had the War Room. It was our first attempt at live streaming video coverage of a tournament. There were no live cameras on the water, and no studio setup in Little Rock. Our very first War Room was broadcast from a windowless basement room in Shreveport’s CenturyLink Arena, where the weigh-ins were held. We had a map of the river stuck to the wall and I remember Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona standing in front of it discussing the day’s events. The War Room was rough around the edges, but we were giddy about it because something like it had never been done before.
Right before that first weigh-in, I stopped into a restroom full of fans. Standing at the urinal, the guy next to my right, looked at me, and said, “Man, I can’t get enough of that War Room. I’m addicted!” He had no idea of my involvement in it. But he made my day and confirmed we were on the right path.
2013, Tulsa, Okla., on Grand Lake
In 2013 we decided to add the BASSTrakk map to Bassmaster.com. Using GPS, this map let fans see where the anglers were fishing, in real time. We thought it was the coolest thing, but we didn’t take the time to get feedback from the anglers. That is until Trip Weldon’s tournament briefing. Trip mentioned the BASSTrakk map in his Classic briefing meeting with the anglers. It was a quick mention, but one angler asked a follow-up question, then about 10 other hands shot into the air, and they raised similar concerns. Each comment got a little more pointed, and angry. They really didn’t like the idea that folks could easily find them on the water. They worried about crowds of spectator boats interrupting their fishing. And how that could lead to their competitors finding them too. I lowered my cap down below my eyebrows and tried to become invisible in the back of the room.
After the meeting ended, a group of anglers that included Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese and Edwin Evers made a beeline for me, B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin and co-owner Jerry McKinnis. They pleaded their case up close and personal. My chest may have been poked a time or two with accusing fingers. It’s fair to say I began to fear for my well-being. We did run the BASSTrakk map during the 2013 Classic, and for a while after that too. Fans loved it. But various Elite Series anglers complained about it every time they saw me. We think of them as partners in this deal, and respect their feedback. As a result, you won’t see the BASSTrakk map on Bassmaster.com this year.
2016, Tulsa, Okla., on Grand Lake
It was Day 3 of the 2016 Classic. Steve Bowman and I decided we’d be covering Oklahoma pro Edwin Evers. Steve was working as the photographer, and I was the writer. Edwin started the day 6 pounds, 5 ounces behind the leader, his friend Jason Christie. I believe Edwin was in fourth place when the competitors launched that morning. Steve and I had no notion that Edwin was going to win this Classic. But we did have some recent history with him. During the 2015 season we had covered Edwin on both of his Elite Series wins, at Kentucky Lake and the St. Lawrence River. We had joked with Edwin that we were his good luck charms. “Let’s get the band back together,” he told us. “Be sure you’ve got a full tank of gas.” Edwin intended to hit a whole bunch of spots that day.
But that plan changed. He made a long run to get up the Elk River and that’s where the magic commenced. Edwin’s five fish limit on Championship Sunday was 29 pounds, 3 ounces. Unbeknownst to him, and us, he had won the Classic before noon. Most of the damage was done in a single hour. Evers was rapid-fire pulling in one 6-pounder after another.
After two or three keepers, Bowman made the decision to sit down at his computer and send in the photos. But every time he’d get situated I’d holler “Fish on!” This happened so often Bowman grew exasperated. “Come on man!” Of course he’d need to stop, grab his camera and jump back on the front deck of the boat. It was truly a history moment. And the resulting photo gallery received more page views than anything we’ve ever published. Here it is, Evers’ Epic Morning.
No doubt there will be new memories added this year. What will they be for 2017?