It’s Classic week. We’re here in Fort Wort, Texas, pre-practice is over, and it has all the potential to be a great tournament. But, will it be an epic event?
Bass fishing is something here, a part of the culture. I mean the Parks and Wildlife Department works to breed giant largemouth with the ShareLunker program for goodness sakes. Lake Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend spawned perhaps the single greatest group of anglers to ever come out of one area — “The Hemphill Gang” as they were known — Tommy Martin, Larry Nixon and Harold Allen were members, and several other top pros and Classic champions came from the area too.
Bass fishing means something around here, and I hope that is on display this week.
I hope that this place shows out and not only do we as anglers put on a great show, but that the State of Texas puts up big numbers too. This lake has the potential to break Classic records. Kevin VanDam’s 69-11 could fall, possibly even Preston Clark’s record for biggest bass, the 11-10 he weighed in in 2006.
While those records could be broken, the other record that the fishing fans of the state could have a major impact on is the attendance record set in Knoxville, Tenn., in 2019. At that event, more than 153,000 fans came to takeoff, went to the Classic Expo and came to weigh-in. I hope Texas beats that record by a lot.
I know with the amount anglers I see here, it should be easily done. I bet there are more bass anglers per capita in this state than any other. I mean, the amount of bass boats you see when you’re driving around here, it seems like in order to live here, you have to register at least one bass boat in your possession to be a resident.
I want to see that for B.A.S.S., for the anglers, the industry but also for Fort Worth and Texas itself.
Texas is the kind of place that is central enough to so many, that not only will it draw bass fishing fans from the home state, but it will draw fans from Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. It could draw them from other states a little further away too.
For me personally, I have a lot of deep connections to Texas. I fished my very first B.A.S.S. Invitational at Sam Rayburn in 1994. My Skeeter Boat is made here in Texas, my Kistler Rods are built right here in Texas, one of my former lure company sponsors is based in Texas. And perhaps my single biggest career accomplishment, winning the 2016 Toyota Texas Bass Classic — at Lake Ray Roberts mind you — was right here in Texas.
So, I am 100% "Sweet Home Alabama" and all Roll Tide, but part of me will always be "Deep in the Heart of Texas."
This really has the potential to be a great week. I’ve experienced all of the great recent Classic venues. Lake Hartwell, Birmingham, New Orleans, Tulsa, etc., but I really think this has the potential to be one of the greatest Classic venues we’ve seen.
I’ll see you all this week at the Dickie’s Center. I really hope all y’all show up and help us put on the biggest show we’ve ever seen.