Attendance could be better than average
With hopes of drawing visitors from a broad area with the Bassmaster Classic experience closer to them than ever, Tulsa and BASS organizers guessed attendance will be better than average - much better.
Typical Classic attendance totals 70,000 for the three days, but many more people are expected to flow through Green Country, said Amanda McConnell, Tulsa Metro Chamber communications manager.
"New Orleans drew visitors from a dozen states, so it's interesting to consider where people will travel from for Tulsa," said Bassmaster magazine Editor in Chief Dave Precht.
The Shreveport-Bossier City, La., event in 2009 still holds the record for attendance, with 107,600 tripping the turnstile at the outdoor expo and a capacity crowd of 9,300 stuffed into its CenturyTel Center for the final weigh-in, according to the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau. The Classic is returning to Shreveport for the February 2012 event.
"Shreveport set the record, and we are a comparable if not better location," McConnell said.
A cold fish is a happy fish, says fisheries official
The man who wrote the book on catch-and-release isn't worried about taking care of bass in February, even if it might involve a 60-mile drive through freezing temperatures from the tournament location to the weigh-in stage.
Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, has worked with BASS for more than 20 years and helped write the official fish-care booklet that guides tournament organizers.
After the fish are weighed they are handed off to state biologists who put the fish in a large aerated tank on a truck to be hauled back to Grand Lake, where they will be released.
Cold weather, it turns out, helps with survival of fish in captivity.
"When they moved the Classic from an August timeframe to a winter event some years ago, it made our job, on an order of magnitude, much easier," Gilliland said. "Cold water is our friend."
Cold water holds more oxygen than warmer water and keeps fish in a more lethargic, less stressful, state, Gilliland said.
Classic came to Tulsa after a little fishing
The catalyst for the Classic coming to Tulsa began with Ray Hoyt, Tulsa Sports Commission senior vice president, and Michael Mulone, director of event partnerships for BASS.
The two have known each other and networked through professional organizations for about five years, they said.
"Ray called me not long after he got his job here," Mulone said. "We had talked about fishing in the past."
"I said, 'Hey, we're always talking fishing, and we never had an opportunity,'" Hoyt said. "I found myself in Tulsa with great fishing in the area. ... That's how things get started, right?"
Anglers From Oklahoma think it's a Grand idea
Excited, excited, excited. Three top Oklahoma professional anglers at Thursday's press conference had the same reaction to the news about the Bassmaster Classic coming to their home state.
Bixby Elite pro angler Fred Roumbanis said he was floored when he got the news.
"My wife called and said, 'You're not going to believe what's on the front page of the paper!' "
Roumbanis said he takes his boat to Grand Lake every year for its break-in run and that he is dreaming about the possibility of fishing the lake against the best of the best in bass fishing's greatest show.
Broken Arrow pro Scott Ashmore said he's looking forward to a good year of fishing and can't wait to "get in there and get swinging" toward Grand Lake in 2013.
"Oh, I've got goosebumps," said pro angler Edwin Evers of Talala. "I can't wait."
He said he expects a great tournament on Grand. "I would be shocked if it doesn't take over 20 pounds a day to win it," he said.
Of course, to qualify to compete at Grand, the anglers will have to win or place well in next season's tournaments, and that adds a little pressure.
"I might think twice about throwing the big bait when I still need five next year," Roumbanis said. "I can't get ahead of myself too much, but I'm super excited."
BASS owner misses event because of surgery
Jerry McKinnis, who purchased BASS from ESPN with investors Don Logan and Jim Copeland, was missed by many at Thursday's proceedings.
McKinnis, popular host of ESPN's "The Fishin' Hole" for many years, is recovering from open-heart surgery and was unable to attend.
"He really wanted to be here," said Dave Precht, editor in chief of Bassmaster magazine. "He's going to be back and going again soon."