Tulsa, Grand Lake to host 2013 Bassmaster Classic
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Friday, November 11, 2011
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The world's premier fishing event is coming to Tulsa's BOK Center and Grand Lake o' the Cherokees, bringing with it thousands of visitors and millions of dollars.
The Bass Angler Sportsman Society - or BASS - and the Tulsa Sports Commission announced Thursday that the 2013 Bassmaster Classic will take place at Grand Lake from Feb. 22 to 24, 2013, with weigh-ins and associated events held at the BOK Center and the Tulsa Convention Center.
The 2013 Classic will be the first hosted by Oklahoma and the farthest west since the 1979 championship was held on Lake Texoma.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told media, community leaders and fishing industry representatives at Thursday's announcement that the bass tournament is among a few "gold standard" events that drive tourism and economic development. "They include the Stanley Cup, the World Series, the Super Bowl and the Bassmaster Classic," he said.
Organizers estimated economic impact in the business corridor from Grove to Tulsa at nearly $26 million, based on experience from past events in cities such as Orlando, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; and New Orleans.
The Classic is the pinnacle of bass fishing competition in the nation's oldest and most respected bass fishing organization, which has more than 500,000 members. It comes with worldwide exposure and a minimum of 10 hours of television exposure on ESPN. It's commonly called "the Superbowl of bass fishing."
Anglers wear jerseys emblazoned with the same sponsor insignia that wrap their $50,000 to $60,000 bass boats, leading some to call these tournaments "NASCAR on water."
The Classic features 54 competitors who vie for a top prize of $500,000 and a purse of $1.2 million, but it is the coveted title of Bassmaster Classic champion that has helped make the career of many professional anglers.
Most of the anglers - 36 among the 54 who qualify to compete in the Classic - come from the top pro tournament series, called the Bassmaster Elite Series. Others qualify through regional Open Series tournaments, at the grassroots amateur level through BASS Federation Nation tournaments, or through the BASS college tournament series.
The tournament doesn't involve a ball, stick or field of play, making it unique as a large-scale sporting event. The best anglers in the world tackle a lake and try to figure out its fish against the fickle nature of the largemouth bass and sometimes the wrath of Mother Nature.
Oklahomans no doubt recall the sub-zero temperatures and blizzard of February 2011. In its 42-year history BASS has seen snow, ice, dense fog, high winds - you name it.
But safety is the first priority, said Michael Mulone, director of event partnerships with the organization. "Beyond that - not to be dismissive - we've dealt with it all. We have experience," he said.
For efficiency's sake, a police escort will lead competitors the 60 miles from the lake to the BOK Center for the weigh-ins, but keeping fish alive and healthy for the journey is only a minor worry, said Bassmaster Magazine Editor in Chief Dave Precht. "It's much better for the fish in cold weather," he said.
Mulone credited new infrastructure and the city's standing as a "fishing community" for the decision to bring the biggest event in outdoor sports here.
In the nearly year-long process of deciding on Tulsa's bid to host the event, Mulone said recent improvements at the Convention Center and local ability to accommodate visitors were key factors. The "a-ha" moments, though, came with visits to the BOK Center and meetings with community leaders, he said.
Just four years ago it would have been impossible to hold the event here because the BOK Center did not yet exist. "Four years ago we wouldn't have considered Tulsa," Mulone said.
A choice of fishing locations nearby helps, as well, he said. "There are great fisheries around here," he said.
"We don't want this to be a one-stop thing. We want to see how we can utilize this for other tournaments in Oklahoma and the potential for future Classics in years to come."
What: 2013 Bassmaster Classic
When: Feb. 22 to 24, 2013
Where: All fishing will take place on Grand Lake. The Outdoor Expo will fill the Tulsa Convention Center. Weigh-ins and other events will be held at the BOK Center.
Cost: The Outdoor Expo is free. Ticket prices for the weigh-ins have not yet been determined.
Original Print Headline: Tulsa lands the big one
Kelly Bostian, 918-581-8357
BASS CEO Bruce Akin pumps his fist during a news conference at the BOK Center on Thursday announcing that the 2013 Bassmaster Classic will be held in Tulsa. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
BASS Elite Angler Dave Smith (center) and others listen to a news conference at the BOK Center on Thursday announcing that the 2013 Bassmaster Classic will be held in Grand Lake and Tulsa. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World