Bassmaster Expo: Major event is big money maker for communities
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, February 26, 2012
2/26/12 at 8:51 AM
SHREVEPORT. La. - The granddaddy of bass tournaments is accompanied by a grand event called the Bassmaster Outdoor Expo, a show that attracts many thousands of fishermen and pumps many thousands of dollars into the hosting communities.
On Saturday, every inch of the 350,000-square-foot Shreveport Convention Center was all about fishing, and every stair, hallway and aisle was filled with fishing enthusiasts. Just imagine room after room after hallway after room filled with excited kids, excited adults acting like kids, loud speakers, games and an ever milling, mutating crowd. And next year at this time, the show is expected to fill every inch of the Tulsa Convention Center as the Bassmaster Classic tournament and the Outdoor Expo come to Tulsa and Grand Lake on Feb. 22-24, 2013.
Communities love the Expo because it is a sales opportunity for vendors who pump sales taxes directly into local coffers. Anglers, and even people who don't fish all that much, love the show because it is free to attend, it offers the debut of all of the year's newest fishing products and it is packed with professional fishing personalities, both currently competing and retired.
"It is a consumer show, which makes it unique," said Ray Hoyt, senior vice president of VisitTulsa and the Tulsa Sports Commission. Shreveport reported "in excess of $600,000" in sales taxes, Hoyt said.
It also is a show that keeps people entertained in the downtown area while the anglers are out on the water, and serves as a focal point for the event. Event organizers expect more than 100,000 people to flow through the place in three days.
In Shreveport on Saturday, Don and Germaine Kennon of Lafayette, La., walked into the Expo as seasoned shoppers. They've been to previous expos because the tournament has been held twice in Shreveport and twice in New Orleans. "Everybody comes to this that has any interest at all in fishing," Don Kennon said. "You'll meet people from all over the United States."
The greatest draw for them, the couple said, is the chance to put their hands on the newest, latest gear and to meet the celebrity pros.
Claude Townsend of Baton Rouge found a seat at the Expo to rest his feet and the green grocery sack-sized Dick's Sporting Goods bag he had packed with new fishing reels and baits. He held two new fishing poles in his hand as well. It was his first time to visit an Expo.
He was particularly interested in buying some reels that were new on the market, but he spent a lot of time walking and listening. "It's very interesting stuff," he said. "They have all the new gadgets and baits and people there to talk about them. If you just go and listen, you can really learn a lot."
Townsend bought the reels, but much of his other swag came as giveaways with his purchase. Inside the show it seemed everyone had a bag filled with T-shirts, hats, lures, sunglasses straps, bandannas and all manner of promotional gear. "The prices aren't bad, but what's nice is you get all this other stuff, which is better than just walking into a store somewhere and paying the full price," he said.
Tulsan Gary Dollahon helped staff the Larew Baits booth at the show, as he has done for several years in his public relations role with a variety of clients over many years.
"The Classic Expo is a huge deal for any type of fishing fan and especially bass fishermen," he said. "It's the first true opportunity for the consumer to see all the new products and actually put their hands on them and get to buy them."
ICast, the world's largest sports fishing trade show, is held each July. "ICast introduces new products to the trade; the Bassmaster Expo introduces them to the consumer," Dollahon said.
The value and scope of the event is hard to explain, he said.
"I don't think that outside the fishing community itself that Tulsa even yet can appreciate what this will do for the community," he said. "Until you can witness it firsthand you just can't grasp the perspective of it."
2012 Bassmaster Classic
Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
2013 Bassmaster Classic
Feb. 22-24, 2013
Launch: Grand Lake of The Cherokees
Weigh-in: BOK Center
Expo: Tulsa Convention Center
Original Print Headline: Shopping spree
Kelly Bostian 918-581-8357
Fans view a live demonstration tank at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo on Saturday in Shreveport, La. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Fans line up Saturday to watch during the launch to the second day of competition at the Bassmaster Classic. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
With his breath visible in the early morning hours Saturday, Alex Alston of the Tulsa Sports Commission takes notes on his phone during the launch of the second day of competition at the Bassmaster Classic. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World