Bassmaster Classic highlights and a possible return to Tulsa
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
2/26/13 at 7:00 AM
Watch slideshows and videos, read blogs and much more on the 2013 Bassmaster Classic
New Grand Lake fishing facilities paying off for Grove
Upon announcement that the Bassmaster Classic would come to Tulsa, some immediate concerns voiced by northeast Oklahomans focused on the time of year as one that was bad both for fishing and bad for weather. Grand Lake O' the Cherokees didn't even have a boat ramp of suitable size to host the event.
Now that the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, has passed, and apparently with resounding success for the fans and for BASS, people are asking if, or how soon, it might return to Tulsa.
Here's a look into that question and also a look at some highlights from this year's Classic.
Original Print Headline: Resounding success
No fish were killed
Oklahoma's assistant chief of fisheries, Gene Gilliland, said Sunday the transfer of bass from the weigh-in at the BOK Center back to Grand Lake was successful. The fish rode to the BOK from the lake in the live wells of the anglers' boats. "I feel very comfortable saying that every single fish survived," Gilliland said. The fish rode back to the lake in a state hatchery truck that has three compartments. Each tank was emptied at a different point each night (so fish were released in nine locations) and biologists checked the areas the following day for floating or injured fish. None was found. Anglers caught 222 fish.
BASS fans flock together in flotillas
On a bass boat going 75 mph in 20-degree weather, the resulting wind-chill factor or "real feel," as some call it, is roughly 6 degrees below zero. Yet 2,500 people gathered to watch the anglers put their boats in the water at Wolf Creek Park and Boat Ramp and hundreds more put their boats in the water and trailed the anglers to watch them fish. Even the most popular of anglers on the lake said they had not seen such large groups in a long time. Kevin VanDam and Mike Iaconelli at times had more than 100 boats each on their tails. Iaconelli said, "The second day at one point somebody counted 80 boats. I turned around and I looked back there and there was about 50 bass boats, about three yachts, a couple rowboats, a kayak, and a canoe. That's pretty awesome, man."
The crowd really did show up
It will take a few days for the numbers to be compiled, but early indications are the Bassmaster Classic in Tulsa drew the expected crowds. Predictions at the time the tournament was announced were near 100,000. Anyone who saw the throngs of people lined up outside the BOK Center (above) or tried to weave through the crowds at the Tulsa Convention Center can attest to strong attendance. The fire marshal turned people away from the Bassmaster Classic weigh-in at the BOK Center on Saturday and Sunday. The last time a fire marshal turned people away from a Bassmaster Classic weigh-in venue was 2009 in Shreveport, La. The CenturyTel Center capacity of 9,300 was hit each day. That year the Classic event broke all attendance records at more than 137,000.
Will the Classic return to Tulsa?
That's a big question on people's minds and history would lead a person to think that it will. It won't be known until it is announced again, however. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb gave high marks to the Tulsa Sports Commission and Visit Tulsa for the effort to help bring it here and added, "they get a few days and we'll start talking about a bid to bring it back." In 2014 the Classic will take place in Birmingham, Ala. It was last held in that community in 2010, although last time the tournament was on Lay Lake, and this time it is on Guntersville Lake. Many places have become Classic repeat towns. Shreveport, La., hosted the Classic in 2009 and it returned there in 2012. New Orleans has hosted the event four times, in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2011.
The weather wasn't a disaster
Aside from some hotel cancellations from people stuck in Kansas City's blizzard and some really chilly mornings, Oklahoma's weather was variable as usual for the Bassmaster Classic. They practiced in snow, launched at 20 degrees and finished on a warm 60-degree Sunday afternoon. When the tournament was booked people worried about the possibility of extreme weather spoiling things. The anglers showed that snow, wind and cold don't bother them on the water. The large bags of fish caught the first day came from water in the 38- to 42-degree range. Mother Nature cooperated in December and January to allow construction to be completed at Wolf Creek Park and Boat Ramp in Grove. The Wednesday prior to the event a winter storm touched the area and on the Tuesday after the event another severe weather event was forecast.
The 100-day construction project
One of the miracles of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic is the construction and completion of the Wolf Creek Park and Boat Ramp in Grove in just 100 days. Spectators especially appreciated the new large office building with the large heated restrooms where they ducked in droves the first morning to warm up and, ahem, relax. Only a few things were not completed, said Grove Mayor Marty Follis. The lot by the boat ramps was not seal-coated and part of the boat yard wasn't seal-coated. Fish tanks and part of what will become a weigh-in pavilion were not finished either. "I don't think you could have planned it any better the way it ended up," Follis said. "The things that didn't get done were OK, nothing that anyone would notice."
Lines of people wait for the doors to open at theBOK Center for Sunday’s weigh-in. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World
Fans watch the launch on Sunday. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World