The BassMasters Classic
The world championship of bass fishing
will be contested off Chicago's shoreline.
BY GARY THOMAS
It's the Super Bowl of Fishing, and it's coming to Chicago. This year's BassMasters Classic, the most important event in competitive fishing and sponsored by the world's largest fishing organization, will be held in Lake Michigan, with daily weigh-ins taking place at Soldier Field and the Classic Outdoor Show at McCormick Place.
Set for July 19-23, the classic is essentially a week-long event, and there's something for everyone. Best of all, everything is free.
The classic, which traditionally has been fished in southern waters, is moving north of the Mason-Dixon line for only the second time in its 30-year history, and the 46 anglers who will be competing are excited about the prospect. Defending champion Davy Hite of South Carolina said: "Taking the Bass-Masters Classic to Chicago is a bold move that is really going to elevate the sport."
This also will be the first time the weigh-in has occurred outdoors since 1981, when the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society started the tradition of driving competitors into an arena. This is the first time ever the weigh-in will be in a football stadium.
Anglers in this year's classic won't have to worry about finding water to fish. They can fish anywhere that's legal with an Illinois license, including all of Illinois' portion of Lake Michigan, the Chicago
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Burnham Harbor, with a view of Chicago's magnificent skyline,
will be the launch site for the 30th anniversary of the BassMaster Classic
and Calumet rivers and even the Illinois River for those anglers who want to take a chance of locking through the gates.
Lake Michigan has an excellent population of smallmouth bass, plus many of the Chicago-area harbors and rivers have nice concentrations of largemouth bass.
"This is probably going to be one of the most challenging classics we have ever put on," said Tournament Director Dewey Kendrick. "A lot of fishing strategy is going to depend on the wind. If the wind allows anglers to fish the rock piles out in Lake Michigan, they are going to slay the smallmouths."
Michigan pro Kevin VanDam, a three-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year competing in his 10th consecutive classic, couldn't hide his excitement regarding Chicago as the classic site. He pointed out that this would make it easy for lots of Midwestern fans to see their first classic.
"Chicago is a good city for a lot of people to travel to, so I expect big crowds," VanDam said. "Soldier Field is going to be an awesome place to have the weigh-ins. Last year, we were in the Louisiana Superdome, and I thought that was a great step up for the sport. And this will be another great event and great location. There's so much good food and good entertainment, and so many great things to do there in addition to the classic."
There will be plenty of classic-related activities for visitors during
On Wednesday, July 19, Jackson Lake Park will be the site of the Kids Klassic® contest (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and a Meet the Pros autograph session (8 a.m. to 11 a.m.). McCormick Place will host the popular BassMasters Classic Outdoor Show, which is expected to attract more than 125,000 visitors.
This year's show is being held in conjunction with the American Sportfishing Association's annual ICAST trade show. Classic visitors not only have the opportunity to shop the largest collection of outdoor-related merchandise, but will enjoy the chance to see all of the new fishing, boating and outdoor recreation products that will go on the market in 2001. The show runs Thursday, July 20, through Sunday, July 23.
Competition days are Thursday through Saturday, with anglers launching from Burnham Harbor.
Soldier Field will host the three daily weigh-ins, and officials at B.A.S.S. are expecting record numbers. Crowds upwards of 25,000 have filled stadiums at previous classics, but that number could double at Soldier Field. Saturday's weigh-in will also include an award-winning laser-light show before the new classic champion is crowned on Saturday. As an extra bonus, country-western singer Trisha Yearwood will present a free concert prior to the final weigh-in on Saturday afternoon.
Soldier Field also will be the site for the annual BassMasters CastingKids national finals on Friday, sponsored by Chevy Trucks and Zebco.
Sponsors of the 2000 BassMasters Classic include: Ranger® Boats, RangerTrail® Trailers, Mercury® Outboard, Chevrolet Trucks, ACDeIco® Batteries, Worldwaters. corn, Humminbird® Electronics, Zercom® Marine, Pennzoil® Marine, Flowmaster® Exhaust Systems, First USA Visa Card, MotorGuide® Trolling Motors, Gore-Tex® Outerwear, GMAC Insurance, State of Illinois and the City of Chicago.
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