Could be a weekend of double digit bass
By Tom Behrens
Katy sports fans have experienced two NBA World Championships with the Houston Rockets, a MLB World Series with the Houston Astros, NFL Super Bowls and several high school State Champion sports teams. We now have the chance to witness firsthand the World Series of bass fishing… the Bassmaster Classic.
The 47th world championship of bass fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic, March 24-26, presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods has 52 of the world’s best bass anglers competing for more than $1 million, fishing at Lake Conroe. The Expo takes over the entire George R. Brown Convention Center. Daily weigh-ins will be at Minute Maid Park. The winner will be crowned on Sunday, March 26 at Minute Maid. And…did I mention everything is free of charge?
Competition and takeoffs will begin each day at Lake Conroe Park (14968 TX-105, Montgomery, Texas) at 7:20 a.m. Weigh-ins will be held daily at 3:15 p.m. in Minute Maid Park (501 Crawford Street, Houston, Texas).
Texas has five anglers competing for the coveted title: Keith Combs, Huntington; Todd Faircloth, Jasper; Alton Jones, Senior and Junior, Lorena and Takahiro Omori from Emory.
All of the anglers throughout the year compete in different tournaments, compiling points, to be selected for the Classic. Most of the anglers come from the Elite Series with the remaining fishermen earning their Classic credentials through Bass Pro Shops Opens, Academy Sports + Outdoors tournaments, B.A.S.S. Nation Championships, College Classics and the Toyota Bonus Bucks Championship.
Missouri angler Rick Clunn, who at one time lived in Montgomery, Texas, is one of the oldest Classic contenders. He claimed his first B.A.S.S. victory in the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville in 1976. Although Clunn is not fishing this Classic, I bet he will be at the Expo representing his sponsors.
The 2009 Classic had its first woman angler, Kim Bain-Moore. Pam Martin-Wells became the second woman to fish the Classic, finishing 22nd among the 51 Classic anglers. Martin-Wells ranks 123rd on the B.A.S.S. all-time prize money list with $308,321.14. Ninety-nine percent of that was earned through the Women’s Bass Tour (WBT) or in her lone Classic appearance.
Although the Classic winner will take home $300,000 from BASS, sponsorships, endorsements contracts and other financial opportunities, the total payout could easily push his total payout over a $1 million
Lake Conroe is expected to produce some big stringers
Conroe has produced 17 ShareLunker entries over the years. To qualify as a ShareLunker, the bass must weigh over 13 pounds. The angler donates the fish to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) who releases the bass in their hatcheries in hopes of breeding more big bass. Afterwards the angler has the choice of releasing the fish back into the waters it came out of, or designates that TPWD can place the fish in another Texas water body. The angler receives a replica fish mount of his catch.
The current Lake Conroe lake record is 15.93 lbs that was caught Jan. 30, 2009 by Ricky Bearden of Conroe. As it turns out, 2008-2009 ShareLunker season produced some great bass for Lake Conroe bass anglers. Five ShareLunkers were picked up by TPWD fishery personnel. Conroe’s most recent ShareLunker, a 13.14 pound beauty, was caught in April 2015 by David Perciful of Conroe.
During the Classic the pros can weigh up to five bass per day, 16-inch minimum length limit. The heaviest total weight over three days determines the new champion. The emphasis is keeping the fish alive during their trip from Conroe to the weigh in at Minute Maid Park, and then the trip back up I-45 to Lake Conroe. If a fish dies, the angler looses ounces in his total catch. TWPD fishery biologists will be monitoring the catches to make sure they all survive.
Watch the Classic at the Expo, Bassmaster.com, or on facebook
If you can’t make it to Lake Conroe or for the weigh in show at Minute Maid Park, you can catch the action on Classic LIVE in real time from the B.A.S.S. booth at the Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in the George R. Brown Convention Center.
“What an incredible venue we have this year being set up in the heart of Houston, Texas, and watching the action unfold live on a lake that some anglers are saying might produce multiple 10-pound-plus bass,” said Mike McKinnis, vice president of media content for JM Associates and producer of The Bassmasters TV show on ESPN2.
Cameras will be streaming live coverage of the Classic leaders on Lake Conroe back to the expo production facility, where hosts will break down the action for fans tuning in through Bassmaster.com and WatchESPN. Hosts Tommy Sanders, Mark Zona, and Davy Hite along with Dave Mercer and on-the-water reporter Robbie Floyd, will provide analysis and live updates.
This year, special guest Brian Robison of the Minnesota Vikings will also be onsite for the Classic LIVE show to provide some local insight. Robison played for the University of Texas and calls Lake Conroe his home lake.
Also, special guest RJ Mitte, who plays Walter White Jr. on the series “Breaking Bad,” will be joining the set at the expo.
The 2016 version of “Classic LIVE” reached nearly 12 million minutes viewed during the three-day event.
Each day of competition will have six hours of coverage, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Watch the tournament leaders catch bass in real time on the exclusive Classic LIVE program on Bassmaster.com and simulcast on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Facebook live broadcasts will be added to the coverage this year, on the B.A.S.S. Facebook page, including coverage of takeoff on Day 1, the Toyota Mid-Day Report all three days around noon, and the press conference with the Top 6 anglers after each competition day.
Also on Bassmaster.com, fans can keep up with every fish caught through BASSTrakk, a real-time leader board that shows each angler’s catch according to estimates of marshals assigned to each competitor’s boat. In addition, on-the-water reporters provide a running commentary on the action in the Live Blog.
“Through these videos and photo galleries, we’ll have the lake covered from top to bottom,” said Jim Sexton, B.A.S.S. VP/Digital. “And we’ll cover every inch of the Minute Maid Park weigh-ins and the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, as well.”