Bassmaster Classic on tap this week

abassmasterThis week, the Bassmaster Classic kicks off at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in northeast Oklahoma.

Five Texans will be competing to be the champion who will bank a check for a half-million dollars. Probably the most prestigious event in competitive fishing, the Classic is also an annual celebration of all things bass fishing.

For those who can attend the Classic in person-well worth it if you’ve never been — B.A.S.S. is giving fans multiple ways to be a part of the Classic, and they’re all free.

At the Launch: Fans are invited to come out and watch 53 of the world’s best anglers slip their slick new bass rigs into Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. The takeoff time is set for 7 a.m. at Wolf Creek (GPS help: Grove, OK 74344). Fans are advised to be there much earlier than 7 a.m. so they can see the rigs in tow, just before the boats touch water. Star-spotting is part of the morning fun — Kevin VanDam, Gerald Swindle, Michael Iaconelli, Skeet Reese and others will be there.

At the Expo: Anyone could easily fill an entire day at the annual Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods. The Expo will take place Friday, Feb. 22, from noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 23, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The venue is the Tulsa Convention Center in downtown Tulsa.

For starters, there are the newest bass boats and engines to see up close. One of the more interesting aspects is the chance to see top pro anglers like Hank Parker on the “test tank” aquariums trying to catch lunker bass-it’s a real education. Then there are the add-ons that all the best bass boats wear, from Power-Pole positioning devices to the newest in fishfinding and GPS technology. The place is also packed with tackle, some of it never before shown to the public.

There are contests, giveaways, seminars and special appearances. Many well-known pro bass anglers will be at the various booths, and Classic competitors are known to show up at the Expo after the weigh-in.

At the weigh-in: This is the main attraction. Arena doors open each day at 3 p.m. at the BOK Center. That’s right across the street from the where the Expo will be, so it’s a park-once-and-you’re-done deal for those driving to the downtown destinations. Fans are advised to come early, get a good seat and enjoy some surprise entertainment.

The first two days all 53 of the Classic competitors will walk across the stage. There’s no guarantee they’ll all pull lunkers out of their livewells, but it’s a rare Classic angler who doesn’t have a good fish or two to show off to the crowd. On the final day when the field is cut to the top 25, the $500,000 first prize is on the line.

At Whether in Tulsa or at home, you can follow the action at

“There’s significant interest and passion for this event. For Classic 2013, we’re going to supersize it. We’ll be giving fans a ‘live’ experience,” said Jim Sexton, B.A.S.S. vice president, digital.

Live streaming of the weigh-ins will begin at 4:30 p.m. CT each day. Fans can log on earlier to watch pre-show events and the updates from BassTrakk, the system that reports catch data from the water as it happens. That data will be available all day once the tournament is underway.

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