B.A.S.S. LLC announced today that a new combination of sites — Birmingham and Lake Guntersville — has been selected for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, the world championship of bass fishing.
Massive Lake Guntersville will provide first-class competition for the Feb. 21-23, 2014, event. Birmingham will host the daily weigh-ins and the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC).
“We are extremely pleased to bring the Classic back to Birmingham, now the home of B.A.S.S.,” said Don Logan, co-owner of the company. Alabama-born, B.A.S.S. returned to its roots after Logan, Jim Copeland and Jerry McKinnis purchased the company from ESPN in 2010.
The Birmingham-Guntersville combination gives the Classic a new twist, but the city is a tried-and-true Classic site. This is the eighth time that Birmingham has been named the host city. And Alabama will welcome its 12th Classic. Gov. Robert Bentley marked the milestone by being on hand at the BJCC’s Arena Club for Thursday’s announcement.
“The Bassmaster Classic is a big catch for our state, and we are proud to welcome the Classic back to Alabama,” Bentley said. “Some of the best fishing in the world can be found right here in Alabama. We have a wealth of natural resources, making Alabama a top destination for anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. The Bassmaster Classic will help us share our natural beauty and southern hospitality with a worldwide audience.”
Speaking on behalf of the host city, Birmingham Mayor William Bell added, “We are delighted to have another great Classic take place here in Birmingham. We look forward to all of the anglers converging on the city.”
Bass fishing fans who have attended previous Birmingham Classics appreciate the convenience of having the weigh-in arena and the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo side-by-side in the BJCC. The outdoor show will be on two floors spread across 220,000 square feet. The adjoining arena, where the weigh-ins will be staged, can seat more than 17,000 people.
And the fans have turned out for past Classics in Birmingham, including the most recent in 2010, when superstar pro Kevin VanDam clinched the third of his four Classic titles.
“Having the best bass fishing in the country deserves the best anglers in the country. Birmingham is the logical choice for such a prestigious event,” said Jim Smither, president of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Lake Guntersville, which has hosted numerous B.A.S.S. events, also has a storied Classic history. It reaches back to 1976, when bass fishing legend Rick Clunn took the first of his record-setting four Classic titles (an accomplishment tied only by VanDam, and not until 2011). But 38 years later, a Classic on Lake Guntersville is likely to be markedly different than what Clunn experienced. The field will be more than twice as large, and the timing will be in February, not early November, as it was in 1976.
Guntersville is ready to show its present-day potential, said Lisa Socha, executive director of the Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We are thrilled and honored to be the host fishery for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic,” Socha said. “We look forward to partnering with Birmingham for this event showcasing both of our resources and facilities. Lake Guntersville is a premier bass lake, and one of the featured stops on the Alabama Bass Trail.”
Even before it became a star of the Alabama Bass Trail, Guntersville was a dream destination for bass anglers. The fishery landed the No. 3 spot in the inaugural “America’s 100 Best Bass Lakes” list published by Bassmaster Magazine in 2012. The lake’s size alone — 70,000 acres and 950 miles of shoreline — will present a worthy Classic challenge. But Guntersville also offers quantity, quality and variety. Skeet Reese brought in 100 pounds, 13 ounces to win a Bassmaster Elite Series event there in 2010. While largemouth are dominant, spotted bass and smallmouth also swim there.
Anglers can find success almost any way they want it, whether it’s on the upper riverlike bends or on the wide lower lake, according to Guntersville resident and 2012 Classic champ Chris Lane in a recent column on Bassmaster.com.
Up to 55 anglers will earn the chance to pit themselves against Guntersville in the 2014 Classic. One of those seats was created by a new event, the Bassmaster Classic Wild Card tournament in December 2013. The “last chance” tournament will give qualifying anglers from the 2013 season another shot at a ticket to Lake Guntersville.
Other 2014 berths will be won by Bassmaster Elite Series pros, anglers from the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open circuit, amateur anglers from the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, and one each from the Carhartt College Series and Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series presented by American Bass Anglers.
One of the first qualifiers for Classic 2014 will be the winner of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic to be held in Tulsa, Okla. Fifty-three of the world’s best will compete Feb. 22-24 on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees for $500,000 and the most prestigious title in bass fishing.
Image courtesy Bassmaster