KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – For the first time in its 49-year history, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’s Sporting Goods will be held March 15-17, 2019 on the Tennessee River in downtown Knoxville and on the University of Tennessee Campus. All activities and venues are free and open to the public.
The prestigious championship bass tournament is widely known as the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.” The Bassmaster Classic pits 50 of the world’s best bass anglers against one another for shares of the $1 million purse, including $300,000 for the winner.
Jordan Lee of Grant, Alabama, a 26-year-old former college fishing champion, is the current defending Classic Champion after becoming the youngest ever and one of only three in history to win back-to-back titles. Lee is guaranteed the right to defend his title. Other anglers will spend the rest of this season trying to qualify from several B.A.S.S. circuits, including the prestigious Bassmaster Elite Series.
Tournament waters include Fort Loudoun and Tellico lakes, twin reservoirs connected by a canal and comprising approximately 30,000 acres. Competitors can fish either lake and anywhere along the Tennessee River upstream from Fort Loudoun Dam about 55 miles to the Interstate 40 Bridge on the Holston River and the Highway 168 Bridge on the French Broad River.
B.A.S.S. Nation Championship tournaments for top-ranked amateur club fishermen were held on the Tennessee River at Knoxville in 1998 and 2000, but B.A.S.S. has never held a professional bass tournament on that section of the Tennessee River.
Since 2015, TWRA has been stocking those waters with Florida-strain largemouth, which have the potential to grow much larger than the native “northern” largemouth, but the agency pointed out that it’s probably too early for those bass to reach trophy size.
Still, 7-plus-pound bass are not uncommon in early spring, and a one-day tournament held on Fort Loudoun a year ago was won with a 27 1/2-pound limit of five bass, which is considered a game-changing catch in any fishery.
The Classic is a catch-and-release event, with bass being returned to the fishery under the supervision of the TWRA. The 2018 Classic saw a 99.7 percent survival rate among the bass weighed in.
Daily takeoffs will be from Volunteer Landing in downtown Knoxville each competition day, and weigh-ins will take place in the Thompson-Boling Arena on the University of Tennessee campus - a 20,000-seat facility that is fifth largest in the country.
The fan-favorite Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will be held each day in the Knoxville Convention Center and the adjacent World’s Fair Exhibition Hall, which is being newly renovated this spring.
For the past decade, combined attendance at Classic venues has averaged more than 100,000 per year, and the event typically generates about $25 million in economic impact.
For more information, visit www.Bassmaster.com.
Kristen Combs, Visit Knoxville