42 Hours In Fishville

By Ann Dermody
Published: June/July 2014

The winner of the annual Bassmaster Classic, first held in 1971, becomes the world champion of ... bass fishing. Our managing editor went out to Lake Guntersville, Alabama, to cover the Super Bowl of the sport. She came away starstruck.

Photo of Bassmaster 2014 winner Randy Howell
Randy Howell, winner of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic salutes the crowd at the
BJCC arena in Birmingham, Alabama.

Terry Scroggins is anxious. The wind has been whipping up, and the forecast for the next few hours isn't good. It's past 9 p.m. and he's safely tucked up in his Alabama hotel room when the first heavy drops fall and the thunder commences. It's been a long day of parading in front of the fishing media for the Palatka, Florida, angler. (Yes, there's such a species as fishing media — a more substantial and ravenous group than you might imagine.) Scroggins' flashy Toyota-sponsored boat is secured on its trailer, all systems checked and double-checked, ready for its big day tomorrow. He'll be up at 3:30 a.m. to take it to Lake Guntersville to fish in his 11th Bassmaster Classic, in front of literally thousands of spectators at the blast-off and tens of thousands more that afternoon at the weigh-in.

Photo of fleet of bass boats heading out at dawn
Anglers aboard the fleet of bass boats head out at dawn to compete.

"You still get pumped up before the Classic," he says. "But I don't get that nervous anymore. The first one is like going into high school. You don't know what to expect." Scroggins, a ruddy, pleasant-faced 40-something who used to be a tow-truck driver and auto-body guy before turning pro in 1999, is a tour veteran with 163 bass tournaments, five first-place finishes, and 45 top 10s for a total purse of $1.6 million. He has a penchant for hunting, saltwater fishing for grouper, and creating elaborate grilling recipes to cook them. "I don't eat bass," he says. "They're my co-workers. But I'll dang sure eat a grouper."

To the 55 anglers who worked hard to qualify, ready to cast off and head out tomorrow, deteriorating weather is a big deal. Most have spent days scoping the lake during the official practice period with high-tech fishfinders, treasure chests of lures, and expensive rods. The prep work will culminate three days from now with just one angler lifting the trophy every bass fisherman dreams of and netting the substantial $300,000 purse. The spots Scroggins has flagged as hiding the "big ones" will be churned up, and those fish will move to who knows where. "It's out of my hands now," shrugs Scroggins.

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Did You Know?

  • The Classic takes place over three days. All fish are caught under catch-and-release rules, must measure at least 12 inches (or the state minimum size), and be alive at the time they're presented for weigh-in.
  • After each day's fishing, the boats, fish, and fishermen must trailer back to the convention center for weigh-in. Every day's catch is limited to five fish. A dead fish equals a weight penalty.
  • After a second-day cut, the 25 top anglers, based on total weight, advance to the third day. The highest total weight wins the competition.
  • Largest bass caught: 11 lbs., 10 oz., Preston Clark, 2006
  • Heaviest Classic daily weight: 69 lbs., 11 oz., Kevin VanDam, 2011. KVD won the Classic four times.
  • Heaviest daily weight: 32 lbs., 3oz., Paul Mueller, 2014
  • 43 of the 55 contenders in the 2014 Classic were BoatUS Angler members.
  • The first foreign national to win a Classic was Japanese pro Takahiro Omori, 2004.
  • Since 2000, each Classic has attracted approximately 300 working media. The event is covered on ESPN2.
  • Only one amateur angler has won the Classic, Bryan Kerchal, 1994. Tragically, he was killed in a plane crash five months later.
  • For members interested in the fishing division of BoatUS see www.BoatUS.com/Angler

 

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