CLASSIC CASTS OFF ON CHICAGO WATERFRONT
Top bass anglers take aim at sport's biggest prize
CHICAGO, July 18 - Forty-six of the brightest minds in professional fishing
are poised to uncover the finny treasure that exists in the shadow of the
nation's third-largest city as the 30th edition of the prestigious BASS
Masters Classic begins Thursday in the big-league venue of Chicago.
The watery stretches of the Windy City, including the Lake Michigan
lakefront and the Chicago-Calumet River system, is home to a growing
smallmouth and largemouth bass fishery as a result of the Clean Water Act
and other environmental measures of the past 25 years. And the country's
top tournament pros will help the fishing public to gauge the size of the
region's bass wealth during the three-day Classic, which is the biggest
event in competitive fishing.
"This is going to be an exciting Classic," said Davy Hite of South
Carolina, the defending Classic champion. "It's exciting because there are
just so many unknowns about this fishery. We just don't have much
experience fishing these waters. So we don't really know what's out there.
You can't check all of this water in just six days of (official)
"It's going to be an interesting tournament, and it's not going to be over
until the very end. There is so much water, you could possibly do poorly
the first day, and then go someplace completely different and catch a big
bag. And anybody in this tournament is capable of doing that."
The Classic pros, who survived a season-long qualifying process to get to
Chicago, were allowed to scout the tournament waters for six days last
month. But most of the pros emphasized that the practice period was of
dubious value because these Chicago bass are likely to be in completely
different seasonal locations than they were a month ago.
"This Classic is anybody's game," added Tim Horton of Alabama, the reigning
B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year. "There are some places out there where the
smallmouths will be bunched up. But they are hard to find with so much
water to cover."
Horton predicted that the "Great Lakes guys" in this Classic field will
have a "big advantage" entering the event. That includes three-time Angler
of the Year Kevin VanDam, recent B.A.S.S. winner Art Ferguson, Classic
rookie Kim Stricker and Philip Jones (all of Michigan).
At stake is a $100,000 top prize and the most important title in
professional angling. The Classic championship has been worth as much as $1
million to the winner in the past through endorsement contracts and
It was a joint effort between the city of Chicago and state of Illinois
that brought fishing's Big Show to the Windy City. Tom Gray of the Mayor's
Office of Special Events said Mayor Richard Daly was anxious to showcase
Chicago's emerging bass fishery to the world.
"(The fishing) is like a diamond in the rough," Gray said. "The mayor knows
there are great fishermen on our waters around Chicago. He sees them
fishing around the lakefront. And we know that the fish are here."
Gray estimated the economic impact of the Classic on the region will be $40
to $45 million.
"It is a developing bass fishery," added Mike Conlin of the Illinois
Department of Natural Resources. "This area has been known for trout and
salmon, but that has been changing over the past 25 years. And people have
started taking note of it.
"I guarantee you that after this event is done, a lot of people will come
to Chicago to fish. A lot of people are going to be made aware of what
(bass) fishing they have here."
The 32-year-old BASSMASTER Tournament Trail is the oldest and most
prestigious bass fishing tournament circuit in the country. It has set the
standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship for more than
Sponsors of the 30th BASS Masters Classic: Ranger Boats, RangerTrail
Trailers, Mercury Outboards, Chevrolet Trucks, ACDelco Voyager Batteries,
Worldwaters.com, Humminbird/Zercom electronics, Pennzoil Marine, Flowmaster
Exhaust Systems, First USA Visa Card, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, Gore-Tex
Outerwear, GMAC Insurance, State of Illinois, City of Chicago, and the Bass
Anglers Sportsman Society.
B.A.S.S. Web site: http://www.bassmaster.com.