In the biggest area fishing news to hit Texomaland since Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States, the Bassmaster Classic is coming to Texomaland’s backyard next spring.
That news broke on Wednesday when officials with the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) announced that the 51st Classic will be held on Lake Ray Roberts on March 19-21, 2021.
Hosted by the Fort Worth Sports Commission and Visit Fort Worth, the event will be headquarted in the downtown Cowtown area. According to a B.A.S.S. news release the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo will be held at the Will Rogers Memorial Center while the daily weigh-ins will take place at nearby Dickies Arena. There was no word where daily launches would take place from.
"There are very few firsts in the world of sports," said Chase Anderson, chairman of B.A.S.S., in the news release. "We can’t wait to have a historic first next year when fishing’s biggest stage comes to Fort Worth. Our fans, sponsors and anglers are sure to be in for an incredible experience."
Fort Worth city officials were understandably excited by the Classic news.
"We could not have secured this world-class event without the support of our community partners," said Bob Jameson, president and CEO for Visit Fort Worth, the parent organization of the Fort Worth Sports Commission.
"We are grateful to Dickies Arena, Will Rogers Memorial Center, the City of Fort Worth, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Lake Ray Roberts, The Stockyards and many more for their time and thoughtful collaboration to ensure Fort Worth offers a world-class experience to anglers, their families and fans."
"The Fort Worth Sports Commission is proud to host the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic in Fort Worth," added Jason Sands, director of the Fort Worth Sports Commission. "This is the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing and it will be an incredible privilege to welcome anglers, their families and fans from around the country to Fort Worth. This championship will bring over 70,000 visitors with an expected $20 million in direct spending including in our hotels, restaurants, retail, attractions and more."
One question that immediately comes to mind is whether the COVID-19 pandemic will cause any disruptions next spring when the Classic visits North Texas. While that is obviously unknown in a crisis that changes almost daily, the plan is for business as usual next spring.
"The Fort Worth Sports Commission will be monitoring event protocol and safety procedures as they evolve over the next several months to ensure Fort Worth is ready to host this prestigious tournament next spring," Sands stated in the news release.
On the heels of record crowds at the 49th Classic in the Knoxville area — won by Ott DeFoe — and the 50th Classic earlier this year in Birmingham — won by Hank Cherry — the Ray Bob visit next spring will mark the third such event in Texas and the second Classic held on waters that touch at least a portion of Grayson County.
The first time, of course, was on Lake Texoma when Outdoor Channel and World Fishing Network television show host Hank Parker won the Sept. 26-28, 1979 event. Parker captured the ninth Classic in history, which featured daily weigh-ins in the parking lot of Tanglewood Resort north of Pottsboro, by weighing in 31 pounds of bass in tough early fall conditions.
Given Ray Roberts' big bass history, doubling that figure could be necessary to win next spring since recent tournaments have featured winning bag limits averaging almost five-pounds a fish. With a history of Florida strain largemouth bass being stocked in the lake, a total of six TPWD ShareLunker Legacy bass have been pulled from Ray Roberts, including Pilot Point angler Shannon Lee Elvington’s 15.18-pound lake record on March 7, 2015.
While weather and water conditions will play a key role in next spring’s derby, reaction to the Classic site announcement was positive on Wednesday afternoon from at least one Bassmaster Elite Series pro.
"I had heard rumors of (the Classic going to) Texas, but there are so many lakes around, I wasn’t sure which one it would be," said Brandon Palaniuk, a three-time winner on the Elite Series, a nine-time Classic qualifier and the B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year in 2017.
"I’m slightly surprised it’s Ray Roberts," added Palaniuk, who sits in 15th place right now in the 2020 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year standings as the Elite Series awaits an early summer tournament schedule reboot in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.
Palaniuk, who fished on the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour series last year before returning to the Elite Series in 2020, was not a part of the MLF Challenge Cup event won by Texan Kelly Jordon in the fall of 2013 when MLF visited Ray Roberts.
But the Idaho bass pro does have some limited experience on the 26,500-acre reservoir that lies in Denton, Collin, and Grayson Counties.
"I haven’t fished it other than when the Toyota Texas Bass Classic visited there a few years ago," said Palaniuk. "That’s a good time to be in Texas, so I’m pretty pumped!"
Local bass fishing fans were pumped too as the news broke on Wednesday that the Classic was coming to Texomaland during the springtime spawn.
"I just heard!" said Scott Cox, an avid tournament fisherman who lives in Tom Bean. "I’m (driving and) having a hard time steering right now!"
Denison bass fishing enthusiast Jason Blankenship shared the excitement: "I am already requesting time off from work next March. It will be a long drive from the lake to Fort Worth, but I’m excited to see how the lake produces during the Classic tournament."
Andrew Means, recreation manager for Denison Parks and Recreation, was equally pumped at the Classic news.
"I honestly can’t believe it," said Means. "It’s the biggest tournament in bass fishing and its coming to our backyard. If you like bass fishing, how can you not be excited about that?"