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Wednesday
Feb122014

What to See and Do at Bassmaster Classic

B.A.S.S. photo of Classic in Tulsa, Okla.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — There are far more than 44 things to do and see at the Feb. 21-23 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro.

But, as a salute to this Classic being the 44th annual world championship of bass fishing, this list stops at No. 44. Fishing fans and their families will discover many more over the three days of the event.

Competition will take place on Lake Guntersville. All other activities will be in Birmingham at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. There’s no charge to attend any Bassmaster Classic event.

1. Cheer on your favorites at the morning takeoffs. Fifty-five of the world’s best anglers in 55 of the most colorful and best-equipped bass boats in the sport will line up and power out onto Lake Guntersville at 7 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21-22, from City Harbor in Guntersville, Ala. On Sunday, Feb. 23, only the 25 finalists who made the Saturday cut will compete. Sunday takeoff is also at 7 a.m. Shuttles from parking areas will be provided.

2. Ride like the wind. What’s it feel like to ride in a state-of-the-art bass boat powered by an engine larger than yourself? Courtesy of Mercury, Nitro, Skeeter, Triton and Yamaha, free demo rides from the launch site will be offered Friday-Sunday. Ages 16 and up can sign up at the tents.

3. Do some star-gazing. The best bet for up-close views of the pros in action on the water is to stay glued to Bassmaster.com. Those lucky enough to live on Lake Guntersville (or who have good friends who live there) can watch from shore and have fun glassing the boats as they whiz by. For fans planning to take a boat out on the water, Bassmaster Classic officials request that all spectators keep their distance, and don’t try to talk to the anglers or fish their water after they leave (they’ll need the option to return to that spot).

4. Get into the drama of the daily weigh-ins. The doors at the BJCC Arena will open each day at 3 p.m., Friday-Sunday. Find a seat, then sit back, relax and enjoy the Evan Williams Bourbon Classic Warm-up, a slate of pre-weigh-in entertainment.

5. Score the best seat in the house. Text to win a seat on the Evan Williams Bourbon couch located at the front of the Livewell, the VIP seating in front of the stage. The daily texting contest, Evan Williams Seriously Good Seats Contest, will be announced in the arena at 3:30 p.m. each day, and fans 21 years and up will have 15 minutes to text “Evan Williams” to 271-26. The winner gets space on couch for themselves and up to three others.

6. Say, “How ’bout them dogs.” The canine athletes of the Super Retriever Series will show their stuff as part of the Warm-up show.

7. Make some noise. Mercury will distribute thundersticks to fans as they enter the arena. Bassmaster Elite Series pro Byron Velvick will canvas the crowd to select the “craziest” fan to receive a cool prize.

8. Drink the Dew. Diet Mountain Dew will distribute free cans of soft drinks for the first 10 minutes after the arena doors open.

9. Show off your catching skills. Mercury T-shirts will be shot into the stands. Be ready to catch them.

10. Win a GoPro camera. Watch the big screen in the arena for texting instructions for a chance to win a GoPro unit, the camera that can catch the action up close under extreme conditions.

11. Picture yourself as a Classic champ. As fans enter the BJCC Arena for the daily weigh-ins, they can have their photo taken with Skeet Reese’s 2009 Bassmaster Classic trophy, courtesy of Dick’s Sporting Goods.

12. Get ready for some football. As part of the Evan Williams Bourbon Classic Warm Up, a Triton 21 TrX boat will be towed into the arena by a Toyota. In the boat will be Triton pro staff anglers tossing toy footballs into the crowd.

13. Help families of warriors. At the arena, a bucket will be passed through the crowd to collect contributions to the Folds of Honor Foundation. Its mission is to provide educational scholarships to the dependents of soldiers killed or disabled while serving our country.

14. Experience the biggest tackle show in Birmingham. It’s called the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods, and it’s open at the BJCC all three days, before the weigh-ins and even after the weigh-ins on Friday and Saturday. Hours are noon to 8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.to 7 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Keep reading to learn about some of the activities, displays and merchandise available. Like all Classic activities, there’s no admission charge to the expo.

15. Acquire your heart’s desire. The Dick’s Sporting Goods booth at the Expo is one place you can purchase that got-to-have gear and tackle (including 2014 model lures you probably won’t see elsewhere).

16. Meet the GEICO gecko. At the GEICO booth, you can have your photo taken with the famous TV commercial star while entering to win a $500 gas card. Kids can play a GEICO game and win prizes.

17. See what swims with SpongeBob. At the Toyota booth, more than fish will be swimming in a new 800-gallon custom tank designed by Animal Planet’s “Tanked” co-stars Wayde King and Brett Raymer in partnership with Toyota and Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

18. Wonder at how good your kids are at casting. At the Toyota Casting Challenge, kids can test their skills at casting into targets.

19. Stuff it. In the Toyota Highlander Cargo Capacity Challenge, you can try to stuff as many fish into the Toyota Highlander as you can to win prizes.

20. Test your strength. In the Toyota Tundra Torque Pull, see if you have the strength to win prizes.

21. Collect free stuff at Dick’s, win prizes. Get a free Hook Me Up! commemorative lanyard and luggage tag at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Expo booth. There’s a different luggage tag each day, so collect all three. Wearing the “Hook Me Up” lanyard could earn a prize, including Dick’s Sporting Goods gift cards. A prize patrol will be on the lookout at the Expo and weigh-ins to tap lanyard-wearers and award prizes on the spot.

22. Win cool stuff at the Bass Pro Shops/Nitro expo booth. Giveaway items include autographed jerseys, fishing tackle and Bass Pro Shops gift cards.

23. Enter a raffle for a trip on the lake. Pick up a wrist band at the Bass Pro Shops/Nitro Expo exhibit and qualify for prizes and register for a raffle to ride in a Nitro Z-9 and follow your favorite pro on Lake Guntersville during a Classic competition day.

24. Start (or add to) an autograph collection. Famous bass pros will be on hand for autograph sessions, courtesy of many of the expo exhibitors. Check schedules at each booth.

25. Make it a banner day. Your entire family can get in on this: At the Mercury expo exhibit, create your own banner to cheer on your favorite Mercury pro staff member fishing in the Classic.

26. Power up with PowerBait. Samples of the newest and hottest PowerBait shapes will be given to the first 250 people at the Berkley booth each day.

27. Make music. Stop in at the Humminbird/Minn Kota Expo booth to register to win a Gibson guitar. The drawing will be Sunday in the booth.

28. See yourself on the cover of Bassmaster Magazine. Courtesy of Yamaha, take home a 5x7 photo of yourself on the cover of Bassmaster. While you’re at the Yamaha booth, have your photo taken with a Yamaha pro. Autographs also are available.

29. Line up your kids to play a new game. B.A.S.S. Conservation partner Recycled Fish will be at the Dick’s Sporting Goods booth with “Bass Labyrinth,” a new game that teaches kids how to release a bass. Families can get a Recycled Fish Stewardship Kit to help them be effective caretakers of their local waters.

30. Learn at seminars. Several expo exhibitors will offer seminars. Check at each booth for schedules. For example, hourly seminars will happen at the 40-foot, 4,000-gallon Dick’s Sporting Goods Bass Tank.

31. Try to win Duckett rods at Triton booth. Enter daily drawings for a chance to win a set of four Duckett Fishing Micro Magic Triton-branded rods. The winner will be notified via email.

32. Pocket up to $1,000 from Livingston. Besides great giveaways like signed apparel and Livingston lures, cash prizes will be awarded every day at the Livingston Expo exhibit. One of the prizes on one of the days will be $1,000. Learn details at the Livingston booth.

33. Enter to win a Toyota Tundra in the new Booyah sweepstakes. Also up for grabs is a trip to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic in Greenville, S.C. Booyah will launch the sweeps at the expo, giving Classic visitors the first chance to enter the season-long contest. At the final Bassmaster Elite Series event of 2014, 11 entries will be drawn. All 11 will be guests of Booyah at the 2015 Classic; each of those 11 will receive a key. The one who has the key that fits will win the Booyah-wrapped Toyota.

34. Spin to win. At the B.A.S.S. expo booth, visitors can win prizes by taking a turn at the Spin ‘N’ Win board.

35. Enter the Reelin’ & Racing Sweepstakes. Also at the B.A.S.S. booth, enter to win a fishing trip with Bassmaster Elite Series pro (and Classic competitor) Aaron Martens — and a VIP experience at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

36. Live, from Birmingham, it’s the Bassmaster Interview Stage. There’s a full slate of interviews, Classic competition analysis, fishing tips and much more on tap at the Bassmaster Interview Stage inside the expo. Hosts include the Bassmaster Magazine editor James Hall and the senior editor Ken Duke.

37. Catch up with AutoZone Winning Ways. If you haven’t yet seen The Bassmasters TV program named AutoZone Winning Ways, here’s your chance. It will be shown at the Bassmaster Interview Stage.

38. Take home the T-shirt. Arguably, the official Bassmaster Classic T-shirt is the ultimate Classic souvenir. But there’s much more at the B.A.S.S. merchandise booth, from hats to shirts in all sizes and colors and for all ages.

39. Tweet Up. Want to meet other devoted Bassmaster Tweeters? Meet Saturday at noon in the B.A.S.S. Life Member Lounge at the expo. Anyone who follows B.A.S.S. on Twitter (@BASS_Nation) is invited.

40. Be social. Use the hashtag #bassmasterclassic on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest or Facebook. Submitted photos could be selected to go up on the big screen in the BJCC arena. Photos also will be displayed on a screen in the B.A.S.S. booth at the expo; photos with the hashtag on Instagram will appear on the B.A.S.S. Facebook page, https://apps.facebook.com/bconinstagram.

41. Follow the competition via Bassmaster.com. The Classic anglers are on the water; you’re inside at the expo, or eating lunch at a Birmingham restaurant. No problem. Go to Bassmaster.com on your cellphone or tablet and check the BASSTrakk weight reports, watch video fresh off the water, and read all about the competition. Live, streaming video of the weigh-ins also will be available.

42. See future pros. The Carhartt College Series gets in on the Classic action with a friendly competition among collegiate rivals in the annual Bassmaster Classic “Iron Bowl.” Defending 2013 champ Oklahoma University will be up against teams from several colleges, including Auburn and Alabama. The College Series weigh-in will be Sunday as part of the Evan Williams Bourbon Classic Warm-up activities.

43. Support the growing high school teams. During Warm-up on Saturday, 10 high school fishing teams from Alabama and other states will take the Classic stage to weigh their catches. Give them your best applause.

44. Revel in a confetti shower. Get ready for confetti as a new Classic champ is crowned Sunday. Lightweight, colorful (and free), a piece or two of saved confetti is a unique souvenir from a great three days at the 2014 Classic.

Tuesday
Feb112014

Speak Up Now to Keep Biscayne's Waters Open for Fishing 

After several years of facing the threat of a large-scale no-fishing zone in Florida's Biscayne National Park, anglers saw a major step in the right direction last November when a new proposed management plan was released that no longer includes the unwarranted, and overly-restrictive, marine reserve.

Now your help is needed to ensure that the marine reserve stays off the table, and that the new plan allows for ample recreational fishing access and conserves the park’s fisheries resources.

The park’s new preferred plan eliminates the previously proposed marine reserve and instead proposes a special recreation zone along a portion of the park’s reef tract in which fishing would be allowed year round under a permit system. Recreational fishing and boating is still permitted in nearly all of the remainder of the park under existing state and federal regulations.

You have until Feb. 20 to provide comments to the National Park Service. Please take a moment to voice your support for maintaining anglers’ ability to enjoy the exceptional fishing opportunities at Biscayne National Park.

It’s important for all anglers to pay attention to and comment on the current proposed management plan at Biscayne National Park. Thanks to Keep America Fishing advocates like you weighing in, significant progress has been made on this issue. It’s critically important that anglers continue to make their voices heard and ensure that this process continues to move in an improved direction.

Some preservationist groups have already mounted a campaign for the National Park Service to go back on its progress and instead revert to a marine reserve – we need your help to ensure that doesn’t happen!

Monday
Feb102014

Valentine's Day Hookup!

Prove you’re "hooked" by giving your favorite angler Why We Fish for Valentine’s Day. 

Monday
Feb102014

Missouri Stocks Stripers in Bull Shoals Despite Opposition by Arkansas Anglers

Some fishermen don’t like striped bass. Asian carp, including the grass-eating variety, probably rank highest on the hate list. But stripers are in the top five at least, along with chemical spraying of aquatic vegetation, the animal rights movement, and threats to public access.

Only problem is that the stripers are undeserving of their bad reputation. Biologists have uncovered nothing to suggest that they harm bass populations through predation. The only evidence that exists against them is anecdotal: By chance, an angler sees a striper eat a largemouth.

And that does happen. In the fish world, a large specimen will eat a smaller one if the opportunity arises, no question. Sometimes the eater and the eatee are of the same species. In other words, black bass are cannibals, as are stripers, walleye, trout, and every other predatory species.

So . . . when a fishery is in need of a supplemental stocking of bass, should we not do it because of that?

Meanwhile, plenty of proof asserts that, when stocked in a reservoir, stripers do not harm the black bass fishery. Study after study reveals that shad make up about 95 percent of a striper’s diet.

In fact, sometimes striped bass enhance the black bass fishery.

“Stocking stripers in Lake Texoma improved both bass and crappie fisheries,” said Gene Gilliland, new National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. and former fisheries biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

That’s because the larger, open-water stripers gobbled up gizzard shad that were too big for other predators to eat. In doing so, the dynamics of the forage population shifted to one dominated by smaller fish, which both largemouths and crappie could take advantage of.

Why, then, did the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) decide not to join the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC)  in a multi-year program to stock stripers in Bull Shoals, a 45,000-acre border impoundment on the White River?

AGFC fisheries chief Mark Oliver cited angler opposition.

“We know that the low striped bass stocking rates outlined in the proposal would not negatively impact other popular game fish such as walleye and bass,” he said. “But we did not receive an abundance of support for the proposal.”

Why was that? Gilliland theorizes that it might have been because of “circumstantial evidence.”

Arkansas anglers saw stripers stocked in another fishery and caught fewer bass afterward. “They think that there’s a cause and effect, but the decline is related to something else,” he explained. “Lakes all over the country have stripers and bass and they are doing just fine.”

Based on more than 70 percent support for the plan shown at four joint public meetings, Missouri, however, elected to go ahead with the plan to stock at a low rate every other year. This past spring, MDC released 16,000 stripers, many of which will take up residence in Arkansas, where most of the lake lies.

“We stock stripers in Lake of the Ozarks and continue to have good bass fishing there,” said MDC’s A.J. Pratt. “In fact, it’s a phenomenal largemouth fishery.”

The Missouri biologist added 16,000 stripers every other year “is a drop in the bucket, but if we see that it’s having an impact (on the bass population), we’ll adjust the stocking.”

In rare cases, too many stripers have been stocked in a fishery with a limited food supply and both stripers and bass have suffered from slow growth rates as a result. That’s not likely in this reservoir with an abundance of shad.

Because it is a flood control reservoir with fluctuating water levels, Bull Shoals doesn’t get consistent bass recruitment, meaning the quality of the bass fishery is cyclical, Pratt said.  Adding stripers at low densities will offer anglers an enhanced opportunity to catch fish during lows in the cycle, as has been the case with the introduction of walleye.

So, even though some don’t want them, Arkansas fishermen, along with those from Missouri, will soon have another fish to catch. Many will enjoy doing so; others will not, but will have a new excuse when they don’t catch bass.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Saturday
Feb082014

Praise for Why We Fish

"I thook my time reading it, and am glad I did."

"A truly enjoyable read! Why We Fish by Robert Montgomery artfully explains the common threat and bond all anglers share." 

 “Robert Montgomery has a unique feel on why we love fishing.”

“It is a quick, and most enjoyable, read for those of us who live to have a line in the water. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has the same fishing affliction.”

“I enjoyed this book because it wasn't just a story about the one that got away, or how the tournament was won with a giant bass. This book took you into why we have this passion for fishing as well as many other topics.”

“If you enjoyed fishing as a child but maybe have gone away from it, this book will bring back those wonderful memories. Or maybe you have never learned to fish, but wondered why some of your loved ones spend such long hours on the water in poor weather. This book will shed light for you.”

(Reviews and excerpts of reviews for Why We Fish at Amazon.)