KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Bassmaster Classic drew its largest crowds ever this weekend, with 153,000 people attending the launch and the three-floor Expo that accompanies the event. The arena where weigh-ins happened after the fishing ended each day also drew standing-room-only crowds.
People from the area packed the Thompson Boling Arena to see hometown native Ott DeFoe weigh in his three-day total of 49-3 to win the trophy.
Saturday’s launch at dawn, a chilly and windy morning, drew 6,500 spectators cheering for their favorite angler.
Here is some video from the event:
The crowds have grown since the event began putting cameras on some of the top-scoring anglers and in the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, according to Bassmaster Magazine editor James Hall.
“Four years ago, we came up with the live concept,” said Hall, gesturing to three commentators on camera in the hall on Sunday. “It changed how people consumed the sport. We went from a couple of cameras to 20 on the water, and four here in the hall. It’s really changed how bass fishing tournaments are followed.”
The consumer show drew hundreds of vendors and shoppers to the Knoxville Convention Center and World's Fair Exhibition Hall. It is the largest consumer sport fishing venue in the country, according to organizers.
The entire event is free, and exhibitors say that makes a difference.
“You can’t even go to a local boat show without paying admission,” said Hunter Cole, senior marketing manager for Pure Fishing, which includes popular fishing brands like Abu Garcia and Berkley. “But because of the hard work of B.A.S.S., this is free.”
There have been an increasing number of families and children at the event, said Cole.
“I’ve been to 33 of these things, and the crowd has been active and buying,” said Cole. “We are seeing so many beginning rods and reels sold. From where we were five years ago, there are probably triple or quadruple the number of families at the event. We don’t have anything negative to say about the Classic. No matter how much competition there is, there is only one Classic.”