Bassmaster Classic generated more money than the first weekend of March Madness

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Tournament competitor Clifford Pirch brings in a fish.

Tournament competitor Clifford Pirch brings in a fish.

The 2019 Bassmaster Classic generated $32.2 million for host city Knoxville, Tenn. — more money than the first weekend of March Madness brought to each host city, according to organizers.

The impact reflects a 34 percent increase over the $24 million recorded for Greenville and Anderson, S.C., in 2018.

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This year’s Classic, held March 15-17, drew 153,800 people, breaking prior attendance records set last year when 143,000 fans attended the event.

The Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods, which drew a record total attendance of 92,819 over three days to the Knoxville Convention Center and World’s Fair Exhibition Hall, according to turnstile counts.

“The enthusiasm of the fans is not only good for sales at the Expo, but also recruitment of future anglers and boaters,” Dave Precht, vice president of editorial and communications, told Trade Only Today. “That momentum just builds in the fans that you see in Knoxville.”

The Expo is the largest consumer-facing fishing sale in the country, according to James Hall, editor for Bassmaster Magazine. Some exhibitors said they saw triple or quadruple the number of attendees clamoring for their favorite fisherman’s latest lure or rod.

One retailer reported a 30 percent increase in sales over the previous year, and several exhibitors said they sold out of key items the first day. Sales at the B.A.S.S. merchandise booth exceeded the amount at the last two Classic Expos combined.

“The 2019 Bassmaster Classic really blew us out of the water,” said Visit Knoxville president Kim Bumpas in a statement. “The crowds, the enthusiasm, the economic impact were all but unprecedented.”

Enthusiasts were out in droves for the launch on Day One.

Enthusiasts were out in droves for the launch on Day One.

According to the study, the Classic provided a direct economic impact of $17.7 million and an indirect boost in business sales of $14.5 million. The event is credited with generating $2.75 million in state and local tax revenue, including taxes on sales, restaurant purchases and lodging. Classic attendees, who traveled to Knoxville from almost every state and countries as far away as Australia, Japan and Italy, paid for 29,232 room nights in local hotels, according to Visit Knoxville.

“From the first morning, when more than 5,500 fishing fans braved frigid temperatures to stand on the banks of the Tennessee River for the Classic takeoff ceremony, we knew this Classic would be special,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO. “From there, it just got bigger and better.”

Mark Ezell, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourism, attributes some of the success to the quality of bass fishing resources in his state.

This year’s expo drew record crowds and exhibitors sold out of multiple products.

This year’s expo drew record crowds and exhibitors sold out of multiple products.

“We are grateful to Visit Knoxville, B.A.S.S. and our hospitality partners who delivered a world-class, record-breaking event,” he said. “Fishing strengthens our economy and brings jobs to our citizens, and the Bassmaster Classic was the perfect opportunity to show visitors from across the globe why millions fish here each year.”

Ezell and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee participated in the opening of the Expo, but Tennessee first lady Maria Lee skipped the ceremony, choosing instead to go fishing with Knoxville pro angler Brandon Coulter.

“I grew up fishing with my dad and have enjoyed it as long as I can remember,” she said. “It is always great when a Tennessee city like Knoxville has the chance to showcase our state and its beauty on a worldwide scale.”

Showcasing Knoxville and its fishing opportunities provide additional economic benefits beyond the initial impact, said Bumpas.

Fans braved the elements to cheer for their favorite anglers at the start of the tournament.

Fans braved the elements to cheer for their favorite anglers at the start of the tournament.

“What’s really exceptional about the Classic is how Knoxville was positively affected not only during the event, but we expect to see continuing visitation as a result for years to come,” said Bumpas. “From fishing enthusiasts who want to experience the Tennessee River waterways to casual leisure travelers, we know Knoxville is on the map as a premier outdoor destination.”

In addition to coverage in B.A.S.S.-owned media — including five hours of original programming on ESPN2 — the event attracted more than 250 credentialed media from 28 states and six foreign countries.

“What an exciting and thrilling event to host,” added Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. “The excitement and interest that the 2019 Bassmasters Classic generated among visitors and Knoxvillians alike could be felt throughout the city.”

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