The 50th Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk wrapped up on Sunday in Birmingham, Ala., with pro angler Hank Cherry taking the trophy.
Though still focused on professional fishing, the event continues to grow its presence as a top spot to debut bass-centric fishing gear, says James Hall, editor-in-chief of Bassmaster Magazine.
“The trend continues to see increasing debuts at the Classic,” Hall told Trade Only Today after the three-day event wrapped up.
Skeeter Boats celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Bassmaster Classic with the release of two new models in its ZX bass boat family. — the ZXR20 (20 feet, 4 inches) and the ZXR21 (21 feet, 4 inches) are geared specifically for bass fishing.
The company used the crowds and enthusiasm to drive traffic on social media sites like Twitter.
Anglr, Lowrance and Abu Garcia unveiled a virtual fishing rod that can plan, record and relive experiences while using data to catch more fish. The Classic was the perfect venue because of the large audience of enthusiastic anglers, said Anglr COO and cofounder Landon Bloomer.
“It makes all the sense in the world to use that as a platform,” said Bloomer. “The feedback we’ve received is tremendous. For the first time, we’ve really automated the fishing logbook. The logbook for centuries was pen and paper. You can’t really capture everything that way — grabbing barometer information, real-time wind and water information — you’d have to spend a lot of time doing that.”
St. Croix Rods used this year’s Classic to debut its new Legend Xtreme Series, its most sensitive (and expensive, at $630 or $650) line of rods ever. The company says the rods will likely become “the single most-significant new-product launch in the company’s 70-plus history.”
The fishing industry used to debut products almost exclusively at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, or ICAST, produced by the American Sportfishing Association and held each summer.
Traditionally, they’d start shipping that new product in the fall so retailers could stock it for the holidays. Now products focused on bass fishing tend to debut at the Classic, said Jesse Simpkins, marketing director for St. Croix Rods.
“Five to 10 years ago, that was unheard of,” said Simpkins. “That’s how important the Bassmaster Classic has become not just to St. Croix, but to the fishing industry. It’s almost turned into a mini-ICAST. A lot of it has to do literally with the fact that the face of advertising and branding has changed. There’s so much more social and digital behind this.”
California-based Wiley X introduced new sunglasses, Johnson Outdoors-owned Old Town unveiled a new kayak, and Caymas Boats, the company founded by Earl Bentz, unveiled a new CX18 SS, said Hall. Garmin also introduced a new mount for its Panoptix LiveScope.
Companies are using more video and photos to drive consumers to social media, and the Classic sets a good stage for that, said Simpkins. Shifting product development cycles has also meant that the company spends more time developing video assets in-house prior to new product debuts.
Here’s one of about a dozen videos on the new Legend Xtreme rods; this one features B.A.S.S. pro Derek Hudnall.
The videos must have worked — St. Croix Rods was sold out of the new line for the year before the rods actually ever went on sale.