Lake Guntersville to host 2020 Bassmaster Classic

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Legacy Arena in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex was packed for weigh-ins during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic at Birmingham and Lake Guntersville. Crowds are expected to be even bigger in March 2020, when the 50th world championship of bass fishing will be held there. Photo by Laurie Tisdale/B.A.S.S.

Legacy Arena in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex was packed for weigh-ins during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic at Birmingham and Lake Guntersville. Crowds are expected to be even bigger in March 2020, when the 50th world championship of bass fishing will be held there. Photo by Laurie Tisdale/B.A.S.S.

The 50th Bassmaster Classic, presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods, will return to its Alabama roots in 2020.

The world championship bass tournament will be held in Birmingham, Ala., with fishing competition taking place on Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Ala.

The tournament will be held March 6-8, with daily weigh-ins and the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo taking place in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in downtown Birmingham, according to B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin.

“It’s fitting that the golden anniversary Classic be held in Alabama, where B.A.S.S. was founded more than 50 years ago,” Akin said in a statement. “Our plans are to make this the most spectacular celebration of bass fishing in history.

This Bassmaster Elite Series tournament season carries the theme: “The Year of the Fan” — “our way of saying ‘thank you’ to the millions of bass fishing fans who make this sport so great,” said Akin.

The Classic was first held at Lake Mead, Nev., in October 1971. The tournament was the brainchild of B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott, who wanted a way to determine an ultimate champion at the end of every tournament season. It has since been held in Alabama 12 times, eight of those in Birmingham.

“We are so proud to once again host the Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of bass fishing,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin. “We look forward to the great competition the Classic attracts and the dedicated fans who will gather in Birmingham for this incredible event. While in the region, we invite everyone to experience the inspirational history, legendary food and world class entertainment which make us the Magic City.”

The tournament reinforces the fact that the Birmingham area is a great professional and amateur sports destination, said John Oros, president and CEO of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We expect that the economic impact of the event will equal or exceed the $32 million spent in hotels, restaurants, attractions and retailers this past year in Knoxville, Tenn.,” said Oros.

Twice previously — in 1976 and 2014 — fishing has taken place on Lake Guntersville, and the interest generated by the Classic has created a positive impact for months after the events, said Katy Norton, president of Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The inaugural event in Nevada, which was won by Arkansas angler Bobby Murray, featured a 24-angler field and a winner-take-all format with a $10,000 prize. None of the anglers knew the location ahead of time, and they all fished with identical boats and motors.

Much has changed since then — especially the payout, which is now $1 million for a 53-angler field, with $300,000 going to the winner.

“The Classic is literally a life-changing event for the angler who wins,” said B.A.S.S. Director Chase Anderson. “It exemplifies what Bassmaster competition stands for: ‘Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams.’ It honors the angler who can catch the biggest bass of the week, and weigh them on the biggest stage in bass fishing, and fulfill the biggest dream any angler can have. No title in professional fishing holds the same clout as ‘Classic champion.’”

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