The Bassmaster Classic is more than just a fishing tournament. It's a big show.
From the anglers who will be riding their boats into Tulsa's BOK Center like gladiators on chariots to the huge Outdoor Expo that will be held across the street, the Bassmaster Classic is a spectacle.
For Joe Armold of Yantis, Texas, this week's Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake and in Tulsa will be his 22nd to attend.
“My wife claims Ray Scott is her boyfriend,” Armold said of the founder of B.A.S.S. and the Bassmaster Classic.
On Sunday, the drama will build inside the BOK Center as the angler in the lead will take the hot seat until another guy weighs in and bumps him off. At stake is $500,000 for the champion.
Armold will be one of the thousands of people who will be traveling to Oklahoma this week for the Bassmaster Classic.
“That's kind of our vacation,” Armold said of attending the Bassmaster Classic every year. “The Classic changed after ESPN bought it (in 2001). The first one ESPN put on was the most screwed up affair I have ever been to.”
In 2010, ESPN sold BASS to a group of investors that included fishing icon Jerry McKinnis, longtime host of the ESPN series “The Fishin' Hole.” Armold said since that sale, the Bassmaster Classic has become a better show.
“It's more geared to the public instead of just trying to make some money,” he said.
Jim Loshbough of Elkhart, Ind., will be attending his sixth Bassmaster Classic. He likes to meet the pros and attend the Outdoor Expo.
“I like to see all the new stuff,” he said. “I walked into the show part of the Classic last year and talked to three different pros in 10 minutes.”
Loshbough has met people from all over the country at the Bassmaster Classic.
“For anybody interested in bass fishing, it's worth the price of admission,” he said, noting that both the weigh-ins and the Outdoor Expo are free.
Michael Zaleski of Muskogee won't have to travel as far to attend this year's Bassmaster Classic.
“I try to get to as many as I can,” he said.
Zaleski goes to learn as much as he can about catching bass.
“I love the fact that it's here (in Oklahoma),” Zaleski said. “I got friends coming up from Dallas that are going to be my guests.
“I really worry if there is going to be enough parking for everybody. Around the BOK Center, there isn't a lot of parking, and if they have crowds like they've have had in Shreveport and elsewhere, it's going to be tough.”
Edmund and Mary Skarke of Tulsa would normally drive their motor home to the Bassmaster Classic.
The couple has gone to so many Bassmaster Classics that Mary Skarke doesn't know for sure how many. More than 20, she thinks.
“We enjoyed them,” she said. “Back when he was fishing, we liked Jimmy Houston. And the one now who is winning a lot (Kevin VanDam), we enjoyed watching him, too.”
Mary said her husband was surprised when it was announced a year ago that the Bassmaster Classic was coming to Oklahoma.
Edmund Skarke was looking forward to attending, but the 86-year-old lifetime BASS member died from prostate cancer in June.
Still, Mary Skarke hopes to go to the BOK Center with her sons at least one day of the tournament, hopefully for Sunday's last day.
It will be her first Bassmaster Classic without her husband of 59 years by her side.
“We used to go every day (of the tournament),” she said. “Going anywhere without him is hard.”
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: Grand Lake O' the Cherokees
Launch site: Wolf Creek Park, 7 a.m. each day
Weigh-ins: BOK Center in Tulsa. Doors open at 3 p.m. each day
Anglers: It's a 53-man field that is cut to the top 25 for the final day of fishing on Sunday.
Oklahomans in the field: Edwin Evers of Talala, Tommy Biffle of Wagoner and Jason Christie of Park Hill
Top prize: $500,000 to the winner
Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo: Friday through Sunday at the Tulsa Convention Center. Hours are noon until 8 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Super Retriever Series: The dog jumping competition is Friday through Sunday at the Tulsa Convention Center. It begins at noon on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Daisy Inflatable Shooting Education Range: Friday through Sunday at the Tulsa Convention Center in the Outdoor Games Zone.
Timberworks Lumberjack Show: The timber skills contests will take place before the weigh-ins Saturday and Sunday at the BOK Center. Doors open at 3 p.m.
Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Exhibition: Two-man college teams from Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will fish Sunday for a trophy with weigh-in at the BOK Center.
Gene Larew tour: The Tulsa bait company, located on the east side of Tulsa on historic Route 66, is having an open house Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Visitors can watch and learn how Larew bass lures and Bobby Garland crappie baits are made. Also, previous Bassmaster Classic competitors and crappie pros will be at the open house to meet and visit with fans.
Also attending will be former Oklahoma State University football star and avid bass angler Rashaun Woods. For more information, visit www.GeneLarew.com.
ABOUT B.A.S.S. AND THE BASSMASTER CLASSIC
The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) was founded in 1967 by Montgomery, Ala., insurance salesman Ray Scott, who envisioned hundreds of bass anglers competing against each other in tournaments.
As a result, the hobby of bass fishing was transformed into a sport and big business. In 1967, Scott organized what is believed to be the first professional bass tournament on Beaver Lake in Arkansas.
In 1968, Bassmasters Magazine was first published, and three years later, Scott organized the first Bassmaster Classic. Bobby Murray of Hot Springs, Ark., was the inaugural champion and won $10,000.
Oklahoma has never officially hosted a Bassmaster Classic before. The 1979 Bassmaster Classic was held on Lake Texoma, but the tournament wasn't the headline-grabber that it is now.
And since the 25 anglers in the field were launching out of Pottsboro, Texas, it was considered a Texas tournament, even though most of Lake Texoma is in Oklahoma.