50th Bassmaster Classic

50th Bassmaster Classic | A Brutally Tough Lake Guntersville

It’s that time of year again. Time for the Bassmaster Classic. The 50th Bassmaster Classic to be exact. For half a century, this has been the event that we’ve looked to crown the king of the sport. But now, for the first time ever, a lot of the big names will be sitting it out. The defending champ Ott DeFoe won’t be defending. 

So will it be the same? 

The short answer, yes. Though I did have my doubts last year that it would. Most of us know by now that the majority of the core group of the 2018 Elite Series roster moved over to create the core group of the newly formed 2019 MLF Bass Pro Tour roster. Though that transition happened prior to last year’s Classic, those anglers were still allowed to fish the Classic since they had already qualified for it.

The Difference With Last Years Classic

I didn’t attend that Classic, though I have attended and worked several in the past. Most of you reading this know that I worked as a contractor for B.A.S.S. for several years. I always had an admiration for the organization growing up, and being out there on the road working closely with the anglers I naturally developed a lot of great friendships. The same can be said for the staff. 

So I was torn when the breakup happened. As an angler, I was very excited for my fellow anglers and friends who were making decisions and building something they truly believed would better their lives and careers. But I was also empathetic towards B.A.S.S. or more so towards the employees that make up B.A.S.S. since this move was viewed in a lot of ways as an attack on the organization and the livelihoods of people I had worked closely with and cared for. 

So as the Classic unfolded last year, there was palpable tension throughout. There were moments that were cathartic, between the staff and the anglers that were moving on but didn’t make their decisions out of spite. Then there were moments where had the cameras shutoff, I imagine there would have been some bloodshed. 

Now, on to the 50th Bassmaster Classic

But now here we are. Time for the Classic again. Without so many familiar faces, will this one be as big of a deal as the Classic should be? I do believe it will. During the 2019 Elite season, we saw several new Elite anglers like Brandon Cobb and Patrick Walters rise to the occasion and start developing their stardom. We saw familiar faces from the sport like Chris Zaldain, Scott Canterbury, and Carl Jocumsen all settle nicely into their roles in this new era of B.A.S.S.

The 50th Bassmaster Classic will happen. Someone will be crowned king. And for the 50th time, someone’s life will change forever. The sport is bigger and stronger now than ever before. And the giants of the sport today only appear as big as they do because they are standing on the shoulders of those individuals who got the ball rolling 5 decades ago. The Classic is still the Classic and will always be the Classic. The event we’ll see this week will prove that.

A Tough Lake Guntersville for the 50th Bassmaster Classic

Now let’s talk a little about the fishing. It is brutally tough on Lake Guntersville right now. Has been for a month or so due to seemingly constant rainfall and the swift, muddy waters that come with it. The anglers that win are still catching big bags typically, and the angler that wins the Classic will have at least one ‘wow’ bag too. But the Guntersville most of us think of isn’t there right now. 

The filler weights are way down — the weights behind 1st place. In the past, if it took 30-pounds to win there would also be a few bags in the mid-20s and a heap of bags from 18- to 22-pounds. The closest thing we’ve seen to historical Lake Guntersville numbers came a couple weeks ago in the Alabama Bass Trail event there. It took 30-pounds to win, and nearly 18-pounds to finish in the top 20. 

But that was out of 225 boats, with the best locals on the lake, a team event and the weather had actually slacked up slightly around that time. Several other individual weight events this winter have been won with around 20-pounds, very light winning weights for that pond. And now we have even more rain forecasted leading up to the start of the event. 

So the fishing will be a little tough. But the bites, when they come, will still be big. Someone will still catch a 25-plus bag and if that person can compliment that bag with a couple 16- to 18-pound days, I think they’ll take the trophy home. 

The fish will be all over. Some will catch them as shallow as 1- to 2-feet, some will catch them 25-plus and others in between. This will be a tough one, but a fun one to watch and one I’m looking forward to seeing unfold. I still have a lot friends fishing this thing and one of their lives is about to change forever. And that’s exciting. 

Some Final Thoughts Before the 50th Bassmaster Classic

To be honest, I’m glad the shakeup happened last year. The end result is that more anglers now have avenues to fish for a living at the lowest risk than ever before. Every market needs competition. 

Do I like how it all went down? No. 

But growth requires growing pains. I’m glad to see B.A.S.S. power through and I think the 50th Bassmaster Classic will meet and potentially even raise the bar because of the work that has gone into it. The appreciation the anglers participating have for it. The history behind it. 

The pervasive attitude towards what many of the fans viewed as an attack has rallied the fishing community to B.A.S.S.’s side in a lot of ways. And that will to not let something die that so many people care about has actually made it stronger. 

But, again in my personal opinion, it’s time to stop picking sides and thinking you have to hate one organization or group of anglers in order to love another. Just enjoy the sport at its peak. This is the best it’s ever been. 

So good luck to all the anglers. And good luck to everyone working the event this week. A lot goes into this thing from all sides. Good luck to the families who will be stressed to the max as they watch their loved ones vie for the title. And good luck to the fans that make the pilgrimage to see the Classic first hand. This is going to be a good one.


This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

Become an ANGLR Expert and apply here.

Shaye Baker

ABOUT Shaye

Shaye Baker started fishing with his dad in Alabama as soon as they could find a life jacket small enough to fit him. Competing with his father in local tournaments, Shaye quickly found a hunger for competitive bass fishing. He furthered his fishing career at Auburn University helping to establish the Auburn University Bass Fishing Club. While at Auburn, Shaye served as the President of the club and qualified to fish on the traveling team amassing six Top 5 finishes including two 3rd place finishes in consecutive FLW College Fishing National Championships. While beginning to dabble in the world of outdoor journalism, Shaye continued to fish semi-pro events finishing in the Top 5 in the Bassmaster Opens, FLW Costa Series and BFLs. Finding himself at a crossroads, Shaye chose to put down the rod and pick up the pen and camera to focus on his career in outdoor journalism. Shaye has had work featured in Bassmaster Magazine, FLW Outdoors Magazine, B.A.S.S.Times and the Japanese bass fishing magazine Basser. Shaye has also had work featured on ESPN and Wired2Fish.com, FLWfishing.com and Bassmaster.com. While working with B.A.S.S., Shaye initiated and spearheaded their GoPro division which brought more video coverage to the fans than had ever been done before in competitive fishing. After his tenure with some of the best companies in the business, Shaye identified a need for competitive fishing where participation didn’t cost a fortune. By founding UPLOADED, the Online Fishing Series, Shaye established a free tournament series where anglers could film their fish catches and upload their videos to compete against other anglers for prizes.

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