2008 Bassmaster Classic on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell Promises to Add to Tales of Great Classics

Everyone likes a good story about their favorite sport, and fishing fans are no exception.

With the Bassmaster Classic just three weeks away, the stories about how the world’s top 50 anglers might fare in the event on Lake Hartwell out of Greenville, S.C., already are taking shape.

During the Feb. 22-24 event, as the field competes for the coveted Classic crown and a winner’s purse of $500,000, fans will have plenty of story lines from which to choose. The daily launches, at 7:15 a.m. ET at Lake Hartwell’s Portman Marina, are free and open to the public, as are the 4:30 p.m. weigh-ins at Greenville’s Bi-Lo Center. ESPN2 will air daily coverage, and www.Bassmaster.com will present live video of the weigh-ins.

The champion’s story, of course, will be the biggest news of the 38th Classic. But the other 49 contenders will have good stories to tell —perhaps of more personal accomplishments.

Until then, fans have 37 past Classic competitions to feed their appetite for stories. Here are just a “classic” Classic moments:

1971 on Nevada’s Lake Mead: In the first Classic, Tom Mann of Alabama led by 13 ounces going into the final day, but Arkansas’ Bobby Murray prevailed. According to archival footage of the event’s award ceremony, BASS founder Ray Scott said: “He turned loose and performed like this, and I think it’s the proof of a real champion. I’d like to call him up here now to accept this check for $10,000 cash and this trophy and the honor that goes with it: A big hand for …. our first champion of the Bassmaster Classic … Bobby Murray.”

1974 on Alabama’s Lake Wheeler: This was the first of 31 Classic competitions for Bassmaster Elite Series pro Rick Clunn. He finished 16th in a field of 29 — not much of a clue that he’d go on to win back-to-back Classics in 1976 and 1977. And he added two more wins, in 1984 and 1990. He’s still the only pro to score two in a row, and no one has come close to his record four Classic victories.

1980 on New York’s St. Lawrence River: Roland Martin competed in 25 Classics in his career. He never won a Classic, but in 1980 the Florida pro came in second, albeit 10 pounds, 9 ounces out of first. In other Classics, Martin was closer to winning in terms of weight, but his 1980 second-place finish remains his best.

1990 on Virginia’s James River: Competing in his first Classic, Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., finished second, behind Rick Clunn. It was the first of Biffle’s 14 Classic appearances. Now a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, Biffle will mark his 15th Classic competition in 2008.

1993 on Alabama’s Logan Martin Lake: A 22-year-old BASS Federation Nation qualifier named Bryan Kerchal finished last. It was the beginning of the most bittersweet tale in Classic history. …

… 1994 on North Carolina’s High Rock Lake: Kerchal won. A fry cook from Connecticut who blew a whistle each time he boated a fish, the young angler pulled off an astounding upset. The Federation Nation rejoiced, as did all who enjoy an underdog’s victory. A few months later, Kerchal was killed in a plane crash, and the fishing world mourned.

1995 on North Carolina’s High Rock Lake: Today a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., became the only reigning Angler of the Year to win the Classic.

2005 on Pennsylvania’s Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers: When Elite pro Kevin VanDam captured his second Classic crown, it was his third event win in a row (two Elite 50 events in June, followed by the Classic in July). VanDam also established the record low weight for a Classic victory with 12 pounds, 15 ounces.

2006 on Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga: Bassmaster Elite Series pro Preston Clark of Palatka, Fla., showed how it’s done in his home state. He weighed in an 11-pound, 10-ounce largemouth to set the Classic lunker record, which stands today.

2007 on Alabama’s Lay Lake: Through three days, BASS Federation Nation qualifier Terry McWilliams of Greenfield, Ind., gave top-name pros a run for the money. Finishing fourth, he missed the winner’s check of $500,000 by 3 pounds, 8 ounces. Alabama’s Boyd Duckett became the first angler to win the Classic in his home state.

2008 on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell: No matter who wins this one, the achievement of Elite pro Gary Klein will not change: 2008 will be his 26th Classic competition. In his first (1979), he finished fourth. In his most recent (2007), he finished fifth. His highest Classic finish is second, in 2003.

Official sponsors for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic: Toyota Tundra, Advance Auto Parts, Berkley, Lowrance, Mercury, Purolator, Skeeter and Yamaha.

About BASS

For 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multi-media platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive web properties in www.Bassmaster.com and www.ESPNOutdoors.com, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage to passionate audiences.

The organization oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Women’s Bassmaster Tour and the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS sanctions more than 20,000 events annually.

BASS also offers a wide array of services to its more than 525,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.