City Reels in Fans, Spectators and BASS Fishing Enthusiasm

CELEBRATION, Fla. – The fish caught at the 35th annual CITGO Bassmaster Classic may have been small, but the spirit of the city of Pittsburgh and BASS’ impact was enormous, according to published reports.    

Though the Classic was held just two weeks ago, anglers, local organizers and others associated with the event already have deemed it a historic success.  Crowds of people attended, millions watched the telecasts and anglers said it the most challenging Classic in history.  

“Pittsburgh has been a phenomenal city,” 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. “This is my 15th Classic, and I’ve not been to one in any city where more people knew what was happening. Anywhere you go … people are aware that the Bassmaster Classic is here.”  

Pittsburgh produced the most attended weigh-in since ESPN purchased BASS in 2001, bringing nearly 30,000 fans to the Mellon Arena. Combined with the Bassmaster Family Fest and ESPN Outdoors Expo presented by Under Amour, nearly 80,000 spectators participated in Bassmaster Classic activities.  

The Pittsburgh Business Times reported that the Classic “put up great numbers for some Downtown hotels, left some big-ticket restaurants wanting more, gave Pittsburgh perhaps its best national public relations kiss in years and may contain the germ of a sports marketing lesson for the region.”

Mark DeIntinis, Marriott City Center’s director of sales and marketing, told the paper: "I would say this event was as much as a success if you went back to the AFC Championship game (in January of this year) simply because you are drawing attendance from so many different areas.” Pittsburgh also took center stage on ESPN and ESPN2. The networks provided 12 hours of Classic coverage, what some considered a priceless marketing boost for the city.  

Fans said they were pleased that all of the Bassmaster Classic activities were within walking distance of each other, making it convenient to attend the launch at Point State Park, the ESPN Outdoors Expo presented by Under Armour and the weigh-ins at the Mellon Arena.  

“Everything – the trade show, weigh-in and launch – is within walking distance,” Randy McLemore, 41, of Logan, W. Va., told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The city is a lot nicer than I thought it would be.”  

Following the Classic, San Diego Union-Tribune outdoor columnist Ed Zieralski penned: “These fishermen reached out to the Steel City, and the folks here embraced back like nothing I’ve seen at any event. More than 1,000 kids attended the Bassmaster Family Fun Fest on Thursday and received free rods and reels and other stuff, all given out by Bassmaster sponsors.”  

BASS provided T-shirts, hats, stickers, lures and a Zebco rod and reel to children ages 7-14 who registered for Family Fest. Anglers also were available for autographs.  

“I think this is great,” said Bill Speer, a 2004 and 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Open competitor, who traveled from Houston to attend the Classic festivities.  Speer carried with him a 21-year-old bass hat filled with angler autographs that his father passed down to him. “It’s important to have activities like this to get kids involved and BASS has done a great job.”  

Bass fishing’s rising stars, Junior World Champion competitors, also were an integral part of Classic week, first competing in the championship tournament and later signing autographs for fans.  

“I got to do autographs there (in Kittanning, Penn.),” Blake Paulsen, 16, of McMinnville, Ore., told the Oregon McMinnville News Register. “I did not plan on that. We’re getting pros autographs, not thinking about people getting our autographs.”  

“I was glad to be here,” 17-year-old Chad Dolby of Clarion, Penn., told the Clarion News. “The experience – fishing with the pros – was a dream come true.”  

The Bassmaster Classic had an estimated $45 million economic impact on Pittsburgh, according to city officials.  “I hope we can take momentum from the Classic and find activities beyond fishing, like (ESPN’s) Great Outdoor Games, which would be a great fit not just for Pittsburgh but for the Laurel Highlands and surrounding areas,” state Rep. Marc Gergely, D-McKeesport, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The stage is now set. You can’t put a dollar figure on the type of exposure we got …”

2004 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year and third-place finisher Gerald Swindle told the Beaver County Times that Pittsburgh waters provided a challenging tournament. “I thought it was possibly the greatest Classic I’ve ever fished, and this is my sixth one,” said Swindle. “Simply because the fish were unpredictable, which I really like because it’s anybody’s game. It challenges the angler more mentally than any other tournament we fish.”  

With the next Bassmaster Classic only six months away, BASS believes it will be received with as much support and kindness as the Steel City offered. The 2006 Classic is scheduled for Lake Tohopekaliga near Kissimmee, Fla., Feb. 24-26.  

“Osceola County and Central Florida have enjoyed a rich history and tradition of hosting other BASS events through the years, and this event serves to punctuate our commitment to building upon this already great partnership," said John Saboor, executive director of the Central Florida Sports Commission.  

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968. Coming in 2006 are an expanded Tour schedule to 11 events, three Majors tournaments and the Women’s Bassmaster Tour.  

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.