The pros were here a month ago to participate in an official five-day scouting period when they laid the strategic foundation for their hopes in this week's world championship.
Since then, the Classic has undoubtedly dominated their thoughts as they counted down the days until their return trip to Charlotte.
Many of the pros arrived this past weekend to partner with young anglers and participate in the inaugural Junior Bassmaster World Championship on nearby Lake Norman Monday. They and the later-arriving Classic contenders will now turn their attention to scouring 12,000-acre Lake Wylie in search of enough big bass to claim the $200,000 winner's purse.
The sport's most important title goes with it.
“I'm ready to get started. Let's go,” reigning CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle said. “I was looking forward to the youth championship and being a part of that. I feel like that’s going to be a big step in the future of bass fishing and it’s going to create a lot of new fans. And that’s what we need in the sport to keep it going.
“Now I'm ready to get to fishing for real.”
Although the three-day tournament that begins Friday is its crowning jewel, Classic Week involves numerous family-oriented festivities that include the Bassmaster Family Fest (Thursday, July 28 from 7:30 a.m.-12 p.m.) in Charlotte’s Freedom Park, and the nation's premier tackle and outdoors gear consumer show, the Classic ESPN Outdoor Expo (at the Charlotte Convention Center), Friday through Sunday.
Fishing fans will get plenty of time to see their favorite pros during an autograph session during the Family Fest, as well as the daily 6:15 a.m. launches at the Buster Boyd Access Area on Highway 49 and the daily weigh-ins at the Charlotte Coliseum (Friday through Sunday at 2:45 p.m.).
The pressure begins to build for the Classic pros during check-in and boat orientation Tuesday. An ultra-important, one-day practice will be held on Wednesday, followed by an off day on Thursday spent at the Family Fest and Media Day festivities. Media from around the world cover the Classic like no other fishing event each year.
Casting for their dream begins early Friday and the tension and excitement increase steadily throughout the weekend. The addition of more than 11 hours of coverage on ESPN and ESPN2 throughout the three-day event only adds to the excitement for the 34th Classic.
“I'm ready to get started,” said Jason Quinn, who guides on Lake Wylie and is a heavy pre-Classic local favorite. “The water level is pretty much back to normal and that bodes well for the fishing.
“I think the fishing's going to be good. There will be a lot of fish caught this week. People are going to get to see what a good lake Wylie is.”
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, 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.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local Sponsors include the Charlotte Regional Sports Commission, Visit Charlotte, the Auditorium-Coliseum-Convention Center Authority, the Rock Hill Sports and Tourism Council and Time Warner Cable.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com