TALKING CLASSIC MEMORIES
Media Day. It’s the kick-off event in the series of events surrounding the Super Bowl of Fishing, the Bassmaster Classic. Representatives from media outlets around the globe were gathered in Knoxville to hear Tommy Sanders welcome the anglers and those covering them to “the Show”. I was early to the event venue as I wanted to get the lay of the land and pick up my credentials before the crowd gathered. As I walked up the steps to the venue the 55 boats whose owners had qualified for this year’s Classic were all lined up ready for the highlight of the day, angler interviews. Each media rep had an opportunity to select 10 anglers for ten minute interview slots. They let you know in advance that you would be assigned fewer than ten but that there would be opportunity to get in with additional anglers. I was very happy to have gotten slots with 7 out of my 10 choices.
Ten minutes is not a lot of time. Of course, everyone was going to ask what the angler’s plan was. I needed something different. Three of my anglers were first timers. The others were seasoned veterans. My question for the vets, “what has been your best memory from your past classics?” Eight-time Classic qualifier and Tennessee pro Brandon Lester did not hesitate. For him it was the 2020 event on Lake Guntersville. He has fished Guntersville most of his life and considers it one of his “home” lakes. Being in the mix, qualifying for the final day, and even leading that 50th Anniversary Classic at one was something he will never forget. Lester, coming off what may be his best year as a pro with two wins, has two top ten Classic finishes. As we talked, he worked a shiny shad finished jerk bait through his fingers careful not to catch one of
the Mustad hooks. He was not hesitant to say that it would be a key bait for him. While he loves catching smallmouth, he also pointed out that he believed top bags will be largemouth dominant.
Michigan pro Chad Pipkins agreed with that assessment. When it comes to his Classic memories this six-time Classic qualifier has two. The first is one is a memory he wants to change- the fact that he has not done well at the “winter” classics he has fished, and done much better at the “summer” Classics. His second memory involves a summer Classic, the 51st on Ft. Worth area’s Lake Ray Roberts. Pipkens was the beneficiary of a big bite weighing 6- 5 which allowed him to make the final day cut. He is no stranger to the Tennessee River and is hoping his smallmouth knowledge will bring a kicker to a big bag of largemouth for a strong showing on Championship Sunday.
Florida native John Cox has a Classic memory that fuels his fire to win this, his 5th Classic, that being that in each of his previous four Classics he has not done well, each being progressively worse since his first. He knows these waters well and has competed well here in the past. He is all about the largemouth in his game plan. The last angler I asked to reflect on his past Classics was 12-time Classic qualifier Brandon Palaniuk who has finished in the Top 10 three times. But his best memories are not his finishes, not even his first Classic when he finished 4th. The Idaho angler’s best memories are of the fans. The throngs cheering the anglers on at the
launch, the many well wishers who stop at the Expo to chat, and the tens of thousands that have packed arenas on Championship Sunday are the memories most cherished. “Without the fans we don’t have any of this,” said Palaniuk. “Living in Idaho, I have a lot of solitude, and I love it,” he added, “but interacting with the fans and being able to experience their appreciation for what we do, that’s my thrill.” I can really understand his point. Without the fans there would certainly be no need for the media, and no Media Day.