Bassmaster Marshal Makes 20th Classic Appearance


Thursday, March 3rd 2016, 1:25 pm
By: Tess Maune


Just one day until the Bassmaster Classic begins and the excitement in Oklahoma is building.

The professional anglers launched their boats on Grand Lake yesterday for one more chance to practice and find the best fishing spots.

On Thursday, they met with media.

There are 55 anglers who qualified for the 2016 Classic. Three of them are from Oklahoma. Edwin Evers, of Talala, Jason Christie, of Park Hill, and James Elam, a Broken Arrow native.

3/3/2016 Related Story: Oklahoman James Elam Gearing Up For Bassmaster Classic On Home Waters

It’s Elam’s first-time qualifying for the big event.

"I need to catch some fish,” Elam said. “I need to do well. I'm excited for that and I'm focused on that and I'm not focused on anything else. …The classic is such a cool deal, there's so much going on and there's so much fun stuff, but I've still gotta keep my focus."

The first-place winner takes home $300,000.

The tournament officially begins Friday morning and lasts through Sunday. All the events are free.

Bassmaster Classic info and live feeds

Once the anglers finish on the lake each day, they'll come back to weigh-in the fish live at the BOK Center.

The boats are all parked outside the BOK Center now, ready to make the run to Grand Lake early tomorrow morning.

As the pros launch each morning, they'll each have one person riding with them.

"Mostly just eyes and ears," Bassmaster Classic Marshal James Person said. "They're known as marshals ... kind of like a referee... who are there to make sure the anglers follow the rules... and stay safe."

"Well, one thing, they can't get out of their boat," Person said.

Marshals must be B.A.S.S. members. They have to apply, get approved, then pay a small fee be part of the tournament. They're assigned to a different pro each day. Most are anglers themselves.

"I just love to fish, and like to meet different pros, talk with them, have fun, ya know," Person said.

Person is from North Carolina. He's been a Bassmaster marshal so many times, you could call him the grand marshal.

He started in 1994 and he's only missed two Classics since then, so this marks his 20th year on the water with the pros.

"I know most of them and I've probably been out with half of them," he said.

He has a book with a list of all the anglers he's worked with over the years. Eleven of them have taken home the big prize, while Person gets to take home a lure autographed by the champion angler.

And as a fisherman himself, Person also picks up some fishing tricks from the best anglers in the world. 

"Most of them are anglers themselves and they get to watch the best guys in the world, in a lot of cases, their home lake and see how we do it a little differently than they do," pro Kevin VanDam said.

VanDam is one of winning pros Person has worked with in the past. VanDam says marshals play a vital role in the tournament.

"The integrity of our sport is critical," VanDam said."A lot of people would say, 'Hey do they have divers down there hooking fish on...is there any funny business going?' There absolutely is no way for that to happen because we do have a marshal that's there and they're trained to understand all our rules, to make sure there's no funny business going on.'

VanDam is a big deal in the bass fishing world -- some call him the Tiger Woods of fishing. This is his 25th Classic.

"I'm just doing what I love to do. Fortunately it's something that I actually get paid to do, but if wasn't doing this for a living this is what I'd want to do on the weekends anyway," VanDam said.

He's won four Bassmaster Classic championships and hopes this will be the fifth.

"It means a lot to me to be here." VanDam said. "There's no place I'd rather [win] than here in Tulsa."

One of the other roles of the marshals is to track the number of fish the anglers catch. They do it all from their phone and send it back to B.A.S.S. and ESPN.

You can follow that online and on the Bassmaster app.