Oklahoman James Elam Gearing Up For Bassmaster Classic On Home Waters

Wednesday, March 2nd 2016, 7:11 pm
By: Tess Maune

This weekend's Bassmaster Classic could reel in as much as $29 million.

More than 100,000 people are expected to take part in the free tournament activities this weekend - including the fishing at Grand Lake, the weigh-ins at the BOK Center and the trade show at the Cox Business Center.

And with great weather expected, organizers say it's possible to shatter the all-time attendance record of nearly 138,000 visitors set in Shreveport, Louisiana in 2009.

The 2013 Bassmaster Classic, also held here in Tulsa, had the second highest turnout in tournament history.

Three Oklahoma anglers are competing in this year’s Classic.

The youngest is Broken Arrow native James Elam.

And we spent a practice day with Elam as he prepares for his first Classic.

The Bassmaster Classic's big winner will take home $300,000, so while it was a big practice day, the anglers aren't taking it lightly. They're focused and fishing like as if it were competition day.

To be a professional angler...

“It's very mental... physical,” Elam said.

There's more to it than just fishing.

“They're not everywhere,” he said. “They're not easy to catch.”

It's takes skill, a lot of work and even more practice.

Today, it's practice.

“Today's big,” Elam said.

It’s big because it's James Elam's last chance to be on Grand Lake before the tournament starts Friday morning. It’s when the anglers search for a few more hot spots to hit during competition weekend, and it also helps flush out the slow spots.

“What you do in practice is try and narrow all these places down,” Elam said. “These fish will sit in little spots. They don't just aimlessly roam around.”

Elam knows this water well.

“Fished a lot tournaments here,” he said.

He's Oklahoma born, Broken Arrow raised.

“I'm a proud Okie, for sure,” he said. “I love northeastern Oklahoma.”

He has a landscape architecture degree from Oklahoma State University, but fishing has always been his passion, and his talent helped him turn it into a profession.

“Fishing's like one thing I could hang my hat on and always have fun doing,” he said.

Only 55 anglers qualified for the Bassmaster Classic.

Elam is one them. It's his first time to compete in the Super Bowl of bass fishing tournaments.

“It's about beating people,” Elam said. “It's about winning and stuff, and just doing the best you can more than anything.”

His fishing for the largest prize of his life -- $300,000. The money would be nice, and so would winning in his home state.

“I dreamed of making The Classic and everything, but I never dreamed that I'd make it on my home lake,” Elam said.

The tournament starts on Friday morning, and it goes through Sunday.

The anglers launch their boats every morning at 7 and you can follow them live throughout the tournament.

Bassmaster Classic info and live feeds