Bassmaster Classic Means Big Opportunity For Green Country

Monday, February 18th 2013, 11:29 pm
By: Craig Day

Tommy Biffle will be competing against the world's best fishermen later this week and thousands will be there to watch.

You may be surprised by the fan frenzy around the Bassmaster Classic, and the impact the sport is having on Green Country's economy.

It's like the Super Bowl or the World Series. It's big fish, big crowds, big prize money and a huge opportunity for Grand Lake and Tulsa, as the Bassmaster Classic comes to Oklahoma.

Fifty-three of the world's best will compete on Grand Lake for a chance to win the $1.2 top prize.

The exposure for Oklahoma is priceless.

"The numbers are staggering. The number of people who are going to hear the words Oklahoma and Grand Lake all throughout the world," said Tad Jones, of the Grand Lake Association.

And it's a chance to cash in on a sport that is skyrocketing in popularity.

The event is expected to bring an economic impact of nearly $26 million to the local and regional economy.

"To have a classic in your own backyard is a huge deal," said Gary Dollahon, of Gene Larew Lures.

Average attendance for the three-day event: more than 70,000 people who watch the pros go after a $1.2 million purse, and to attend the weigh ins and expo.

"There's a lot of people that plan their vacations just around this event," said John Beckwith, of Falcon Rods.

Special Coverage: 2013 Bassmaster Classic

"This is the biggest it gets for bass fishing," said angler Tim Heird.

Heird, from Grove, is one of those fans. He plans to watch all the action on Grand Lake.

"A lot of my friends who really aren't into bass fishing, they don't. You try to explain it to them, and say it's the Super Bowl of fishing, and they still don't quite catch on to how big it is," Heird said.

Big doesn't even begin to describe it. An estimated 10,000 hotel nights will be booked by fans, pros, vendors and worldwide media covering the event.

Several months ago, resorts like Candlewyck Cove Resort on Grand Lake started booking guests.

"We can sleep 116 people," said Melanie Pierini, manager of Candlewyck Cove Resort. "The phones keep ringing. We have tons of fans of specific anglers they want to come out and watch."

She said they're coming from all over the country.

It's also big business for area fishing equipment manufacturers like Falcon Rods.

"You've got the very best fishermen here," Beckwith said.

He said he thinks the event has a chance to be one of the highest attended classics ever.

Tulsa-based Zebco's Vice President of Marketing agrees.

"A lot of these guys are as big of heroes to bass fishermen, as any NFL athlete or what have you," Bob Bagby said.

Both companies will have plenty of merchandise and deals for anglers, and so will another Tulsa business, Gene Larew lures.

2/18/2013 Related Story: Wagoner's Own Tommy Biffle Goes Fishin' With Faurot

"The Biffle bug," Dollahon said. "Chartreuse, pepper, black, neon, are some of the colors."

Part of the reason why they're all optimistic about the potential to break Bassmaster Classic attendance records is because fishing is huge, not just in Oklahoma, but the entire region.

"About 30 percent of their membership is within about a 600-mile radius, anyway, so we, our central location does exactly that. It puts us in a great place to really draw from all directions," Dollahon said.

And they say fan-friendly venues will set Tulsa apart from past host cities.

"The new BOK, plus the Convention Center close together, and other sites haven't had that," Beckwith said.

Local, state and federal dollars also built the $5 million Wolf Creek boat launch facility in Grove, one of the top facilities of its kind in the country, and hundreds of vendors are in place.

So, everything is set for the biggest fishing event that has ever happened in Oklahoma.