Bassmaster Classic Returns to Birmingham and Lake Guntersville

Three bass-fishing boats were parked outside the Legacy Arena Club during Monday’s announcement that the Bassmaster Classic will be returning to Birmingham next year. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw)

Tad Snider said he could get used to this.

Eleven days after announcing a name for the new downtown stadium, the executive director of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center was again at a podium, this time announcing that the 50th Bassmaster Classic presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods will be in Birmingham and on Lake Guntersville on March 6-8, 2020.

“I want to have announcements every day. I’ll never complain about that,” Snider said after an afternoon press conference. “But yeah, this is exciting.”

Bruce Akin, CEO of Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, said it is more than appropriate for the company to bring its “super bowl of fishing” to Alabama, the state where B.A.S.S. was born. This year’s announcement is a bit later than normal, he said, as organizers wanted to be sure construction on the Interstate 59/20 bridge through downtown Birmingham would be done in time.

“From the weigh-in at the arena to the consumer shows that we have … all of those are the biggest thing in fishing and we are happy to bring them to Birmingham,” Akin said. “B.A.S.S. was started here in 1968 by Ray Scott down in Montgomery and we thought it made a lot of sense to bring the 50th to Birmingham.”

This will be the 13th time that Alabama has hosted this event out of 50. Birmingham will be the host for the ninth time and the third on Lake Guntersville.

“The biggest and the best is what I’d like,” Akin said, noting that he’s originally from Scottsboro. “I’m proud of it and hopefully it’ll shatter all kinds of records.”

Guntersville Mayor Leigh Dollar said the Bassmaster Classic is a big deal for that small city, which becomes a big city when this event arrives.

“But we’re capable of handling it,” Dollar said. “We do large events all the time. Most people forget we’re a small town because we have so much more to offer. We get to show(case) our lake on the national stage.”

In a prepared statement, John Oros, president and CEO of the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau, called the Bassmaster Classic “the pinnacle of professional bass fishing.”

Six elite anglers were on hand for the announcement that the 50th Bassmaster Classic is returning to Alabama. Pictured are Clent Davis of Montevllo, Scott Canterbury of Odenville, Matt Herren of Ashville, Mark Menendez of Paducah, Kentucky, Bill Weidler of Helena and Chris Zaldain of Fort Worth, Texas. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

“It attracts the greatest anglers in the world,” he said. “The tournament reinforces the fact that the Birmingham area is a great professional and amateur sports destination. We expect that the economic impact of the event will equal or exceed the $32 million spent in hotels, restaurants, attractions and retailers this past year in Knoxville, Tennessee.”

Much has changed since the inaugural Bassmaster Classic in Nevada. That event featured a 24-angler field and a winner-take-all format with a $10,000 prize. None of the anglers knew the location ahead of time, and they all fished with identical boats and motors.

The payout for next year’s event is $1 million for a 53-angler field with $300,000 going to the winner.

The daily weigh-in will be in the BJCC’s Legacy Arena. It will be one of the last events there before it is closed for major upgrades.

“It just made sense to try to get some of these last big signature events in before we close for renovations,” Snider said.

Akin said one addition since the Bassmaster Classic was last in Birmingham, in 2014, is its Get Hooked On Fishing, a campaign for youth ages 4 to 11.

“We’ll have a lot of things for kids to do, kids and their parents,” he said.  “We do six events a year. We’re hoping that gets kids interested in fishing, in particular urban kids that don’t get many opportunities to fish … and then continue to love fishing and be involved in a great wholesome activity.”