While 53 contenders scour Lake Wylie in pursuit of bass and the world championship title at the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer, as many as 100,000 fishing fans will be scouring the aisles of the Classic ESPN Outdoors Expo in search of bargains and fishing products that they just can't live without.
Formerly known as the Classic Outdoor Show, the Expo has long had the distinction of offering the fishing public its first look at new tackle and accessories that will be available the upcoming year. Coming on the heels of the American Sportfishing Association's annual ICAST trade show, which rolls out the latest in fishing gear, that is again the case with this year's show. The new name reflects the evolving nature of the show that will also include products and activities involving other outdoor sports.
"We're gradually trying to tie in some other outdoor elements, particularly from the hunting arena," said BASS events director Bruce Mathis. "We've got a lot of crossover people that both fish and hunt."
But fishing fans who travel to the Classic each year can rest assured that the annual three-day show will resemble the giant product and activities festival that has long been one of the highlights of the week-long celebration known as Classic Week.
This year, the Expo will feature more than 200 exhibitors and 280,000 square feet in the Charlotte Convention Center, according to show director Jim Wright.
Virtually all of the major lure manufacturers and rod-and-reel companies will be displaying their products, along with boat and outboard companies. In addition, there will be plenty of retail activity ranging from local tackle dealers to Bass Pro Shops.
"There will be a lot for families to do and enjoy," Wright said. "There will be activities like an archery demonstration, a climbing wall, art exhibits and airbrush tattoos scattered throughout the show. And we'll have interactive games, as well as the Lake CITGO casting activity."
"We promote ourselves as a family-oriented organization," Mathis added.
"And statistics show that a lot of the people that attend the Classic use it as a family vacation."
The show will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 30-Aug. 1 at the Charlotte Convention Center.
Give Mark Menendez credit for policing himself during last week's final Bassmaster Elite 50 event in his hometown of Paducah, Ky., and alerting BASS tournament director Trip Weldon to an inadvertent rules violation.
Menendez disqualified himself and lost his final-round catch after realizing that he had failed to wear a personal flotation device while fishing in a mandatory zone on the Cumberland River. His peers took notice that he called a foul on himself and praised Menendez for handling a tough situation with grace.
"It's unfortunate," Kevin VanDam said. "It's just one of those things that is tough. He was up there and fished for a couple of hours without thinking about it. When it came to him, you could see it on the video that he knew that he had made a big mistake.
"He did the right thing. He deserves credit for that."
Death in the family
Former BASS pro Bill O'Connor, who finished third in Ray Scott's third national tournament in 1968, died recently in Clewiston, Fla., according to former ATLANTA CONSTITUTION outdoor writer Charlie Salter and friend Junior Collis (a former Classic qualifier in his own right).
O'Connor competed in 38 BASS events during his career, posting one runner-up and a third-place finish. His last appearance was in the special 25th anniversary BASS tournament on Beaver Lake in 1986.
Did you know?
Alton Jones made a huge jump by winning the final Elite 50 tournament. He entered the event in 15th place in the point standings, but was able to rocket to second behind VanDam to earn $100,000. That was a difference of $75,000. (Gerald Swindle won $25,000 for finishing 15th.)
On June 25 veteran Pennsylvania pro Randall Romig becomes 54. Arkansas angler Ron Shuffield celebrates his 48 birthday on June 27, while California's Skeet Reese will blow out 35 candles on June 30.
If I hadn't become a BASS pro
Maryland's J.T. Kenney, winner of last year's CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Okeechobee, would likely be guiding or doing auto body work.
They said it
Larry Nixon has been a guy I've always admired. He was the one that I thought was a true professional. Heck, I even named my dog after him. I've got a 12-year-old Lab named Nixon.
Two-time BASS winner Marty Stone.
Tim Tucker's Pro Angling Insider is a new bi-monthly newsletter with an annual subscription rate of $39.95. It can be ordered by calling toll-free 800-252-FISH. A sample issue can by seen on his Bass Sessions 2004 web site, www.timtuckeroutdoors.com.