SHREVEPORT, La. Winning the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in 2007 forced Skeet Reese to set new, perhaps loftier goals.
"The Angler of Year title was a lifelong dream, but since then, this has been the focus," said the 40-year-old pro as he clutched the 2009 Bassmaster Classic Champion's trophy.
"This validates me as one of the icons of this sport."
Reese believes his growing maturity and experience enabled him to stay in step with an ever-changing fishery battered by deteriorating weather and water conditions.
Especially on the last day, when he battled out of second place to overtake leader Jami Fralick and turn back a red-hot Michael Iaconelli in the final hours to win the $500,000 prize. Reese took the title with 54 pounds, 13 ounces. Iaconelli was second with 54-2, followed by Brian Snowden (52-14), Mike McClelland (52-1) and Edwin Evers (51-5). Fralick dropped to a disappointing eighth place.
The February showdown delivered one of the most exciting Classic finishes in history and played out in front of capacity crowds in Shreveport's CenturyTel Center.
A community has never embraced the Classic better than Shreveport. A record on-site crowd estimated at 138,000 attended daily weigh-ins and surrounding activities, including the three-day Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods at the Shreveport Convention Center. BASS officials say overall attendance broke the previous record by 55,000, which came in New Orleans.
In addition to a nail-biting finish, the Classic was flavored with the first appearance of a female contender, Kim Bain-Moore, who earned a berth as the Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year. She finished a disappointing 47th in the 51-angler field, yet carved her name into the history books.
The 2003 Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans once held the record for the total number of people attending Classic events daily launches, the expo and the weigh-ins at more than 86,000 spectators. That attendance record was shattered in Shreveport. Northwest Louisiana generated a combined attendance of more than 137,700, including a single-day expo record of 60,123 through the turnstiles on Saturday.
Tough On Boats
The stump fields of the Red River required most anglers to idle at least 15 minutes to reach productive waters, but Michael Iaconelli said he cut down on the time by sacrificing the aesthetics of his boat wrap. "If you look at my boat, it's a full-blast speed into [his area]," Iaconelli said. "I'm probably going to need a new wrap after this tournament."
While local experts continue to tabulate results from the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, the economic impact to the Shreveport-Bossier City area may have been underestimated, according to some community leaders. In a cover story in the Shreveport Times during Classic week, the newspaper reported that the estimated $24 million economic impact may have been too conservative. Officials say the long-term impact from the media exposure will continue to generate revenue for the region for years to come. Quoting Stacy Brown, president of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourism Bureau, the newspaper reported: "Not only will this be the largest single event ever held in Shreveport-Bossier, but it will open doors for more to come," said Brown. "Shreveport-Bossier will be showcased in a positive light to the nation. It's a valuable asset for tourism and economic development. And, yes, we'd have Bassmaster back again."
Bed Time Stories
Boyd Duckett, 2007 Bassmaster Classic champion, said he found a big-fish pattern during practice but knew it wouldn't last until competition began. "I caught a 7-pounder off a bed. I saw several bucks under fry, so that means (those small bass) were dropped a week before. But I knew that with the (cold) front, the fish would be pushed off the beds." Duckett, who backed off and picked up staging fish, finished 12th.
Too Much Practice
Kotaro Kiriyama had a great practice prior to the Classic and expected to catch 17 to 18 pounds a day. But Kiriyama said that's probably why he tanked. "I hooked too many fish. It was dumb," he said. "When I don't catch them in practice, I do good. When I catch fish in practice, I don't do good." The talented Japanese native finished the event in 50th place.
Top 6 finishers
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Total
Angler Wt Wt Wt Wt
1. Skeet Reese 15-08 22-09 16-12 54-13
2. Michael Iaconelli 15-05 18-10 20-03 54-02
3. Brian Snowden 15-09 19-04 18-01 52-14
4. Mike McClelland 13-14 16-08 21-11 52-01
5. Edwin Evers 17-00 19-03 15-02 51-05
6. Bryan Schmidt 15-05 13-11 22-01 51-01