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Bassmaster Classic Notebook, Feb. 18

THE BASSMASTERS SET

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For the first time in the seven years Birmingham has hosted the Bassmaster Classic, fans will be able to watch The Bassmasters hosts Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders at work as ESPN creates the daily TV coverage of the Classic.

The set for the shows to air on ESPN2 on Saturday, Feb. 20, and Sunday, Feb. 21, was being set up Thursday in the courtyard of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. The location is between the arena, where the weigh-ins will be, and the exhibit hall, site of the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods.

The set for previous Classic shows has been constructed at the competition lake, said producer Jerry Vaillancourt of ESPN Productions. The change is for two reasons, he said: so fans can watch, and to have access to the 51 competitors for interviews after they weigh in their catches.

"There's a lot of activity that happens around the BJCC, and we expect a lot of crowds to be in the area. They can be seen on TV if they're hanging around the set while we're taping our segments," Vaillancourt said. "It's similar to what we do with ESPN game-day coverage, when we cover college football. Our hosts are there on the college campus that Saturday morning and they broadcast live from there. It creates a really electric atmosphere with the students and other participants. We're trying to simulate that here."

Rain or shine, production will begin at Noon CT and continue until 9 p.m. each day Friday through Sunday, Vaillancourt said.

Bassmaster Classic fans can look to the sky for the helicopter that will ferry tapes of the competition brought directly from the lake to downtown Birmingham. The chopper will land nearby, and a runner will deliver the tapes to the production crew. Click here for Classic TV times.

SHO AND TELL

Classic fans can check out the new Yamaha four-stroke V MAX SHO this week on Lay Lake. Yamaha will offer free rides in a Skeeter FX Series bass boat powered by the SHO engine Friday-Sunday at Beeswax Creek Park. The rides, which will last 10 to 15 minutes, will begin after the Classic anglers launch their boats, and continue until 2 p.m.

Reservations are not required, but Yamaha is offering priority time slots to those who register on www.DiscoverVMaxSHO.com. Riders can sign up on site in the Yamaha tent.

The Discover V Max SHO program will continue at each of the regular-season Bassmaster Elite Series events.

Yamaha will have information available on the cutting-edge engine at its booth in the Friday-Saturday Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Also, Yamaha pros will be on hand to sign autographs.

Yamaha pros competing in the Classic are Alton Jones, Dean Rojas and Kelly Jordon.

15 YEARS AS VOLUNTEER

James Person of Richlands, N.C., was already famous as a Bassmaster Classic volunteer before he rolled into Birmingham last Tuesday to sign on for the 15th time.

At the 2009 Classic in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., Person was interviewed and photographed by one of the most-read bloggers on Bassmaster.com, Don Barone.

This year, Person was publicly recognized by BASS during an all-volunteer function as the volunteer with the most years of service.

They haven't been 15 consecutive years — his first Classic was in 1994. He said he missed 2002 and 2003, when he stayed home to take care of his ailing wife, Sarah. Now a retired English teacher, she takes to the road with him for the trip to whatever city hosts the Classic.

Before he retired from his job as an auto mechanic, he used a week of vacation to be able to volunteer. He does it simply because he enjoys it. "I'm a fisherman myself. I love fishing," he said.

He remembers well his first Classic experience in 1994, when he was a tow-vehicle driver in Greensboro, N.C. He witnessed the victory of the late Bryan Kerchal as he became the first BASS Federation Nation qualifier to win a Classic.

A longtime member of the Ambassador Anglers, a BASS club in Jacksonville, N.C., Person fully felt what Kerchal's victory meant to Federation anglers everywhere.

This year Person will serve as a marshal (the official observer in a Classic competitor's boat). He has a lot of experience in this job of riding shotgun, including being the marshal for Classic champs Mark Davis, Rick Clunn, Takahiro Omori and Skeet Reese.

His favorite assignment? The final day last year, when Reese won and Person happened to be the champ's marshal.

"I saw him get emotional," Person said. "He was just realizing that he might have won."

CLASSIC MEDIA DAY A BIG DRAW

More than 200 members of the media turned out for Classic Media Day 2010.

Media Day brought the 51 Classic competitors together so reporters for TV, radio, newspaper, magazines and other media outlets could conduct interviews before the 40th Bassmaster Classic begins Friday.

Two major announcements were made by BASS. One was the site and dates for the 2012 Classic: Shreveport-Bossier City, La., on the Red River, Feb. 24-26. The other announcement was the site for the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series postseason: It will return to two Alabama cities, Montgomery and Wetumpka; and to two premier fisheries, Lake Jordan and the Alabama River.

IKE ON FIRST TAKE

Michael Iaconelli, 2010 Bassmaster Classic competitor and Elite pro from Pittsgrove, N.J., made a live appearance Thursday on ESPN's First Take with host Jay Crawford.

Crawford asked Iaconelli about the difference in preparation for competition in his sport vs. other sports in which athletes have to be perhaps a bit more athletic and physically fit.

"You do train in the offseason — you work out, you hit the weights," Iaconelli said. "It's a little bit of physical preparation with tackle, line, rod and baits, but in our sport the big thing is the mental side. This is a thinking sport — so the angler that can outthink the fish the best is going to walk home with half a million dollars this weekend. You go in with a good game plan — and I think I have that this week."

Iaconelli, the 2003 Classic champ and 2006 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, also taped a spot for ESPN2's SportsNation presented by Toyota, with hosts Colin Cowherd and Michele Beadle.

FOR THE KIDS

Tuesday was a day off for most of the Classic field. A dozen of the anglers chose to spend part of the day visiting Children's Hospital of Alabama, located in Birmingham.

They autographed hats, cards and T-shirts for the kids well enough to come to them at a table in a lobby, said Classic qualifier Pam Martin-Wells, the Georgia pro who is the only woman in the competition. Elite pro Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., towed his boat to the hospital for the kids to see.

"Three of us — Alton Jones, Bryan Schmidt and I — went up to the dialysis unit to see kids who couldn't come down," Martin-Wells said. "It was a very touching experience. We all can learn something from those kids. They really touch your heart. I'm soft-hearted, so it was hard for me, but I'm glad I went… It made me sit back and think; it gives you perspective."

The other Classic anglers who participated were Brent Chapman of Lake Quivera, Kan., Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., Byron Velvick of Del Rio, Texas, Cliff Crochet of Pierre Park, La., Randy Phillips of Oxford, Mass., Jody Adkins of North Canton, Ohio, and Don Hogue of Pasco, Wash.

The visit was in conjunction with a fundraising program of the Alabama BASS Federation Nation, Fishin 4 A Cure. Through the program, the state Federation Nation organization donated $42,387 on Tuesday. The money will be used for pediatric cancer research at Children's Hospital.

Alabama's BASS Federation Nation has contributed more than $60,000 to the hospital in the past two years. Fishin 4 A Cure also provides patients and their families outdoor recreational opportunities, including fishing trips.

RED, WHITE AND BLUE LEAD-OFF

Friday's 7 a.m. CT opening-day launch of the 51 Classic boats will be led by a star-spangled Skeeter rig piloted by members of ArmyBassAnglers.

Running at idle speed, the lead boat will escort the line of Classic competitor boats to the mouth of Lay Lake's Beeswax Creek, then peel off and allow the competition to begin. First out will be 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.

ArmyBassAnglers is an organization of active and retired members of the military. All have a love for fishing and a mission, "Support-Defend-Fish." They compete in tournaments to raise money to support programs that help returning and wounded soldiers.

More information is available at www.ArmyBassAnglers.com.

The soldiers in the boat Friday morning will be ABA president Maj. Cody Roberson of Cibolo, Texas, who recently returned from a 13-month tour in Iraq, his second tour after five months in 2003; and retired 1st Sgt. Chuck Guthrie and retired Staff Sgt. Brent Homan, both of Killeen, Texas.

For a complete list of 2010 Classic qualifiers, click here. For more event info, click here.