Meeting of the Minds

CELEBRATION, Fla. — It seemed to be just another mandatory pre-tournament angler meeting even though it preceded perhaps the most anticipated CITGO Bassmaster Classic ever. The chairs in the room were packed with the stars of the sport and a few hopefuls looking to gain star power. They were all attentive and surprisingly laid back and jovial.

Trip Weldon, BASS tournament director, kick-started the meeting with the all-too-familiar rules and regulations. No surprises for the anglers here, but when asked if there were any specific rules the BASS committee would be focusing on — given the fishery and environment of the event — the director provided a quick response.

"The biggest factor in the tournament this week will be sight-fishing," Weldon stated and went on to elaborate on the technique and how it applies to a consequential rule.

"When you are sight-fishing, you might see a fish on the bed and a lot of times that fish won't move. So you can sit there and cast and cast and cast until you make that fish bite. If you do provoke the fish to take a bite, it must be hooked inside the mouth and verified by the angler's observer to be counted as a legal fish."

In other words, no foul hooking, a definite possibility when sight-fishing.

Outside of the normalcy of a standard Bassmaster event, the anglers of the Classic were made aware of a couple of additional highlights for this event.

Live on-the-water chat

For instance, in this event they will have their very own personal weathermen. Two meteorologists from Thorguard will provide weather patterns, forecasts, temperatures and more for every angler each morning of the tournament.

And to top it off, the 36th CITGO Bassmaster Classic is also supporting the role of ESPN Mobile so fans can get inside the action from their own cell phone. In the heat of battle, fans have the opportunity to ask questions of the anglers while they are fishing.

Every day of the tournament, ten anglers will carry an ESPN Mobile phone on their boat where a maximum of two incoming calls with fishing-specific questions will come in from the fans on the other end.

"Nascar can bring the driver right into your living room during the event with cameras in the cars," Weldon said. "In the same way, we want the audience to be in tune with the anglers while they are out on the water."

When Janet Bell, manager of Angler Relations, asked for volunteers to participate in the program, hands immediately shot up all over the room. There were no prizes or cash offered to these competitors, only the satisfaction of giving the fans what they desire to know.

"They are ready to go fishing, it's just like a football game," exclaimed Weldon. "They've had their week of practice, they're in the locker room, they're dressed and now they're just ready to hit the field and play ball. These guys are athletes and they are ready for game time."