Just as the Bassmaster Classic is the angling event to be in, the Bassmaster Classic is the angling event to be at.
The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and the State of Louisiana will host the 41st Classic, Feb. 18-20 out of New Orleans. The Classic pits 50 of the world's best anglers against each other and the bass of the Louisiana Delta. The qualifiers fought all last year for the right to compete. Likewise, being there to watch is the dream of many fishing fans.
No way will the fans who experience the Classic online be left out. Jerry McKinnis, a B.A.S.S. owner, said it best in his Feb. 7 Bassmaster.com blog: "We intend to 'blow out' the coverage of this year's big event on Bassmaster.com. Our dotcom content gang will be kicking it in like never before and bringing you fresh material throughout each day."
The heart of the www.Bassmaster.com coverage will be live, streaming video of three days of Classic weigh-ins as well as real-time leaderboards. (Expect this to begin about 3:45-4 p.m. CST; exact weigh-in start times will be posted on Bassmaster.com.) But there's no reason to wait until the afternoon to find out what's happening. Blogs and from-the-water B.A.S.S.Trakk reports will begin within minutes of the 7 a.m. CST launch times. Later in the day, the online coverage will expand to include analysis, news, photo galleries and backstage B.A.S.S.Cam video reports.
Access to all online content will be free, and there will be no admission charge for any Bassmaster event in New Orleans.
A list of 41 activities doesn't come close to the total experience. But it is a good start.
Friday, Feb. 18:
1. Go to the Day 1 launch at 7 a.m. CST at Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego, La. (Tip: Parking's tight. Arrive early, carpool, wear walking shoes.) Watch as 50 competitors slip their boats into the water, start their engines and take off in two flights. ArmyBassAnglers will lead off in their flag-wrapped boat.
2. Visit the Yamaha SHO Demo Tour at Bayou Segnette and take a 70+ mph ride in a new Skeeter/Yamaha rig from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., Friday through Sunday.
3. Log on to Bassmaster.com and read the B.A.S.S.Trakk reports and blogs, which will be updated frequently. B.A.S.S.Trakk technology provides boat locations and weight estimates, all relayed from the actual competitors' boats by the official observers. Also, B.A.S.S.Cam video reports will soon get going.
4. Sign up for a demo ride in a Triton-Mercury rig at Bayou Segnette from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
5. Head out to the opening of the three-day 2011 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods. Open from noon to 8 p.m. Friday, the show is in Halls E and F of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (900 Convention Center Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70130).
6. Consider as your first stop the Toyota booth, straight ahead as you walk in through the main show entrance. Toyota always has cool kid activities.
7. Check out the Toyota Hooked Up Stage. This is the spot from which the Bassmaster.com show Hooked Up! will be broadcast frequently throughout the three-day run of the show.
8. Start a list of times the various exhibitors will be holding seminars and pro autograph sessions. Many exhibitors, especially the larger ones, offer these.
9. Go left to the Dick's Sporting Goods booth. Dick's is the presenting sponsor of the entire expo, so say hello and thank you.
10. Check out the huge demo and seminar tank at the Dick's space. Note when seminars are scheduled so you can be sure to be on time.
11. Step one aisle more to the left and check out the B.A.S.S. booth. Enter a contest and shop the official Classic merchandise.
12. Ask when Ray Scott, B.A.S.S. founder, will be there (if he isn't already -- you'll know by the crowd).
13. Join B.A.S.S. so you will receive Bassmaster Magazine every month.
14. Check out the B.A.S.S.Trakk board to see where the Classic anglers are and what weights are being reported by the on-board observers.
15. Bounce over to Berkley. There's always cool stuff to do and brand-new products to see at this booth.
16. Note when to come back for the free Berkley seminars at its big demo tank.
17. At 2 p.m., visit the Yamaha booth to see the unveiling of the mount of the 22-pound, 4.97-ounce largemouth that tied the world record. The catch was made by Manabu Kurita from Japan's Lake Biwa on July 2, 2009, from a Skeeter boat powered by a Yamaha motor. Kurita will be available for photos shoots Friday through Sunday at the booth.
18. Ride a free shuttle from the Morial Convention Center over to the New Orleans Arena, the weigh-in venue. Arena doors open at 3 p.m. Be there early to get in on the giveaways.
19. At 3:30 p.m., on the Costa stage of the New Orleans Arena, enjoy the music of Bassmaster Elite Series pro Casey Ashley.
20. The big weigh-in show will begin soon after Ashley sings. Watch the 50 Classic competitors weigh their catches. The high-energy emcee, Dave Mercer of Facts of Fishing fame, will be making his Bassmaster debut.
21. Hop the free shuttle back to the expo. It's open until 8 p.m., and some of the Classic anglers are bound to be in their sponsors' booths signing autographs. You never know which pro you might get to meet -- maybe even the Day 1 leader!
22. Log on to Bassmaster.com. Relive the day through photo galleries, analysis, video and more.
Saturday, Feb. 19:
23. Repeat Nos. 1-4.
24. Plan to head out to the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo earlier than you did on Friday. The doors open Saturday at 10 a.m. and remain open until 6 p.m.
25. Stop at the Humminbird/Minn Kota booth to feed all your high-tech cravings.
26. Work your way to booth 8114. This is where you can learn about "Vanishing Paradise," the effort to "reconnect the river with the wetlands." The aim is to stem the shrinking of the Louisiana Delta.
27. Backtrack to the Toyota booth to meet the 2011 College Classic competitors. LSU and Alabama will face off on Sunday on Lake Verret (see Sunday, below).
28. Don't miss the Bass Pro Shops booth. There's too much going on there to list.
29. Ever seen a Power-Pole? Now's your chance, at booth 4066.
30. Lowrance Electronics: See what you might be missing under the water.
31. At the Ramada booth, find out where in the world you can stay.
32. Swing by Evan Williams Bourbon. Perhaps you will meet Elite Series pro Jason Quinn. Line up for a (small) taste of the product. Play the games.
33. Hop the free shuttle to the New Orleans Arena. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., check out the Eukanuba Super Dock, a competition in which dogs leap over long water tanks from a platform. (Click here for the full schedule.) Arena doors open at 3 p.m.
34. At 3:30 p.m., focus on the Costa stage for a concert by Randy Montana, a Mercury/Nashville recording artist best-known for his Ain't Much Left Of Lovin' You and 1,000 Faces.
35. Watch 50 anglers weigh their catches. See which anglers made it into the Top 25 for the final competition day.
Sunday, Feb. 20:
36. Repeat Nos. 1-4.
37. The expo is open Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is your last chance to see it all.
38. Take the free shuttle to the New Orleans Arena. Get there early to watch more of Super Dock. Arena doors open at 3 p.m.
39. Watch the second annual Bassmaster College Classic weigh-in. Teams of anglers from LSU and Alabama University will be competing for bragging rights and a return trip to the Classic in 2012.
40. Berkley will again be sponsoring its Cast for Cash contest. During a break in the weigh-in, one randomly selected fan will be given a chance to cast a practice plug into the mouth of a 20-foot-high bass on the arena floor.
41. The final thrill: Watch as the new Classic champ claims the 2011 trophy and the $500,000 top prize.
* To relive the sport's premier event, fans can tune in to ESPN2 on Saturday, Feb. 26, at 10 a.m. and on Sunday, Feb. 27, at 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Also, ESPN Classic will present a five-hour "Classic Marathon" Feb. 25 beginning at 7 p.m. All TV air times are Eastern.