I’m going a little stir crazy. Let’s call it cabin fever. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been able to get on the water. More than a month in fact. With a baby on the way and ice on the water, my options are limited. I don’t want to be too far away in case “the call” comes.
To get my fishing fix, I’ve been churning out jigs when I haven’t been shoveling out the driveway. But even that is starting to lose its luster. Don’t get me wrong, I love building them but as with anything one creates you want to see your creation in action not just sitting on a shelf or in a box.
This year’s Classic is only two weeks away. It will be held March 4-6 on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees near Tulsa, Okla. And organizers are hoping for a giant turnout.
The 2013 event held there pulled in 106,850 fans, the second most ever after 2009 Classic held in Shreveport, La. which drew 137,000 people. The folks in Tulsa believe they would have set the record in 2013 had it not been for a major winter storm.
“A lot of people who would have been able to enjoy Tulsa otherwise didn’t get to, I mean a lot of people,” said Ray Hoyt, president of VisitTulsa and the Tulsa Sports Commission told B.A.S.S. “We will beat 106,000 certainly this time and we want to break that attendance record absolutely.”
Next month’s event is expected create a $29 million economic impact for Tulsa.
And the folks in Tulsa haven’t been idle since 2013. They have done a complete renovation of the launch area at Wolf Creek Park, doubling its size. The parking area was raised to provide a better launch area for anglers and was expanded to cover more than three acres.
“If you build it, they will come — and they certainly did,” said Michael Mulone, director of event and tourism partnerships at B.A.S.S. “Wolf Creek was a gorgeous facility, and they’ve made it even better.”
I’m great at predictions. Last season I thought it would take 45 – 50 lbs. to win the HUK Performance Fishing Bassmaster Elite at Chesapeake Bay and then watched Aaron Martens haul in more than 70 lbs. to go wire-to-wire and win the tournament. But if you held my feet to the fire, I’d keep an eye on four guys (and I swear I didn’t look at this poll before making these picks).
First and most obvious is Kevin VanDam. The guy is a perennial favorite and looking for serious redemption after missing last year’s Classic. VanDam finished 8th on Grand Lake in 2013.
Edwin Evers is going to be a hometown favorite. He’s from Talala, Okla. and is one of the best Elite anglers yet to win a Classic. He finished 25th in the 2013 Classic.
Jason Christie is another hometown favorite. The Park Hill native competed in the 2013 Classic as a rookie and finished 5th. He admitted the atmosphere was more than he had expected.
“You can never say who’s going to win,” Christie said. “But I know Edwin has worked hard, and I think he’s going to be up there.”
Then there is Aaron Martens. He’s won three AOY titles, including last year when he absolutely rolled and it’s hard to see him falling off the pace at the start of this year. Like Evers, he’s never won a Classic, finishing in the runner-up spot four times.
The season’s almost upon us both for the pros and for us amateurs who don’t partake in ice fishing. I can’t wait for it to get started and will be watching the Classic next month. Well, I will be as long as my wife allows me to stream it in the delivery room…
* Jeff Herman is the assistant news director at WMAR | ABC2. His main passion while not at work is fishing. This column is part of a series of columns he writes for our outdoors page. You can read more of his columns here.