The 2020 Bassmaster Classic is rapidly approaching, here is everything you need to know.
This year's tournament will mark the 50th anniversary of this storied and iconic event. This year, the action returns to northern Alabama March 6-8.
Here is our Bassmaster Classic preview on everything you need to know in the lead-up to the big event.
Where is the Classic this year?
This year will mark the third time the Classic has been hosted on Alabama's Lake Guntersville. Birmingham will host most of the Classic festivities, including The Classic Outdoors Expo at the Jefferson Convention Complex in the downtown area. This is also where the excitement of daily weigh-ins will go down.
Lake Guntersville is a massive man-made reservoir with a surface area of nearly 70,000 acres, making it the largest lake in the Yellowhammer State. It's also loaded with huge largemouth bass, as it frequently produces fish in the range of 7-8 pounds.
This lake also has the potential for double-digit fish. The lake record is 14 pounds, 8 ounces, and fish as large as 13 pounds have been caught as recently as last year.
On the line at Lake Guntersville is the legendary title of "Classic Champion" and a $300,000 pot to the winner.
How can I watch?
If you can't make the trip to Birmingham to watch in person, Bassmaster.com announced they will again be live-streaming the action on their website. You will also have the option of watching through ESPN3 or the ESPN app.
In addition to those options, the Pursuit Channel and ESPN2 will also be airing coverage after the event so you can catch some of the action from your favorite pro's bass boat.
Another option is to check out Bassmater's Twitter account or their BassTrakk leaderboard, which will be giving updates. This is a good way to go if you're stuck at work and just want to check in periodically to see how your favorite pro is doing.
Favorites to win
The odds haven't always favored the locals in the Classic. Last year Ott Defoe, one of our picked favorites, and a Knoxville native, used that hometown advantage to achieve his dream locally on the Tennessee River. His final day limit of 18 pounds, 14 ounces was enough to edge him past Jordan Lee, who was seeking his third Classic title in a row.
However, this year's 53-bass angler field has been set, and it doesn't include Defoe, Lee or several other heavy hitters like Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli, Skeet Reece and more. They won't be in the Classic because they're fishing either the Major League Fishing (MLF) or Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) tours.
We won't get into the controversies between these three tours, but it does leave a field with names you might not be as familiar with for the 2020 Classic. Like last year, however, we're going to pick local boys as our top contenders. There are only three Alabama anglers in the whole field.
As our favorite, we like Scott Canterbury. And it's not just because he lives only about 60 miles from Lake Guntersville and is no doubt familiar with the lake. It's also because he was the 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. In his first season on the tour! We imagine he's still riding a high of having achieved such an accomplishment. He also had six Top 10 finishes and 12 finishes in the Top 20 in 2019, establishing himself as an angler to watch. That wave of momentum, coupled with fishing home turf is a hard thing to argue against.
But he's not the only angler with a homefield advantage. Don't overlook Clent Davis of Montevallo, Alabama, who finished ranked 25th for Angler of the Year last year and is also very familiar with Guntersville.
Matt Herren, 57, may be one of the older guys on the Bassmaster Elite Series, but he also finished 19th in the Angler of the Year rankings in 2019. This is his eighth Classic appearance, so he's been here before and knows what's at stake. He also lives closer to Guntersville than any other angler in the field.
Other names to watch
Cold start to the morning but it turned into a beautiful day on lake Guntersville. Managed to catch a few fish too! pic.twitter.com/3jnLzGeP
— Brandon Lester (@BlesterFishing) January 5, 2013
While we're favoriting locals again, we can't deny there are some other names to watch in this tournament.
Stetson Blaylock and Cory Johnston, who tied for second place in the Angler of the Year standings last year after coming up just eight points shy of tying Canterbury, would certainly cherish a Classic win.
We also like Brandon Lester and Seth Feider as anglers to possibly make a run at it.
Feider had three wins and two runner-up finishes in 2019. He also finished in the Top 10 a whopping 13 times, and this will be his third Classic appearance.
Lester, meanwhile, consistently finishes in the Top 10 or 20. He finished sixth in the Angler of the Year rankings last year.
And finally, Jamie Hartman won an Elite Series tournament at Guntersville in 2019. Granted, that tournament was in June instead of March, but Hartman's winning weight was 79 pounds, 10 ounces. That weight would shatter KVD's record Classic weight of 69 pounds, 11 ounces!
How they'll win
In early March, the bass are likely to be in a pre-spawn mode. Normally this would mean targeting deeper depths where the fish are staging before they start building their beds. However, Lake Guntersville's average depth is only around 15 feet. That means the bass will likely be found much shallower than normal.
The approach of many anglers is likely going to be weather dependent. Remember that largemouths hit that pre-spawn mode when the water temperature hits 48-55 degrees. Mother nature could help with some warmer weather to get the fish into a spawn mode. In fact, some anglers are even anticipating the possibility of it.
In a recent article on Bassmaster.com, Brandon Lester noted: "You have the pre-spawn leading into the spawn, and there could even be a few fish spawning during that tournament. I've seen it happen on Guntersville that early before. It all depends on what kind of weather we have," Lester told the site.
If that's true and the weather is colder, we expect most anglers will be fishing pre-spawn fish with crankbaits resembling shad or jigs. But if it's warmer, you might see some soft plastics and topwaters come into play.
One thing is for sure, with spawn or pre-spawn fish, the females will likely be heavy with eggs. That could lead to some huge weights being tacked up on the leaderboard.
Regardless of the approach they take, we here at Wide Open Spaces wish all the pros the best of luck in the biggest tournament of the year!