50th Anniversary Celebration at 2018 Classic on Hartwell

It’s been called the “Test of the Best” bass anglers, the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing” and the “World Championship of Fishing.” By any name, the Bassmaster Classic became the salvation of Ray Scott’s Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) when the tournament was launched 47 years ago.

Now known as the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, the annual bass tournament began modestly with just 24 competitors in October 1971. Arkansas angler Bobby Murray won the inaugural Classic, held on Lake Mead, Nevada.

Scott recalls that the lakeside weigh-ins attracted only a handful of spectators. More important than crowds, however, were the two-dozen outdoor writers who attended at Scott’s invitation. Their articles in major publications across the United States lent legitimacy to the fledgling, mainly southern, sport of tournament bass fishing.

Founded 50 years ago, B.A.S.S. struggled for attention in the beginning. The B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail — the first national fishing circuit — was popular among bass anglers but lacked broader exposure until Scott and then-Bassmaster Magazine editor Bob Cobb concocted the season-ending championship.

“It was the turning point,” said former tournament director Harold Sharp, now deceased. “It’s become the thing everybody points to. It’s as high as an angler can go.” B.A.S.S. membership grew rapidly after that first Classic, and the event itself quickly became the most important event in sportfishing. Many industry insiders consider the birth of B.A.S.S. and its tournament circuits to mark the beginning of the modern era of bass fishing and the spark that ignited an economic boom in sportfishing.

When the 48th Classic takes place March 16-18 on Lake Hartwell at Anderson, S.C., it will be unrecognizable compared to its meager beginnings. From 24 outdoor writers who were paired with the pros in 1971, the Classic press corps has grown to more than 200 credentialed media representatives from throughout the United States, as well as Canada, Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The prize for claiming the first Classic crown was $10,000, winner take all. The event today pays out $1 million to the 52 qualifiers, including $300,000 to the champion.

Weigh-ins for the first 10 Bassmaster Classics were held at lakeside, but as crowds grew, Scott decided to move weigh-ins indoors, beginning in his hometown of Montgomery, Ala., in 1981. A boat and tackle show was added that year.

“The Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods has become a highlight of Classic Week for thousands of fans,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin, who noted that the combined attendance at Classic venues has averaged more than 100,000 for the past six years.

“It has become the biggest and most important consumer tackle show in the nation,” Akin added, “and numerous manufacturers have chosen the Outdoors Expo to debut new lures, rods, reels, boats and motors for the coming season.”

The Expo will be held March 16-18 and cover 250,000 square feet of floor space in the TD Convention Center in Greenville, S.C. Weigh-ins will be in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in downtown Greenville those days. Attendance at weigh-ins in 2015, the last time the Classic was held in Greenville and Anderson, exceeded 10,000 on weekend afternoons.

Early morning takeoffs, when the pro anglers head out for a day of fishing, have become popular activities for fans, as well. More than 2,000 braved the 10-degree temperature to witness the opening takeoff at Green Pond Landing at Anderson on Hartwell in February 2015.

One of the biggest developments in the evolution of the Classic has been its impact on local economies. Las Vegas barely noticed that 60 or so people were in town for a three-day tournament in 1971. In Greenville next month, more than 4,000 room nights have already been booked just for anglers, expo exhibitors, B.A.S.S. staff and others associated with the event.

Fans traveling from throughout the nation will bring that total to 11,000 room nights, according to Michael Mulone, director of Event and Tourism Partnerships for B.A.S.S. Altogether, Mulone said, economic impact for the Greenville/Anderson area is expected to exceed $24 million.

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Year-end rainfall wrap-up

As 2017 came to a close, the Savannah River Basin seemed much like folks looking back at the year that was: It definitely has been worse, but still could have been better.

Building off a drought that started in January 2016 (which left the basin severely parched – Hartwell’s rain deficit was more than 19 inches below its 58-inch average), 2017 appeared to be a step in the right direction.

Each of the sub-basins recorded above average rainfall for six scattered months; and while Hartwell finished 2.2 inches below average, Russell and Thurmond were 2.36 and 2.45 inches above their annual averages, respectively.

I want to draw attention to this fact because context is important. Last week an anonymous user posted this in the “Rants & Raves” section of the Augusta Chronicle (Jan. 3):
While technically above average (Thurmond received 48.70 inches compared to its 46.25 annual average), it was hardly enough to mitigate the negative effects created by 2016’s nearly 15-inch deficit.

In a similar fashion (as shown in the graphic at the top of the page), October’s rainfall far exceeded the average (Hartwell: 7.68 inches versus a 4.04-inch average; Russell: 5.7 vs. 3.25-inch average; and Thurmond, slightly less pronounced at 3.98 vs. a 3.02-inch average), only to be outdone by November and December’s deficits.

Even with those huge October gains, Hartwell was still at 83% of its three-month average for October through December, while Russell and Thurmond sat at 87% and 81%, respectively.

As we have mentioned before, in order for the basin to fully recover from the drought, we need sustained, above average rainfall.

We also routinely answer questions about why other lakes in the region are at full pool while Hartwell and Thurmond languish 5-6 feet below winter guide curve.

The answer is as simple as it is complex.

In addition to still being in recovery mode from the drought, our reservoirs serve several different (and sometimes competing) functions outside of merely generating hydropower, which include flood storage, providing commercial and municipal water, recreation and environmental purposes.

We treat the Savannah River Basin as a system, not just individual reservoirs.

Looking ahead to 2018, meteorologists at the Southeast River Forecast Center called for a warmer than average, drier than average winter in their Dec. 13 Water Resource Outlook.

Put in perspective, they stressed an “average level of certainty” relating to this prediction and expect to update these forecasts in the coming weeks.

While no one knows what 2018 will bring, we’ll be the first ones cheering when sustained, above average rainfall finally comes.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

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Sadlers Creek Deer Dip

What are you doing on January 1st? Come out and take a “dip,” a “Deer Dip”! In the grand tradition of the famed “Polar Bear Plunges”, join in the annual “Deer Dip” on New Year’s Day and be one of hardy-souled “Dippers” at Saddlers Creek State Park. And start your year off with a splash! Due to cold temperatures and water, this event will be physically challenging and potentially dangerous. Participants under 18 must be with a parent.

DETAILS

January 1, 2018, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

MEETING PLACE

Meet at the Pavilion.

WHAT TO BRING

Warm clothes to change into, towels, old sneakers or swim shoes, and a blanket. Think safety and comfort – bring whatever else you think will get you warm again.

EVENT HOURS

1pm – 2pm

PRICE

Bring a non-perishable food item for the food bank.                                                          

    Sadlers Creek

940 Sadlers Creek Rd,

Anderson, SC 29626

 

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