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Birmingham Bassmasters trip is ‘Classic’ for local anglers

Birmingham Bassmasters trip is ‘Classic’ for local anglers

Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010 9:30 am
By: Brent Callicott

Birmingham Bassmasters trip is ‘Classic’ for local anglers | Birmingham Bassmasters trip is ‘Classic’ for local anglers

Lanny Callicott, Ray Scott and Brent Callicott
Attending the 40th annual Bassmasters Classic was a dream come true and one for the family memory book.
But first, several things to cover around these parts.
The crappie fishing season is finally here. I have several reports from folks of the crappie biting well on Reelfoot Lake in the past two weeks.
Last week, my friend Jeff Jackson of Union City had two really good days of crappie fishing at Reelfoot Lake.
Jeff also indicated to me that on both days, he had to break up to a half-inch of ice to get across the lake to his best fishing place.
Once the sun came up and temperatures went up, the ice melted.
On Thursday, Jeff and Scott Fisher went out on the lower end of Reelfoot Lake (Lower Blue Basin Area), catching 41 crappie in water that was around 15-feet deep.
Over half of their fish were at least one-pound.
They used rosy red minnows on double hook rigs. By 1:30 that afternoon, the ice had all melted and you could fish wherever you wanted.
Jeff indicated that he counted 97 boats within sight of his spot.
On Friday, Jeff decided it would be a great opportunity to carry his dad,  Wesley Jackson also of Union City. Mr. Jackson indicated to Jeff that he had never been winter fishing on Reelfoot Lake.
Well, he has now and may want to go back.
Jeff said he and his dad got on Reelfoot around 8:45 last Friday morning and had to break ice most of the way across.
On Friday, Jeff said he and his dad counted 79 boats at around noon in the area they were fishing. Good reason to believe that the crappie bite was once on again.
They brought home 51 crappie that day with Mr. Wesley catching the largest crappie of the day — tipped the scales at two pounds.  Now, folks, that is what you call catching crappie.
Jeff said, “Dad told me over and over all day how much fun he was having.”
Jeff also went on to say, “It really was a fun time and we are both realizing the importance of spending time together while time allows.”
This was a trip that neither will ever forget and that’s what life is all about.
Speaking of spending time together with friends and family, just last week, my dad and I had the time of our lives.
My dad (Lanny) and I attended the 40th annual Bassmasters Classic that was held on Lay Lake near Birmingham, Ala.
We went to cover this event on the media side and it was a blast and a trip to remember.
Dad and I departed Union City last Thursday morning  for the start of the BASS/ESPN media day.
We were able to sit down, do one-on-one interviews with the 51 qualified professional anglers of this so called “Super Bowl” of bass fishing tournaments.
The first person we shook hands with when we walked into the door was the eventual winner himself, Kevin Van Dam.
Kevin then asked me “What are you doing here?”
I responded that I was there to cover this event as a member of the media. Kevin is a member of the Strike King national pro staff and I am a member of the regional pro staff at Strike King myself.
After doing multiple interviews with the likes of Mark Menendez, Alton Jones, Greg Hackney, Randy Howell, Russ Lane and Steve Kennedy — all Elite Series professional bass fishermen — there was a very nice dinner prepared for us to enjoy.
Later that night, we attended a media gathering where we met others of importance in the bass fishing industry.
The main guy was Ray Scott, founder of B.A.S.S and the person responsible for getting competitive bass fishing going.
The tournament itself was a three-day event – starting on Friday and ending on Sunday.
Along with the tournament came a large bass fishing expos. Over 180 vendors packed the 250,000 square foot Birmingham-Jefferson Co-nvention Center.
Being able to go behind the scenes every day, seeing the ESPN Outdoors crew at its best, meeting lots of folks we have read about and seen in the magazines and on TV was special to say the least.
Each afternoon around 3, dad and I would head to the Birmingham-Jefferson Arena for the weigh-ins, which would take in average up to 3-31⁄2 hours to complete.
Everything we did was by foot and we never had to move our SUV the entire time we were there.
We were able to meet and hang around with the biggest names in the outdoors and the bass fishing industry — Forrest Woods, Earl Bentz, Hank Parker, Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston, Ray Scott, Claude “Fish” Fishburne, Wade Bourne, Don Borone, Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona included — along with hundreds of others. I was also able to finally meet folks that I have been in contact with for many years either via e-mail or by phone and shake their hand.
The first two days of the weigh-in show, we were treated to concerts by Darryl Worley — a Savannah native — and Chris Young, both well-known country music artists.
There were two other highlights of the trip, one being that my soon-to-be 90-year-old grandmother, Zelma Denton, was surprised being able to talk with one of the former “The Bachelor” guys, which now is a BASS Elite Series Bass Professional, Byron Velvick from Del Rio Texas.
I asked if he would talk to my grandmother via cell phone and he said he would.
My grandmother, being a fan of “The Bachelor” was thrilled to say the least.  I even have a picture I took of him while he was talking with her.
On Saturday afternoon during the weigh-in, my friend and Elite Bass Touring pro Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky, received a big surprise from his family and friends that he will never forget, a new yellow lab puppy.
His wife, Donna, notified me about three weeks ago to let dad and I in on the surprise.
Last fall, Mark’s long-time fishing partner, Barkley (a yellow Labrador Retriever) died suddenly while Mark was down at Reelfoot Lake participating in a Media Conference hosted by Strike King Lure Company at the Blue Bank Resort. 
Things have been somewhat different with Mark without having Barkley around.
His wife Donna had noticed this and decided to get Mark another lab.
And what better place to present his new puppy than at the BassMasters Classic.
With the spotlights and live cameras on Mark, his two children — Max and Caroline — walked up the steps along with Donna and a couple other friends to present the new puppy
What followed was a standing ovation took place with tears rolling down most everyone’s faces, including my own.
Afterwards, many expressed how that had made the Classic for them to see the outpouring of love from all the folks there, the other anglers included.
As the final day rolled around, it was going to be a dog fight to the end.
Three anglers were separated by only three ounces with $500,000 hanging in the balance.
When all was said and done, Kevin Van Dam walked away with his third BassMasters classic title.
To date, Van Dam has won over $4.1 million fishing, making quite a living while chasing large bass. Better yet, he’s a class act and a great representative for the sport.
Though Van Dam’s hefty monetary prize was surely satisfying, I walked away with something better — the chance to attend this event and to do so with my dad.
The memories we made in those four days in Birmingham will never be forgotten.
So dad, to you, thanks for sharing the largest event in the bass fishing profession with me.
It was our first time to be there, but hopefully not our last.
In other local fishing notes, Johnny Garrett and his staff at Union City Marine will be hosting a representative from Humminbird Electronics to conduct a seminar on their products on March 5.
This seminar is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the boat shop.
It is free and open to the public.
Union City Marine is located at 206 North Second St. in Union City.
For more information, call 885-2903,
The Ultimate Bass Fishing Challenge Bass Tournament Circuit has a five-tournament circuit at Reelfoot Lake this year. 
The first of the five events will be on March 6 out of the Kirby Pocket State Park ramp.
Entry fee is $120 per boat with the big bass pot and classic fund included.
Take-off will be at safe light or around 6:15 in the morning.
The weigh-in will start at 3 in the afternoon.
Payouts will be 75 percent minimum of all paid entries.
Registration will be starting at 4:30 the morning of the tournament at Kirby Pocket.
For more information, e-mail Randy Sutton at 
Also on March 27, the University of Tennessee at Martin Collegiate Bass Anglers Team will be hosting their 2nd Annual UTM Collegiate Bass Anglers Team Open Bass Tournament on Kentucky Lake out of the Paris Landing State Park Marina.
Cost is $100 per boat with the “Big Bass Pot” an extra $10.
For more information on this tournament, contact Chris Collier at (931) 797-5079 or John Overly at (731) 881-7268.
Also, don’t forget the National Weather Service will be hosting a weather spotting course on March 24 at the Obion County Public Library in Union City.
You can contact the people at the library for more information.
That’s all for this week’s report.
’til next week…
Catch ya on
the water folks
Brent Callicott
 Published in The Messenger 2.26.10

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