The 2021 Bassmaster Classic

One of the leading expert coaches for writers would preach, “Always report on the weather.” This thought kept running through my mind as we approached Ft. Worth, Texas where 100-degree days were normal.

This Bassmaster Classic, 50 years following the first one, was very special, following the time-out that Covid caused for so many things. Media day, where members of the press get to meet with the 54 qualifying anglers in their boats, was held indoors in a comfortable setting. We were happy to see friends who were veterans of tournaments and meet newer competitors.

We have known John Cox since he fished the FLW circuit, winning their championship where his victory party sure was fun. He’s known by many as “The Tin Man” since he fishes in aluminum bass boats that can take him into shallow waters where other contestants can’t go. A Tin Man first introduced in 1900 in the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, made from various metal pieces including tin cans, hangs in a special place in his home. He’s by far the hardest-working bass tournament angler as he competes in all three major circuits.

Next, we talked with Steve Kennedy, whom we have known for many years. I’m always impressed by this formally trained mechanical engineer. The boats he fishes in are distinctive with colors and patterns on the boat’s exterior that naturally camouflage his presence to aid in his ability to blend with the natural environment. The boat’s interior also distinctly has colors and textures that don’t reflect heat or light, making it very comfortable and productive.

We always get to talking about his secret stash of old, effective lures, some of which are golden oldies sought by collectors. Once he excitedly dragged out a bunch of them out on the boat deck, telling how he fished them. Suddenly, we became aware of a group of his competitors who had gathered around us, and he hurriedly/sheepishly put them back in hiding.

We had good visits, gathering thoughts on what the tournament techniques could be since the lake was heavily flooded with a lot of rain. Kennedy was very confident that this would be a great event for him, and on the first day he smoked them and was leading the weigh in with 23 pounds.

The morning of Day 2 surprised us with unpredicted cold thunderstorms, lightning and changing high winds that delayed the start for two hours. This had been a key time for Kennedy due to the shad spawn, which was the foundation of his success. The second day’s fishing was totally changed by the weather. Many had most of their weight in the first two hours of day one.

The shortened second day was critical, as only the top 25 would fish on the final third day. Also, the field was inverted; the first angler out was now the last to take off. Plus, the severe front had chilled the air, and wind direction was rapidly changing.

Day one leader Steve Kennedy was hurt by the delay as much as anyone, with no shad spawning then. He scrambled, trying various patterns from flippin’ in a marina to trying isolated cover. Last year’s Classic winner Hank Cherry vaulted to the lead early that day with his first catch being a 6-pounder, working riprap banks. He remained in the lead after the weigh-in. Kennedy was on to 3rd with 4 bass weighing 9 pounds 11 ounces.

On the final day, the field was cut to the top 25 anglers. Leader Hank Cherry slammed the door with his final five-bass limit.

The winner won $300,000 plus $7,500 bonus from Toyota. Matt Arie in 2nd won $50,000; 3rd paid Chris Jones $40,000; in 4th, Justin Kerr received $30,000; 5th paid Brock Mosley $25,000; and the rest of the 54 competitors got at least $10,000. After starting the day in third place, Kennedy, fishing his 10th Bassmaster Classic, finished 13th and won $15,000.

Attendance at the expo was fantastic, as were the many exhibits in several buildings with plenty of room to get around. And it was great to see so many at the weigh-ins with the stadium full of fans on the final day.

It was quite a show. Even if you couldn’t attend in person, you could have a front row seat on the internet at bassmaster.com. In fact, you could see more this way than if you were there!