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Rogers: Bassmaster Classic is the Super Bowl of competitive fishing

Every sport has its pinnacle event. An event that drives an industry and fuels passion for the sport at the grassroots level. Football has the Super Bowl. Baseball has the World Series. Many others have the Olympics.

For those who like to fish for bass, we have the Classic.

The full name is the Bassmaster Classic. We are only a week away for the event that will set the course for so much in the fishing industry.

This year marks the 44th time the world’s best bass anglers take the water.

This year, the Classic will be on Lake Guntersville in Northeast Alabama.

Guntersville has been host to many tournaments over the years.

A lot of these are small club events, but it also has hosted its share of the biggest professional events.

Guntersville is a 69,000-acre impoundment of the Tennessee River. It is well-known throughout the southeast as a top-notch fishery.

For those who follow bass fishing, it also carries a national reputation.

This year’s event is the second time in as many years when a traditional warm-weather sport is going to be in notorious winter weather conditions. The area around Guntersville currently is covered in snow.

Last year, the Classic took place on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Oklahoma.

The weather was frigid and tested the mental ability of the anglers to focus and catch fish.

This is hard to do. I have fished many events in brutally cold weather; events that saw me kicking snow off the deck of my boat. Events that saw my reels freeze solid, and the only way to unfreeze them would be to dip them in the warmer water.

Let me tell you, it is extremely hard to stay focused in those types of conditions.

The angler that can, is likely the angler that will win.

This year, the field has 55 anglers. These anglers are vying against the best. They are trying to earn a niche in a super-competitive industry that constantly sees young talent working their way to the top.

This is one sport, though, where youth is not always king.

Anglers that have spent years fighting the bass wars can rely on a plethora of past experiences to pull from.

For many, fishing the classic is something they expect to accomplish. They qualify almost every year and are used to the big stage.

I couldn’t imagine being a first-time angler and looking across seats at the pre-tournament meeting and seeing legends sitting there. Odds are experience will win.

You may be wondering, why do I write about this event each year? That would be like asking a football columnist if they were going to write about the Super Bowl.

This singular event can impact the marketplace like no other.

This one event can drive lure manufacturers to change, imitate and alter their product line-up. This one event created an industry that so many of us now enjoy.

This event is the one that has inspired so many colleges and high schools to start fishing teams of their own. I see more young kids interested in fishing than I have before. Just like in any professional sport, very few of them will actually aspire to be the best and claim the rank of the best bass fisherman in the world. Unlike in other sports, though, they all have a shot. The dream can be a reality. The window of opportunity is not limited to the mid-twenties. They don’t have to be 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds. Anyone can participate. Anyone can get better.

I haven’t fished competitively for a few years now. Someday? Maybe, who knows? It is nice to think that it is always a possibility to match wits with the best and climb to the ranks of a Bassmaster Classic competitor. Until then, I will enjoy watching the event on TV.

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