Next Saturday evening in Birmingham, Ala., 41 bass fishermen will be wheeled into the Birmingham Civic Center and mount the weigh-in stand at the BASS Masters Classic. Throughout the parade, spectators will cheer, flash bulbs will pop and video cameras will whir.
But the focus will be on the last few anglers towed in, sitting atop Ranger bass boats, on which live wells will hold a limit or a few lunkers that will win $100,000 cash -- and the prospect of earning $1 million or more from endorsements or personal appearances over the next year.
Ray Scott and the tournament crew of the Bass Anglers Sportsman's Society (BASS), you see, almost always save the best for last at the Classic. And the Classic is the ultimate tTC tournament for the top-ranked 41 bass fishermen in the country.
Mark Davis of Arkansas won the Classic last year, and afterward was invited to the White House by President Bill Clinton before beginning a schedule of 43 personal appearances from January through March and then a full tournament schedule.
"Being Classic champion opens a completely new dimension to being a bass pro," said Davis. "Past champions tell you what it's going to be like, but I don't believe there is any way to describe it adequately."
Davis will get the chance to defend his title Thursday, Friday and Saturday on Lay Lake on the Coosa River south of Birmingham, fishing against the 35 top-ranked tournament pros and the five best amateurs who qualified in BASS's geographical division.
"I have about the same level of confidence that I had going into the tournament last year," said Davis, who fished the practice days at Lay Lake June 15-20. "All of us would like to say we're just catching the fire out of big bass, but the truth is I'm not."
Davis said a lack of rainfall in Alabama this year has water temperatures up on Lay Lake, in some cases as high as 93 degrees. As a result, he said, bass are suspended over deeper channels of the lake, rather than holding on structure.
"I'm sure there are some fish that are on structure that can be caught," said Davis, the only pro to win the Classic and the BASS Angler of the Year award in the same season. "But the majority are out over deeper water and they're hard to deal with."
Lay Lake is described as a "structure-type" lake with a shallow water fishery, too, where shallow grass beds should turn up some fish.
"The lake probably is a little harder to figure out than High Rock," said Davis, who won the Classic at that lake near Greensboro, N.C., last year.
Davis and Rick Clunn, the only angler to win the Classic four times, believe 42 to 45 total pounds of bass will be needed to win the tournament.
During the practice session in June, Clunn said he caught 7 pounds the first day and 11 pounds the second.
Only artificial lures are allowed in the Classic, and the daily limit is five bass at a minimum length of 12 inches.
Pub Date: 8/04/96