In my last column I talked about the magnitude of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro and what qualifying and winning can mean to an angler’s career. A Classic win is life-changing, career-making and definitely all it’s cracked up to be.
This time, I want to talk about the Classic as a business event, and for that we really need to divide it into two parts – the tournament and the Bassmaster Classic Expo.
Everybody knows about the tournament – the biggest and most important event in our sport. But not everyone thinks about the business implications of the Classic. There’s a lot more riding on the event than just the fates of 55 anglers. There are also scores of companies, sponsors and supporters that are impacted by the outcome.
Sponsoring an angler in the Classic gives a manufacturer a very valuable platform from which to work. It helps with exposure, with branding and with product awareness. The smart companies get ahead of the curve and start promoting their pro staffers and products just as soon as they qualify.
What’s even more valuable, of course, is sponsoring an angler who wins the championship. That’s a spotlight that can’t be duplicated in any other way. Just watch for all of the advertisements that come out after this year’s winner is crowned. You’ll see promotions for his winning lure, rod, reel, line, boat, motor, electronics and more. It’s a tremendous driver in our sport, and the sponsors behind a Classic qualifier want him to win almost as much as he does.
Of course wanting a pro staff angler to win is one thing. Helping him to do it is another. Every year, the anglers who qualify for the Classic work with their sponsors to create new products they believe will help them win. Sometimes it’s relatively subtle – like a new bait color. Other times, it’s a major production – like an entirely new bait, rod or other tool that’s tailored to the water and conditions the Classic anglers will be facing. When it comes to the Classic and a chance to win, everyone’s ready to go the extra mile.
The Bassmaster Classic Expo has become sort of a “pre-ICAST” event for the bass fishing industry. ICAST is the fishing industry’s big trade show. It’s open only to industry insiders – manufacturers, retailers and the media – and it takes place in July each year. The Classic Expo differs in that it’s open to the public – a consumer show – and it’s very bass-centric.
A lot of the products that manufacturers introduce at ICAST are finally available at the Classic Expo, and you can actually see and buy them there. Also, because the Expo is such a great launching pad for all things bass-related, many manufacturers wait until the Classic to introduce new products.
That’s true for several of my sponsors. Strike King has a new Deep Diving KVD Jerkbait that could play an important role in this year’s championship. Nitro is introducing the new 2017 Nitro Z19 bass boat. They even made a Mission: Impossible-style video that features me and Mark Zona.
But it’s not just my sponsors that are launching new products at the Classic and at the Expo. You can see new baits from Berkley and Rapala and many other manufacturers, too, as well as new rods, reels, lines, electronics, tackle boxes, boats, motors and more. If it’s a new bass fishing product, you can bet it’ll be at the Expo.
And speaking of the Expo, I’ll have a booth there this year (#485), and I hope you’ll stop by to check it out. Last year, I didn’t qualify for the Classic. It was the first one I missed after 24 in a row, but I managed to learn a lot by working as a television analyst and by spending time in my sponsors’ booths at the Expo. It gave me a firsthand look at the power and influence of the tournament and the outdoors show.
My wife, Sherry, had a great idea for fan interaction last year that turned out to be a lot of fun. I didn’t think we could do anything like it this year since I’m fishing, but we came up with something that we’re really excited about. I think you’re going to love – if you’re in Tulsa for the show.
We’re partnering with some of my sponsors to create “KVD’s Fan to Fame Challenge,” a great way for you to see a lot of cool products, get a good overview of the expo and have a chance to win lots of great prizes.
It works like this: You start by registering at the KVD booth (#485). That’s where you’ll pick up a KVD #PowerAttitude lanyard and access pass to my sponsors’ booths. Each lanyard has an exclusive code. For every one of my participating sponsors that you check-in with (see the brand ambassador dressed in the KVD jersey), you’re eligible to win a daily prize – and every sponsor is giving away at least one prize all three days of the expo.
If you check-in with all 10 of my sponsors, you’re entered to win the Grand Prize – more than $7,000 in sponsor prizes plus VIP seating for the final weigh-in and a private backstage Classic experience. I’ll personally take you behind the scenes and show you how the sport’s biggest event comes together.
And if I make the Super Six on Sunday – and I’m planning to! – you’ll shadow me right up until I walk on stage to weigh in. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and something you can’t put a price tag on.
And remember, it’s all about the attitude!