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The Bassmaster Classic is a competition in professional bass fishing. It was first held in 1971 on Lake Mead, Nevada. Originally it was a fall event (1971-1983), but it switched to the summer in 1984 and then to the late winter in 2006. The winner of the tournament is widely considered to be the world champion of bass fishing, as is stated on the winner's trophy.
The event has turned into a three-day spectacle, complete with a theatrical presentation of the weigh-ins and hours of television coverage. ESPN purchased Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS), which organizes the event, and increased coverage of the event and the Classic's profile.
First-place money has grown from $10,000 in 1971 to $500,000 in 2006.
The field has ranged from 24 to 61 players. In 2011, the field was 50 anglers. The 2009 competition included women for the first time. However, neither of the two women qualified within the top 20 and 2010 was the last year for women to be given a classic spot. As in previous years, they have to earn a spot in the opens.
The Bassmaster Classic takes place over three days. All fish are caught under catch-and-release rules, must measure at least 12 inches, and must be alive at the time they are presented for weigh-in or a penalty will be assessed. There is a cut after the second day, in which only the 25 top anglers, based on total weight, advance to the third day. The highest total weight after three days wins the competition.
Contestants can only fish in specified areas at the competition venue. This is usually a lake, but the 2005 competition was held at Three Rivers (Allegheny River and Monongahela River which forms the Ohio River) in Pittsburgh, with some competitors using tributaries such as the Beaver River and Youghiogheny River dozens of miles from the confluence. In 2009 and 2012 the Classic used a 100 mile stretch of the Red River in Shreveport, Louisiana. In 2011, the Classic was held on the Louisiana Delta.
From its inception to 1976, the Classic was held at a "mystery lake," unknown to competitors until they were aboard an aircraft bound for the site. Founder Ray Scott changed the practice for the 1977 Classic, announcing the site in advance so that fans of the sport could plan ahead to attend.
The Jr. Bassmasters is a Bassmasters Classic competition for children up to 18. The national classic for the Jr. Bassmasters is achieved once an angler has won a qualifying event sponsored by the B.A.S.S association. The Jr. angler then gets to work with a professional on practice day. On the tournament day no help is provided by the pro and the Jr. Angler has to rely on his/her own knowledge and skill. The winner and 2nd and 3rd place all receive scholarships of different value.