Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2014 Bassmaster Classic: a report from a bass fly fisher

If you ask me about my favorite fish to pursue with a fly rod, I will invariably answer you with some species of the genus Micropterus- one of the black basses. In the past I would have quickly answered "Smallmouth," but now that I live in Alabama, and I've experienced fly fishing for Alabama Bass and Redeyes, they've achieved similar status in my mind. Wading a creek for river bass is my idea of fly fishing fun... and I'll always enjoy fly fishing for stillwater bass from a kayak or boat.

To make this very clear- I am a bass fisherman, even though I may not be "conventional" in my preferred method or choice of tackle. I know a lot about bass fishing, and although I prefer a fly rod, I actually have a lot of experience fishing lures with spinning and baitcasting gear...

but nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced on Saturday- the Bassmaster Classic daily "weigh in" at the Birmingham Convention Center Arena.

The fishing took place on Lake Guntersville, but the daily "weigh ins" were staged over an hour away in the sports arena of the big city... because there is no such venue near the lake. A big arena was necessary to accommodate the hordes of fans that came to the weigh ins... literally from around the world. I saw a handful of Japanese fans there to support their professional bass fishing compatriots... clearly not from Alabama.

It was a cultural experience that I will never forget.

As I tried to describe it to my friends on Facebook... "Try to imagine a Nascar rock concert with fish."

I've seen these sort of events on TV before, but I admit that I'm not a follower of professional bass fishing... or any professional fishing tour for that matter. It's too painful to watch others get paid to go fishing for a living... and always think to myself, "I could do that."

"We have a new leader!"

There was also a free fishing expo held in conjunction with the Classic.

Gratuitous metal flake bass boat photo

Kelly and I made it a point to seek out all of the booths for companies with strong ties to fly fishing... but that doesn't mean we found much that was actually fly fishing related.

We only found two actual displays of fly rods- one at the St. Croix display and one by TFO. We appeared to be the only ones who showed any interest in these seemingly out of place sticks.

We also found the Simms display where they were promoting their rain gear and other non-fly fishing, bass-oriented fishing apparel.

Kelly even tried on a ProDry GORE-TEX rain suit and got in the Gore mobile rain room to try it out.

Ready to face the elements

Bring on the wind and rain!

One of the Simms guys was kind enough to give us a couple of camo baseball caps, and I'll be giving one away for anyone who is still reading. In the photo below, I am modeling the cap with my old Simms guide shirt while holding my first bass of the year- caught at Lewis Smith Lake on a spinnerbait on Sunday. Finally.

First bass of 2014... sadly not caught on a fly

If you are interested in a FREE Simms camo cap, be the first to leave a comment below with a correct link to any post where I've previously mentioned Simms gear on this blog. Good luck!


  1. Awesome! I went to the FLW weigh-in last year. Got a bunch of freebies like waterproof phone pouches. Sadly, my first bass of the year was small. I've actually thought of bait fishing with a friend. So, a fish is a fish and a bass is a bass. That is a nice bass.

    1. Thanks, Josh.
      I have to ask... are you seriously thinking about giving in to the dark side and going "bait fishing with a friend"?
      If you're not going to use a fly at least use some sort of artificial lure.
      So, to me, "a fish is a fish and a bass is a bass" as long as you don't use bait... then it's just cheating.

  2. You've mentioned Simms a few different times.

    You weren't going to talk about them here,
    Then talked about how they are leading the pack here.

    1. Kevin, you got it!
      Send me your address (you have my e-mail), and I'll get your hat in the mail to you.
      I think I'm supposed to be sending you a few Stealth bombers too... so I'll get to tying and do a two for one package.
      Thanks for playing along.

    2. Nice, I need another hat. Is it still your msn address?

    3. Yep, msn address is fine.
      It's actually a decent hat for a freebie. I wouldn't expect any less from Simms. I'm a fan of Velcro closures or fitted. I can't stand little metal buckles and such... this hat is very nice Velcro so it gets my seal of approval. I would be giving away two if it didn't meet my criteria.

    4. This is great, it will go with my boots.

  3. I have yet to go to a fishing show. Sounds like a fun experience. and yes, getting paid to fish would be the good life!

    1. Juan, thanks for stopping by.
      Getting paid to fish would be really sweet... especially if you were winning the big tournaments. On the other hand... it does seem like it's pretty stressful on the ones who don't do so well.

  4. Jay
    Glad you got to experience the Classic; I have attended a few over the years and have enjoyed all of them.
    The older I get the more I gravitate towards the fly rod. I guess you could say I am in my second life of fishing, which has very little to do with the conventional bait casting and spin casting I use to love. The fly rod and fly fishing will be my passion the rest of my days. Thanks for sharing

    1. Bill, I fished with ultralight spinning and fly rod equally in my youth, and then (starting at about age 25) I went through a fly fishing only period that lasted about 7 years. It's only been for the last 3 or 4 years or so that I rekindled my relationship with ultralights and spinning gear... and only about a year or so that I've really been playing with baitcasting gear. I really like having the ability to use different techniques for different situations. Nothing will ever beat the fly rod for pure enjoyment... but there are times when it can be a tough way to catch a fish... last Sunday being a good example. The fish at Smith Lake were deep and hard to find... but the old spinnerbait and baitcaster came through. I had a spinning rod rigged with a plastic worm too. I left the fly rod at home. However, we both know there are plenty of times when the fly rod will outfish conventional lures. I like the idea of having more options to catch fish, because I'd rather enjoy catching a few than not catching any at all. I promise my love for the fly rod is strong as it ever has been... I'm just learning to love the other stuff again.

  5. Jay
    I will say my micro lights are still used during the crappie season, but for early morning fishing on top it is hard for me to beat the Boggle Bug with the fly rod. Glad you guys were able to make it to the lake. April will be the start of top action with the fly rod. We will try to make a trip happen during that month.

    1. Bill, I'm really looking forward to getting out there with you. If the weather warms up significantly in the next few weeks, Kelly has spring break the last week of March... maybe we could try an earlier trip that week?
      With the weather we've had lately, I'm thinking it might be May before topwater action really gets going. I usually catch my first bass on top around Tax Day... but I have a funny feeling it may be a bit later this year.

  6. The Bassmaster Classic made me yearn for bass fishing. Unfortunately, I've got almost 4 months before the season opens. I always wondered if there was a fly fishing presence at the Classic - thanks for clearing that up :)

    1. Fly fishing... not so much. For spinning and baitcasting it's a complete overdose... you don't know where to turn or what to look at.