A monumental effort by all

I’ve always appreciated the effort that goes into producing the Bassmaster Classic, but my perspective has always been as a competitor.

This year, I got a behind-the-scenes look and I’m blown away by the efforts, resources and time exhibited by B.A.S.S. officials, sponsors, the local community, companies who display at the Outdoors Expo and JM Associates, the television production company.

Creating a Bassmaster Classic and all of its integral parts, from the fishing competition to the Expo and the weigh-in production, is a monumental task. The number of people who work tirelessly to make this happen, their dedication and passion, makes me immensely proud to be associated with the event and competitive fishing.

Of course, I’m equally proud of my fellow competitors, especially winner Casey Ashley and others who were in contention under challenging weather conditions.

But the behind-the-scenes undertaking, to build and pull off a successful Classic, was overwhelmingly impressive. I knew it took a lot of work, but it wasn’t until this year that I saw the amount of planning and what an enormous task it is.

Sherry and I were there working alongside sponsors and other manufacturers while setting up and preparing activation of our “KVD Fan to Fame Challenge” in the Expo. The planning and intensity of everyone’s hard work was remarkable.

Our Fan to Fame Challenge was a huge success, thanks to the participating sponsors, Group 360 (the marketing company that helped us pull it together) and the thousands of fans who signed up. We worked closely with the Nitro marketing team, who used my boat in their booth to unveil the new Z-21 that I will use on the Elite Series this year.

Kenny Hawkins of Anderson, S.C., was the Fan to Fame grand prize winner who got to witness the Classic from all aspects, including a visit backstage to meet anglers and key officials. We spent some time in the TV production truck during setup of the Super 6 finals and saw first-hand the work and professionalism that goes into such a colossal production.

Kenny exemplified the passion of the thousands of fans who visited the Expo and Classic weigh-in. Despite undergoing hernia surgery on Friday, he was determined to be there Sunday to see the Expo and Classic finals. His resolute paid off with him winning several thousand dollars’ worth of prizes and a guided tour of the Classic weigh-in with me.

And I met thousands like him throughout the week while working the outdoor show. I met several families with young children who made the Classic their vacation spot or who took a long weekend off to be there. The fact they thanked me for posing with pictures and talking with them was a very humbling experience.

I was equally blown away by the number of high school and collegiate anglers walking around the Expo in tournament jerseys, a sign of a promising future for our sport. Some of them were even calling me out, saying they are gunning for me as fellow competitors, which is great to see that kind of confidence.

When I wasn’t working in sponsors’ booths at the show, I spent time as an analyst in the unprecedented live broadcast of the competition with the Bassmasters TV guys. It’s the first time we could watch on-the-water action as it happened, and it will forever change the way we view pro fishing. It was incredible to be able to watch Classic competitors in such detail and so up-close. It was intense from the first hour until it ended.

I can’t say it enough – it was an eye-opening and humbling experience to see all that goes on away from the competition.

Any angler who sees what I witnessed last week would want to work even harder to assure himself a spot in the next Classic and be a part of the greatest show in bass fishing.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!