BASSfest is underway in Dayton, Tenn., this week, with an outdoors expo, concerts and the chance to cheer on favorite professional anglers among its many draws. The first-time event combines a top tournament with a free festival expected to reel in thousands of fishing fans.
The main competition will happen on Chickamauga Lake, its first Bassmaster event since 1991. The fishery was recently ranked as No. 7 on Bassmaster Magazine's 100 Best Bass Lakes list of 2014.
The tournament started Wednesday, June 11, with the full field of 140 competitors. They'll compete again today, and the Top 50 will qualify for the third round on Chickamauga Lake.
In a twist to the fishing competition, the third Chickamauga round won't happen the next day. Instead, the 50 pros will appear at the BASSfest expo, conducting free seminars and meeting fans throughout the day Friday, June 13.
Meanwhile, the 90 eliminated anglers will participate in a one-day, second-chance shootout on Nickajack Lake in Chattanooga. The 10 who survive the shootout will rejoin the Top 50 anglers on Saturday, June 14, for the third round on Chickamauga Lake. The Top 12 will advance to the final round on Sunday, June 15, for a shot at the trophy.
Here are some highlights.
¦ The 140 qualifiers come from two Bassmaster circuits. The regular Bassmaster Elite Series field of 107 will compete, plus 33 anglers from the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series.
¦ Today is the final day of fishing for all competitors. They leave at 6:15 this morning from the Dayton Boat Dock at Point Park (175 Lakeshore Drive) to fish Chickamauga Lake. Weigh-ins will start at 3:15 p.m.
¦ Anglers who don't finish in the Top 50 today get a second chance Friday, competing on Nickajack Lake in Chattanooga near the C.B. Robinson Bridge below Chickamauga Dam. Takeoff is at 6:15 a.m., and weigh-ins will begin at 2:30 p.m. Events will be streamed in from Nickajack Lake to the Dayton audience. All weights are zeroed for this one-day shootout, and the Top 10 anglers advance to Saturday's semifinal competition in Dayton.
¦ On Saturday and Sunday, the top anglers will take off from the Dayton Boat Dock at 7 a.m. Weigh-ins will begin at 4 p.m. The winner earns a $125,000 first prize, from a $875,000 total purse, plus entry in the 2015 world championship, the Bassmaster Classic.
¦ It's not just the pros taking part. Anglers from 28 universities will compete on Watts Bar Lake in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Eastern Regional today and Friday. The College Series weigh-in on Friday will take place on the main event stage at Dayton's Point Park to see which team will be crowned the Eastern Regional champs.
¦ Before the weigh-in Saturday, Nashville recording artists William Michael Morgan and Payton Taylor will each play a country music set on the Bassmaster Elite stage.
¦ Bassmaster University will be in full swing Friday, offering more than 20 seminars taught by Elite Series pros and Bass Anglers Sportsman Society staff from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The 20-plus sessions cover bait techniques, lure presentations, electronics and motors, flipping and pitching, among other topics. Visit Bassmaster.com/bassfest for topics, locations and times.
¦ The Berkley Bass Tank will offer free seminars on how to use different types of lures.
¦ Shimano will have a casting-target course set up for visitors to try out the new Curado reel.
¦ The outdoors expo will showcase the newest boats, motors, fishing tackle, lures and other sporting goods from more than 60 national and local exhibitors. Food and beverage vendors also will be on-site.
¦ Plano will show off its latest tackle storage innovations.
¦ Power-Pole will display various models of shallow-water anchors, including the Pro Series and the Micro Anchor, which won Best in Show at the 2013 ICAST new product showcase.
¦ Lowrance Electronics, inventors of the first sonar device available to consumers, will have staff on-site to answer any electronics questions from amateur anglers.
¦ The Livingston Lures booth will offer info on its sound-producing lure technology and have lures for purchase.
¦ Toyota will give visitors a chance to test their strength in the Torque Pull Challenge, win prizes in a roll-the-dice game and dress up in a Toyota angler's fishing jersey to get their picture taken on the Toyota Hooked Up! stage.
¦ Free demo rides on new bass boats will be offered after takeoff Friday, Saturday and Sunday by the Skeeter Performance Boats Demo Tour, Yamaha's 2014 Discover VMAX SHO Demo Tour, Mercury ProXS Demo Tour, the 2014 Triton Demo Tour and the Nitro Boats Demo Tour.
¦ Youth ages 7-18 can get involved in the CastingKids competition for a chance to win prizes. The competition will start at 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday and at noon Sunday.
¦High school students will have a chance to learn fishing techniques from some of the world's best professional anglers in the Bassmaster High School Elite Experience on Saturday. The event is free to students in grades 9-12.
¦ The championship barbecue team of Pitt's and Spitt's will be grilling on the Shell Rotella Custom Barbeque Grill, which it designed for big events such as BASSfest.
¦ Toyota has partnered with Hiring Our Heroes and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Dakota Meyer to help veterans learn how to better market themselves to civilian employers. Visitors can stop by the Hiring Our Heroes Monster Tundra booth to learn more about the Personal Branding Resumé Engine (www.ResumeEngine.org), a free online tool that helps veterans and transitioning service members translate their military experience into a strong civilian resumé and get it in front of thousands of employers.
¦ Register at the Booyah booth for the grand-prize giveaways: a trip to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic and a Toyota Tundra. Sign-ups are available Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
¦ Visitors also can register to win Minn Kota products, an Evan Williams Bourbon Cooler prize pack (winner drawn Sunday) and Carhartt-branded prizes.
¦ Fantasy Fishing fans can choose their Top 5 Elite anglers for a chance to win a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card and a grand prize that includes a Triton boat and Mercury motor. Learn more at Bassmaster.com/Fantasy.
¦ On Saturday and Sunday, visitors can take a turn at the Spin 'N' Win Wheel at the BASS expo booth for a chance to win prizes.
¦ Fans can go to Bassmaster.com or download the Bassmaster News App. Both offer up-to-the-minute blog posts, photos and videos.
¦ Use the hashtag #bassmaster on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest or Facebook.
¦ Find photos and updates on the BASSfest Facebook event page, https://www.facebook.com/events/697408700289188.
¦ Get updates from Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders on the Toyota Hooked Up! stage Saturday and Sunday.