“This is the Super Bowl or the Daytona 500 of bass fishing,” says Dishner, of Colonial Heights, an avid angler who competes in local and regional tournaments - and is excited about the opportunity to learn from the pros.
The celebrated annual tournament, which is considered the word championship of bass fishing, is taking place in Knoxville this weekend.
“Imagine getting to ride in the Daytona 500 with Dale Earnhardt or Jeff Gordon or Kyle Busch, whoever your favorite race car driver is – but actually taking part in it and feeling it and actually watching and seeing what they do,” he says.
“These guys are the best in the business, hands down, and being able to sit there, front row, up close and personal, how does it get any better than that?”
This year, Dishner was selected to serve as a marshal – essentially a referee, who is assigned to ride along in the boat with one of the competitors and make sure they do everything in compliance with the rules.
The Bassmaster Classic, now in its 49th year, moves around the country and is in East Tennessee for the first time. It has brought 52 of the world’s best anglers to compete for more than a $1 million in prizes where the Holston and French Broad rivers combine to form the Little Tennessee.
The competition area covers more than 30,000 surface acres of fishable water, including the Fort Loudon and Tellico reservoirs and adjacent portions of the river, upstream to the Interstate 40 bridge on the Holston and the State Route 168 bridge on the French Broad.
Dishner said it wouldn’t be surprising to see two or three dozen boats following to watch each competitor during the three-day event – and for spectators to fill the University of Tennessee’s Thompson Boling Arena to watch the weigh-in each afternoon. According to the TWRA, weigh-ins will be held at 3:15 p.m. each day (March 15-17) of the classic.
Each tournament angler can catch up to 100 fish each day, and they keep their best five for the weigh-in, he said. The fish are stored in live in each boat, then released back into the water after the weigh-in. The event is put on by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, also known by the acronym B.A.S.S.
Dishner says one thing he likes about bass fishing is that it’s a sport of skill with an important mental component and a wide-open playing field; a competitor with the newest boat and the fanciest gear is not guaranteed a win over a man or woman with superior skill.
Often, that skill is reflected in subtle aspects of the way a top angler responds to the various factors that impact how fish interact with their environment: everything from season to air and water temperature to weather to the turbidity of the water.
Dishner says it’s a unique experience watching the world’s best expertly navigate the challenges that all anglers must face to find and catch fish.
“When you’re up that close watching it firsthand, there’s no secrets at that point,” Dishner says. “You’ll see firsthand what they’re doing. And so, aside from the excitement of being involved in it, I think the learning potential is phenomenal.”
In conjunction with the tournament, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo is being held at the Knoxville Convention Center and the adjacent World’s Fair Exhibition Hall, with hundreds of exhibitors showing the latest hunting, fishing, boating, and outdoors gear.
“Tennessee bass fishing is legendary, and our friends at B.A.S.S could not have picked a better place for the Classic,” said Frank Fiss, chief of fisheries management for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, according to a statement.
“Fishing is not only a wonderful recreational pastime, it is also a powerful driver of providing jobs and economic impact in Tennessee. Tournaments like the Classic are easy to see the impact of bringing in 100,000 people for a weekend to stay and play.”
Fiss said more than a million people take at least one fishing trip a year in Tennessee, and fishing creates more than $1 billion of economic impact in the state each year.
To learn more about the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, visit www.bassmaster.com.