We sure have come a long way from “fly-in fishing” or the “Pickerel capital of the world”. Canada can certainly say with legitimacy that we aren’t just northern hicks that only troll red & white Daredevils when it comes to fishing.
Starting this week on March 6, not only will we have 3 representatives (Jeff Gustafson, Cory Johnston, Chris Johnston) from Canada fishing in the Bassmaster Classic, but as well, we have our own Canadian Angler Hall of Fame Inductee and Aurora Bassmaster Wil Wegman covering the event.
Could you imagine Wil’s excitement if one of our boys ends up in the #1 spot? We’ll be listening.
Read on for more about Canadians at the event:
Aurora Ontario Canada: The Aurora Bassmasters are happy to report that their long-standing member and Conservation Director, award-winning outdoor writer Wil Wegman, has just confirmed details with B.A.S.S. that he will be covering the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham Alabama, March 6-8, 2020. Wil covered the Classic almost every year from 1991 until 2010. The late Canadian Hank Gibson – from Keswick ON became the first Canadian (and first non-American) to ever qualify for this – the World Championship of Bass Fishing …. For many of those years (1996-2010) Wil wore two hats at the Classic – the one as an accredited press observer– covering it for various media outlets back home and as Conservation Director for the Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation (OBN) and its 25-30 clubs across the province. As in those years, he will also be participating in the prestigious Conservation Summit held concurrently with the 2020 Classic. Also attending and presenting at the workshops will be OBN’s current Conservation Director Jason Barnucz (2010- present). Another major Canadian Connection to the Bassmaster Classic is the incredibly popular weigh-in and Bassmaster TV Show host Dave Mercer of Port Perry Ontario.
“Of course, we also have an unprecedented – maybe once in a lifetime, number of Canadian professional anglers who will be there fishing it, that Wil is going to be focussing on for his media coverage,” said Scott Cochran president of the Aurora Bassmasters!
Three of the 53 Competing Anglers in the 2020 Bassmaster Classic are from Canada!
In the previous 10 years while Wil has not covered the Classic, one other Canadian – Charles Sim from Ottawa qualified for it in 2013 thru the grass roots BASS Nation tournament level. No Canadian has ever made it since … until this year! There are three of them that not only qualified … but placed so high in the standings (during the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Tournaments they competed in) that they are favored at this Championship tournament that will pay the winner $300,000 American (it was $10,000 in 1971) and likely set the path for the winner to earn a cool $million in future endorsements! One of those hot Canadian sticks is Jeff Gustafson from Kenora ON who Wil has known for several years, while the other two from the Peterborough area – brothers Cory and Chris Johnston racked up hundreds of thousands of $$$ on the bass tournament scene here in Southern Ontario for over a decade, before making it big in the US. Cory tied for second place in the Angler of the Year standings last year.
Wil is covering the Bassmaster Classic for Sportsnet, the Fan 590’s Outdoor Journal Radio and Outdoor Canada Magazine. He has already completed a live radio interview with ODJ host Angelo Viola (also from Fish n Canada) Saturday, February 29 talking about the Classic and will be reporting live from Birmingham on Saturday, March 7 at 8:20 am. Listeners can tune into the Fan 590 or listen here: http://player.sportsnet590.ca/ Although hundreds of Canadian fans are expected to converge on Birmingham next week, thousands more will be glued to their computer screens for the on-the-water action via LIVE STREAMING at www.bassmaster.com to watch their favorite Canadians beginning early Friday morning when the Classic starts.
The 2020 Bassmaster Classic, presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro will mark the third time the Classic has been hosted on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville. Birmingham will host most of the Classic festivities, including The Classic Outdoors Expo at the Jefferson Convention Complex in the downtown area. This is also where the excitement of daily weigh-ins will occur. Lake Guntersville is like no lake Canadians have back home. It’s a massive man-made reservoir with a surface area of nearly 70,000 acres, making it the largest lake in the Yellowhammer State. It’s loaded with huge Florida strain (not present in Canada) largemouth bass, and frequently produces fish in the 7-8 pounds range. This lake also has the potential for double-digit fish. The lake record is 14 pounds, 8 ounces, and fish as large as 13 pounds have been caught as recently as last year.
Long considered the most important event in sportfishing, the Bassmaster Classic has also established itself as a huge economic boon for host communities, far exceeding economic impacts from every host city for the first weekend of March Madness, according to reports. At last year’s Classic in Knoxville Tennessee a record crowd of 153,809 spectators and tourists from across the U.S. and multiple countries, that Bassmaster Classic generated an economic impact of $32.2 million for the local community, according to a report released by the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission. This 50th Anniversary event in Birmingham – the headquarters for the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society is expected to exceed these numbers.
The Aurora Bassmasters are one of the founding members of the Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation. “We have been around since 1995 and our club moto is, we are “more than just another fishing club’ said the club president. He went on to say “Of course we all love to fish tournaments and we have a dozen bass tournaments and two pike events every year. We are however also committed to youth fishing events running the annual Fairy Lake Urban Fishing festival every summer and we conduct several conservation projects every year. In fact, many of those projects have won various awards for us over the years, including the Conservation Project of the Year Award in 2019 for our efforts to enhance fish habitat on Lake Simcoe’s Talbot River. We meet the first Wednesday evening of every month at the Optimist Hall in Newmarket and new members (especially those who currently don’t own a boat) are more than welcome to check us out,” concluded Cochran.