When it comes to the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota, Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees has more than lived up to its name.
The 46,500-acre fishery provided some of the grandest moments in the history of the event when Classics were held there in 2013 and 2016 — and now, the picturesque reservoir located in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains will add to that grand lore when it plays host to the 54th renewal of the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing March 22-24, 2024.
B.A.S.S. made the announcement at a press conference in Tulsa on Tuesday morning, nearly 13 months before the event will take place.
“Planning the Bassmaster Classic, the greatest celebration of the sport of fishing, is a never-ending process,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Chase Anderson. “The B.A.S.S. team has been working with the people of Tulsa for well over a year to make this a reality.
“Now that it’s official, we couldn’t be more excited to be headed back to a city and fishery that already hold a special place in Classic history and is such an important area to the fishing community.”
As with past Classics held in Tulsa, daily weigh-ins will be held at the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa, with the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo across the street at the Cox Business Convention Center, which boasts 275,000 square feet of event space. Daily takeoffs will be held about 90 miles away at the Wolf Creek Park and Boating Facility on Grand Lake.
Previous Bassmaster Classics drew phenomenal crowds lakeside and to packed venues around the “Capital of Route 66,” and more than 105,000 enthusiastic fans are expected for Classic Week festivities.
“When you saw 3,000 fans standing out in the freezing-cold weather every morning to watch the competitors launch their boats, that pretty much told you everything you needed to know,” said Eric Lopez, director of operations for B.A.S.S. “The people in that area love B.A.S.S. and bass fishing — and for those traveling in from out of town, the area has a fabulous selection of restaurants and hotels to choose from.
“It really is a great place for an event like the Classic, and that’s before you even start discussing the quality of the fishing, which is fantastic.”
During the first Tulsa Classic in 2013, former Elite Series pro Cliff Pace of Mississippi claimed a wire-to-wire victory despite sharing the first-day lead with current Elite Series star Mike Iaconelli during a frigid event when icy precipitation and blistering cold tested the toughness of the 53-angler field. Pace’s closest competition in that Classic came from reigning Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, who finished second by 7 pounds.
That fishing prowess was on display again in 2016 when local favorite Jason Christie led Days 1 and 2 and seemed poised to earn his first Classic trophy until fellow Oklahoma pro Edwin Evers caught a five-bass limit that weighed 29 pounds, 3 ounces to claim a dramatic come-from-behind win.
Christie, who finally earned a Classic victory last year on Lake Hartwell, still calls it one of the most crushing moments of his career.
“When you have a chance to win the biggest title in bass fishing right there at home — that just doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “In a way, I just got beat because Edwin went out and caught that huge bag. But I also only came in with four fish that final day.
“I didn’t do all I could have done to win it — and I love the idea of having another shot at it on that particular fishery.”
On last year’s list of 100 Best Bass Lakes by Bassmaster Magazine, Grand Lake ranked 17th in the Central Division. That marks the 11th straight year — every year the list has been published — that the fishery has ranked in the Top 100.
The field will include 56 anglers who will qualify through the Bassmaster Elite Series, the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens, the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, the Strike King College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops and the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Team Championship. They will all be vying for a $300,000 first-place prize and a total purse of over $1 million.
“Since its inception, the Classic has been a tournament that changes lives,” said B.A.S.S. Vice President of Tournaments Chris Bowes. “The payday is great, sure. But the opportunity to refer to yourself as ‘Bassmaster Classic champion’ for the rest of your life — there’s no greater clout in our sport.”