Record-setting 153,000 Attend Knoxville Bassmaster Classic

As many as 6,500 people crowded Volunteer Landing on the Tennessee River to watch takeoff processions as anglers began their competition days in the 49th Bassmaster Classic. (Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The 49th Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville set multiple records over the three-day event, including a new high mark for total attendance of 153,809, B.A.S.S. and the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission announced.

“Long lines of fans waiting to enter Thompson-Boling Arena were similar to crowds at game days when the University of Tennessee Volunteers play some of their biggest rivals there,” said B.A.S.S. Director Chase Anderson, a native of Knoxville. “The Classic Outdoors Expo was packed from the moment Gov. Bill Lee cut the ribbon to open the show, and it continued with capacity crowds through the weekend.”

Anderson noted that attendance was great despite the fact that Tennessee’s basketball team was playing in the SEC Championship Tournament in Nashville all three days of the Classic.

“Hosting the Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville was simply an incredible experience,” said Chad Culver, Senior Director of the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission. “We knew it was going to be huge, but to beat the all-time attendance record really showed how our community embraced this event. We also appreciate the support we received from the City of Knoxville, Knox County and State of Tennessee to bring this event to Knoxville.”

Attendance may have been boosted by the fact that Knoxville native Ott DeFoe won what’s known as “The Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.”

“I was told the Expo was one of the biggest events to take place in the World’s Fair Exhibition Hall since the World’s Fair in Knoxville in 1982,” Anderson said. “And everyone was blown away by the fact that 6,500 fans lined the Tennessee River at Volunteer Landing for takeoff at daybreak Saturday.

An interactive map in the Expo showed that visitors came from every U.S. state and several foreign countries. B.A.S.S. customer service officials reported record sales of memberships, with applications received from 35 states. Lifetime membership sales were up 50 percent over the previous year’s sales, including one purchased by Gov. Lee, whose wife, Maria, is an avid angler.

In addition, 258 members of the media applied for credentials to cover the Classic, including journalists from 28 states, as well as Japan, China, Australia, Italy, Germany and Canada.

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