The 2011 Bassmaster classic is about to begin, with three days of competitive angling that include the biggest 50 names in freshwater fishing. This year’s classic is being held in New Orleans from February 18 through February 20, with boats launching from the Bayou Segnette State Park. While the casters compete for the top prize of a $500,000 and a total pay-out topping a million bucks (not to mention the lucrative sponsorships that go along with winning), thousands of spectators are expected to attend the weigh-ins and the Classic Outdoor Expo, held at the Ernest Morial Convention Center.


Kevin VanDam hoists his trophy after winning the 2010 Bassmaster Classic.

One unusual addition to this year’s Classic: snow. Not in New Orleans, but all along the roadways leading to it. Tough travel is a significant issue because many of the anglers tow their bass boats to the Classic. Last year’s victor and three-time Classic champ Kevin VanDam began his 1,040 mile road-trip to the Classic by dodging snowflakes and commented "It's inevitable, whenever you have a brand new, clean boat, there's a snowstorm where you get a salty, messy boat.” Meanwhile, 2009 Classic winner Skeet Reese decided to hire a driver to tow his bass boat to New Orleans from Auburn, California—a distance of over 2,000 miles—and fly out himself.

Competitors in the Classic can’t merely sign up, they have to qualify for the event by amassing points as they win pro tournaments, and many anglers compete for years without making it. One who’s particularly popular among the fans, Gary Klein (who was voted the “sentimental favorite” in a recent Bassmasters poll) will be making his 29th appearance in a Classic—but he hasn’t taken home the trophy yet.

At-home spectators can watch the weigh-ins live via streaming video and keep up with the latest news at the Bassmasters website.