By : Gabby Stallings
For 54 professional anglers, 7:15am on March 24th cannot come soon enough. The 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota will be held in Knoxville, TN on the Tennessee River – a favorite site for anglers and spectators alike after one of the largest Bassmaster Classic turn outs here in 2019.
This three-day tournament, taking place from March 24-26, is often referred to as the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing”, and with good reason. Originating in 1971, the Bassmaster Classic is a tournament in which the world’s best bass anglers compete for a chance at hundreds of thousands of dollars and a title few can place on their resume – Bassmaster Classic Winner.
Strike King and Lew’s pros Greg Hackney, Tristan McCormick, Jay Przekurat, and Louis Monetti share their gameplan and mindset going into the 2023 Classic.
Greg Hackney enters his 17th Bassmaster Classic with an air of excitement and peace. His extensive and highly impressive career all started with a childhood dream. He experienced his first taste of the Bassmaster Classic as a child in 1984 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on the Arkansas River as he watched Rick Clunn take home the $40,000 prize. Ever since that moment, Hackney was determined to become a pro angler and spent every waking moment working to accomplish exactly that. This year at the Classic, Hackney realizes that weather has a lot to do with the outcome, but his intention is to win the tournament with traditional fishing on his Lew’s baitcast and spinning reels. When asked who he would dedicate his win to, he thought for a second and responded, “Me! I can’t think of anybody more deserving.”
Tristan McCormick enters his second Bassmaster Classic in a row after securing his qualification with a win in the Bassmaster Southern Open at Lake Hartwell. The Tennessee native is looking forward to fishing at a location he is extremely familiar with and has a new goal in mind for this year – preparation. With the excitement of his first Classic behind him, now is his time to really dial in on the Tennessee River and capitalize on every opportunity to get him one step closer to winning. McCormick plans to go in using a KVD 1.5 or 2.5 but is cognizant of the fact that the weather will play a huge role in his success. When asked to reflect on what it means to him to be fishing in his second Classic, he responded, “There is nothing like a Bassmaster Classic – you can’t really put it into words.” If he is to secure the win in Knoxville this year, he will dedicate his win to his grandpa. His grandfather introduced him to fishing and McCormick has been pursuing this passion ever since.
Jay Przekurat, 2022 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, has been dreaming of his first Bassmaster Classic his entire life – now, he gets the opportunity to make his mark. This year at the Classic, Przekurat is planning on utilizing a damiki rigged Baby Z-Too to target smallmouth while pivoting to a Chick Magnet, Thunder Cricket, or a Structure Jig to encourage bites from largemouth bass. Despite Przekurat having his ideal baits picked out, he recognizes that current fishing conditions could influence his choices in the moment. His goal is to have fun and take in every single second without putting too much pressure on himself. When asked who he would dedicate his Bassmaster Classic win to, he instantly replied, “my dad.” “I followed in his footsteps,” says Przekurat. His dad has supported him throughout his life and career, and Przekurat does not take that lightly.
Louis Monetti has been competitive from the start. After getting into bass fishing as a child and eventually tournament fishing at the age of 13, he knew that he wanted to be the best. All of his hard work and dedication came to fruition when the UNC Charlotte angler won the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket in 2022 to secure his position in the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic. Monetti says he is expecting a few things as he enters his first Bassmaster Classic, one of the main concerns being lack of sleep. “I expect to be tired. Everyone has told me that getting sleep is the biggest thing for Classic week,” shares Monetti. Beyond rest, he plans on walking the fine line between taking it all in and living in the moment while still maintaining focus and trying to win the tournament. A Tungsten Thunder Cricket or possibly some soft plastics or spinnerbaits are his early predictions on the baits he will utilize, but he has determined that it will definitely be a “see how the week goes” type of situation. Fishing in the Bassmaster Classic is a dream come true for Monetti and he couldn’t be more excited. It’s been a crazy year, but Monetti is focused on being as effective as possible on the water. A Bassmaster Classic win for Monetti would be dedicated to his parents. He says that he has received so much support and encouragement to pursue his professional angling career, and for that he is extremely grateful.
Strike King and Lew’s will be in booth 3625 and MACH will be in booth 3626, both located on the first level at the Outdoors Expo presented by the U.S. Army in the Knoxville Convention Center. There will be merch available for purchase in all booths, along with fishing tackle available in the MACH booth and retailer booths at the show. Lew’s will also have an outdoor booth with the Cast2Win game in the GO Outside area.