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Conspiracy, Disqualification, and Miscalculation: Commentary on the 2006 Citgo Bassmaster Classic.

by Ken Warren


I just watched the end of the 2006 Citgo Bassmaster Classic. Unfortunately, I had to tape it while I worked a tackle show this past weekend. Tapes are only 6 hours long so I had to choose what to save, so I only got to record the last 2 days of the weigh-in and the live coverage of the last day. I would like to share some thoughts with you. I have seen much chatter on the message boards of various websites, much of which I could buy into at first glance, but once I have a moment to chew on it, I think I swung away from the conspiracy theorists. 

First, I will start close to home and discuss Jimmy Johnson and the conspiracy I saw mentioned on a popular Mississippi River message board. The forums mentioned that BASS did not give him the coverage he deserved because he is from Wisconsin and that state recently voted to leave BASS due to the Federation controversy. I actually wondered if that could be true for a while but then I watched the live coverage of the last day. While I admit it might have been nice to have him weigh fish on camera, there was frequent mention of him throughout the day in the live coverage. In fact, I think there was more than I have seen of other Federation anglers in the past. I simply think he was a victim of his final day success. His performance on the first two days, while good enough to make the cut, was not that spectacular. Because ESPN/BASS has to decide whom to watch during a day based on previous performance I can understand that he seemed low on the pole.  

Jimmy was, in fact, low on my list when making my pre-tournament picks and I gave him a slim chance of even making top 50%. I generally feel the Federation anglers get lost in the lights and the awe of being at the Classic this puts them at a disadvantage to the pros that are more comfortable with the bright lights, TV and other media. This makes it difficult to concentrate and they do not, normally, perform well. Jimmy proved me wrong this time and all I have to say is my hat is off to you and please pass the Tabasco for the crow I am eating. 

Looking at the standings now it is easy to say he should have had more coverage but I do not think you could have made the same call Saturday night except for the hometown crowd that posted the “conspiracy” on the board. I am not sure they would have even been satisfied with an hour-long expose’. I did not measure the time but I think he got more discussion during the live coverage than did Rick Morris who came in second. 

While I am on the topic, I would like to thank ESPN for the live coverage and the satellite feed of the fish caught. Without this no one would have known Jimmy was charging up the leader board the final day until it was too late. Also, I agree that the coverage was not perfect but come on. I started watching the classic 10-15 years ago when it was on TNN. The whole classic was crammed into a 30-minute show that only aired 3-4 months later. Now we get 13 hours of instant coverage and live on the water updates. I feel ESPN/BASS did a good job. This is a difficult format to produce I am sure. ESPN normally only has to keep its cameras on a 100 yard football field and focus on one player at a time. At the classic they had to deal with a huge area and anglers who were not where they were expected and I did not even mention the weather. OK so it is not perfect coverage but stop and look at how far we have come and it is getting better. 

Now about Ike…..I am sorry Mike, but that looked very calculated to me. You looked up for a split second as if you were looking for something over the top to do hoping to get DQ’ed. I believed it was an honest mistake two years ago but this time I do buy into the opinion it was, not planned, but quickly calculated and executed on purpose not to mention it was in very poor taste. I did not really mind the outburst, we expect that from you, but we got to see you throw the US flag in the water on purpose and that was disgraceful and you deserve worse than you got. 

Now, I did notice a big conspiracy on the part of ESPN that I have not seen anyone mention yet. Can you guess what I am talking about? It was not anything I mentioned previously but rather something that I think was positive, perpetuated on purpose, and outstanding for the sport. I hesitate to mention it, as it will call into question the sincerity of that of which I totally believe.  

Did anyone else notice the announcers and athletes from other sports that they had on talking about the Classic and the anglers? Did you notice that they kept using the word “athletes” when they talked about the anglers? By using that word they were endorsing bass fishing as the true sport, that we all feel it is to the rest of the world. I feel this will do a great deal towards bringing the sport more toward the mainstream. I also see it as ESPN’s commitment to grow the sport as they have stated they will. I do not foresee ESPN dumping BASS anytime soon, another conspiracy I have heard. I think ESPN is still committed to making the sport great. Even if I do occasionally disagree with their method, I do applaud them for the effort.  

Looking from where we have been and toward where I think we are going I will give the coverage of the 2006 Citgo Bassmaster Classic by ESPN an A-. I think the decision to move the Classic to February was a great idea and a homerun this year judging by the fallen records. I do, however, feel this will greatly limit the number of fishable lakes, which kind of bothers me, but we will see how it goes for the next few years.