Bassmaster Classic to visit Shelby County again in February 2007

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Shelby County has reeled in one of outdoor sports&8217; greatest events for the third time in 12 years.

The 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic will find its home at Lay Lake February 23-25. The Classic was also held at the lake in 1995 and 2002.

&8220;It&8217;s great to have bass fishing&8217;s premier event coming back to Birmingham,&8221; Alabama Governor Bob Riley said at a May 23 press conference. &8220;This is a sport so many Alabamians share and pass on to their children and grandchildren.&8221;

Fifty anglers will compete for nearly $1.2 million in prize money with the top prize topping out at $500,000.

The three-day event will culminate with a final weigh-in at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Complex on Feb. 25.

&8220;Our roots are in this state and we are thrilled to bring the Classic to our old stomping grounds,&8221; B.A.S.S. vice president and general manager Don Rucks said.

ESPN Outdoors will host the event, with nearly 12 hours of live coverage on ESPN2.

Alabaster resident Chris Stephenson, a local outdoors guide and former competitor of over 10 years on the Bassmaster circuit, said the 12,000-acre Lay Lake offers professional anglers the some of the best bass fishing in the world.

&8220;This is a fisherman friendly lake for these guys,&8221; Stephenson said. &8220;Lay provides solid weeds and lay downs, and that&8217;s something that these guys thrive off of. It&8217;s a phenomenal place to fish.&8221;

The winning three-day tournament weight in the 2002 Classic was 45 pounds, 13 ounces.

&8220;This is equivalent to the Daytona 500 coming to Columbiana,&8221; Stephenson said. &8220;The Birmingham area has always had a lot of success when it comes to the Classic.&8221;

Rucks said the Shelby County lake falls into line as one of the top bass fishing venues in the nation.

&8220;There is no doubt. Lay Lake is one of the premier bass fisheries in the country and we are excited to put the world&8217;s top anglers on it to compete for the biggest title in bass fishing,&8221; he said