For nearly 20 years, Matt Herren worked with his father in an auto body shop in Birmingham’s East Lake neighborhood. That’s what he did, but that wasn’t who he was.
“Ever since I can remember, all I’ve ever done was fish,” the Ashville resident said. “My mama’s got pictures of me when I was barely waddling around, about a year-and-a-half old, with a cane pole bobbing on a creek bank. That’s me. That’s what I do. I love it.”
Today through Sunday, Herren will be doing what he loves as one of the 53 anglers taking part in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. The 50th championship event of the Bassmaster Elite Series returns to Birmingham for the ninth time.
The classic got underway at 7 a.m. Friday. Fans are following the action on Bassmaster LIVE. Cameras are in the boats of 10 anglers, starting with reigning Bassmaster Angler of the Year Scott Canterbury.
The man from Odenville said it’s an understatement to call him excited about his chance to win $300,000 this weekend.
“Being able to compete in Guntersville, in my home state, it’s the Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of bass fishing,” he said. “And to get to weigh-in here in Birmingham? It’s going to be super special.”
Canterbury’s only regret is that the 53 anglers won’t be competing on an Alabama Power lake, or the Coosa River, where he might have more of a home-state advantage.
“That would be pretty special,” he said, “but it’s just exciting to be here in my home state of Alabama and fish.”
After 13 years as a professional angler, Canterbury is hoping his ship comes in with a title in this event. “I’ll try not to jinx myself,” he said. “It’s been a tough practice, but I’m going to fish as hard as anybody out there.”
So will Montevallo’s Clent Davis, who’s always been passionate about fishing. Officially, he studied kinesiology and history at the University of Montevallo. Jokingly, he says he majored in fishing, having helped start the first collegiate fishing team at the school.
“As a kid growing up, I’ve always been passionate about fishing,” said the winner of the Forrest Wood Cup, the championship of the FLW Tour. “There’s nothing like growing up fishing the little ponds in Montevallo and Jemison and really falling in love with bass fishing.”
Ashville’s Herren can relate.
“I fished local tournaments, 40 to 50 tournaments around home, for several years but I decided this is how I wanted to make my full-time living,” he said. “We all strive to win a Bassmaster Classic. It’s the Super Bowl. For me, it would be a lifelong accomplishment.
“If you’re a competitor, you compete,” Herren continued. “No matter what it is, you want to be the best of the best. Every one of these guys, they’re driven competitors. It’s just what I do.”
The Expo is in every hall and ballroom of the BJCC. It is open noon to 7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The weigh-in will be at about 4 p.m. daily in Legacy Arena.
Fans can attend each for free.
“We’ll have 200 exhibitors – the largest fishing consumer show in the world,” said Bruce Akin, the CEO of B.A.S.S. “We’ll have throngs of people coming through there. We’ll have retailers there, manufacturers selling goods out of their own booths. It’s really a spectacle. If you haven’t been, you need to come and see it.
“Sunday night … one of these guys will be a new Classic champion this year from the field of 53 guys who worked very hard last year,” Akin added. “We don’t just give out invitations to this thing. … You have to compete all through 2019 at different levels to get a spot in the Bassmaster Classic.”