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CEO of B.A.S.S.: ‘Any outdoor brand is going to want to engage with our savvy consumers’


The Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo has become one of the most important tackle shows on the industry calendar. With this year’s event just days away, Bruce Akin (below), CEO of organiser B.A.S.S., provides an insight into what to expect this weekend at Fort Worth, Texas.

Where does the Expo rank in terms of US tackle shows when measured by exhibitors? It is the largest consumer freshwater show in the US, attracting in the region of 200 exhibitors in recent years. This year’s exhibitors include major brands like Pure Fishing, Daiwa, Johnson Outdoors, St. Croix, AFTCO, Costa, Gamakatsu, Hobie, Lowrance, Rather Outdoors and Spro. 

And what about attendees? We’ve attracted more than 115,000 fans to the Classic over the past several years and broke an attendance record two years ago in Knoxville (2019) with 153,809.

Does the number of exhibitors this year meet your expectations? The number of returning exhibitors suggests the show works for them. We traditionally have everything from international brands to regional companies exhibiting. What you really see is that the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo is so successful for these companies that they are choosing to launch new product here (at least 12 were introduced at the 2020 Expo) and the size and scope of sponsor booths has expanded exponentially. This year we have had to erect a huge marquee to accommodate everyone.

Historically, the venue has a bearing on attendance. What do you anticipate the numbers will be at Fort Worth? We hope to top our previous attendance records but, of course, we don’t know exactly how fans will respond coming out of the pandemic. In late April at our Bassmaster Elite Series event in Orange, Texas, B.A.S.S. set a new Elite Series attendance record. Texas boasts the highest number of B.A.S.S. members and it also generates the highest web traffic. We’re seeing huge interest and I think people are ready to get back out and see live sports, enjoy time away from the home and, as we all know, interest in fishing and the outdoors has spiked over the past year. All of that makes us believe this will be an incredible Classic. 

What level of retail do you have at the show? There is a huge amount of retail business done. Brands introduce new product and also offer a lot of show specials. 

Is there anything different about this year’s Expo? We’re introducing the Go Out{side} Experience, which is focused on getting families to enjoy all outdoor pursuits, not just fishing. It features fun options for families, including inflatable archery, cornhole, jumping dogs and knot tying. Kids can even catch their first fish at an on-site catfish pond.

What plans do you have to develop the Expo in the future? The obvious answer is to continue growing the Expo, but with the focus and attention on general outdoors activity and experiences, I think you will see the exhibitors evolve. Any outdoor brand, not just fishing, is going to want to engage with these enthusiastic and savvy consumers. Additionally, as we select locations to host upcoming Classics, the Expo has become so integral to the show and its success that appropriate facilities and ample square footage for the Outdoors Expo has become critical to site selection. 

• The 2021 Academy Sports+Outdoors Bassmaster Classic and Expo takes place on Lake Ray Roberts, Fort Worth, Texas between June 11th and 13th. The Classic Expo is housed in the Will Rogers Memorial Centre.

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