My favorite tournament of the year is our season-ending Classic event. Nothing is better than finishing the year with some bragging rights going into the off season. Fortunately, we fish our Classic on the north end of Okeechobee: A location that has been very good to Missy and me.

The Classic brings a chance for everyone to earn a paycheck. All the money collected from raffles, entry fees, etc. throughout the year gets paid out at the Classic. This is kind of cool. For those who don’t manage a top-three finish during the season, it’s a chance to get their hands on a little of the cash they have put into the club throughout the year.

Besides the money, the Classic is always our most enjoyable tournament. Generally, everyone in the club gets down to the lake by Thursday, and because we get a deal at one of the hotels down there, we all get to stay together. Groups go out to eat together, toss horseshoes, and even throw some bags. As competitive as tournament fishing gets at times, for a few days everyone just relaxes and enjoys being off work fishing down at the lake.

This past season has been one of the most competitive we’ve had to date. Our top team was trailed closely by two other teams. The second-place team was only one point behind them, and the third-place team was only one point behind the second-place team. So the season turned out to be a battle to the end. Now, the Classic takes the points away, and we all simply go fish for the most weight we can catch.

I don’t know why, but Missy and I have always fared well in this event. It hasn’t hurt that we have been coming to this location for a few years now and have really learned the top end of Okeechobee. When the water was really high due Hurricane Irma last year, the river paid off for us. With the water down since then, but still high compared to what we’ve seen some years, we hope our pattern from last year will produce some bass. As in any bass tournament, locating a spot that produces a kicker fish will be essential.

This is the one tournament that Missy and I don’t stay in the RV. However, we are taking the RV with us — because we don’t want to leave the cat behind for five days. The hotel does not allow pets, or you have to pay a ridiculous amount for a deposit, so we just decided to use the RV as our tow vehicle so Tori can come along.

If they had a location for RVs that was right near the boat ramp, we would be staying there. However, all of the RV places are by water, miles away from the ramp. Considering I’m the president of the club, I have way too much stuff to haul around and carry it in the boat all day. So for this tournament, we stay at the hotel.

Some of the other things that come at our Classic: We vote on our new officers, we raffle off more items, and we decide on the lakes for the upcoming season. I’ll give out a list of topics that will be discussed at the annual meeting in January and try to get as much involvement from our club members as possible.

There is a lot of fellowship between our members. I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy our club so much. We actually have people that like to hang out together. The Classic seems to bring that together every year. At the end, we recognize our new anglers of the year, the person who caught the biggest bass for the year, and the team that had the biggest five-bass weight for the year. Not to brag, but Missy and I claimed the last two on that list.

We are about a week away from the big event. Personally, I can’t wait because it really is my favorite event to fish. I have never won the Classic, but maybe this is the year for Missy and me.

Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.

Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com

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