The Wild Side.March 3, 2013

After a week in Tulsa, Okla., for the 43rd Bassmaster Classic, it didn’t take long to understand that this one and all future Classics will be measured by what has happened in Louisiana since 1999.

In the span from 1999-2012, our state was host to the Classic six times, four in New Orleans and two in Shreveport-Bossier City.

Davy Hite won that first trip here with what was then a record 55 pounds, 10 ounces total, and New Orleans, our marshes and the Mississippi River delta had a place in bass fishing history.

The game’s giants, Kevin VanDam and Mike Iaconelli won their first Classics during the next two trips to New Orleans, then Skeet Reese won the 2009 title on the Red River. Iaconelli finished second by 11 ounces, one of the closest Classics.

In 2009, more than 120,000 folks showed up for the three-day Classic Expo in Shreveport and standing-room-only crowds jammed the CenturyTel (now CenturyLink) Center in Bossier for the three weigh-in days.

Then, in 2011, VanDam blew the lid off the recordbook. Working in Lake Cataouatche, he won his fourth Classic title with a 69-11, 15-bass, three-day catch that wiped out the old five-bass daily record by more than 13 pounds (Earlier Classics had a seven-bass-a-day limit). The previous record had been set in 2006 on much-more-famous central Florida lakes.

When the Classic ended last Sunday on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, Cliff Pace won with a 51-pound total, far off VanDam’s record set on Louisiana’s waters.

And shortly after Pace held the trophy aloft and collected $500,000, Bass Anglers Sportsman Society folks were touting attendance as “the second highest attendance for the three competition days in the event’s 43-year history,” later mentioning that “more than 54,000 attended the Classic Outdoor Expo.”

The point here is that most saltwater fishermen know our state is king when it comes to what’s along and off our coast. Redfish, trout, flounder, cobia, red snapper, amberjack, billfish, tuna and wahoo: Few other states can match our saltwater opportunity.

Point No. 2 is that because Classics are measured by standards set here, is our state missing the boat when it comes to adding another jewel in our tourism crown?

Fishermen around the country know what’s here, but how easy does our state make it for anglers to travel and bring their money?

It’s not, and we need to do more to get them here.

A good man

Long before Frank Polozola became a federal judge, he was Frank, a baseball player, a solid student, then a devoted husband, family man, a good guy.

Frank passed away last week and hundreds, no make that thousands, paid their respects.

He was generous, at the same time tough and tough-minded. He made Baton Rouge a better place to live.

Condolences to his wife and family.

Frank Polozola will be missed — mightily.