Return of the Classic Crystal Ball: Bassmaster Pros are Back in Knoxville, Tennessee!

Return of the Classic Crystal Ball: Bassmaster Pros are Back in Knoxville, Tennessee!

March 14, 2023

In 2019, when the Bassmaster Classic was last held in Knoxville, Tennessee native Ott DeFoe came away with the win and proof that “two out of three ain’t bad” when it comes to having a couple of really big days on the water. But a long list of familiar names were also among the top results, including several anglers who would come back to win big in tournaments thereafter. Now the Classic is revisiting the Tennessee River and it’s bound to be another remarkable show. We honestly can't wait, so we’re Returning to the Classic Crystal Ball to see what may be in store.

Pro Predictions for the 2023 Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville, Tennessee

Before anyone hits the water in pursuit of payouts and the Ray Scott Bassmaster Classic Trophy (newly renamed in honor of B.A.S.S.’s legendary founder), we sat down with the pros and asked them for predictions. See what they said below as they poke a bit of fun, give some glimpses behind-the-scenes, and provide some insight into what it takes to fish the waters of Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Biggest Bag of the 2023 Bassmaster Classic

For every big weigh-in bag that helps clinch a win, there are even more examples where the biggest bag of the tournament has catapulted an angler into a prime spot with better payouts. Look no further than the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee, if you want to see that. Though Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson defended his top spot with 4 days of impressive consistency, Day 3 certainly proved that no one should get too comfortable. There’s a good chance we could even see something similar this year.

With that being said, here’s what the pros predict for 2023:

For the 2023 Bassmaster Classic, what will the biggest bag weigh?

“21 pounds, 0 ounces (of smallmouth!).
— Jeff "Gussy" Gustafson

Matt Arey: 21 pounds, 0 ounces

Jason Christie: 20 pounds, 0 ounces

John Cox: 21 pounds, 8 ounces (“21lb - 22lb” — we’re splitting the difference on that answer)

Austin Felix: 20 pounds, 6 ounces

Jeff Gustafson: 21 pounds, 0 ounces (“of smallmouth!”)

Carl Jocumsen: 22 pounds, 0 ounces

Chris Johnston: 19 pounds, 13 ounces (“19.8 lbs”)

Brandon Lester: 18 pounds, 8 ounces

Chad Pipkens: 20 pounds, 1 ounce (“I think there will be a bag or two over 20 pounds over the course of the three days. But not by the same person!”)

Jacob Powroznik: 20 pounds, 4 ounces

Gerald Swindle: 22 pounds, 15 ounces

Half of the pros responding to our survey see bags coming in large, most around what we saw last time with Chris Zaldain’s Day 2 haul of 21 pounds, 12 ounces. We certainly hope so!

The Biggest Bass of the 2023 Bassmaster Classic

Five of our pros think we’ll see some monsters over 7 pounds. Meanwhile, Gussy insists the heaviest bass will be a smallmouth, but it won’t be as large as the previous Big Bass spot holder in the 2019 Classic. Anything is possible though, so here’s the full run-down of predictions from THM pros:

For the 2023 Bassmaster Classic, what will the biggest bass weigh?

“8 pounds, 1 ounce.”
— John Cox

Matt Arey: 6 pounds, 8 ounces

Jason Christie: 7 pounds, 0 ounces

John Cox: 8 pounds, 1 ounce

Austin Felix: 5 pounds, 12 ounces

Jeff Gustafson: 5 pounds, 8 ounces (“of smallmouth!”)

Carl Jocumsen: 6 pounds, 12 ounces

Chris Johnston: 6 pounds, 1 ounce (“6.02 lbs”)

Brandon Lester: 7 pounds, 0 ounces

Chad Pipkens: 6 pounds, 1 ounce (“I think we will see a fish or two over 6lbs!”)

Jacob Powroznik: 7 pounds, 14 ounces

Gerald Swindle: 7 pounds, 2 ounces

With bass that weighed in identically at 6 pounds, 3 ounces, Mark Daniels, Jr. and Edwin Evers split the Big Bass prize when the Classic was in Knoxville in 2019. (Just imagine if one of those fish could have edged the other one out, but it coughed up a crawdad.)

Winning Fishing Techniques at the 2023 Bassmaster Classic

Mum is typically the word when it comes to patterns, but at least a few pros shared their thoughts.

What will the Winning Pattern be at the 2023 Bassmaster Classic?

“Heavy prespawn bite with a combination of flipping and reaction baits.”
— Matt Arey

Matt Arey: “Heavy prespawn bite with a combination of flipping and reaction baits”

Austin Felix: “Jerkbait fishing”

Jeff Gustafson: “Fishing deep for smallmouths!”

Carl Jocumsen: “Either deep Smallmouth or big bait fishing up shallow!”

Chris Johnston: “Colorado spinner bait or white vibrating jig”

Chad Pipkens: “Someone that can find where the fish are transitioning to spawn will win the tournament. This includes finding where those smallmouth will be setting up!”

Late to Takeoff?

It’s hard to top the question we asked last year, asking which peer our pros would target with a bad luck banana, but this was still a fun one that might also have some stories behind it. The result? Some ribbing, humility, and patterns that may suggest that timeliness can even pose a challenge for seasoned pros.

Who is most likely to be late to the ramp on tournament morning?

“Me! I will most likely be last one to the ramp on tournament morning.”
— Gerald Swindle

Matt Arey: “Swindle”

Jason Christie: “Swindle”

John Cox: “If it's not us, it'll be Scott Martin for sure.”

Austin Felix: “Probably me…”

Jeff Gustafson: “John Cox - just because.”

Carl Jocumsen: “Seth Feider.”

Chris Johnston: “Cooper Gallant.”

Brandon Lester: “John Cox.”

Chad Pipkens: “Clifford Pirch will casually roll into take off about 10-15 minutes before we launch and won’t even bat an eye about it! Haha.”

Jacob Powroznik: “Steve Kennedy.”

Gerald Swindle: “Me! I will most likely be last one to the ramp on tournament morning.”

Getting into the Zone

Resuming our theme of playlists and pump-up songs for tournaments, the pros continued to surprise us.

Here’s what they said they’ll be listening to on the way to takeoff, come tournament morning:

What will you be listening to on the way to takeoff?

“Harry Potter audiobooks.”
— Austin Felix

Matt Arey: “‘Rival’ by LANCO”

Jason Christie: “Indian Outlaw” by Tim McGraw or some John Anderson

John Cox: “Listening to my wife since I barely get to talk to her during these tournaments.”

Austin Felix: “Harry Potter audiobooks.”

Jeff Gustafson: “‘Sunrise’ by Kygo”

Carl Jocumsen: “‘I Love It’ by Hilltop Hoods”

Chris Johnston: “‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC”

Brandon Lester: “‘Rocky Top’ — the Tennessee Vols fight song.”

Chad Pipkens: “I will be listening to a mix of old-school hip-hop and rap from the mid-90s and early 2000s to get me fired up!”

Jacob Powroznik: “"Back in Black’ by AC/DC — Something to get the blood flowin.”

Gerald Swindle: “Morgan Wallen or TI or Kevin Gates.”

Your Turn: What Will the Biggest Bag Weigh?

The pros have provided a range of answers, between 18lbs, 8oz and 22lbs, 15oz, but what do you think it will be?

Enter your prediction below and provide your contact information for a chance to win a free Hat and WaveAway from T-H Marine. With a close guess and a little bit of luck, you just might win!

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Get the Pre-Tournament Pump-Up Playlist

For these jams from the pros and more, check out T-H Marine's official Pre-Tournament Pump-Up Playlist — now streaming on Spotify!

Where to Find us at the Bassmaster Classic Expo

We'll have pros, product, and great deals at our booth — besides, it's a great chance to meet the team and talk fishing. Here's all the info you need to get to the show.