By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Bass Cat Boats President Rick Pierce has spent a great deal of money preparing to promote his company at this year's Bassmaster Classic. When it's over, he'll have shelled out a bunch of dough for fuel, too.
When Pierce heard rumblings more than a year ago that B.A.S.S. would stage the 2017 Classic at Texas' Lake Conroe, with weigh-ins and the Outdoor Expo in Houston, he began laying groundwork for the biggest off-site marketing event in the Arkansas-based company's history. When the organization announced in April that Conroe would indeed be the venue, he finalized his plans for what he's dubbed the "Bass Cat Conroe Experience."
"B.A.S.S. brought the Classic to our No. 1 market – we do real well in the Houston area," Pierce said. "We've got 10 dealers inside a 4-hour (driving) circle around the city, and one or another of those has been our No. 1 volume dealer for the year somewhere around 30 times.
"We didn't want to lose any momentum there, so we definitely had to try to do the best we could."
That effort will consist of much more than just a large space at the Outdoor Expo. The company will have a huge lakeside presence headquartered at Wolfie's Restaurant in Montgomery, which is adjacent to the launch site at Lake Conroe Park. Two giant spotlights will shine in the pre-dawn hours before takeoff and four 17-foot blimps will fly 100 feet in the air. That's in addition to a slew of traditional signage on the ground and attached to the buildings at Wolfie's.
Bass Cat will be joined in the endeavor by engine manufacturers Honda and Suzuki, Raymarine electronics and boat care product-maker Protech. Each will pitch large tents on the Wolfie's property.
There will also be a stage devoted to seminar-type presentations by Bass Cat pro-staffers such as Paul Elias, Kevin Short, Brandon Card and Chad Pipkens. Three giant television screens will broadcast Bassmaster LIVE throughout the day, as will the many TVs inside Wolfie's.
Somebody will Win Big
Bass Cat will have a dozen boats at Wolfie's for demo rides and four more inside its 20-by-40-foot tent. Demos will be conducted from just after launch until 2 p.m. on Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday.
Bass Cat president Rick Pierce will be a busy man during the upcoming Bassmaster Classic.
"In that 3-day run we could give in excess of 500 boat rides," Pierce said. "I don't realistically expect to do that many, but whatever number we end up with, my gas bill is going to be hefty.
"Wolfie's has six docking bays that'll hold all 12 boats and it also has a J-shaped seawall. It's a really nice location."
One test-rider will leave the Classic as the owner of a new Bass Cat Phelix powered by a Honda outboard and rigged with a Raymarine graph. Another will win an all-expenses-paid trip to Lake Picachos in Mexico.
The company mailed out 30,000 invitations to people in its database and will have another 10,000 available at the event. Entrants must get those tickets punched after taking a demo ride, then take them to the company's Expo booth (No. 301) at the George R. Brown Convention Center to get into the drawing.
Man on the Move
It'll be a hectic 3 days for Pierce, who'll split his time between the lakeside event and the Expo.
"We've got lots of people involved and there's a lady (from parent company Correct Craft) coming in to oversee the stuff at Conroe," he said. "We're asking our dealers to work with us at Wolfie's because we feel like the best opportunity we have to interface with customers is at the on-water experience."
Bass Cat has also secured the launch facility at nearby Inland Marina (on the property of boat dealer Inland Discount Marine, about a quarter-mile from Lake Conroe Park), and fans who want to view the takeoff from the water and then watch one or more anglers in action can use it free of charge. Short will serve as the host.
"We'll be picking up the fees there and welcoming people in," Pierce said. "The only other option for those people would be launching in the dark hours from somewhere else that's a lot farther away."
> Bass Cat will debut two new models at the event – the Pantera Classic and the Lynx. The former will be available for demo rides, as will the top-of-the-line Jaguar with a 350-hp motor.
> To visit the Conroe Experience page on the Bass Cat website, click here