BIRMINGHAM, AL — Historic victories, record fish catches and dramatic finishes during back-to-back events proved to be must-watch television for sports fans as the Bassmaster Elite Series’ New York swing drew in a combined audience of 7.2 million viewers over eight days of coverage on ESPN2.
Between televised coverage on ESPN2 and the livestream on Bassmaster.com and ESPN3, fans watched more than 214 million minutes of live tournament coverage during the two events.
The action started at the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence River, where on Day 1 of the event Paul Mueller, of Naugatuck, Conn., produced on-screen fireworks when he landed a 7-pound, 13-ounce smallmouth bass — believed to be the biggest smallmouth ever caught in an Elite Series tournament. On the final day, Mueller and Chris Johnston, of Peterborough, Ontario, battled treacherous waves and 20 mph gusts on Lake Ontario as both anglers fought to reach the 100-pound mark. After coming from behind to capture the win, Johnston fell just short of the century mark but took home the coveted blue trophy with a whopping four-day total of 20 smallmouth bass that weighed 97 pounds, 8 ounces and made history by becoming the first Canadian to win an Elite Series tournament.
Heading into the tournament, Johnston was ready to provide anglers and fans a much-needed enthusiasm boost. “It’s been a weird year, and I think we need to be out there on the water doing what we love to do. With ESPN2 covering the events, it was a great couple of weeks for the fans watching there and on Bassmaster LIVE.”
Savvy fishing enthusiasts knew weights would be close on Lake Champlain, but with less than 3 pounds separating 10th place from first, Championship Sunday was set up perfectly for viewers craving another exciting finish. ESPN2 coverage had just kicked off for the afternoon when Idaho’s Brandon Palaniuk went on a 45-minute flurry that helped him leapfrog from fifth place to claim his fourth B.A.S.S. win.
In the midst of this action, Palaniuk took time to explain to viewers how he used electronics to locate and catch large bass, continuing the trend of explaining techniques and offering tips to new anglers that viewers have seen over the past three events and have traditionally found on Bassmaster LIVE.
“I want our broadcasts to be entertaining and educational for anglers of all levels whether it’s the first or 100th event they have watched,” said Palaniuk. “That’s why I do my best to explain what I’m seeing out there in the moment.
“With more people working from home we have more people enjoying fishing, so being able to share our tournaments with many of those people through a network like ESPN2 is huge!”
B.A.S.S. worked in conjunction with local hosts to ensure the tournaments adhered to guidelines issued by the State of New York for professional sports competitions, which included diagnostic testing as well as protocols for daily health screenings for all athletes and staff via the CrewMinders safety check platform and a host of other safety and social distancing measures. Under these guidelines, no fans or spectators could attend the tournaments.
“We are thankful to all of our local hosts as well as our partners at ESPN, who have helped B.A.S.S. safely bring the fun of competition and beauty of these fisheries into the homes of millions of fans during our three most recent tournaments,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO.
The 2020 Bassmaster Elite season continues on Michigan’s Lake St. Clair Aug. 20-23, with live coverage on Bassmaster.com, ESPN2 and ESPN3. Weigh-ins will be aired on Bassmaster.com. Check local listings for ESPN2 broadcast times.