The final 25 anglers may be slugging it out on the water right now, but we can already tell you who the winner is this week in Kissimmee: Mark Detweiler.
Detweiler is the proprietor of Big Toho Marina, the site of the official take-off for all Classic anglers for the past several days.
Big Toho has been a sacred spot for tournament fishing on Lake Toho since 1971, but Detweiler and his crew have a new spotlight on them. Now this is not Bass Pro Shops. The décor hasn't changed much in the past 35 years and they don't dabble in clothing or hunting stuff. Big Toho Marina does however have minnows, a quick breakfast and every bit of tackle and gear you really need for a day on the lake. In short, it's a fishing store like they don't build anymore.
And it's a heck of a business.
"We've doubled our grill money and doubled our tackle money over the past two weeks," said Detweiler at day-one take-off Friday morning.
In Friday's pre-dawn it was easy to see why. Anglers, tournament officials and family members were two deep ordering up sausage biscuits and coffee at the vintage counter for almost two hours. A few anglers even picked off the bait racks for a little last-minute tackle box reinforcement.
"We have more than 100 tournaments on the lake each year, so we stay pretty busy, but the Classic has been great," added Detweiler, who seems to be aware of everything happening in the 500 square foot shop.
In an instant he pointed out a women patiently waiting for two hot chocolates to the woman working the grill counter out. Simultaneously he eyeballed the door to make sure only credentialed people had access to the anglers dock. Nothing escaped him, and this week, that included the many dollars that come with hosting the Bassmaster Classic.