Dignitaries including Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris (center, red hat) prepare to cut a red ribbon to open the World's Fishing Fair March 29. (Photo: Bass Pro Shops)

Bass Pro Shops is throwing a truly massive event in Springfield this week that’s expected to draw in half a million attendees. They’re calling it the “grandest event” in fishing history.

The World’s Fishing Fair officially starts on Wednesday, March 30 and runs through Sunday, April 3.

In recognition of poor weather conditions expected Wednesday, a special opening ceremony was held Tuesday, featuring a B-2 Stealth Bomber flyover, a performance from Lee Greenwood and dignitaries including Gov. Mike Parson and Mayor Ken McClure.

It will be five days of massive sales, star-studded concerts and educational opportunities for anglers. But that’s not all.

“Really, you could spend all day there. The whole family could, because there are so many different fun activities for kids to do,” said Jeff Wilhoit, a spokesman for Bass Pro Shops. “I’ve heard possibly 100,000 people per day could attend, but we just don’t know right now. But we’re prepared for a large crowd.”

With such massive crowds expected, parking will be a challenge — especially when you factor in the giant tents set up on the Bass Pro Shops parking lot. To make things easier, Bass Pro has coordinated satellite parking lots with free shuttle service to and from the World’s Fishing Fair. 

World’s Fishing Fair Parking Lot Locations

  • Corwin Dodge, 1025 West Sunshine St.
  • Grizzly Tools Warehouse, 1815 West Battlefield St.
  • Battlefield Mall Sears lot, 2825 South Glenstone Ave.
  • Battlefield Mall North lot, 2825 South Glenstone Ave.
  • Jordan Valley Car Park, 815 East St. Louis St.
  • Parkview’s JFK Stadium, 1333 South Grant Ave.
  • Toys R Us, 1415 East Battlefield Rd.

In addition, Campbell Ave. will be closed in front of Bass Pro Shops, from Cherokee to Sunshine. Several side roads between Campbell and Jefferson will also be closed to through traffic. Electronic message boards will be posted around Springfield to help guide drivers.

“The City is excited about this one-of-a-kind, five-day fair will offer activities and fun for people of all ages and is expected to bring in tens of thousands of visitors to Springfield and the region,” said Cora Scott, City of Springfield director of public information and civic engagement. “Putting on an event like the World’s Fishing Fair requires a lot of work by a lot of people and Bass Pro reached out to the City to consult on making this a safe event for residents and guests. The last time it was held was 1988. As with any large special event, they went through the special event permit process. Police and additional traffic management services are being hired to provide the extra attention needed.”

The sales at World’s Fishing Fair

The World’s Fishing Fair crowd will be treated to sales on everything from boats to fishing gear and more. The company says more than $20 million of tackle will be priced to sell. There will also be tent sales featuring factory closeouts and overstocks, and more.

“We’ll have about 200 vendors set up in the parking lot and they’ll have sales and deals on all of their stuff,” Wilhoit said. “It’s a great opportunity to save money on any outdoor gear.”

Bass Pro Shops has invited some of the world’s top outdoors experts to give seminars during the World’s Fishing Fair. Guests can learn from people like Roland Martin, Jimmy Houston and Kevin Van Dam.

“If you really want to learn more about fishing or hunting, these seminars are really cool,” Wilhoit said. “It’s like Michael Jordan teaching you how to shoot a free throw or something. You’ll be talking to people like Bill Dance, so it’s going to be pretty incredible to have that kind of access to some of the legends of the past and all these superstars that are fishing right now on the pro tour. That will be pretty exciting.”

The entertainment at World’s Fishing Fair

Not an avid angler? Check out the entertainment options during the World’s Fishing Fair, highlighted by Concerts for Conservation. Three special shows are scheduled for JQH Arena, featuring some of country music’s top artists. Those acts were recruited, in part, though Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris’ connections.

“A lot of those folks are friends with Johnny and, of course, Johnny’s in Luke Bryan’s new music video, called ‘Bill Dance,’” Wilhoit said. “Luke wrote that about his hero Bill Dance. Luke Combs, who is arguably the hottest star in country music right now, will be here for a concert and Hank WIlliams Jr. will play Saturday. We’re super excited about that.”

Concerts for Conservation Line-up

  • Thursday, March 31, 8 p.m.: Luke Combs
  • Friday, April 1, 8 p.m.: Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Chris Janson, John Anderson, Lindsay Ell
  • Saturday, April 2, 8 p.m.: Hank Williams, Jr.
  • Tickets: $95-$250

Tickets for the concert are available, starting at $95 per show, and you must purchase a World’s Fishing Fair ticket to buy a concert ticket.

There’s still more. NASCAR stars like Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be signing autographs, while Larry the Cable Guy, trick-shot artists Dude Perfect and the P.A.W. Patrol will also be on hand to entertain the crowds.

“If you have kids, you’ll definitely know the name Dude Perfect,” Wilhoit said. “Those five guys are really popular on YouTube. We’re building a huge Ferris wheel, so there are just a lot of cool activities for kids.”

World’s Fishing Fair Tickets

Early Bird tickets: Children (ages 9-16) $5, Adults $10, Children 8 and under are free

Regular tickets: Children $8, Adults $20

Two-day passes: Children $10, Adults $25

Three-day passes: Children $12, Adults $30

For more information, visit the event’s official website.

The City of Springfield has also set up a public information call center that will be open during the World’s Fishing Fair to answer any questions. The number to call is 417-829-6200.

Jeff Kessinger

Jeff Kessinger covered sports in southwest Missouri for the better part of 20 years, from young athletes to the pros. The Springfield native and Missouri State University alumnus is thrilled to be doing journalism in the Queen City, helping connect the community with important information. He and wife Jamie daily try to keep a tent on the circus that is a blended family of five kids and three cats. More by Jeff Kessinger