The only BFN qualifier who did well in his first Classic and followed it up with another strong performance was Michael Iaconelli, who was 6th in his 1999 debut and 10th a year later when he made it as a pro. The rest didn't come close to backing up their early success.
Were they flukes? Maybe, but it's also true that an angler's focus changes the second time around at the Bassmaster Classic. In the debut they were excited to be there, found themselves on some fish and did well. When they make it again, they realize there's no second place in the championship, so they take a few chances, look for an obscure pattern or isolated group of fish and wake up to find themselves out of the cut. It happens.
Looking ahead to the 2013 Classic on Grand Lake, Okla., Feb. 22-24, the six newest BFN qualifiers have their work cut out for them. As you probably know, Bryan Kerchal is the only BFN qualifier ever to win the Classic. He did it in 1994 in his second try. Five months later he was killed in a North Carolina plane crash.
Kerchal led that Classic on both Day 2 and (obviously) Day 3. The only other BFN angler ever to lead a Classic was Gerry Jooste. Jooste was on top after the first day of the 1997 Classic on Lake Logan Martin in Alabama.
Day 1 of the 1997 Classic (when Jooste took the early lead) was also the last time a BFN qualifier had the heaviest daily catch at a Bassmaster Classic. It's happened just three times. Phil Hunt did it in 1983 (Day 3) and Brent Riley did it in 1994 (Day 2). Despite his win, Kerchal didn't have the heaviest bag on any individual day of the 1994 Classic.