McIntosh was catching his fish that week split-shotting a centipede in a clear-water area known as Blue Plains. In order to convince the pressured fish to bite he had to use 8- and 10- pound monofilament. When asked if he too was using such light line, Brauer offered up that he wasn’t even sure he owned anything that light. Therein lies the essence of Denny Brauer and the explanation of why he’s important to the history of the sport. While he could use a spinning rod when necessary and earned a fair number of top finishes with tools other than his flipping stick, he was committed to winning and that for him meant sticking with the big rod as long as possible. If you think he wasn’t versatile, you’re sadly mistaken, but you’d also be foolish to think that he truly liked to fish any other way in competition.
I suppose an argument could be made that Tommy Biffle is every bit Brauer’s equal when it comes to pitching and flipping. His resume is stout, too, although he doesn’t have nearly as many wins as Brauer and lacks a Classic title. Additionally, while he too can do a lot of things well on the water, it’s the meat stick that is his favorite. Finally, he remains competitive, having won an Open event in 2011 and an Elite Series tournament in 2010 (notably, not by flipping). But no matter where the two anglers compare in the pantheon of all-time greats, I think it’s reasonably safe to say that they are the last of their breed, anglers who come in determined to win on their terms with no true fear of bombing. In the next generation, I think that Ish Monroe and Kelly Jordon are the two anglers with the win-at-all-costs mentality, although neither seems as committed to a single technique as Brauer or Biffle. Lots of pros talk as if that’s their mentality, but from what I can tell most will bail before they freefall, often dragging their chances of winning into just-get-a-check-territory with them.
When Brauer came up, flippers were the exception, not the norm. Now everybody can do it and do it reasonably well, but it’s my firm belief that because of that we’ll never see another angler come up so closely tied to the technique. We’ll continue to see specialized geniuses – like David Fritts with a crankbait or Aaron Martens with a dropshot – but the days of people coming up with near-blinders on to anything but a single big fish technique are over. That’s the legacy of Denny Brauer: someone who wasn’t afraid to lay a brick, but also wasn’t afraid to win, and did it on his own terms.