On the first day of the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes, Grant Goldbeck weighed in one small bass for 1 pound, 1 ounce. If one is the loneliest number — as Three Dog Night once claimed — Goldbeck was in a lonely place, indeed, ranking a dismal 97th out of 99 anglers.
It was about as bad as it could get. But, for Goldbeck, things got much better very fast.
On Day Two, he went out and bagged a limit weighing 27-1. It was enough to move him into 16th place — well inside the cut — and within range of the improbable.
The next day, he did it again — five bass weighing 22-15 (best catch of the day by any angler) for a total of 51-1. He wasn't all that close to the leader (Shaw Grigsby), but he was in second place, 11-10 off the lead.
In the final round, Goldbeck was sharp again. This time his best five weighed 16-13, good enough to hold on to second place, 7-6 behind Shaw Grigsby, and earning a $25,000 check for his efforts.
Ultimately, his disastrous Day One cost Goldbeck the tournament (and $75,000). It was only his tremendous recovery that made him a factor at all.
Many called it the greatest comeback in B.A.S.S. history, but was it?
I don't think so.
That honor goes to Basil Bacon and his performance in the 1979 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Texoma out of Pottsboro, Texas.
Like Goldbeck, Bacon struggled mightily on the first day. In fact, Bacon zeroed, posting a big goose egg and resting in a tie for last place behind first round leader Hank Parker, who brought six fish (the limit was seven in those days) to the scales weighing 16-10.
On the second day, Bacon — again like Goldbeck — had nothing to lose and nowhere to go but up. He caught five bass weighing 13-14 and moved up into 6th place. Unfortunately for Bacon, Parker had a good day, too (11-15), so he was still 14-11 off the pace.
But there was one day left to go, and the pro from Missouri was on a solid pattern.
In the final round, Bacon was sizzling again. This time he had six bass (no one caught a daily limit in the entire Classic) weighing 14-2 and pushing his three day total to 28 pounds. Better yet, Parker stumbled, catching just one bass that weighed a meager 2-7 on the last day.
When the smoke cleared, Parker was the Classic champion and Bacon was second, 3 pounds back. If he had caught just one fairly average fish in the first round — or one more bass on either of the other two days — Bacon would have been the winner and Parker would have lamented a bad final day.
In the final analysis, Bacon's comeback was even closer than Goldbeck's and on fishing's biggest stage. After 32 years, it still ranks as B.A.S.S.'s greatest comeback ever, though it fell just a little short.
Ken Duke is the editor of Bassmaster.com and the author of two books on bass fishing: Bass Forever with Glen Lau (www.whitefishpress.com) and The Bass Fishing Vault (www.WhitmanVaultBooks.com). Look for new installments of "The Final Analysis" every Tuesday and Thursday on Bassmaster.com.