Whenever the Bassmaster television cameramen work on the Bassmaster Classic, I always tell them they must dial it up about 10 notches because this is a bass fishing event like no other.
"Gang," -- I'm famous for calling them that -- "one of you will have a camera on an angler whose whole life changes at the end of this."
It really is that important.
Bobby Murray, who has always been a close friend, had his whole life redirected after that first Classic victory back in the day. He's a great guy and would have done well under any circumstances, but he'll always be known as Bobby Murray -- first Classic winner.
And how about Rick Clunn? We all know that he's had a fabulous career, but we consider him as possibly the best bass fisherman ever, because of one thing; he's won four Bassmaster Classics. That's impossible. No one could win four Classics.Then there's Davy Hite. Davy's won several B.A.S.S. events, has well over a million dollars in winnings, and has even won a competitive circuit's No. 1 prize, but no one really remembers any of that. They never forget that he won the first Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans. The only thing you read about when someone refers to Davy Hite is that he's a Classic champ.
Now, let's talk about the guys who were runners-up.
There's Jim Bitter. He finished second when a bass flipped off the lure, hit the windshield inside his boat and flopped back in the water. He never finished out his limit and lost by ounces. I always think about how much more you would know about him had that not have happened.
Tommy Biffle has occupied the No. 2 spot more than once. He's had a great career, but what if he had added a Bassmaster Classic trophy to his award shelf?
Now here's a good one for you. Wonder how many bass Bill Dance has caught in his lifetime? He's probably forgot 'em all.
The one he hasn't forgotten is the one he almost caught at Classic III in 1973. Bill lost a 3- or 4-pound fish right at the boat in the last moments of that event and ended up being runner-up to Rayo Breckenridge.
If Dance had caught that fish, he would have become famous ... Oh wait, he is famous. Well anyway, I bet he'd give anything to have landed that fish.
We could go on and on about these examples ...
A Classic win, and a "never give up" statement, launched Mike Iaconelli to another level, but my point is still what I started the piece out with. Winning the Bassmaster Classic is by far the most important thing that can happen to an angler in our world. It's only happened to 33 bass fishermen. Six of them will be competing in New Orleans next week and I'm wondering if it won't be a new name this year.