No country for comebacks

About the author

Ken Duke

Ken Duke

Ken Duke is the Managing Editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer and the author of two books on bass fishing. Follow him on Twitter @thinkbass.

Don't believe the hype. It's not "anybody's game," there's not "plenty of time left" and chances are it's not "slipping away" from the leader.

At least in the world of tournament bass fishing, the lead is — almost always — everything.

Let's take a look at the 57 tournaments that make up Elite Series history. Almost all of them went the distance — four days — though a few were cut short due to inclement weather. Of those 57 events, the Day One leader went on to win the whole thing 15 times (that's 26.32 percent) and 11 times the first day leader went wire-to-wire, never looking back and leading each day of the event.

Here are the wire-to-wire winners in Elite history:

Place Angler Year Location
1 Preston Clark 2006 Santee Cooper, S.C.
2 Mike McClelland 2006 Grand Lake, Okla.
3 Skeet Reese 2007 Potomac River, Md.
4 Kevin VanDam 2008 Kentucky Lake, Tenn.
5 Kevin Wirth 2008 Old Hickory Lake, Tenn.
6 Bobby Lane 2009 Kentucky Lake, Tenn.
7 Byron Velvick 2010 Clear Lake, Calif.
8 Kevin VanDam 2010 Kentucky Lake, Tenn.
9 Tommy Biffle 2010 Ft. Gibson Lake, Okla.
10 Dean Rojas 2011 Toledo Bend Reservoir, La.
11 Denny Brauer 2011 Arkansas River, Ark.

 

What is about Kentucky Lake that put it on this list three times? I'm not sure, but it might have something to do with the style of fishing that usually wins there — cranking offshore ledges with big schools of bass. Once you get a lead there, you're probably on the school to win, so hanging on is relatively likely.

So, how about the Day Two leaders? Well, they've gone on to win 25 times (43.86 percent). And Day Three leaders have won 36 times (63.16 percent). That's right — the angler in the lead after Day Three is going to win the event nearly two thirds of the time!

Comebacks are rare, but they happen occasionally, and the eventual winner is not necessarily among the leaders all the way through. In fact, some winners have been pretty mediocre to start the tournament.

The worst start ever by an Elite winner came in 2007 on Clear Lake. You may remember that tournament because Steve Kennedy set the all-time weight record for the five bass limit era (4-day tournament) with 122 pounds, 14 ounces. But he didn't start very strong. In fact, he ended the first day in 51st place, well off the pace and teetering on the brink of elimination in the form of the Day Two cut.

Similarly, Morizo Shimizu and Casey Ashley were both in 49th place after the first day of the 2006 Kentucky Lake tournament and 2007 Smith Mountain Lake event, respectively, but they both went on to win.

Here are the five worst starts for Elite Series winners, by place after the first day:

Angler Tournament Position after Day 1
Steve Kennedy 2007 Clear Lake 51st
Casey Ashley 2007 Smith Mountain Lake 49th
Morizo Shimizu 2006 Kentucky Lake 49th
Derek Remitz 2007 Lake Amistad 37th
Paul Elias 2008 Falcon Lake 26th


And here are the five biggest Day One weight deficits ever overcome by eventual winners:

Angler Tournament Weight deficit after Day 1
Derek Remitz 2007 Lake Amistad 16-7
Paul Elias 2008 Falcon Lake 13-11
Steve Kennedy 2007 Clear Lake 12-13
Jason Williamson 2009 Lake Amistad 10-13
Edwin Evers 2011 St. Johns River 10-1


You can afford to fall behind if weights are high. If everyone's struggling, you need to be in the hunt from the start.

Naturally, as the tournament progresses, it becomes more and more difficult to mount a comeback. After Day Two, only five Elite winners were in tenth place or worse.

Angler Tournament Position after Day 2
Jason Williamson 2009 Lake Amistad 38th
Ish Monroe 2006 Lake Amistad 19th
Fred Roumbanis 2008 Lake Murray 15th
Steve Kennedy 2007 Clear Lake 12th
Morizo Shimizu 2006 Kentucky Lake 10th


Every other Elite winner was inside the Top 10 after Day Two and 82.46 percent of them were in the top five!

Here are the biggest weight deficits overcome by eventual winners after two days:

Angler Tournament Weight deficit after Day 2
Jason Williamson 2009 Lake Amistad 26-10
Steve Kennedy 2007 Clear Lake 16-13
Paul Elias 2008 Falcon Lake 12-7
Edwin Evers 2011 St. Johns River 10-9
Todd Faircloth 2008 Lake Amistad 8-11


Next time we'll take a look at Day Three, which is when we tend to hear all the hype about big comebacks. As you'll see, those comebacks are few and far between.

After that, we'll look at the biggest leads ever blown in Elite Series competition.

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