Top competitors in any sport tend to be control freaks. They want to have a say in every variable within their orbit and some that aren’t. Sometimes it seems that the great ones can impact the weather, change the spin of the ball in midflight, or so severely cripple their opponent’s mindset as to render him a non-competitor.
The one thing none of them can affect, though, is their birth date. Once you’re out of the womb, there’s no going back inside.
For some, the randomness of their date of birth is a gift. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would likely have been Hall of Famers no matter who they competed against, but the fact that they had one another as foils, in college and throughout their pro careers, made their achievements even more extraordinary and memorable.
On the other hand, some stellar athletes would be thought of more often, or in more favorable terms, were they not overshadowed by their even more exceptional contemporaries. The examples that pop into my mind first are boxers Roberto Duran and Tommy Hearns, who were both world champions in multiple weight classes, but whose legacies are overshadowed by those of Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler. Duran and Hearns participated in many of the greatest fights of that era – Duran beat Leonard once and Hearns tied Sugar Ray once – but their long-term impacts somehow pale in comparison to the other two.
If the bass fishing history books were concluded today, I feel this latter problem is the one that would befall the entry on Tommy Biffle, who turned 55 a couple of weeks before this year’s Bassmaster Classic.
No one who follows the sport closely can deny Biffle’s numerous achievements. With B.A.S.S. alone, he has earned 7 wins, 18 Classic appearances and over $2 million in winnings. He bolstered each of those totals on the strength of his recent Elite Series win on the Upper Mississippi River. Add to that a PAA win, an FLW Tour win, eight appearances in the Forrest Wood Cup and over $600,000 in FLW winnings, and it’s a career probably 80 to 90 of the current Elite Series pros would covet.
But he’s not Denny Brauer.
As I’ll describe in further detail down the page, nothing I write here is meant to knock Biffle, but if you ask most casual fishing fans who is the best flipper and pitcher of the past 20 years, the past 10 years or even the past 5 years, most of them will point to Brauer. There’s good reason for that – Denny’s credentials are truly extraordinary. In fact, if you were creating your own personal Mount Bassmore, after you chiseled out the visages of Roland Martin, Rick Clunn and KVD, no one could take serious issue with you if you chose Brauer for the fourth slot. Again, just look at his B.A.S.S. stats – in a handful more tournaments than Biffle, he won 17 times, qualified for 21 Classics, won a Classic, was the 1987 Angler of the Year, and cashed checks totaling over two and a half million bucks.
That doesn’t include his FLW accomplishments, which while not quite up to Biffle’s level (partially because Brauer didn’t fish both tours for quite as long), added over two hundred grand in winnings and another AOY title, which resulted in his grinning face on the Wheaties box. Biffle has never been on a cereal box (side note: If Biffle does ever represent a cereal company, I sincerely hope they come up with a breakfast food called “Biffle-O’s”).
Brauer was even on the David Letterman show. The closest Biffle came to show business was this disturbing commercial for Gene Larew Lures.