As years go, 2010 was a very big one in the world of bass fishing. Every area of the sport and industry was impacted in a significant and lasting way, from business to competition to conservation.
This year had it all. Here's a countdown of the top five stories from the year that's just ending. You may disagree with the order, but these stories stand head and shoulders above the rest of what happened in our sport in 2010.
5. EPA denies ban on lead tackle For as long as most of us care to remember, so-called "conservationists" have been trying to ban lead fishing tackle, claiming that significant numbers of water birds die from ingesting lead sinkers. In November, the Environmental Protection Agency denied the petition of several organizations requesting the ban, saying, "You have not demonstrated that the remaining action requested in your petition — a uniform ban of lead for use in all fishing gear — is necessary to protect against an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment, as required by TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) section 21. The petition also does not demonstrate that the action requested is the least burdensome alternative to adequately protect against the concerns, as required by TSCA section 6. Accordingly, EPA is denying your request for a ban on lead in all fishing gear."
4. Down to the wire For the second straight year, Skeet Reese headed into the postseason with the lead in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, and for the second straight year Kevin VanDam took home the trophy. It had to be worse for Reese this year, though. For the first five events of the eight-event season, he was unstoppable, invincible and seemingly uncatchable. He lost the first tournament of the year by only an ounce, won two of the next four and finished fifth in the other two. Then he stumbled ... just a little, missing the cut at the next two events, but retaining a big lead in the AOY race. Meanwhile, VanDam was struggling. Halfway through the season he was in 38th place — not just in danger of missing the postseason but in serious jeopardy of needing his automatic Classic berth (as defending champion) to get back to fishing's biggest stage.
Reese got back on track, finishing second in the final event. VanDam was even better, though, taking a first and sixth in the last two. Going into the postseason, Reese had what seemed like a fairly comfortable lead while VanDam was sixth — well back and with lots of other anglers to pass. But he did pass them, winning his third straight AOY title (tying Roland Martin for most consecutive) and his sixth overall (second to Martin's nine). Reese slipped to third in the AOY race despite a remarkable season.
3. And Lay Lake makes three No one draws boat traffic at B.A.S.S. tournaments like Kevin VanDam. The consensus greatest angler in the world attracts fans on the water like honey draws bees or moths go to flames. After Bassmaster Classic wins in 2001 and 2005, few gave the Kalamazoo Kid much of a chance to win again. After all, part of winning a Classic involves finding a way to keep your fish to yourself, and KVD simply attracts too much attention. What we didn't count on, however, was that VanDam would find a way to use those crowds to his advantage by creating a blockade around the area he was fishing — and sharing — with some other competitors. When the smoke cleared at Lay Lake in February, VanDam was atop the field and clutching his third Bassmaster Classic trophy. He's now just one short of Rick Clunn's record for Classic championships.
2. B.A.S.S. sold! On Nov. 1, several months after announcing that an agreement in principal had been reached, ESPN formally declared that its sale of B.A.S.S. was complete.
The new owners, Don Logan, Jerry McKinnis and Jim Copeland, are all lifelong anglers with a commitment to growing the sport.
Logan is a former CEO and chairman of Time Inc., the largest publishing company in the United States. For three years, he was chairman of Time Warner's Media and Communication Group, overseeing America Online, Time Inc. and Time Warner Cable.
McKinnis is well known to bass anglers everywhere. His television program, The Fishin' Hole, was a leader in outdoor programming and was one of ESPN's longest-running programs.
Copeland is a former CEO of Deloitte, the world's largest financial services company. In addition, he serves on the board of directors of several Fortune 500 companies.
1. A new world record For 77 years George W. Perry held the top spot among largemouth bass catches with a 22-pound, 4-ounce giant caught from Georgia's Montgomery Lake in 1932. Though there had been some close calls — including a foul-hooked 25-pound monster — they all missed the legendary mark. Everyone in the bass fishing community assumed that if Perry's record was to be broken, though, the fish would come from California.
After all, virtually every one of the spots on the Bassmaster Top 25 list was held by a Golden State lunker. At least they did until July 2, 2009. That's when Manabu Kurita landed a bass weighing a shade under 22-5 from Japan's Lake Biwa. It was the catch heard round the world, and bass media everywhere scrambled to get scraps of the story.
At first, rumors of Kurita's catch coming from an off-limits area persisted, but a thorough examination by the International Game Fish Association (including a polygraph test of Kurita) cleared the angler. In January, his catch was certified as a tie for the all-tackle world record in the largemouth bass category (IGFA rules require that an applicant exceed the current record by 2 ounces to be certified as a new record).