Numbers never tell all of a story. Words and pictures are critical, too. But when it comes to the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26, numbers tell a very interesting part of what will and what might happen on the Red River.
For starters, the 49 anglers vying for the Classic trophy include six men who have already won the championship — Kevin VanDam (2001, 2005, 2010 and 2011), Denny Brauer (1998), Davy Hite (1999), Michael Iaconelli (2003), Takahiro Omori (2004) and Alton Jones (2008). The record for most previous champs in the Classic field is 10, set back in 1989.
Of the six anglers who have already won the Classic, they have a total of nine titles (thanks largely to KVD's four). That's also not the record. In 1989, 2005 and 2006, anglers with a total of 12 Classic championships were competing.
There are seven former Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Anglers of the Year in the 2012 Classic field — Kevin VanDam (1992, 1996, 1999, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011), Denny Brauer (1987), Davy Hite (1997 and 2002), Tim Horton (2000), Gerald Swindle (2004), Aaron Martens (2005) and Michael Iaconelli (2006). Between them, they have 14 titles.
As you might expect, neither is the record. In 2006, there were 10 former AOYs in the Classic field, and in 2002 Classic competitors held 22 AOY titles (mostly thanks to Roland Martin and his nine AOYs).
As the years go by, the Classic is more and more of a veteran angler experience. The 2012 field is the second most experienced in history. Each angler in it has already fished 5.67 Classics on average. The record came in 2006 when the average Classic competitor had fished 5.92 championships.
The most experienced Classic competitor in the field is VanDam, who will be fishing his 22nd consecutive championship. He ranks second to Rick Clunn in consecutive appearances. Clunn posted an astonishing 28 in a row between 1974 and 2001.
Brauer will be fishing his 21st Classic. Other Classic "graybeards" in double figures include Shaw Grigsby, Hite and Jones with 14, Iaconelli, Martens and Kevin Wirth with 13; Swindle with 12; Brent Chapman, Edwin Evers and Tim Horton with 11; Todd Faircloth, Greg Hackney, Randy Howell and Dean Rojas with 10.
Twenty-two of the anglers who competed in the 2011 Classic on the Louisiana Delta are back in 2012. Likewise, 22 anglers from 2009 — when the Classic was last held on the Red River — are back, though the champion, Skeet Reese, will be notably absent.
The average age of the 2012 Classic field is 40.21 years. This number has held very stead in recent years, never dropping below 40 or rising to 41. The oldest angler in the field is Denny Brauer at 63. In fact, he'll be the third oldest angler ever to compete in a Classic. L.F. "Shorty" Evans holds the record. He was 65 years, 9 months and 2 days old at the end of the 1978 championship.
Brauer and two other anglers will have a chance to eclipse Woo Daves' record as oldest Classic champ. Daves was 54 and change when he won in 2000. Brauer (63), Tom Jessop (62) and Grigsby (55) could all pass that number.
The youngest angler in the 2012 Classic will be Elite Series pro Brandon Palaniuk. He's 24 and, if he wins, would become the third youngest Classic champion in history behind Stanley Mitchell (21 in 1981) and Bryan Kerchal (23 in 1994). The youngest angler ever to compete in a Classic was Gregory Ward, grandson of television fishing legend Virgil Ward. He fished the 1975 Classic at the ripe old age of 19 years and 11 days. Teenagers have competed in three Classics.
And, in case you need one more number, the average age of a Classic champion is 36.43 years. That most closely matches B.A.S.S. Federation Nation qualifier Matt McCoy, who will be 36 years, 5 months and 13 days old when the 2012 Classic ends. Keith Combs, Faircloth and Chris Lane will also be 36.