Another Bassmaster Classic is in the books, and it was a good one. It had drama, suspense, surprises and a new cast of characters that we really haven't seen much of before.
By now, it's been sliced, diced, dissected, bisected, drawn and quartered by the fishing media, but we've yet to take a hard look at the numbers ... until now. Let's get started.
For a fishery that was beleaguered by muddy water and cold fronts, the Red River was (once again) remarkably productive, though not as productive as it was in 2009. The field of 49 contestants brought 1,405 pounds, 4 ounces of keeper bass to the scales over three days. That ranks fourth all-time in Classic history. The best ever came on the same waters in 2009 when 51 anglers caught 1,578-14.
If you break that number down in a more meaningful way, it means the average angler brought 12.43 pounds of bass to the scales in 2009 (best all-time) and 11.42 pounds in 2012 (fourth best ever). So, it was a very productive Classic.
The average bass brought to the scales weighed 2.57 pounds in 2012 — 5th best ever. The top mark was set in 1980 on New York's St. Lawrence River where the average bass weighed 2.93 pounds, and a lot of them were smallmouths.
For the second time in Bassmaster Classic history, an angler was attempting to win three in a row. Kevin VanDam fell short this year, finishing 11th, but it was an impressive effort. Each day he increased the weight he brought to the scales, finishing just under 11 pounds off the pace.
In 1978 Rick Clunn had a chance to win three in a row and came very close to pulling it off. That year on Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi, he finished second to Bobby Murray in the best three year run in Classic history.
Will anyone ever win three in a row? The odds are greatly against it. In a 50-angler field with all 50 anglers having an equal chance of winning (which of course is not accurate, but we'll use that figure here), the odds that any particular angler will come out and three in a row are prohibitive; it should happen once every 125,000 Classics. If an angler has already won two in a row, the chances of him winning a third straight drop to 50-to-1. Back-to-back wins should only come once every 50 Classics except for the fact that there are exceptional talents like Clunn and VanDam out there who are simply better than the rest of the field.
Chris Lane became the fifth angler to win the championship in his second try. Eight Classic rookies have won, and five more anglers won in their third try. Thus 18 of the 33 individuals who have won a Bassmaster Classic did it in their first three attempts. That's 54.5 percent! Just seven of the 33 won after their sixth try (21 percent).
Of course, there are plenty of exceptions. It took Denny Brauer 16 tries before he won in 1998, and Kevin VanDam won in his 11th try back in 2001, but most of the champs have won early in their Classic careers. The younger guys talk about being "hungrier" than the established pros, and they certainly have to cope with fewer spectator boats and other distractions. It all adds up.
B.A.S.S. Federation qualifiers acquitted themselves pretty well at this year's Classic. Three of the six made the cut to the top 25 and fished on Sunday. It's the first time that's happened since 2009 at the same venue. The "cut" to the top 25 has only been around since the late 1990s, and three is tied for the most BFN anglers to make the cut, though four finished in the top 20 back in 1990, before there was a cut.
None of the BFN qualifiers finished in the top 20. That's the worst since 2005 on Pittsburgh's Three Rivers, when none of the five (before it was expanded to six qualifiers) finished in the top 32.
And if someone tells you that it's unusual for the BFN not to have a top 10 finisher at the Classic, don't believe them. Of the 175 berths representing the BFN at the Classic over 40 championships (all but the first two), only 19 have cracked the top 10. In all, 16 (or 38 percent) of the Bassmaster Classics had a BFN qualifier in the top 10.
On Day One of the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, rookie Keith Poche grabbed the lead on his way to a third-place finish. It was the 10th time in championship history that a rookie led the first day and the first since 2007 when Boyd Duckett did it.
Only two rookies have ever taken the first day lead and gone on to win — Duckett and Stanley Mitchell in 1981 — and only Mitchell led wire-to-wire on his way to victory.
Just seven rookies have led on the second day (the last was Mark Hardin in 1995), and eight rookies have won the Classic (Mitchell, Duckett, Bobby Murray in 1971, Rayo Breckenridge in 1973, Tommy Martin in 1974, Jack Hains in 1975, Charlie Reed in 1986 and David Fritts in 1993).
All in all, rookies win more Bassmaster Classics than any other year class of competitors. That only makes sense on some level since the rookie class tends to outnumber any other year class in the field.