The other day I was sitting at my desk, just minding my own business, when up popped on Bassmaster.com a photo gallery with commentary from Ken Duke, estimating the odds of each of this year’s Bassmaster Classic contenders actually winning the event.
Ken is my friend, a fantastic writer and what I like to call the “B.A.S.S. stats guru.” He rarely has what I would call a miss in any of his articles.
But I think he missed on this one.
In his gallery, he gave 100:1 odds to four of the B.A.S.S. Nation contenders in this month’s Classic and 90:1 odds to the two who have competed in the Classic before.
As the B.A.S.S. Nation tournament director, I am a little biased about the Nation’s representatives to the Classic. That’s because I see the members of our B.A.S.S. Nation working hard, year after year, to “make it” in fishing while also holding down regular jobs as firemen, carpenters, doctors and lawyers. They have a lot of heart and a lot of drive. And they can fish!
Ken’s odds may or may not be right, but I tell you, I would love nothing more than to introduce Mark Pierce — an active duty Army guy in the Special Forces who is fishing this Classic — to Ken right after Mark wins the Classic. The same goes for our other equally talented competitors, Jared Knuth, Andy Bravence, Jonathan Carter, Gerry Jooste and Mark Dove.
I spent some time looking over the stats for our Nation qualifiers through the years, and they’ve done just as well as some of the top pros. In fact, our Nation anglers are batting .360 in finishing in the Top 25. Out of 175 Classic spots for Nation anglers out of 39 years, 63 of them have finished in that Top 25 bracket. Thirty of those finishes were in the Top 15, and 14 of them were in the Top 5.
The B.A.S.S. Nation has also produced some big names that went on to do very well in the pro ranks. Recognize these names? All these guys once represented the B.A.S.S. Nation in the Bassmaster Classic: Michael Iaconelli, Brandon Palaniuk, Jami Fralick, Russ Lane, Pete Ponds, Jamie Horton, Wendall Mann, Charlie Campbell, O.T. Fears, Danny Correia and Art Ferguson.
In the last 39 years, a Bassmaster Classic contender that came through the B.A.S.S. Nation has finished alone in last place only three times and — tied for last, with a pro, an additional six times.
One of those last-place finishes was in 1993 by Bryan Kerchal, representing the Eastern Division. He again represented the Eastern in 1994 — back-to-back Bassmaster Classic qualifications through the B.A.S.S. Nation, which is a feat in itself — and won the Classic!
The year Kerchal won was a big one for the Nation anglers: Two others finished in the Top 20. And in 1991, four of the five Nation anglers finished in the Top 20.
Here are some other notable finishes:
- Second place: Danny Correia, 1986; Dalton Bobo, 1997
- Fourth place: Billy Phillips, 1976; Terry McWilliams, 2007; Brandon Palaniuk, 2011
- Fifth place: Charlie Campbell, 1974; Larry Lazoen, 1984; David Yarbrough, 1986
- Sixth place: Michael Iaconelli, 1999; Ken Christ, 2002; Bryan Schmidt, 2009
Had Dalton Bobo not been assessed a dead-fish penalty, he would have been the second B.A.S.S. Nation angler to win in a four year span.
I think those are some pretty good stats. The odds may be against these anglers. But my hope is that our six guys realize that there are people out there — mainly 20,000 B.A.S.S. Nation members and me — who believe in you and are cheering them on.
I know you will make us proud!
Go B.A.S.S. Nation!