Yesterday we covered some of the things to watch for on the first day of the Bassmaster Classic. For Day 2, the rules have changed. There are some new things in the mix and a few things we can throw out the window. Remember, the Classic is different. It's not like other tournaments.
Here are the keys to getting the most out of the viewer experience on Day 2.
Since there are no points to be accumulated at the Classic, no moral victories to be won and no particular value to a top 10 or just-inside-the-cut finish, you can expect that most of field bringing up the rear of the standings will be going for broke on Day 2. They have little choice.
If the first day saw them in 15th place or worse, 10 or more pounds off the lead, they'll be swinging for the fences, and when you do that you tend to strike out a lot — more often than when you play it safe by catching a modest limit and trying to make a good showing in the year's most important tournament.
Some anglers will be doing that — playing it safe — but they're mostly going to be the Classic rookies, the B.A.S.S. Nation anglers and the guys who think this might be their only shot at the big time. No one wants to go out with a whimper, so they're trying to show they belong with the big boys by at least managing a middle-of-the-pack finish.
The anglers who have been to the big dance before (and believe in their heart of hearts that they'll be there again) have no interest in saving face. They want to move way up the leaderboard and put themselves in a position to win. If they can't do that, they'd just as soon get things over with and head for the Classic Expo to work a sponsor booth.
Remember, at the Classic, every qualifier fishes the first two days, but only the top 25 move on to fish Day 3. Day 2 is "moving day."
The things I said yesterday about more than half the field being eliminated on Day 1 get magnified on Day 2. If you can disregard all but the top 15 anglers after the first day, you can cut that number to the top five on the second. In fact, 95 percent of all Classic winners were in the top five going into the final round.
And 79 percent of the eventual winners were in first or second place! That doesn't give much hope to the rest of the field, does it? Of course, if just a pound or two separates the top few anglers, things are a little less stable, but don't go looking for a miracle on Day 3. This is not a sport of big comebacks.
The exception came in 1990, when Rick Clunn won his fourth Bassmaster Classic. Clunn was in 10th place going into the final round, 9 pounds, 10 ounces off the pace set by Tommy Biffle. All the "smart money" had written Clunn off, but he went out and caught the heaviest bag of the tournament while Biffle — and everyone between those two on the leaderboard — struggled. He ended up winning by almost seven pounds in the greatest comeback in Classic history.
On Day 1, most of the Classic competitors are pretty much alone. Still, everyone except Kevin VanDam, Aaron Martens, Skeet Reese, Mike Iaconelli, Gerald Swindle and a few others will be able to isolate themselves enough that boat traffic won't be much of an issue.
On Day 2, that traffic intensifies for a couple of anglers and for a couple of reasons. First of all, the leaderboard has started to take shape. There are clear "haves" and "have-nots" out there. KVD and Ike look like the first ships in an armada every time they change locations in the first round, but the tournament leader will siphon off a few of those fans on Day 2, and if KVD and/or Ike are out of the hunt after the first day, the leader might have a lot of followers. It will be the weekend, after all, and more fans will be on the water.
That all gets worse going into the final round. If the leader and those near the top are not big names, they're suddenly going to be fishing in a big crowd that may or may not impact their ability to catch fish.
Hunter or hunted?
Every Classic contender gets asked this question at some point:
If you're in contention going into the final round — within a pound or two of the lead — would you rather be in first place or back a couple of places?
Most of the anglers will say that they'd like to be back a couple of places, the "hunter" rather than the "hunted."
Of course, that's the wrong answer most of the time. It's far better to have the lead, no matter how slim. It's why three times as many Day 2 leaders have won the Classic as have anglers in second place.
But there may be an exception. If the angler has been rising steadily over the first two days, has managed to do so "quietly" and isn't one of the big names in the sport, it might make sense to play "hunter" on Day 3 and take the chance that spectator boats won't be as numerous.
Still, if history is a good teacher — and it's the best — you should opt for the lead and take your chances.