Mark Davis: Chasing history

With five straight Top 4 finishes, Davis is in exclusive company

Mark Davis
Mark Davis is on a tear. Can he win Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year at 50?

About the author

Ken Duke

Ken Duke

Ken Duke is the Senior Editor of B.A.S.S. Publications. To get your daily dose of bass information, history and trivia, follow him on Twitter @thinkbass.

With five straight Bassmaster Elite Series finishes in the top four, Mark Davis is on a streak of historic proportion. Though two other anglers have racked up longer stretches of Top 12 finishes (Skeet Reese and Aaron Martens), no one has put together anything quite so impressive ... at least not recently. You have to go back a ways to find a run like this.

Here are some of the best tournament streaks in B.A.S.S. history. Not surprisingly, they were accomplished by some of the greatest anglers the sport has ever seen. You don't put together streaks like this through luck.

Kevin VanDam

KVD's career has been full of impressive streaks — back-to-back Bassmaster Classic wins, four straight Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles, 29 consecutive in-the-money finishes, 57 straight competition days with limits. I could go on, but you get the idea.

In 2010 and '11, KVD posted a run of six straight Elite events where he never finished lower than sixth, including a Classic win. But this stretch includes two "postseason" events where the field was just a dozen anglers. So, that's very strong, but maybe not as strong as what Davis is doing.

VanDam's best Elite-only run came in 2008 (on the way to the first of four straight AOY titles). That year he posted four straight events where he was never worse than eighth. It ended with a win on Kentucky Lake.

In 2006, he put together four events (three Elites and a "Major") where he was never worse than ninth.

For me, the greatest tournament streak of KVD's career came in 2005-06. That's when he rattled off 10 straight tournaments where he was never worse than 10th. It included a couple of Classics (47 and 51 anglers, respectively), a Busch Shootout (13) and four Elite 50s (50 each). That's a lot of small fields, but they were star-studded. This was also the stretch where he notched three straight B.A.S.S. wins (two Elite 50s and the 2005 Classic).

He did about the same thing in 2004-05 — seven events where he was never worse than 12th, including four Elite 50s, a Busch Shootout and a Classic. Impressive, but almost exclusively against small fields.

If you want to look at larger field sizes, VanDam's best string might be in 1999 and 2000 when he posted four straight tournaments where he was never worse than fifth. Those included a couple of Top 150s (a precursor to the Elite Series) with fields of 156 each and two Invitationals (what B.A.S.S. used to call the Opens) with fields of over 300. In fact, he won the New York Invitational on the St. Lawrence River against one of the biggest fields in B.A.S.S. history — 330 anglers.

Bill Dance

As bass fishing's first star, Bill Dance certainly had more than his share of epic accomplishments. In fact, right out of the gate he gave some performances that looked like they might never be equaled. In his first seven tournaments, he was never worse than seventh, and he won three of them and was runner-up in two.

From 1970 into '72 he put together seven more events where he was never worse than eighth, including three more wins. Then, in 1976-77, he had six more where he ranged from second to ninth. Who knows what he might have done without the distractions of his television show, which he eventually chose over his career on the Tournament Trail.

Roland Martin

Martin was another guy who started strong, though he came along a couple of years after Dance. In his first three B.A.S.S. events, Martin won once and finished second twice ... but he was just getting warmed up.

Still in his rookie season (1970), Martin went on a tear that will almost certainly never be matched in professional bass fishing. In 20 tournaments, he never finished worse than 14th — and that was in the '72 Classic. If you take Classics out of the mix (and that's what we have to do to give Mark Davis his five great consecutive events since he was 43rd in this year's Classic), Martin finished in the top eight in 18 straight events.

The don't call him the Great American Fisherman for nothing!B.A.S.S.The don't call him the Great American Fisherman for nothing!

Here's how those 18 shook out:

1st place - 6
2nd place - 6
3rd place - 1
4th place - 2
5th place - 2

So, 17 of the 18 were top five finishes and two thirds of them were top two. I'm not going out on much of a limb here to say that will never ... never ... never be matched.

But did Martin ever put together five straight events without finishing lower than fourth — like Davis has just done?

The answer, not surprisingly, is yes. After all, Martin dominated the sport like no one before or since. Within that stretch of 18 great tournaments, he put together a stretch of five straight in the top four (just like Davis), including three wins.

But the streak that should knock your socks off is this eight tournament stretch (nine, if you count the Bassmaster Classic):

Tournament

Field Size

Finish

1971 Sam Rayburn Reservoir

134

2

1971 Ross Barnett Reservoir

218

1

1971 Bassmaster Classic

24

4

1972 Kissimmee Chain

315

2

1972 Lake Keowee

156

4

1972 Lake Ouachita

160

2

1972 Watts Bar Reservoir

197

1

1972 Ross Barnett Reservoir

179

3

1972 Lake Eufaula (Okla.)

128

1

Even if you throw out the Classic and its small field (24), that's an incredible run and the most dominant in B.A.S.S. history. To put it in perspective, Mark Davis is having a fantastic run, and he's just over halfway to what Martin did.

Of course, Martin's most celebrated run was his three straight B.A.S.S. wins in 1980 and '81. They came against fields of 264 or more and followed his second place finish in the '80 Classic.

The Man of the Moment

By the way, I checked all the other usual suspects that you might think of when considering great tournament runs — Rick Clunn, Larry Nixon, Jimmy Houston, Hank Parker and plenty of others — but none had stretches to compare with what Davis is doing now.

Davis has already accomplished almost all there is to do as a professional. He has three AOY titles and a Bassmaster Classic win. He's won well over $1 million in B.A.S.S. prize money, caught more than 100 pounds in a tournament and generally put his stamp on the sport.

What he hasn't done — what no one has ever done, in fact — is win an AOY title after the age of 50. Davis will be nearly 51 when the season ends, and that's a good deal older than Roland Martin was in 1985 when he took AOY at 45.

Davis has been strong since his return to B.A.S.S. in 2008, but his recent success is off the charts. He has a healthy lead in the AOY race and a fourth title would put him behind only Martin's nine and VanDam's seven.

Of course, just how special this run has been is not lost on Davis. When I congratulated him on it, he just smiled and said, "It's fun!"

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