They say records are made to be broken. Here are a few to keep your eye on at the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro.
In his record 32 Classic appearances, the legendary Rick Clunn brought 772 pounds, 2 ounces of bass to the scales where they were weighed by Ray Scott, Harold Sharp, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Dewey Kendrick, Trip Weldon and a few others. That total is almost sure to fall this year, particularly since Clunn is not in the field to add to it.
Kevin VanDam, the only angler with a Classic résumé that can rival Clunn, enters the tournament with 751-1 —just over 21 pounds behind Clunn. The only question I have is whether KVD breaks the record on Day 1 or Day 2. It's almost certainly going to fall.
That VanDam will have eclipsed the record in 24 Classic appearances to Clunn's 32 is not necessarily a testament to his superiority in the championship.
Yes, Clunn fished more events. Yes, the daily creel limits were higher in many of Clunn's Classic appearances. Yes, many of Clunn's Classics came before the field was cut to 25 anglers on the final day —so there were a few times (three to be exact) when he fished the final day but wouldn't have made it there under today's format.
But Clunn had other hurdles that make his accomplishment every bit the equal of VanDam's.
First, Clunn's first three Classics were on "mystery" waters. He didn't know where he'd be fishing until he had already packed for the event and was airborne to get there. That makes for great drama and competition, but it doesn't exactly allow an angler to get dialed in and maximize his catch.
Second, for Clunn's first 11 championships he had competition from inside his own boat! The press observers were not only allowed to fish, they were encouraged to do so and paid big cash prizes if they caught the biggest fish among the press corps. That practice ended in 1985, but not before it took its toll on angler weights.
Third, Clunn's first nine Classics were in the fall, when weights are traditionally down. His next 20 were in the summer —another time when weights tend to be more modest. KVD's last eight Classics were in the late winter, when weights have been the highest on record. Plus, with the exception of Three Rivers in 2005, Classic fisheries have generally been a lot better in recent years as management practices, water quality and other factors have improved.
When KVD passes Clunn for career Classic weight, he'll have earned every ounce, but don't discount Clunn's record ... it's just as impressive.
The current record is 1,578-14 set in 2009 on the Red River, but this record is as much a factor of field size as anything else. Put enough anglers on a good body of water at the right time of year and with decent weather, and this one falls like a condominium of cards.
The 2014 field of 55 anglers (second most in Classic history —there were 61 in 2003) would need to average just 11.70 per angler day to break that record.
Barring horrific weather, this one's going down, but it'll have to obliterated to be truly impressive.
If you really want to measure productivity in the Bassmaster Classic, this is how you do it. You calculate average weight brought to the scales each day by each angler. The current record is 12.43 pounds set in 2009 (again, on the Red River).
If this record falls at Guntersville in 2014, it'll take #2 (above) with it. The 55 anglers will get a combined 135 days on the water (the full field fishes the first two days and 25 will fish the final round). If they catch 12.43 pounds a day (to tie the record), they'll finish with 1,678-1 for the tournament —almost exactly 100 pounds more than 2009.
There's probably about a 50 percent chance that this one falls. I know that everyone thinks Guntersville will blow the numbers out of the water this year, but that kind of enthusiasm precedes most Classics, and things (like weather) have a way of bringing the numbers back to earth.
The current record is 75-9 by Rick Clunn in 1984 (on the Arkansas River), but that one was set when the daily creel limit was 7 bass, so it's not a fair comparison. Nevertheless, it is the record, so let's cover it here.
To eclipse 75-9 over three days means an angler needs to average better than 25-3 —or about five pounds per bass. That kind of average happens very, very rarely in B.A.S.S. competition and has never happened in a Bassmaster Classic. I think that number would have been surpassed in 2005 on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Central Florida (several anglers were on an early pace to do it), but a cold front came through on the first day and slowed the fishing dramatically.
Can it be broken at Guntersville? Yes, it certainly can, but I'd put it at less than 50 percent —maybe around 25 percent.
Now, to make more of an apples-to-apples comparison, Kevin VanDam had 69-11 in 2011 (Louisiana Delta) with a 5-bass limit. That number is a little lower and therefore more attainable. I'd put it at a little better than 50 percent. I realize I'm making a big gap between breaking 75-9 (just 25 percent) and 69-11 (more than 50 percent), but six pounds is a lot! It's like adding an extra fish (and a big one at that) to your catch.