It’s a simple question, but one that stopped most of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic qualifiers dead in their tracks on Media Day:
If you don’t win the Classic, who would you like to see win?
The question wasn’t “Who do you think will win?” or “Who’s chances do you like to take home the hardware?” but more basic. If you can’t get it done, what other angler could carry the trophy home and still warm your heart in this Oklahoma winter?
Some of the answers might be a little surprising.
Takahiro Omori, the 2004 champ, first said he’d want the tournament cancelled if he couldn’t win. Then he decided that Tommy Biffle would be a good second choice.
Tracy Adams, an angler who qualified by winning a Southern Open, picked another Southern Open winner — Hank Cherry.
Shaw Grigsby tied for the lead among all vote getters. Three of the 27 qualifiers I polled picked the affable Florida veteran fishing his 15th championship. He was the choice of Brandon Card, Edwin Evers and Aaron Martens.
The other angler who picked up three votes was Idaho’s Brandon Palaniuk, who has impressed a lot of veterans in a short time on tour. Shaw Grigsby, Michael Iaconelli and Jeremy Starks all picked Palaniuk.
Aaron Martens’ four runner-up finishes in the Classic earned him the support of Bill Lowen. College champ Matt Lee likes Greg Hackney.
Friendships were supported all around as John Crews picked Ish Monroe, Boyd Duckett took Terry Scroggins, Pete Gluszek selected fellow Bass University founder Mike Iaconelli, Alton Jones took Brent Chapman and Yusuke Miyazaki picked Takahiro Omori.
Brotherly love was evident, too. Last year’s champ, Chris Lane, said that if he can’t repeat, he wants his brother Bobby to win this year. And while the love of a sibling is enough, he also chuckled as he told me they have the same deal in 2013 that they had in 2012. If one of them wins, he’ll pay the other’s Bassmaster Elite Series entry fees … not that you need an extra reason to root for your brother, of course.
Several of the pros polled thought it would be great if one of the three Oklahomans could claim fishing’s biggest title in their home state. Ott DeFoe and Casey Scanlon picked Jason Christie for that reason. Gerry Jooste took Edwin Evers, and Takahiro Omori selected Tommy Biffle.
Winning a Bassmaster Classic would be a life-changing event for any angler, but it would be especially important to some. Lots of qualifiers considered this factor before making their selection, opting for someone who has “paid his dues” or otherwise established himself as a top angler who only needs a major championship to go to the next level. Matt Herren chose fellow Alabaman Gerald Swindle. Jared Lintner and Jason Quinn will be rooting for Mike McClelland if they don’t win. Cliff Pace is in Todd Faircloth’s corner, and Mark Pierce likes Randy Howell.
Pierce got a vote from fellow B.A.S.S. Nation qualifier, Jonathan Carter, and it showed that the Nation guys stick together … on some things anyway. Staying within the Nation team, Mark Dove picked five-time qualifier Gerry Jooste.
Only one VanDam got a vote among the qualifiers I was able to talk to, but it wasn’t Kevin. He has the respect of the entire field, but with four Classic titles already, none of his competitors are hoping he’ll add to his trophy case. Nevertheless, Cliff Prince picked Jonathon VanDam, saying he thought he’d make a great champion.