A lot can be learned after the first day of the Bassmaster Classic. After 39 years of championships, trends develop and history tells the story. Here's where we are after Day 1 in 2010.
As you know, the inimitable Kevin VanDam is in the lead. He's chasing his third Classic title, and it's the sixth time he's led the Bassmaster Classic after the daily weigh-in. The last time was after Day 2 of the 2007 Classic, also on Lay Lake. VanDam, generally regarded as the greatest closer in the history of BASS events, slipped to third on the final day behind Boyd Duckett and Skeet Reese.
VanDam's sixth day as the Classic leader moves him into second place on the all-time list behind only Rick Clunn, who has been the daily leader nine different times. And if KVD can stay in the top three, he'll move into second place all-time with six top 3 finishes. Only Clunn, with 7, has more.
Speaking of Duckett and Reese, the two anglers who battled for the last championship here are not a factor this year. Duckett's in 48th place with a single small bass and Reese is in 37th. If Classic history offers any lesson here, it's that neither of these successful pros will be a factor this year. The lowest position held by any Classic winner after Day 1 was 14th (Don Butler in 1972 and Rick Clunn in 1990).
Obviously, VanDam is in the driver's seat here. His lead is far from insurmountable, but angles who lead after Day 1 have gone on to win 10 of the previous 39 Classics. Seven of them went wire-to-wire, leading each day.
The biggest lead (in terms of weight) that anyone has ever overcome to win the Classic was 12 pounds, 13 ounces. That's what Don Butler eclipsed on the way to winning the 1972 championship. Unless that record is surpassed this year, it means we can eliminate everyone down to Alton Jones in 31st place. Of course, after Day 2 we can eliminate everyone lower than 25th place, no matter the weight of their catch because they'll miss the cut.
VanDam is on a pace to set a record for heaviest Classic catch in the five-bass-limit era. If he can keep up the pace, he'll finish the event with 58-8 and surpass Luke Clausen's mark from 2006 — 56-2.
The overall catch this year on Lay Lake is no threat to pass the all-time Classic record. Even if things maintain, we're on a pace for just over 1,000 pounds of bass over three days, and that would barely rank in the Top 10 all-time.
Nor is the average size of the bass here this year particularly remarkable. On Day 1, the average bass weighed 2-3. That's far off the mark of nearly 3 pounds set in 1980 on the St. Lawrence River.
1998 Classic champ Denny Brauer has a chance to tie a record he'd rather not. Cliff Craft, Ish Monroe and Tim Horton are the only anglers to have finished last in two different Classics. Brauer can join them if he can't get something going today. He also finished last in 1995.
Randy Howell has struggled in Classics past. He's second all-time with eight appearances without cracking the Top 10. He's currently in 20th place and could move one notch closer to Peter Thliveros' record of 13 Classics without a Top 10 finish.
The hopes of the Alabama faithful to produce another home-state champion are dwindling. Russ Lane is more than 5 pounds off the lead in 9th place and Gerald Swindle and Kotaro Kiriyama have only about half of the leader's weight. It certainly appears that this will be another championship that goes to an angler with out-of-state plates.
One record was tied yesterday. It was the mark for coldest Classic day. Last year on the Red River near Shreveport, Day 3 dawned at just 28 degrees. Well, Day 1 of the 2010 Classic was just as cold.
But things are warming up, and so may be the fishing. The Classic is a tough tournament to evaluate after just one day. Things come into focus after the second day of competition, and certain predictions can be made. Check back tomorrow for the latest analysis.