If you've seen the Bassmaster Classic standings after Day 2 on Lay Lake, you know it's a three horse race between Jeff Kriet, Kevin VanDam and Todd Faircloth. The same three anglers were atop the leaderboard after the first day, and, if you had to bet, you should put your money on the same three to win, place and show once it's all over.
The reason you have to give them the edge is simple. Just 3 ounces separate the three anglers, and their nearest competitor is more than 5 pounds back. Yes, Michael Iaconelli (in fourth place) can make up that deficit in a single cast, but it's not something on which you'd want to bet the house.
Bassmaster Classic history tells us that if you're not way up the leaderboard after Day 2, you have almost no chance of winning the tournament.
How far up in the standings do you need to be? Well, 23 of the anglers who led on Day 2 of the previous 39 Classics went on to win it. Anglers who were in second place as the final round began won 7 times. That leaves just nine Classics where the ultimate champion started the final day in third place or worse. And only two anglers (Rick Clunn in 1990 and Hank Parker in 1989) started farther back than fifth.
The Bassmaster Classic is not a tournament you win by laying back early and then swooping in for the late win. It's a tournament that goes to the angler who jumps out early and then hangs on. Kriet, VanDam and Faircloth are in a position to do just that.
Strictly by the numbers, this is going to be a very normal Classic. The bag weights and the fish are neither big nor small. No one angler is dominating the field.
The news here is that we could have the closest Classic in history, and there's plenty of star power to fuel a great story. Never before in Classic history have three anglers been so close going into the final round.
Insiders may be interested to learn that a few records have been set here this week.
Denny Brauer became the fourth angler in Classic history to finish last in two different Classics. Brauer was also last in 1995. The others are Cliff Craft, Ish Monroe and Tim Horton. Brauer is the only one in the group who has also won a Classic.
Boyd Duckett is not only the only angler to have won a Classic in his home state, but with this Classic he also becomes the angler with the worst ever performance at home — 48th out of 51.
With a third Classic championship, VanDam will notch his 17th career win, moving him into second place all-time behind Roland Martin's 19. Denny Brauer also has 16 career wins. The win will also propel KVD over the $4 million mark in career BASS earnings, nearly double the second place angler (also Brauer at $2.3 million).
The BASS Federation Nation had a rough showing at this year's Classic. Only Virginia's Jeff Freeman will be fishing on Sunday. The other five anglers were all clustered between 30th and 44th place. Freeman is currently 16th and has a chance to move up quite a few places with a strong finish. He also made the cut in his other Classic appearance.
Pam Martin-Wells, the second woman to qualify for the Classic through the Women's Bassmaster Tour, has acquitted herself well. She's fishing on the final day and made the cut to the top 25 with more than a pound to spare.
Perhaps the biggest history that could be made in Birmingham today would come with a VanDam victory. Not only would it be his third Classic title, but he would join Mark Davis (1995) as the only anglers to win the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year award and the Classic in the same season.