Biggest stories of the decade, Part 1

Wrap-up of the decade highlights.

The decade that began with the Y2K scare is coming to a close, and given the fizzle of that story and the way 2009 ended, it's fair to say that the 2000s came in like a lamb and went out with a Tiger.

It was a big decade for the sport of bass fishing. In this two-part series we'll count down the 10 biggest stories of the decade.

Without further ado...

10. Roland Martin retires

In 2005, one of the all-timers called it a career. After 35 years, 19 wins and nine Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles, Roland Martin walked away. It's likely that no one will ever match his AOY record, and only the combination of today's smaller fields and more numerous tournaments will put his wins record in jeopardy.

The only thing Martin didn't do was win a Bassmaster Classic. If he had picked off just one in 25 tries, he might be universally regarded as the best who ever lived. In his prime, he was certainly the most dominant.

9. ESPN buys BASS

In April 2001, ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, stepped up to the fishing plate and purchased BASS. The results and changes have been dramatic. Since that time, BASS has enjoyed greater television presence, greater resources and bigger forums than might ever have happened otherwise.

Anglers are now winning ESPYs, first place in the Classic is worth half a million bucks, and we even had our own news show (BassCenter) — complete with SportsCenter music — before low ratings took it off the air.

8. KVD wins three in a row

Just about the time it was announced that Kevin VanDam was the fifth-place finisher in ESPN's Greatest Angler Debate, the Kalamazoo Kid went on a tear. Apparently, fifth place didn't sit very well with him.

In the span of just a couple of months, VanDam won two Elite 50s and the 2005 Bassmaster Classic — consecutively. It's a feat that compares favorably with Roland Martin's three wins in a row in the early 1980s, except that Martin was facing much larger fields.

7. Clunn's streak ends

They say all good things must come to an end, but that didn't seem to lessen the disappointment or the shock that surrounded the end of Rick Clunn's consecutive Bassmaster Classic streak. For 28 years in a row (1974-2001), Clunn was money, qualifying for the sport's biggest championship every year and winning four of them along the way.

It came to an end in 2002, and it just wasn't the same without him. The angler who defined himself by the Classic and won the Greatest Angler Debate seems an essential component to the sport's greatest stage and most important tournament. He's been hit or miss in qualifying since the stretch ended, but every fan of the sport has to hope he has a few more Classics left in him.

6. Bass Man

Although bass live all over the world, the sport seemed a lot more international in the summer of 2004 when Japan's Takahiro Omori won the Bassmaster Classic with some stirring 11th hour drama.

Omori came to the U.S. with little money, having few friends here and speaking little English. He lived in his car and worked as a dishwasher before settling in Emory, Texas, to guide on Lake Fork and live in tiny travel trailer.

His was a true story of sacrifice and determination. When he took the title, he fell to his knees in tears. So would each of us if we had been through as much.

Check back on Thursday for the top five bass fishing stories of the 2000s.