If history is any indication (and it usually is), the 40th Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala., will contribute heavily to the annals of the sport. One way to look at the Classic's remarkable contributions over 40 years is to review the annual event's "firsts." They include:
1971, 1st Classic
It's only logical that this list begins with the inaugural Classic, the 1971 event in Nevada on Lake Mead. With that event, BASS founder Ray Scott began what is now regarded as the sport's premier event, the one for which every pro pushes to qualify, every amateur angler dreams of being in, and every die-hard fan wants to witness.
The victor on Mead was Bobby Murray of Hot Springs, Ark. He won $10,000. How the sport has grown: the Classic winner now takes home $500,000.
1976-1977, 1st back-to-back wins
Rick Clunn, Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Ava, Mo., set the bar very early on — and very high — in Classic history by posting back-to-backs in 1976 (Alabama's Lake Guntersville) and 1977 (Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga). His pair of aces has yet to be duplicated.
1977, 1st wire-to-wire win
Clunn was not only the first wire-to-wire Classic winner in 1977 on Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga; he led all three days again in 1984 on the Arkansas River. He remains the only Classic champ with two wire-to-wire wins.
Only five other Classic winners led all three days: Hank Parker in 1979, Bo Dowden in 1980, Stanley Mitchell in 1981, Jay Yelas in 2002, and Luke Clausen in 2006.
1984, 1st Classic weight over 75 pounds
Clunn set another record in 1984 by posting a winning weight of 75 pounds, 9 ounces. His haul of Arkansas River bass also stands as the largest margin of victory, 25-8.
1994, 1st BASS Federation Nation winner
The late Bryan Kerchal will always be remembered for his Classic win. And he did it at age 23, besting big-name pro Tommy Biffle by just 4 ounces. Kerchal was killed in a plane crash a few months after he claimed his Classic crown.
1995, 1st reigning AOY to win a Classic
Today, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Davis says he did not realize in 1995 how truly hard it is to possess the sport's two biggest titles at the same time. Time has proved the difficulty of the accomplishment; no one has been able to duplicate Davis' feat of being the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year and the Classic champ.
1997, 1st 1-ounce margin of victory
Dion Hibdon squeaked past Dalton Bobo by 1 ounce. Hibdon's winning weight was 34 pounds, 13 ounces, edging out Bobo, a Federation Nation qualifier who almost became the second to win a Classic.
2004, 1st International winner
Takahiro Omori came to the United States from Tokyo in 1992 to fish competitively. He fulfilled his dream to be a successful pro in the biggest way possible, by winning the 34th Classic on Lake Wylie in North Carolina. He's now a Bassmaster Elite Series pro who qualified for the 2010 Classic, his seventh.
2007, 1st to break the "home state jinx"
Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., came to Alabama's Lay Lake as a rookie Classic contender as well as an Elite Series rookie. He won by 6 ounces over veteran Skeet Reese. Duckett is, of course, regarded as a favorite coming into the 2010 Classic on Lay Lake.
2009, 1st woman in a Classic
Kim Bain-Moore of Alabaster, Ala., won first-woman rights by earning the 2008 Toyota Tundra Women's Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in the Bassmaster Women's Tour. In the 2010 Classic, Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., will be attracting attention as the sole woman in the 51-angler field.