Every Bassmaster Classic is different. That's what makes them special.
It's also true that every Bassmaster Classic is the same, and that's what makes them "classic."
One of the "sames" that occurs every year at Classic time is a group of qualifiers who have never fished the ultimate championship before and are eager to make their mark on the sport.
This year there's an unlucky number (13) of rookies in the Classic. Here's who they are and how they managed to qualify:
Bryan Hudgins, Orange Park, Fla. - 29th in Toyota Tundra Bassmaster AOY standings
Byron Velvick, Del Rio, Texas - 35th in Toyota Tundra Bassmaster AOY standings
Matt Herren, Trussville, Ala. - 1st in Bassmaster Southern Opens
Greg Pugh, Cullman, Ala. - 2nd in Bassmaster Southern Opens
Michael Burns, Plano, Texas - 1st in Bassmaster Central Opens
Ken Baumgardner, Monongahela, Pa. - BFN Mid-Atlantic Division
Jay Evans, Corvallis, Mont. - BFN Western Division
Terry Fitzpatrick, Waulkon, Iowa - BFN Northern Division
Scott Parker, Londonderry, N.H. - BFN Eastern Division
Waine Pittman, Villa Rica, Ga. - BFN Southern Division
Bryan Schmidt, Olney, Texas - BFN Champion, Central Division
David Williams, Maiden, N.C. - Bassmaster Weekend Series champion
Kim Bain-Moore, Alabaster, Ala. - Women's Bassmaster Tour Toyota Tundra AOY
And it may come as no surprise, but rookies have had mixed reviews in Classic history. Most often they languish near the bottom of the field, but seven Classic rookies have won the tournament and cashed the big check. It happened last in 2007.
These are the Classic rookies who won:
As the Classic gets older and fields stay large (45 anglers and up since 1998), it's only natural that it be tougher and tougher for the inexperienced to win. It's also true that in the sport's biggest tournament the amount of hoopla can be a serious distraction.
The mantra of Classic rookies tends to be "I'm just happy to be here!" And while that's a wonderful attitude, it doesn't exactly reflect the "eye of the tiger" mentality that it sometimes takes to win at the highest level.
Of the 13 rookies in this year's field, all are talented and experienced anglers. Bain-Moore is the youngest at 28. Baumgardner is the oldest at 49. Velvick has the most BASS experience with 115 tournaments. Four have never fished a BASS professional event (Evans, Fitzpatrick, Pittman and Schmidt); five have won one before (Hudgins, Velvick, Burns, Schmidt and Bain-Moore).
And if you believe in momentum, you might want to add Bryan Hudgins to your Fantasy Fishing team. He's fresh off a Bassmaster Southern Open win on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida. He'll be riding that experience and confidence onto the Red River for the 2009 Classic.
Tomorrow's number — 12 — is all about Classic futility.