The Classic Countdown can sometimes read like an ode to Rick Clunn. It's because Clunn has clearly been the most accomplished angler in Bassmaster Classic history. With back-to-back wins in 1976 and 1977, he established himself as the first Classic-created superstar in the sport. Since then, he's done nothing but cement that position.
A great many numbers help to define Clunn's history in the Classic. Some have been detailed already, others are yet to come, but few are as significant as 16. It's the number of times that Clunn has finished in the Top 10.
To put that number in perspective, it means that nearly half the time there has been a Classic, Clunn has been in the Top 10 — within striking distance of a win. To go a step further, since Clunn is about to compete in his 32nd Classic, it means that he's been in the Top 10 more than half the time.
That's impressive by anyone's standards.
Of the 16 Top 10 finishes, you already know, of course, that four of them are wins. Here's how the rest shake out:
2nd place — 2
3rd place — 1
4th place — 3
5th place — 1
6th place — 0
7th place — 1
8th place — 2
9th place — 1
10th place — 1
Of course no one else can claim as many Top 10 finishes as Clunn. The closest is George Cochran with 12, followed by Kevin VanDam with 11. Clunn also leads the way with 11 Top 5 finishes. That total may be even more impressive. VanDam is next on that list with seven.
During the 28 consecutive years that he qualified (1974-2001), there was never a three-year span in which Clunn failed to finish in the Top 10. He won two of the first four Classics he fished and finished in the top eight in five of the first six.
His 756 pounds, 3 ounces not only puts him atop the all-time Classic weight list, but it's 229 pounds better than the second place angler, Gary Klein.
Not only did Clunn win the last of the "mystery lake" Classics (in which BASS founder Ray Scott loaded the contenders on a plane and flew them to a previously undisclosed location) in 1976, but he also won the first Classic where the competitors knew exactly where they'd be fishing (1977).
He's won Classics on man-made impoundments (Lake Guntersville in 1976), natural lakes (Lake Tohopekaliga in 1977) and rivers (the Arkansas in 1984 and the James in 1990). Along the way, he's earned the hardware throwing spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, crankbaits and too many other lure types to name.
And although he hasn't won a Classic since 1990 and hasn't finished in the Top 10 since 2000, you count Clunn out at your peril. He's won a Classic in every decade there's been one, and it's a sure bet he wants one for the 2000s.
This year we celebrate the 15th anniversary of one of the seminal moments in Bassmaster Classic history. More on that tomorrow.