If you're a serious Bassmaster Classic fan, you probably know that the oldest angler ever to win the Classic was Woo Daves, who was 54 years, 2 months and 28 days old when he won the 2000 championship on Lake Michigan. He broke the record held by Charlie Reed, who was two and a half years younger when he won the 1986 Classic.
There are two anglers in the field of 2009 Classic anglers who are old enough to break Daves' record. The oldest, Rick Clunn, is more than eight years older than Daves was when he won the event. At 62 years, 6 months, and 29 days when this Classic concludes on Sunday, Clunn is one of the oldest anglers ever to fish the championship, and with four career Classic wins, he's far and away the most decorated.
The other is Florida's Bernie Schultz, who will be 54 years, 5 months and 18 days old on Sunday, enough to pass Daves by about three months. Unlike Clunn, who has numerous Classic and BASS wins on his r´sumé, Schultz has never won a BASS event in 227 tries. It's the — you guessed it — second longest streak of tournament futility in BASS history, behind only Joe Thomas' 231 events without a win.
A Classic title would make Schultz' career. A fifth title for Clunn would cement his position as the greatest of all-time.
Two other anglers in the 2009 Classic field are also over 50 years old — Shaw Grigsby and Gary Klein — though not old enough to surpass Daves. Nineteen more, including defending champion Alton Jones, are in their 40s. Twenty-five are in their 30s, and just three (Casey Ashley, Kim Bain-Moore and Bryan Hudgins) are in their 20s.
There are a couple of reasons why older anglers have not fared especially well in the Bassmaster Classic. Although fishing is a sport that people of all ages enjoy, tournament fishing tends to be a relatively young person's sport. The average Classic champ is 36.66 years old.
This year's Classic qualifiers are a tad older than most have been historically. The median age of this year's anglers is 38. Experience definitely pays when there's as much at stake as there is in the Bassmaster Classic. Younger anglers, and especially rookies, can get caught up in the glare and hoopla of the event. Age is an advantage as far as that goes.
But when it comes to putting in the long practice hours, fighting the weather and conditions on the water and generally handling the rigors of a long tournament season, youth is going to be served. It's inevitable, and it serves to limit the number of older anglers who make the cut to fish the Classic.
In recent years, some older anglers have performed well in Elite Series events, even winning several. Denny Brauer, Tom Biffle and Paul Elias have all made their mark recently, but none are in this year's Classic.
Clunn and Schultz will have to be the standard bearers for the older anglers this year.
Tomorrow is the final story in our countdown — one. There's just one Louisiana resident fishing the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, and tomorrow we tell his story.