Classic Countdown: 29

Twenty-nine is not just a number for women in their thirties.

Twenty-nine is not just a number for women in their thirties.

Yesterday we saw that Bassmaster Classic catches soared on the day that temperatures bottomed out at 30 degrees in 1976. Today we're counting down to 29 — yet another number closely associated with record Classic catches.

Twenty-nine became a big deal in 2006 — the first time the Classic was held in February. That year the qualifiers convened in Central Florida to fish the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, also the site of the 1977 Classic.

Late February in Florida can be a dream. Gorgeous weather, balmy temperatures and prespawn largemouths can all coincide to create a tremendous bass fishing opportunity. Throw in a full moon and you just might get the kind of "perfect storm" that led Dean Rojas to a 45-pound, 2-ounce five bass limit in a 2001 tournament.

And that's almost what happened in 2006. Pre-tournament weather was good, temperatures were comfortable, and anglers were on fish. It could have been a tad warmer, but there were lots of bedding fish and plenty of big shallow largemouths to be caught.

With that kind of setup, the Bassmaster Classic qualifiers could hardly miss ... and they didn't.

On the first day of the 2006 Classic, 50 of the 51 qualifiers brought a limit to the scales. Only Federation Nation qualifier Joel St. Germain had less than a limit. (Michael Iaconelli's catch was disqualified due to equipment abuse.)

Eventual champion Luke Clausen led the way with five bass weighing an impressive 29 pounds, 2 ounces that he caught on a Texas rigged Mann's Hard Nose worm in junebug. It was enough to claim the lead and set a new single day record in the 5-bass limit era. Preston Clark was close behind with 29-1 and a new record Classic lunker weighing 11-10.

The 247 bass brought to the scales that day weighed 722 pounds, 8 ounces — nearly three pounds a fish! It was easily the most productive day of fishing in Classic history.

Unfortunately for the competitors and the record books, a cold front passed through that night, and the fishing got tougher. Though almost as many bass were weighed in on Day 2, they weighed 150 pounds less.

Clausen's 29 pounds and change held up. He caught enough bass over the following two days to go wire-to-wire and claim the Classic title with 56-2, a record in the 5-bass limit era. Over three days, the competitors weighed in 1,510 pounds, 4 ounces of Florida largemouth bass, also a record.

If you're a baseball fan, you know what the number 56 means to that sport. It's the number of consecutive games that Joe DiMaggio hit safely in back in 1941.

Tomorrow you'll learn why the number 28 — exactly half of DiMaggio's total — is the magic number in bass fishing.

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