If you had to pick an ideal temperature for bass fishing, you'd probably pick something warmer than 30 degrees. But that was the morning low on November 4, 1976, the second day of the sixth Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville in Alabama.
A temperature below freezing seems less than ideal for a cold-blooded fish in the Deep South, but the Classic anglers made the most of it. They found ways to exploit it and smashed a bunch of Classic records in the process.
The 1976 Classic was the coldest ever. Days 1 and 3 started at 31 degrees. Day 2 was a degree colder. Those are the three coldest days in Classic history, and the coldest of the three was the best.
Rick Clunn started that day 9 pounds, 10 ounces behind first day leader Bo Dowden. It was a solid, but inauspicious start for an angler who had garnered little attention to that point in his career.
All of that would change on the second day of the Classic. As temperatures fell, Clunn's star rose dramatically.
Less than an hour into that record cold morning, Clunn had boated four bass weighing an astounding 24-14, obliterating Dowden's lead and firmly placing himself in the driver's seat to win his first Classic. Clunn's 10-bass limit that day weighed a record 33-5 and put him in the lead by more than three pounds. The 7-13 largemouth that anchored his catch was — very briefly — the biggest in Classic history to that point.
Clunn's record breaking lunker only held the top spot for half an hour. That's when Ricky Green brought an 8-9 to the scales. That fish would be the biggest in Classic history for the next — you guessed it — 30 years.
Green's giant was the kicker in a bag that weighed 27-13, the second best catch of the 10-bass-limit era. And Bo Dowden didn't exactly disappear, either. He followed his first round catch of 20-3 with another impressive catch of 20-10, the fifth best weight of the 10-bass era.
No Classic competition day has ever been colder than that 30 degrees in November 1976, and it may also be true that Classic fishing has seldom been better.
But if there ever was a better day of Classic fishing, it ties in to tomorrow's story and the number 29. Check back then for another lesson in Classic history.