Of the 39 numbers we're covering in this Countdown to the 39th Bassmaster Classic, none is bigger or more important to Classic history than today's entry — four.
Four is to bass fishing what 56 is to baseball (Joe DiMaggio's consecutive game hitting streak), 100 is to basketball (Wilt Chamberlain points in a single game) or 50 is to football (Tom Brady touchdown passes in 2007). It represents the highest and farthest than any professional angler has gone in our sport.
Four is the number of Bassmaster Classics that Rick Clunn has won.
It all started for Clunn at the 1976 Classic — Day 2 to be precise. That's when he pulled up to a weedbed on Lake Guntersville and proceeded to boat better than 30 pounds of bass, putting him in the lead for the tournament and well on his way to winning his first Classic.
Before that win, Clunn was a relative unknown in the world of bass fishing. Yes, it was his third straight Classic appearance, but he had never won a tournament before and never threatened to take the spotlight from Roland Martin, Bill Dance, Tom Mann or any of the other luminaries of the era.
The win gave Clunn stature and his share of the spotlight. He took that first Classic championship and built on it immediately.
After Clunn took the lead in the 1976 Classic on Day 2, he held onto it ... until 1978.
Proving he was no flash in the pan, Clunn entered the 1977 Classic as an angler worth watching. That year the Classic was on Florida's Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, and Clunn jumped out to a first round lead behind a 7-pound, 7-ounce largemouth that was not only big bass of the day, but of the tournament.
Clunn went wire-to-wire to win the 1977 Classic, making five straight days (over two events) that he led the tournament — a record that still stands.
In 1984 on the Arkansas River, Clunn was back and in vintage form. Posting the heaviest catch of any angler in the field for each of the three days, he dominated the championship like no one before or since. His final tally of 75-9 is the heaviest final total in Classic history (7-fish limit) and his 25-8 margin of victory may never be equaled.
For his most recent Classic title, in 1990, Clunn eschewed dominance for drama. He ended the first day in 14th place, 8-10 off the pace. On Day 2 he moved up into 10th place, but lost another pound to the leader. He was so far out of the running that BASS failed to assign a photographer to his boat. There seemed to be no way that he could win.
But that's exactly what he did. In the final round, Clunn put on a charge like none seen before or since in the Classic. His 18-7 catch was not only the best of the day by nearly 7 pounds. It was the best of the entire tournament by almost 3 pounds and propelled him to his fourth title.
The "Zen Master" of bass fishing has won the Classic in almost every way it can be won. He won on a "mystery lake" in 1976 and on waters that were announced years in advance, on two lakes (1976 and 1977) and two rivers (1984 and 1990), in the fall (1976 and 1977) and in the summer (1984 and 1990). He's won coming from far behind and when leading from the very start. The Classic record book reads like a personal scrapbook to Clunn.
Tomorrow, with the number three, we take a look back at the Classics that have been held in Louisiana.