As Brauer enjoyed the view from atop bass-fishing's highest mountains, a wild wave smashed into his boat while he competed in a 1999 tournament on Lake St. Clair near Detroit.
Some anglers have won from the lead, while others have stormed back from behind to claim fishing's biggest prize.
Thirty-four-year-old Takahiro Omori, a two-time Classic contender now living in Emory, Texas, became the first Japanese angler to lead the prestigious three-day world championship.
"I have been totally shocked at the magnitude of what winning the Classic has meant." VanDam says. "Without a doubt, bass fishing is far more mainstream than ever before."
With air temperatures pushing the century mark each day and steamy water temperatures above 90 degrees, few bass experts believed the Classic's weight record would fall in the vast Louisiana Delta … except Hite, that is.
Brauer is recovering from back surgery earlier this month aimed at correcting a painful Sciatic nerve problem caused by a bone spur and a calcium deposit that had combined to virtually pinch the nerve off.