NEW: Scroll down instead of sideways to view photos
55-to-1. You don't need a math degree from MIT to know those are the odds of a particular angler winning the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Alabama's Lake Guntersville. There are 56 qualifiers (now down to 55 after Cliff Pace's hunting injury forced him to withdraw from the competition); there will be one winner. That makes the odds 55:1 ... but not really. They'd be 55:1 if you were writing their names on slips of paper and pulling one out of a hat. The real odds are quite different. by Ken Duke
Photo: Darren Jacobson
1 / 67
Some guys have a better chance of winning than others. We all know that Aaron Martens and Skeet Reese have a better chance of winning than one of the B.A.S.S. Nation guys. Even the B.A.S.S. Nation guys know that, right? The experience and excellence of Martens and Reese over the past 15 years have to be worth something.
But before we get to the meat of this gallery and the odds on each and every one of the 56 Classic qualifiers, I want to say a couple of things about betting odds that you may or may not know.
Photo: James Overstreet
2 / 67
First of all, odds are more than just chances. In the big sports gambling emporiums, where hundreds of millions of dollars change hands on Super Bowls and Final Fours, odds are about balance. The wise guys don't want too much money riding on one competitor, too little on another. That's why odds change even when the actual chances of winning do not — because bets shift, get out of balance and threaten the financial equilibrium of the businesses covering them.
Photo: Darren Jacobson
3 / 67
Therefore, odds are less about an angler's chances of winning than an attempt to quantify how the betting is likely to go. If the odds maker is doing his job, about the same amount of money is going to be bet on each side of a proposition.
Photo: James Overstreet
4 / 67
Second, these are odds for winning the Classic. There are no moral victories on fishing's biggest stage. Your third cousin twice removed might be a heckuva guy and a really good angler, but if he's fishing the championship in February I'm far more interested in his track record on Guntersville, his experience on the sport's biggest stage and whether or not he has a history of actually winning. He might do really well, qualify to fish the final day or even show that KVD a thing or two about bass fishing, but unless he wins ... he loses.
Photo: Darren Jacobson
5 / 67
Winning the Classic is not about doing really well, making the folks back home proud or striking fear into the hearts of the big-name pros. It's about actually winning, cashing the $300,000 first-place check and putting the trophy on your mantel (or carrying it around with you at all times, which is what I would do). That's what matters in this tournament. It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether you win. If you want to reward your favorite Classic angler for a moral victory, take him out for ice cream after the tournament. I'll pay for the sprinkles.
Photo: Darren Jacobson
6 / 67
And keep that 55:1 figure in mind. If you see an angler at 28:1 or thereabouts, that means he has twice the chance of winning as the average qualifier. That's really good! If he's at 100:1, that's about half the chance of average. This is not about insulting anyone. This is about having a little fun and pretending that bass fishing is more predictable than it really is. If you can't appreciate that, it's time to loosen your chinstrap, take off the aluminum foil skullcap and shake that cabin fever before it's too late. Of course, there's no actual betting line on the 2014 Bassmaster Classic ... but if there were, these should be the odds.
Photo: James Overstreet
7 / 67
Finally, if you don't like the odds I gave your favorite angler, that's fine but there's no point in getting angry. That's not what odds are about. When you think real gambling house odds are out of line you shouldn't whine, you should bet!
Photo: Darren Jacobson
8 / 67
Tim Johnston - 150:1
Ordinarily, the Classic long shot would be the Weekend Series qualifier, the College qualifier or (a few years back) the WBT qualifier. Not this year, for reasons I'll explain. This time it's Tim Johnston of Montana, who is probably a great fisherman and a fabulous human being. The problem, as I see it, is that he's coming out of the B.A.S.S. Nation (where he finished 10th overall in the championship) and he's from Montana. Unless you tell me he just moved there from Guntersville to take advantage of the mountain air, I don't like his chances. He would shake up the bass fishing world with a win at Guntersville.
9 / 67
Paul Mueller - 145:1
Here's another Nation guy bucking long odds to win it all. I've watched some of his YouTube videos (nice productions, Paul, but some of the intros are too long), so I know he can walk the walk, and he won the co-angler side of the FLW Cup a few years ago, but the Classic is a giant leap up. Mueller was tops in his division at the Nation Championship, but only 8th overall, and Guntersville is a long way from his Connecticut home. On the other hand, the only Nation angler ever to win a Classic (Bryan Kerchal in 1994) was from Connecticut. Can Constitution State lightning strike twice? Yeah, but it's not a good bet. A Classic berth is the giant carrot at the end of a long road for Nation anglers, and six make it each year. They're all winners in my book. If someone from your club (You are in a B.A.S.S. Nation-affiliated club, right?) has been to the Bassmaster Classic Promised Land, they have the right to tell war stories until the cows come home. A trip to the Super Bowl of bass fishing is the opportunity of a lifetime, and every Nation angler has a chance to make it a reality ... like Bryan Kerchal in 1994 and the six Nation representatives this year.
10 / 67
Jeff Lugar - 140:1
I have nothing against the B.A.S.S. Nation guys, but the smart money has to be against them — especially the Classic rookies. With the exception of Kerchal's win in 1994 (his second Classic appearance, by the way) and a handful of other performances, the Nation has been a big disappointment in the championship. It's been a long time since a Nation angler truly made a run at winning the thing (the last was Bryan Schmidt in 2009). And, by the way, that doesn't mean they're overdue. Odds don't work that way. If you flip a coin 50 times and it comes up "heads" every time, that doesn't increase the odds it'll be "tails" the next time. As the reining B.A.S.S. Nation champ, Lugar has come a long way to get to the Classic and defied some serious odds already; 140:1 is nothing to him at this point. Being one of six Nation anglers to make it to the world championship out of the thousands and thousands who attempt the journey means he's already beaten the odds.
11 / 67
Doug Thompson - 135:1
A couple of the B.A.S.S. Nation guys will probably make the cut to the top 25 and fish on Sunday. One of them might even break through and actually be competitive, but how do we identify who that will be? These guys are wildcards, so I'm more or less lumping them together based on geography — except for the one with previous Classic experience (Dove) and the one who won a B.A.S.S. event some years ago and lives near Guntersville (Carden); they get better odds. For Thompson, who lives in Arkansas, that means he's a better bet than Lugar (in Virginia) or Johnston (in Montana), but not as good as Carden (in Alabama). Remember, odds are about putting values on public perception, and that's a reasonable way to assess how the angling public should view these six.
12 / 67
Chris M. Jones - 110:1
Of the eight anglers who qualified through the Bassmaster Opens (Patrick Bone, Stephen Browning, Randy Howell, Rich Howes, Michael Iaconelli, Chris M. Jones, David Kilgore and Randall Tharp), three are Elite pros with lots of Classic experience (Browning, Howell and Ike), two are very experienced at the Opens level (Kilgore and Tharp) and three are lesser known anglers with limited track records. Overall Jones is the least experienced (just four B.A.S.S. events, but a couple of top 10s) and the youngest (but just barely), so that gives him the longest odds. Still, the man can obviously fish.
13 / 67
Patrick Bone - 100:1
Most of Bone's tournament fishing experienced has been with FLW. He has just three B.A.S.S. tournaments under his belt, but so far his track record is a bit spotty. Apart from his Open win on Douglas Lake, he hasn't finished in the money, and in that tournament he used a castable umbrella rig. All this isn't a knock on Bone — he did what it took to win, and I wish CURs were allowed in all B.A.S.S. events — just a way to look at his record and place him in this field. Among opens qualifiers, I put him just ahead of Jones and just behind Howes.
14 / 67
Rich Howes - 95:1
It's unusual for me to know very much about the Classic rookies coming out of the Opens, but I've had a chance to share a boat with Howes, and it's impossible not to be impressed. The affable Florida insurance agent is using the Classic spotlight to raise funds and awareness for children born with limb deficiencies through "Fishing for the Kids" and the Paley Foundation — so you know his heart is in the right place. He can fish, too, and has been working hard to prep for the tournament. Can he come "out of nowhere" and win? You'd better believe it! Is he an odds-on favorite to do it? No ... unless the event is suddenly moved to Florida.
15 / 67
Mark Dove - 90:1
Back-to back Classics from the B.A.S.S. Nation and three overall? That's a big, big deal in my book, and Dove should be very proud. Not only does the back-to-back thing impress me, but it has to galvanize his attitude toward this championship. He knows there's no second place, and every Nation qualifier has to wonder if this Classic will be his last. That's the good stuff. The bad stuff is that the competition is much, much fiercer than anything he faces in Nation events and (for the second year in a row) he's the oldest angler in the tournament at 58. That may not be a big problem, but there's a reason the field isn't full of 60-year-olds.
16 / 67
Rick Morris - 85:1
Morris was the runner-up to Luke Clausen in the 2006 Classic, but has fished only one championship since then (2009). Of all the anglers in the field with B.A.S.S. tournament experience on Guntersville, he has the worst track record. His best finish is 32nd in six tries. That's not great, and while he certainly could turn that around and win, he has to be considered a long shot to do so.
17 / 67
Chad Morgenthaler - 82:1
It's been a long time since Morgenthaler last fished a Classic (2006). He's coming off a big year that saw him accomplish his two biggest goals: qualify for the Elite Series (he turned down an invitation in 2006) and qualify for the Classic (he won the Wild Card event in December). He fished two Tour events on Guntersville in February (2004 and 2005), but had forgettable performances. His experience puts him in the middle of the pack. His Classic track record (three middle of the pack finishes) moves him down a bit.
Photo: James Overstreet
18 / 67
Josh Bertrand - 80:1
Impressive young pro from out west — talented, personable and with a very bright future. Bertrand finished the Elite season with three strong tournaments on diverse venues, so he can definitely compete. The problem (at least as far as odds-making is concerned) is that he's a Classic rookie, very young and cut his angling teeth far from the tournament venue. It's a tough mix to overcome, and by tough I mean no one's ever done it (unless you want to count Bobby Murray in 1971 — but everyone was a rookie in that Classic and no one had any experience on Lake Mead, so I don't count it).
19 / 67
Coby Carden - 78:1
The B.A.S.S. Nation qualifiers have my sympathies when it comes to competing in the Classic. The odds are against them in every way imaginable. The field is better than they've ever faced before (and this is the absolute toughest Classic field ever), and the tournament is longer than most they've fished. They competed in a lot of one- and two-day tournaments to get here, and now they have to go three days against VanDam, Martens and Evers. It's not fair ... but no one said it would be. Carden is different though for a couple of reasons. First, although it's his first Classic, he won a Southern Open back in 2002. Second, he lives in the Birmingham area — not very far from Guntersville — so he knows the lake. That's worth something ...maybe a lot.
20 / 67
Clifford Pirch - 76:1
For such an established and successful pro, Pirch doesn't have a lot of experience on Guntersville. That and the fact that he's a Classic rookie coming from way out west is what makes his odds so long. At 76:1, I think he's actually a great buy. Not only can he fish (multiple U.S. Open titles), but he found his groove right away in the Elite Series last year. He's an impressive angler on a lot of levels (watch out for him at BASSFest on Chickamauga this summer), but it's usually a bad idea to give good odds to a Classic rookie no matter who it is.
21 / 67
Chris Zaldain - 74:1
After struggling in his rookie year with the Elites, Zaldain rebounded with a vengeance in 2014, ending the season 8th in AOY and finishing in the top 20 three times. This will be his first Classic and no Classic rookie should be a favorite unless he's fishing in his backyard. The other thing making his odds so long is that he's started slowly in each of the last two Elite seasons. With the Classic being in February, a slow start is not an option.
22 / 67
Casey Ashley - 72:1
I actually think Ashley's chances of winning the Classic are much better than the odds I've given him, but I'll stick with the number because he hasn't dazzled at Guntersville (mostly bottom half finished except for the 2008 Open) and he's been erratic in the early season. Nevertheless, he's a proven winner and certainly knows how to handle a crowd — two things that come in handy if you plan to win a Bassmaster Classic.
23 / 67
Stephen Browning - 70:1
Arkansas is the only state that has been represented in each and every Bassmaster Classic, and Browning was the first Arkansan to lock up a berth in this year's championship (he won the Red River Open in April). He's come close to winning the Classic before, but it's been awhile (1997). He certainly has the skills to win. Like most of the field, his record on Guntersville is spotty — a couple of top 20s and a couple of crash-and-burns — so it's tough to classify him as a favorite. If attitude counted for anything at this event, he'd already have a trophy or two.
24 / 67
Fred Roumbanis - 66:1
Boom-Boom has struggled in Classics past and has been mostly middle of the pack on Guntersville. His strength with a jig makes him a threat, though. He also knows how to win when big bucks are on the line. He picked up $250K in 2007 at the Bassmaster American, so he won't wilt under pressure or shrink under the bright lights. He'd make an outstanding Classic champion, too.
25 / 67
Yusuke Miyazaki - 64:1
Miyazaki has three top 20 finishes on his Guntersville résumé. He also has three bombs, so it's tough to know what to make of him in this Classic. One thing is certain, though. He's getting better as a B.A.S.S. pro. This is his second consecutive appearance in the championship and his second straight year in the top 22 of the AOY standings. Only 11 other anglers were in the top 22 for each of the past two seasons. He's putting it all together in a way that few anglers ever do.
26 / 67
Ish Monroe - 62:1
Some great anglers have been terrible in the Bassmaster Classic. With eight championships under his belt, Monroe is one of those guys. His best finish to date was 14th in 2007. To make his odds even worse, he hasn't exactly dazzled at Guntersville. He was 70th and 41st in the last two Elite events there, and he bombed when the Tour was there in February of 2004 and 2005. Monroe knows how to win and has been especially strong in some of the early-season slugfests, but those venues were further South and in March. He's at his best when it's warm, and Guntersville is probably going to be cold. If things are unseasonably warm in late February, I'd made his odds a lot better.
27 / 67
John Crews - 60:1
Except for a 3rd-place finish at the 2010 Elite tournament, the man behind Missile Baits has been unspectacular on Lake Guntersville. He's a wiz with a shallow crankbait or anything with a diving lip, but unless the weather is unseasonably warm, diving baits won't be a big factor. Of course, Crews can do other things, too, but I'd like his chances much better in that kind of tournament. The other thing hurting his odds here is that he's never been better than 16th in any of his seven Classic appearances.
28 / 67
Bill Lowen - 58:1
If there's a swimbait bite, Lowen's chances improve dramatically. He's a master of shallow water bass fishing. He's also at his best when the fishing's at its worst, and that won't likely be the case at Guntersville. I've picked him to do well in several Classics, but his best finish to date is 10th. By giving him a break this time, maybe he'll turn things around.
29 / 67
Cliff Crochet - 56:1
Cajun Baby is back in the Classic after his best and most consistent Elite season ever. The warmer the water, the better his odds of winning should be. He's been pretty ordinary in two previous Guntersville appearances, but they were later in the year so I doubt that matters. He's still growing as a pro, and I think he'll get better as time goes by. It makes him tough to assess for this Classic, so I put him right in the middle.
30 / 67
Jonathon VanDam - 52:1
Don't look now but JVD seems to have his career pretty securely on the tracks. He's just posted the best season of his brief Elite career and will be fishing his second Classic. His only B.A.S.S. appearance on Guntersville came in a 2008 Open where he finished a respectable 45th. That's nothing to write home about, but nothing to be ashamed of, either. He made the cut in last year's Classic (finishing 23rd) and is certainly getting more comfortable in the championship. He knows that second place is just the first loser, so he'll be fishing to win and that means he might be a factor.
31 / 67
John Murray - 50:1
To know John Murray is to like him. He'd be a terrific Classic champ. Unfortunately, there's no congeniality prize in the tournament. No worries, though — he's more than capable of winning with a rod and reel, especially if it's cold or the bass are deep and uncooperative. He has two top 17 finishes in the last two Elite events on Guntersville, but did nothing special when the pros were here in February of 2004 and 2005. That adds up to pretty ordinary odds.
32 / 67
Keith Combs - 48:1
The likeable Texan had an outstanding 2013 in the Elite Series, winning one event and earning a check in every tournament but one. If that's a foreshadowing of things to come then he has AOYs and Classic trophies in his future. Combs is a bit of a dark horse in this Classic at 48:1, even though those odds are a little better than average. I actually like his chances to win it all. He fishes to win, finds ways to shut out distractions and knows how to measure success — with trophies and big paydays.
33 / 67
Tommy Biffle - 46:1
Quick! Who's the only angler to finish second in two Bassmaster Classics and three Forrest Wood Cups? That's right. It's Tommy Biffle, but I wonder if you'd have gotten it without his picture staring you in the face. Just a few years ago we thought of Biffle as a pitcher and flipper, but now he mostly throws his signature Gene Larew Biffle Hardhead and Biffle Bug, working it through rocks and over hard substrate for all species of bass from north to south and east to west with great effect. Can it win the Classic? I think it can, but his middle of the road track record on Guntersville prevents me from making him a favorite this year.
34 / 67
Morizo Shimizu - 44:1
The angler who made "Big Mama" famous in the bass world is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to Lake Guntersville. In six B.A.S.S. appearances, he finished in the top 14 three times and in the bottom half of the field three times. That's actually somewhat typical and shows what a crapshoot professional bass fishing can be. A win would be huge for Shimizu and his Japanese fan base — much bigger than it was for Takahiro Omori in 2004 because Tak was mostly unknown in his former home country. Shimizu is a star there.
35 / 67
Takahiro Omori - 42:1
For Omori, the 2004 Classic champ, I'd really love to know more about the weather before setting the line. If it's going to be really cold and a jerkbait or football jig bite, his odds get longer. If it'll be relatively warm and the bass are hitting lipless crankbaits, swim jigs and swimbaits, his chances gets better.
36 / 67
David Kilgore - 40:1
The tallest angler ever to qualify for a Bassmaster Classic (Kilgore is 6 feet, 9 inches tall) has serious skills. He's qualified to join the Elite Series three different times and turned down the invitation each time. He lives in Alabama, so he's familiar with Guntersville. In two B.A.S.S. events on the lake he finished 116th and 18th, so it's hard to pin him down and harder to make him a favorite, but he's certainly capable of winning. He has two things working against him, though. He's a Classic rookie, and he lives in the host state. Luckily, Kilgore gets it. He understands that winning is the only thing at the Classic and that qualifying again through the Opens is tough to do. He'll leave it all on the water, and that makes him a threat.
37 / 67
Dean Rojas - 39:1
His performances on Guntersville have been unspectacular, especially the two events in February, but Rojas is a solid Classic performer, versatile and really enjoys the spotlight. He has the skills to win the tournament and the temperament to make the most of a Classic title. In 11 Classic appearances, he's only missed the cut three times. I'd like his chances more if it was a little further south or a month later on the calendar.
38 / 67
Terry Scroggins - 38:1
"Big Show" has fished more B.A.S.S. events on Guntersville in the last decade than any other angler. Unfortunately, his record there is pretty uneven (though he does have two top 10 finishes). No matter, this guy's a threat wherever he launches, and I can't imagine the pressure getting to him like it certainly would with some other qualifiers. Scroggins is as laid-back as it gets. When the going gets tough, he just goes fishing and that seems to work very well for the Florida pro.
39 / 67
Randy Howell - 37:1
A lot of what I said about Ish Monroe is true of Howell. He's a star performer in the regular season who has come up short in the Classic. Nevertheless, I'm giving him better odds than Monroe for two reasons. First, he's an Alabama native, so he has lots of experience on Guntersville. Second, I think his win at the Open last year and the way he turned around his Elite season after a slow start has given him a level of confidence he's never had before. Besides, he's been to enough of these derbies to know it's all about first place and there's no indignity in going for broke and falling flat. His track record on Guntersville is less than lackluster, but he's capable of putting three strong days together. If ever there was a Classic in Howell's wheelhouse, this is it.
40 / 67
Brent Chapman - 36:1
Guntersville is one of those lakes where you can't afford to be consistently terrible. B.A.S.S. visits it often enough that bombing there puts a real crimp in your career (Toho, Sam Rayburn and Kentucky Lake also fall into this group). Chapman's been inconsistent on Guntersville over the last decade — cashing a check in three events and missing three times — but that describes almost everyone in this year's championship. All bets are off (no pun intended) where the Classic's concerned because (a) it means so much that guys prepare a lot more, a lot differently and a lot better for it and (b) it's at a time of year and far enough north that it's an outlier for predicting success. This is the roundabout way of saying that Chapman's too good to ever be a long shot, but his track record on the lake isn't good enough to make him a favorite. Will I be surprised if he wins? Of course not. The guy's a great fisherman and capable of winning anywhere at any time.
41 / 67
Steve Kennedy - 35:1
If he's recovered from Auburn's loss to Florida State in the BCS championship game, and if the bass are on a deep crankbait bite, I like Kennedy's chances in the Classic. It's not a format that favors him, though. In an ordinary tournament, the anglers are left to their own devices and mostly make their own schedules. In the Classic, it's "Hurry here," "Wait there, "Do this," and "Don't do that." It takes him out of his rhythm, and that's more critical to Kennedy than most. If he's in the top half dozen after the first day, look out!
42 / 67
Adam Wagner - 34:1
If you're looking for a dark horse who could win the whole thing, this is your guy. The ninth and final Bassmaster Weekend Series angler to qualify for the Classic presents an interesting proposition. Wagner is new to fishing's biggest and brightest stage (the Bassmaster Classic), but in 2009 he won the BFL All-American on the Mississippi River, and in 2013 (in late February no less!) he won a BFL tournament on Guntersville with a single day catch of 29-1. Clearly, he has credentials that can't be ignored. His test comes after the first day if he's in the hunt. How will he handle the attention on and off the water?
43 / 67
Jordan Lee - 32:1
Yes, he's the youngest angler in the field. Yes, he qualified through the college ranks. Yes, it's his first world championship. All that would ordinarily add up to really long odds, but I'm giving Lee some credit here. First, his brother (Matt) fished the Classic last year, and Jordan was his shadow, so it's almost like he's been to the big dance before. Second, he says Guntersville is his home lake. He's obviously a talented angler and has a great shot to become the first college qualifier to break through and make the cut to the Top 25. He might even be a factor near the top of the leaderboard, but I don't recommend you bet on that. And definitely don't let the rah-rah college thing get you overinvested. Lee's odds are better than they deserve to be since he's the college qualifier and a local. Beware of sentimental favorites, though. They get your hopes up and usually break your heart.
44 / 67
David Walker - 30:1
Watch out for this guy. He's historically strong in the Classic, did very well at one of the two February tournaments on Guntersville and can compete with absolutely anyone. That Walker stepped away from B.A.S.S. for a few years took its toll on his overall profile in the sport. Nothing will remedy that as quickly as a Classic win, and he knows it. He's extraordinarily versatile, knows what it takes to do well in this tournament and is usually able to avoid the kind of mistakes that ruin an angler's chances in big events. I hesitate to call him a dark horse because he should be on everyone's radar.
45 / 67
Jason Christie - 29:1
When Christie's hot, he's on fire. When he's not, well there's always next year. At the 2013 Classic on his home lake (Grand Lake in Okla.), he posted a disappointing 7th-place finish, admitting that his familiarity with the fishery probably cost him. There's a reason locals rarely win national bass tournaments. They launch knowing 500 places they've caught 'em in the past while the guy who eventually wins usually launches knowing three or four places where he knows he can catch 'em today. It's an important distinction. In a lot of ways, I like Christie's chances better this year than last — less pressure, less of a spotlight on him, he's now a Classic veteran — but that's not the way the general public will see it, so his numbers aren't nearly as good this time around. At these odds, I think he's actually a pretty good pick.
46 / 67
Todd Faircloth - 28:1
Only those who follow the sport closely have any idea how good Faircloth is or how close he is to breaking through with a big title like AOY or the Classic. When he wins one of those — and he will — he'll finally get the attention and fan support he deserves. Will it happen in 2014 on Guntersville? It might, but a couple of things stop me from making him a favorite. First, his history on the lake is uneven — three pretty good finishes and three pretty bad finishes. Second, his worst two finishes were both in February. I'd like his chances much better on a tougher venue. Still, his talents are too considerable to give him odds any worse than 28:1 — which means he has twice the chance of winning of the average Classic qualifier.
47 / 67
Mark Davis - 27:1
I'm not going out on much of a limb by giving Davis good odds to win his second world championship this year. He's an established Classic winner, a three-time AOY, and an extremely versatile angler. A year or two ago he was eager to leave his native Arkansas for his favorite bass lake in the world ... Guntersville. A win might be just the nudge he needs to change addresses. And if he wins, absolutely no one should be surprised.
48 / 67
Cliff Pace - No Line (was 26:1)
Unfortunately, Pace's hunting injury just a month before the 2014 Classic will take him out of the competition. He becomes just the third champ in Classic history who will not defend his title the following year. Bryan Kerchal and Luke Clausen were the others. Fortunately, Pace will be back in the Classic in 2015 and on a lake where's he's excelled. He finished second (to Alton Jones) in the 2008 Classic on Lake Hartwell, and even if his injury prevents him from making a single cast between now and then, he'll be a favorite at that championship.
49 / 67
Ott DeFoe - 25:1
When I did last year's Classic odds, I said DeFoe was a good bet to win in 2014 on Guntersville, and I still believe that. This is his third Classic, and he's already shown that he can compete on the big stage. He was fifth in 2012 and 11th in 2013. I like his chances to do even better this time around. He'll slip under the radar a little because he's soft-spoken, but don't let that fool you. DeFoe will benefit from drawing few spectator boats in the first round or two, then take his shot in the finals. I see him hoisting a Classic trophy in the not-so-distant future and winning more than one AOY title before he hangs it up in 35 years or so. If you're wondering why his odds aren't better here, remember that odds are about balancing the betting, and I don't think enough fans will be gambling on him. He's a steal at 25:1.
50 / 67
Alton Jones - 24:1
Jones is such an unassuming name. It doesn't draw attention to itself, but in this case it should. The 2008 Classic champ not only knows what it takes to win the world championship, but he has a strong track record on Guntersville — three top 12 finishes in his last six appearances here. His odds would be much better but for two mediocre performances on the lake the only two times the pros competed there in February. Still, expect him among the leaders and don't be surprised if he takes his second Classic trophy in 2014.
51 / 67
Bobby Lane - 23:1
With all the attention on his brother Chris at this year's Classic, I'll tell you that I like Bobby's chances of winning on Guntersville even more — but that's not reflected in the odds because that's not what the gambling public is likely to believe. For one thing, Bobby's a very strong Classic performer (in six appearances he's got a couple of Top 10s and has never been worse than 20th). For another, he has a better record on Guntersville than Chris — fifth in a 2008 Open and in the top 35 of the last two Elite events there. Finally and perhaps most importantly, Bobby won't have to put up with all the distractions that Chris faces. Eventually, I think Chris and Bobby will be the first two brothers to each earn Classic titles. It could happen this year.
52 / 67
Gary Klein - 22:1
If you're looking for a sentimental favorite who could win the whole thing, look no further than Gary Klein, who will be fishing his 30th championship in 2014. (Only Rick Clunn has fished more Classics, 32.) To say that a Classic title has eluded Klein is an understatement; it's the only thing missing from one of the sport's greatest résumés. Can he notch the keystone victory this time around? Absolutely! In fact, he's been getting better on Guntersville in recent years, as evidenced by a pair of top 16 finishes in 2009 and 2010. And if Klein is near the top after two rounds, expect the crowd to be decidedly on his side.
53 / 67
Greg Vinson - 21:1
"V" finished second in the 2012 Classic, then failed to qualify last year. That hurt ... a lot! Now that he's back, I expect him to make the most of it. He finished second in the 2008 Open and finished in the money in two Elite events on the Classic waters. Several Alabamans will have better odds to win than Vinson, but that's only because they have greater name recognition and bigger reputations. For my money, he's a steal at 21:1, and I think only Aaron Martens (among the Alabama qualifiers) has a better chance of actually winning the tournament. I expect Vinson to launch with an intensity and focus that only a handful of his competition could ever hope to match. He should be a dangerous man on Guntersville.
54 / 67
Hank Cherry - 20:1
Cherry took the bass world by surprise with his third-place finish in last year's Classic. Now, after claiming Bassmaster Rookie of the Year honors and winning the All-Star competition, he's a known quality. He was basically anonymous last year. Not anymore. He'll have some fan boats with him when he launches on Day 1, and that could make things challenging. There's no doubt that he can win at this level. He came close to pulling it off last year.
55 / 67
Chris Lane - 18:1
The 2012 Classic champ is going to get a lot of attention because the tournament is on his home lake. He surprised a lot of people by winning the final Elite event of the year (on Lake St. Clair out of Detroit) to get here. The problem with Lane on Guntersville is two-fold: (1) it's brutally tough to win at home (houseguests, high expectations, fan boats, etc.) and (2) out of all the Classic competitors who have fished Guntersville three times or more in B.A.S.S. competition, only two have never finished in the top 30. Chris Lane is one them (Rick Morris is the other). Still, he's a favorite because he lives there, has put in a lot of time on the lake and knows how to win.
56 / 67
Gerald Swindle - 16:1
The G-Man has been pretty strong on Guntersville through the years, and he's an Alabaman with lots of fan support, so his odds are pretty good. On a practical level, though, I'll reiterate what I said about him last year. His skills are better suited to the long haul than to three days in February. At the Classic, you need to find that magic spot or nail down that pattern-within-a-pattern that everyone else misses and milk it for three days. Swindle is a genius at scratching out a limit when it's hard to catch even one bass. He does best when everyone's struggling and he has to cobble something together with a little of this and a little of that. It's why his best Classic finish (3rd in 2005) came in the toughest tournament in Classic (and B.A.S.S.) history.
57 / 67
Brandon Palaniuk - 15:1
It's hero or zero for Idaho's most renowned bass pro. Everyone remembers his strong performances in 2011 and 2013, but few remember the bomb that was 2012. I'm not yet a believer that Palaniuk could challenge for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year, but there's no doubt that he can put something together for three days and walk away with the Classic trophy. He's a fan favorite, too, so his odds are a little lower than I'd otherwise make them just to deter over-betting. Still, some guys have a knack for the format and a penchant for the spotlight. He may be one of them. With only three Classic appearances under his belt and a mixed bag of performances, the sample size is too small to tell.
58 / 67
Edwin Evers - 12:1
Evers is rapidly moving up the list of the best anglers never to win a major title (AOY or a Classic), but that's going to change one of these days. Over the past decade, he's easily been one of the five best anglers in the business, and no tournament is over until he weighs in. He's the only angler in B.A.S.S. history to win with catches of all largemouths, all smallmouths and all spotted bass and his reputation for versatility is unmatched, but the most impressive thing about him as a professional is that he learns from his rare mistakes. He's posted a couple of top 10 finishes at Guntersville, including a 3rd place in February of 2005. This just might be his year.
59 / 67
Michael Iaconelli - 10:1
Ike's only Elite win came at Guntersville in 2006. Some eleventh-hour heroics and a Bassmaster Open win put him in this Classic and probably did wonders for his confidence. That's bad news for the competition. A confident, motivated Ike is tough to beat anytime and anywhere, but especially on the sport's biggest, brightest stage and on a lake where he's already won.
60 / 67
Skeet Reese - 8:1
Reese just might be the most dangerous man in the field at the 2014 Classic. Despite all his successes — AOY in 2007, a Classic in 2009 — despite his incredible fan support, despite his stature in the tournament world, I don't think he's getting enough attention as a threat to win this Classic. He has a terrific record on Guntersville, including an Elite win in 2010 and a runner-up finish in 2009. I really like his chances to take home a second championship ... he should, too. If he's within striking distance after the first day, he's a great bet to close it out.
61 / 67
Randall Tharp - 7:1
His residence listing says Florida, but Tharp is actually from the Birmingham area so he has lots of experience on Guntersville. Last summer he won the Forrest Wood Cup, and in 2008 he won back-to-back Bassmaster Southern Opens, including one on Guntersville. In his FLW career, he picked up bunches and bunches of top 10 finishes on the lake — mostly in BFL competition. A year ago, Jason Christie was everybody's pick on Grand Lake. Tharp is that guy this year. (It's always somebody, and they always — always — fall short.) Maybe he moved to the Sunshine State to avoid the Classic's home state jinx. That just might be enough to appease the bass gods. If Tharp is able to get his boat on the water, he's a cinch to make the cut and fish on Sunday. And if he's within striking distance in the finals, the hot seat will be very, very warm for whoever's sitting on it when Tharp steps to the scales. Of all the "locals," I give him the best odds to win.
62 / 67
Aaron Martens - 6:1
The Natural won the Elite event on Guntersville in 2009 and posted a pair of 14th-place finishes in the two February events on the lake in 2004 and 2005. We all know he has four runner-up finishes in the Classic. Is this the one he finally wins? I like his chances. No matter how things play out, you can bet he's going to catch fish. He knows how to win, and his run of five straight top 12 finishes in Elite competition makes him the hottest angler out there. A lot of "smart money" will be on him fishing so close to home, and the crowd will be behind him if he's high on the leaderboard going into the finals.
63 / 67
Kevin VanDam - 5:1
The BOAT (Best of All-Time) hasn't finished worse than 20th at Guntersville in the last nine years! That's strong. Throw in the fact that he hasn't won a tournament in the past couple of seasons or finished in the top 12 of an Elite event in almost two years, and KVD is probably mad at the fish. That's bad ... for the bass. Despite finishing high in the AOY race the past two seasons, VanDam has been quiet, and that should help him at Guntersville. If there was ever a time he might slip beneath the radar — just a little, just enough — and draw fewer spectator boats, it would be 2014 in Alabama, where most of the fans have already seen his heroics. He gets my pick as odds-on favorite ... again.
64 / 67
EDITOR'S NOTE: So maybe you got to the end of this gallery and wanted to know who is to blame for giving your favorite angler long odds? Here he is. B.A.S.S. Senior Editor Ken Duke. After last year's Odds gallery, he had to go into hiding.
65 / 67
Ken happens to know quite a bit about B.A.S.S., bass fishing and the Bassmaster Classic, but predicting a Classic winner is tough business. Luckily, that's not what these odds are about ... as you know if you read the first few slides. If you want Ken's Classic predictions, you'll just have to wait. He'll post those as we get closer to the championship.
66 / 67
Ken would prefer not to be punched (though families of B.A.S.S. Nation qualifiers may not care about his preference), but would love to hear what you think in the comments below. We may finally get him to come out of his undisclosed location soon.