Was 2014 the best Classic ever?

The 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro just might be the best Classic ever, not counting the one I fished, of course (Ha!). It was for sure the most exciting.

Most of the time you pretty much know who’s going to win by Saturday evening, and certainly by sometime early on Sunday. Even if it’s close, there are only a couple of guys in the running.

That didn’t happen this year.

It was a photo finish all the way. And even when the guys were up on stage weighing in their fish, you didn’t know for sure. Body language, glances and little remarks didn’t mean a thing because even the anglers didn’t know for sure.

Randy Howell ultimately won it, of course, and I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. I’ve had the privilege of watching him fish and mature — as an angler and as a man — over the years. He’s a genuinely nice guy who has earned everything good that comes his way.

I especially admire his work ethic. He isn’t real flashy, and he doesn’t seem to come by his skills easily. He’s has a blue-collar work ethic that serves him well. He said it himself on the stage when he commented something to the effect that he isn’t the guy who comes roaring from behind, that he isn’t the guy you expect to be there.

Well, Randy, you are there. You’re the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic champion. More power to you. I applaud your accomplishments.

Somebody else I want to say a few words about is Gerald Swindle. What a class act. I laughed out loud when he was on the stage talking about going from thinking he could win to thinking he was going to blank. I’ve been there, Gerald. I know the feeling.

Anybody with any common sense knows he had to be hurting after such a tough tournament. But Gerald didn’t let it show. He complimented his fellow anglers and laughed at himself. There was no hiding from anyone. He deserves our respect for that.

The last guy I want to mention is Paul Mueller. This guy came from the B.A.S.S. Nation (Connecticut) and was given little or no chance of winning by the so-called experts. He ignored them, shook off a slow start to come within a pound of winning the darn thing.

Well done, Paul. You brought credit to yourself, your club, Connecticut and to Nation anglers around the country.

The excitement we saw last weekend is one reason I love tournament fishing as much as I do. It’s not easy. We saw some of the great ones falter, and other great ones rise to the top. A guy can’t ask for much more than that.

Before we go any further this year, I want to say thanks to all of my fans and to all of my readers. I really appreciate your support. This column is a lot of fun. I look forward to it every week. Hopefully, you get as much enjoyment out of reading it as I do out of writing it.

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