The odds are stacked

Just as production for the June issue of Bassmaster Magazine was finished, a small group from B.A.S.S., including folks from the digital realm, all the good people from the editorial department and folks from Go Out{side}, gathered with one impossible task on our to-do lists.

We had to determine the order of the annual Odds Gallery for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk on Lake Ray Roberts.

If you’re not familiar with the gallery, it’s a collection of photos on that lists each anglers’ statistical odds for winning the upcoming Classic. I wound up leading the task force that produces the gallery five years ago when I made the gigantic mistake of complaining about how someone else was doing it.

So now, every year, I get to be the one everyone hates.

I’m the target of comments like, “You can’t disrespect Matt Robertson like that and then not put your money where your mouth is.” That one came in before the 2019 Classic when Robertson, a first-time participant who had qualified through the Bassmaster Team Championship, received especially long odds.

He finished 48th that year, and shockingly, no one called to say, “Hey, I guess you were right.”

That’s the nature of the Odds Gallery. Everyone who isn’t picked to win — and let’s face it, there can only be one winner — feels disrespected.

That’s the only part of the extremely difficult process that truly bothers me.

Not only is no disrespect intended, but often times there’s very little actual knowledge that goes into the process.

We choose anglers based on a variety of factors, including Classic experience, experience on the lake where the Classic is taking place, momentum and even plain old gut feelings.

No matter how much information we compile, we’re still sitting in a room in Birmingham, Ala., six weeks before the tournament not knowing what the weather and water conditions will be or which anglers have truly been on fish in practice.

It’s like trying to pick the winner of next year’s Super Bowl before the new NFL season starts — if the Super Bowl could be affected by barometric pressure and thermocline.

History also plays a role, and that’s one of the things that seems to drive people craziest.

In 50 years, only one angler — the late Bryan Kerchal — has managed to win the Classic after qualifying through the B.A.S.S. Nation. That doesn’t mean a Nation guy won’t win it this year, but the odds of it happening are obviously not good.

Since B.A.S.S. started adding qualifiers from the Team Championship and college ranks, not only have none of them won, but none have come close.

It’d be a great story — one I’d love to write. But again, we’re talking about the odds of it happening. Not good.

So, bring on the nasty comments. I covered SEC football for a while, and I’ve heard the worst of the worst.

But remember when you fire off your comments, the gallery is more a set of talking points than a prediction.

We don’t know who’s going to win the Classic, and we openly admit that.

We’re shooting from the hip with blinders covering both eyes.

Unless we happen to be right.

Then ... it was all know-how.