Day 1 of the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees is in the books, and so far, it’s all Jason Christie, the local favorite from nearby Park Hill. His five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 14 ounces gives him nearly a 3-pound lead over Alabama’s Greg Vinson.
So far, despite the fact that this year’s Classic is a couple of weeks later than the one here in 2013, the fishing is quite a bit tougher. Maybe it’s the dirty water, maybe it’s the fluctuating water levels, maybe it’s something else.
The average number of keepers weighed in each day at the ’13 Classic was 4.1832 – not bad, but hardly stellar. (For example, the average number of keepers weighed in by an angler in an Elite Series tournament is about 4.5.) This year’s Classic “bassing average,” it’s a lot lower at 3.35.
One number that’s up is average bass size. The average bass at the ’13 Classic weighed 2-11. This year it’s 2-15, but there are still two days to go, and that number might slip a little. If it holds, Grand would rank second in Classic history for biggest average bass. In 2014, the average bass from Lake Guntersville weighed 3-10, so it’s not a close second.
Because catch rates are down by a wide margin this year, the average bag brought to the scales by an angler is also far below the 2013 average. Day 1’s average catch totaled 9-14; in 2013 it was a heftier 11-4.
Big fish on Day 1 of 2013 was 7-4. It was also big fish of the tournament. Yesterday’s big fish (caught by Marty Robinson) weighed 7-0.
That number is more significant than many realize. It’s not just a curiosity or the result of a fortunate cast. The weight of tournament big fish usually sets the bar for how far an angler can possibly come back in the final round of a tournament with a five-fish limit. Use that 7-pound mark when you look at the standings at the end of Day 2. The anglers who trail the leader by more than that are essentially out of the race. Anyone within that margin has a chance … or at least a prayer. In Classic and Elite history no angler has overcome a deficit of more than the tournament big bass weight in the five-bass limit era. I like to call it “Ken’s Comeback Rule” (because I developed it!) and it’s a solid rule of thumb when you’re trying to determine who has a chance to catch the leader.
Day 2 at the Classic is “moving day.” It’s where we find out who has a chance to win, who’s just fighting to make the cut and who will be eliminated by finishing outside the Top 25. In Classic history, 23 of the 45 eventual winners were in the Top 3 after Day 1. After Day 2, 34 of the eventual winners have been in the Top 2! It’s time to make hay. The Classic is not often a tournament of big comebacks.