It was the final day of the 1989 Bassmaster Classic. Jim Bitter had just landed a small James River bass. He measured it on a roughshod ruler imprinted on the top of a hard-plastic tacklebox. The tail fin barely slid over the 12-inch mark. A keeper, but just barely. He had only three fish in the livewell, so it would be a welcome addition to a very tough Classic, which he was in contention to win. As he went to lift that fish off the top of the tacklebox, it flopped. He lost his grip on the little keeper and it pinballed off his boat’s windshield, then the gunnel, then back into the James. That would be his last bite of the day, and he would lose by just 2 ounces. The benefactor of the flop was none other than Hank Parker. To this day, Parker would say that winning that event was a simple act of destiny leaning his direction. The affable pro would retire from competitive fishing the following year with the momentum of a Classic win and launch into an extremely successful television career.
There are other acts of fate you could point to that seem to steer the outcome of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic. Mike Iaconelli’s win on the Louisiana Delta in 2003, for example, was secured when he got lost during practice and located a clear-water lagoon loaded with largemouth. He won the event in that spot. Need another example of the seemingly foreordained? Jordan Lee had mechanical issues the final day of the 2017 Classic. He couldn’t run and gun, which was how he had put himself in contention. Instead, he was forced to fish just one of his waypoints. There, methodically casting the spot to pieces, he caught the winning fish.
Looking back on past Classics, it’s fascinating to see how small, unintentional moments defined the results. But, can you look forward to predict how destiny might shine on an angler stepping across the biggest stage in bass fishing? Well, I gave it a go. After pouring over angler data, the Chinese zodiac and doing a whole lot of math (admittedly, not my strong suit), I have deduced that one particular competitor seems to have an advantage.
Elite Series pro Brandon Lester is on a heater. He won two events last year (the St. Croix Bassmaster Open on the Kissimmee Chain and the Bassmaster Elite at Pickwick Lake). The last Knoxville Classic on the Tennessee River saw Lester land in sixth place when the dust settled. As Lester hails from the Volunteer State, it makes sense he’d be a favorite. He has seven Top 10 finishes on Tennessee fisheries over the past eight years. Still, this is not why he is my destiny pick to win the 2023 world championship.
Stick with me on this. As the Classic is a three-day event, competitors will have 4,320 minutes to compete, evaluate and execute to earn the Ray Scott Bassmaster Classic trophy. Lester has fished 126 B.A.S.S. events to prepare him for this 53rd installment of the Classic. Now, add up every number I just mentioned. I’ll wait while you get a calculator.
Yes, the answer is 4,499. Want to guess how many pounds of bass Lester has caught during his 11-year career at B.A.S.S.? If you guessed 4,499, you are absolutely correct. Mind. Blown.
So, looking at momentum and some numbers you simply cannot ignore, Lester seems to have the bright light of destiny shining on him … as long as he does not measure bass on the top of a tacklebox.