Finishing last in a Bassmaster Classic is no disgrace. Just qualifying is impressive on some level, and anglers around the world would give their biggest bass just for the chance to compete.
We all know the names of the anglers who have won bass fishing's greatest tournament, but you might be surprised at some of the last-place finishers, too. You could fill a pretty good hall of fame with them.
Here are just some of the noteworthy competitors who fell flat at the Super Bowl of bass fishing.
Six of the anglers who finished last in a Classic also won one. They are Denny Brauer (a winner in 1998 and last in 1995 and 2010), Woo Daves (first in 2000; last in 1979), Michael Iaconelli (first in 2003; last in 2006), Bryan Kerchal (first in 1994; last in 1993), Charlie Reed (first in 1986; last in 1991) and Jay Yelas (first in 2002; last in 2005).
Of the champs, only Brauer brought up the rear twice in a Classic. He knew there was really only one place to finish, and that's first.
Kerchal, of course, had the most amazing turnaround. After finishing last in 1993, he won the 1994 Classic.
If you think winning a Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award makes you immune from Classic failure, try again. Four AOYs have bombed in the Classic — two of them in the same year they won AOY!
Brauer was AOY in 1987, well before his two Classic bombs. Yelas was AOY in 2002. Iaconelli and Tim Horton got to experience the thrill of victory (an AOY title) and the agony of defeat (last in the Classic) all in the same calendar year. Horton did it in 2000, Ike in 2006.
Speaking of Brauer and Horton, they're half of a group that's finished last more than once in the championship. Again, Brauer did it in 1995 and 2010. Horton bombed in 2000 and 2009. Cliff Craft was the first to claim two last-place finishes in 1982 and 1997, and Ish Monroe did it in 2005 and 2008.
The one thing you can say about finishing last in more than one Classic is that at least they got there more than once.
Any bass fishing fan worth the salt in his plastics knows that Guido (1988) and Dion Hibdon (1997) are the only father and son tandem to each win a Bassmaster Classic. But did you know that another father and son each finished last?
It's true, and it happened to one of America's great fishing families — the Wards. If you're 40 or older, you probably remember "Championship Fishing with Virgil Ward." Well, Virgil never made it to a Classic (though he was a great competitive angler in the 1950s and '60s), but his son Bill and grandson Gregory were regulars on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail in the 1970s and '80s.
Bill qualified for seven Classics, and Greg made it to five. In fact, when Greg fished the 1975 championship, he was the youngest qualifier in history at 19 years and 9 days old when they launched. It'll be a long time before that record is bested.
The Wards were pretty good in the Classic, too. In their 12 appearances, they posted five top 10 finishes. But in 1976 Greg finished last among 25 anglers. Two years later, his dad did the same thing.
Hall of Famers and Other Notables
Denny Brauer (1995 and 2010), Al Lindner (1977), Stan Sloan (1974) and Forrest Wood (1972) all finished last in a Classic, and all are in the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. Lindner and Wood are also in the IGFA Hall of Fame.
Some other notables who finished last are B.A.S.S. legend John Powell, who took the last spot in the inaugural Classic (1971); Wendell Mann (1973), who was the first B.A.S.S. Federation angler to qualify; lure making giant Lonnie Stanley (1985); and Hank Gibson (1990), the first foreign national to qualify for the event.
The Nation and the Elites
In all, nine anglers from the B.A.S.S. Nation have finished last in the Classic, beginning with Mann. Most recently, Gerry Jooste and Dave Palmer tied for last in 2005 at the toughest Classic in history.
But it's not just the amateurs who have struggled. Plenty of pros have bombed along the way, including 10 current or former Elite Series anglers.
Brauer (1995 and 2010), Shaw Grigsby (2012), Greg Hackney (2005), Horton (2000 and 2009), Iaconelli (2006), Monroe (2005 and 2008), Clark Reehm (2011), Mike Reynolds (1999), Bernie Schultz (1998) and Brian Snowden (2005) all finished last in the most important tournament of the year.
This year, five of those anglers are back and hoping not to repeat their worst performances. Grigsby, Hackney, Iaconelli, Jooste and Monroe are looking for redemption and the trophy that will make everyone forget about the bad tournaments.
Can they do it? Of course they can! It's happened before. Twice an angler who finished last has come back to win a later championship. Bryan Kerchal was the first to do it — in back-to-back Classics, no less. He was last in 1993, but the champ in 1994. Woo Daves did it, too, though many years apart. After finishing last in 1979, he finally won the championship in 2000 — his 15th try.
Shaw Grigsby could make some history with a win in 2013. Like Kerchal, he'll be going for a worst to first finish. And like Daves, this is his 15th run at the title.
It could happen.
Originally published in 2013