The Bassmaster Classic is a tournament full of tradition and lore. With the 41st Classic this weekend, it's a good time to explore some of the old bromides about fishing's greatest championship.
No. 1: Half the field is eliminated after the first day
Let's be real. At the end of the first day, at least half the anglers have been eliminated from competition. The problem is not just that they have a long way to go to catch up, but that there are too many other competitors between them and the lead to "leap frog" for the win.
Don't believe it? Take a look at history. In 40 previous Classics, the eventual winner was in first place at the end of Day One 11 times (27.5 percent). Twenty-one times, the winner was in the top three at the end of the first day (52.5 percent). And the winner was in the top 10 an astonishing 37 times out of 40 (92.5 percent). The exception to the "rule" came in 1972.
Don Butler was in 14th place (out of 24 anglers) at the end of the first round. He had caught just two bass weighing an ounce less than 3 pounds and trailed Ricky Green by 12-13.
He made up all that ground and more on Day Two when he came to the scales with 20-14, and Butler ended up winning the championship by 13-7, one of the biggest margins in history.
No. 2: You can't win the Classic in one day, but you can certainly lose it
The classic (pun intended) example of this axiom occurred at the 1979 Classic on Lake Texoma.
Basil Bacon, one of flippin's earliest disciples, zeroed in the first round, putting him in a nine-way tie for dead last, 16-10 behind Hank Parker. Bacon sizzled on Day Two with the biggest catch of the day, while Parker slowed down a little. In the final round, Bacon posted another great catch while Parker managed only a single bass.
The result? Bacon finished second by 3 pounds — about the weight of his average bass. Had he caught just one of those on Day One, he would have won the Classic, not Parker. The exception to this rule occurred in 1977 on the Kissimmee Chain. Rick Clunn was the defending champ and had identified an area he wanted to fish on the first morning.
Unfortunately, fog slowed the proceedings and made navigation difficult. Clunn stopped his boat in what he thought was his area (this was decades before GPS) and started fishing. On one of his first few casts, he caught a 7-7 largemouth that would hold up as the biggest bass of the entire tournament. When the fog cleared, Clunn realized he was several hundred yards from where he intended to fish that morning.
He also had 19-10 in his livewell for the day — the best catch of the championship. In the end, Clunn hung on to edge out Larry Nixon by less than 2 pounds to take his second straight championship, even though he caught less than 8 pounds on the final two days ... combined! Clunn effectively won the Classic in one day.
No. 3: A qualifier from the host state can't win the Classic
You'd think that fishing the Classic close to home, on waters that you know well, would be a big advantage. Competitors getting a little "home cooking" could use their superior knowledge of the fishery under a wide variety of conditions to cruise to victory, right?
Not exactly. In fact, being a local for the Bassmaster Classic has been something of a jinx over the years. It started with Gerald Blanchard in 1972. That year the Classic was on Percy Priest Reservoir in Tennessee. Being from Memphis, Blanchard figured to have an edge over the rest of the field, but it didn't work out that way. He finished 22nd out of 24 anglers. Over the years, the trend continued.
Locals were the obvious pre-tournament favorites, but things never quite panned out for them. One of the earliest and ugliest examples came out of North Carolina, host of the 1975 Classic on Currituck Sound. Paul Chamblee of Raleigh figured to be a factor there, and he was. Chamblee jumped out to a big lead on Day One. His 26-1 was not only the second heaviest catch in Classic history to that point, but gave him a nearly 4-pound lead. In the second round, he extended his advantage to just under 6 pounds.
Surely, he'd seal the deal in the final round and become the first resident of the host state to take home the championship. That's when the unthinkable happened. After leading the Classic for both of the first two days, Chamblee blanked — nothing, zero. He slipped to third place in what may be the biggest collapse in Classic history. And that's the way it was for 36 Classics.
The locals got some attention, but always with the caveat that they would find a way to lose, which they did with remarkable consistency. The exception to the rule came in 2007 with the Classic on Lay Lake in Alabama. There were nine Alabamans in the field, so the odds were good for a breakthrough. All eyes were on Aaron Martens, Gerald Swindle or Russ Lane to kick in the door and prove that you could win on your home turf, but it was Boyd Duckett who did the unprecedented.
Duckett took the lead in the first round, weathered a brief stumble on Day Two that saw him lose his lead to Kevin VanDam, and sealed the deal with the best catch of the final round. The jinx was over ... or was it? When the Classic returned to Lay Lake in 2010, Duckett experienced equipment problems early and never got on track. He finished 49th in a field of 51. It was the worst performance ever by a Classic angler in his home state.